Ever by Gail Carson Levine
A quick glance through goodreads tells me that this book was widely hated by the internet. In a totally unprecedented move, I am going to suggest that the internet is not right to hate it, and suggested rather that the internet approached it from the wrong direction. Because I think, if you read it the way you’d read Ella Enchanted, like it was a fairytale you might well be disappointed. It wasn’t much of a fairytale. But if you were to read it as a myth, then you’d definitely have something worth reading.
Olus is the Akkan God of the Wind. But he’s hundreds of years younger than his next brothers and he’s lonely and bored. The people fascinate him, and after one dangerous attempt at befriending a mortal, he decides he will have to pretend to be one. Kezi is a good girl, almost old enough to be married, who loves to dance and make rugs. But her future is snatched away from her by an oath her father makes, requiring a human sacrifice to Admat. Olus, who has come to love Kezi, is unwilling to let his beloved be sacrificed to a god he doesn’t even know is real, so he comes up with a plan to make her immortal, and together they set out on their quest.
To me, it did read more like a myth then a fairytale. Besides the fact that the main character is an anthropomorphized god in the ancient civilizations kind of way, gods who are benevolent and wrathful often for no particular reason, you also have unbreakable vows involving the sacrifice of human children (a theme that appears in the Old Testament and Torah as well as, I assume, other texts from the same time), personal sacrifice (again featured in the Old Testament, The New Testament, The Torah, and almost all other religious texts) very strict laws about punishment and blasphemy (which appear in almost all myths), the risks of offending Gods, the process of mortals becoming immortals or ascending and the abstract, puzzling nature of Gods themselves, their relationships with humans, what they want and why.
When read that way, it really doesn’t matter if the characters are flat, because they’re not really people. They’re figures who are supposed to help the reader navigate the complicated questions that myth help us with. If God is benevolent, why does He allow bad things to happen? If He isn’t benevolent, why should He be admired? How do you know what’s God’s will and what’s a trick, as Kezi fears at first Olus’s offer of immortality is blasphemy against Admat who is the One God. Do the Gods want anything at all? What is heroism? What is the mark of a great person? How will the Gods punish Pride? They are all questions which humans have been asking since forever, even now, even if we don’t frame them the same way. Today, when I arrived at work and found the server was down and all patrons had to be manually signed in and many of them were rude or nasty because of it, I totally asked “What did I do to deserve this?” despite not actually believing in God. Kezi and Olus don’t have answers, but their story weaves through the hardship, punishment and reward, providing a narrative to help interpret life.
The last thing that was really interesting about the book was Kezi’s sacrifice. She made it willingly to save her Aunt Fado, knowing that her father would have to kill her, or suffer the wrath of Admat down through the generations. I think she’s a particularly interesting figure because although she is sad, she cries and grieves for the loss of her life, she never questions that it is necessary. Children’s books are never short on character sacrifices to save others, see pretty much ever mentor figure ever, but so rarely are they down in such a slow, deliberate way. Kezi didn’t jump in front of a wand, or an arrow, or shove her family off the train tracks so she didn’t have time to save herself, she did have time (and does save herself) but up until that moment she continues forward, motivated by the love of her family and her fear of their god. She isn’t just a sacrifice, she is THE sacrifice, the last sacrifice, the willing person who saves others with her death. And the reason mythology and religion is so full of those stories is because they are very moving.
Gee, I could write a university length paper comparing this book to other myths. I probably won’t though.
Last movie I watched: Definitely Maybe. I figured it out.
Last TV episode I watched: Charmed? I think. Yeah, probably Charmed. Good show though!