I read a great book last week, filled with mythical beasts and powerful shape-shifting creatures with a bent toward evil. The teenage protagonists are discovering their sexuality, guided by an old man with a white beard. It’s a story steeped in mythology, the last in a series of fantasies. And no, I’m not talking about Harry Potter.
In this book the Murry twins, Sandy and Dennys, find themselves in antediluvian times working toward the reconciliation of Noah with his father Lamach. Aided by unicorns and seraphim, and opposed by nephilim, they discover their own value and significance. The book is Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle, the final fantasy in the quartet which begins with A Wrinkle in Time. For those who enjoy fantasy, these books are a great summer read, set in a clearly moral and Christian universe.
Actually I read L’Engle book and the latest Harry Potter book both last week, and it is an interesting experience. Both Le’Engle and Rowling move the action along quickly. And both seem sensitive to the awkwardness of being a teenage boy, although obviously neither of them ever were. Although I enjoyed Many Waters, L’Engle’s power seems to diminish as the series progresses, while Rowling’s seems to increase. This may because the settings change, since the Wrinkle books are based on travel in time and space, with a passing nod to quantum physics. In the Potter books everything happens at Hogwarts, and the characterization of both place and people has become more layered as the series progresses.
It seems as though Rowling is more in the tradition of Tolkien, and L’Engle is more in the allegorical tradition of Lewis, although the danger and darkness of the nephilim is more more subtle and sinister–even sensuous–than that of the White Witch in the Narnia books.
The fortunate thing, however, is that there is no lack of good fantasy for those who enjoy it.
And I do.