A Walk in the Chili River Valley

A Walk in the Chili River Valley

One thing we are spoiled for in Austin is nature. Drive five minutes in any direction and you’ve got a park or a greenbelt on which to spend several hours of any given day, hiking, biking, walking the dog, having a picnic with friends, playing games, listening to music, you name it. Here, green is hard to come by. The climate is dry and dusty, with very little rain during about nine months of the year, so green areas must be irrigated and groomed as well as protected. In parks, you aren’t allowed to be on the grass. You sit on a bench or walk around.

My roommates, one of my students, and I decided to take a nature walk through the Chili River valley with a tourist group here in Arequipa. We thought the walk was for tourists, but actually it was locals who wanted to learn about local medicinal plants, which was even cooler than just a tourist walk.

It was so nice to be out in nature. It was still very dusty, but we walked for hours with the river on one side of us and a trickling stream on the other. We walked through farmland and saw fresh broccoli and cauliflower growing, as well as donkeys and cows grazing and a white horse staring at us from a distance.

We began by meeting at a place called Mirador in the Yanahuara district of the city. It is a lookout point where you can see over the rooftops of the city and have an unobstructed view of the volcanoes.

The view from a lookout point called Mirador de Yanahuara
The view from a lookout point called Mirador de Yanahuara
One of the oldest streets in the city
One of the oldest streets in the city
This cutie followed us for quite a bit, but it wasn't because he liked us. There was a girl dog in the group he was interested in ;)
This cutie followed us for quite a bit, but it wasn’t because he liked us. There was a girl dog in the group he was interested in ;)
Most of the houses had a flower pot hanging from their exteriors walls.
Most of the houses had a flower pot hanging from their exteriors walls.

After a walk up one of the oldest streets in Arequipa, we turned off the main street and onto an alley which eventually became a dusty path in a very rural feeling part of the city. It eventually led us further and further from stone and concrete and closer and closer to greenery and fresh air untainted by the exhaust of cars and buses.

One of my roommates, Doris, and one of my students, Andre. I told Doris to smile and I got this instead :)
One of my roommates, Doris, and one of my students, Andre. I told Doris to smile and I got this instead :)
Three roomies with Misti in the background.
Three roomies with Misti in the background.
A waterfall caused by an open canal gate. When we passed it later it was down to just a trickle.
A waterfall caused by an open canal gate. When we passed it later it was down to just a trickle.
It was so nice to see Chachani without a bunch of houses and water heaters in front of it.
It was so nice to see Chachani without a bunch of houses and water heaters in front of it.
The irrigation stream that ran alongside us for a lot of the way. Any time it hit a rock or a turn it made a sweet burbling sound that I hadn't realized I missed.
The irrigation stream that ran alongside us for a lot of the way. Anytime it hit a rock or a turn it made a sweet burbling sound that I hadn’t realized I missed.
There were cows grazing in the river. They picked their way between the large slate-colored stones lodged in the shallows, munching on water weed.
There were cows grazing in the river. They picked their way between the large slate-colored stones lodged in the shallows, munching on water weed.

One of the most memorable parts of the day was when Veronica and I were about to take a picture on one of the rocks in the shallows of the river. A Peruvian woman rushed over and pushed her way onto our rock and asked if she could take a photo with us. I can’t really think of any reason why, other than that we are gringos and she doesn’t see many of us. I’ve never been a photo-op before. It was weird, and not as flattering as you might assume. I felt like a sideshow act.

The path up out of the river valley where we stopped for a break.
The path up out of the river valley where we stopped for a break. Please ignore the inconsiderate graffiti. It’s everywhere.
Me and the Chili River
The Chili River
My whole spirit felt lighter just being out among all the green
My whole spirit felt lighter just being out among all the green

The larger tour group ended up getting separated after we stopped at the river. My small group and I followed a narrow path set into the side of the hill for a while and found a place to rest and enjoy the day. Shade was difficult to find, so Andre and I rested our eyes lounging in a “natural sofa” made of half-dried hay. Veronica and Doris took their shoes off and dipped their toes in the icy river and then lay down in the grass as well. It’s amazing what simple pleasures can do for your attitude. There was something so energizing about lying in the springy grass under the blue sky on a beautiful day.

After our break, before we moved on.
After our break, before we moved on.
This tree was very fragrant and helped with bronchial problems.
This tree was very fragrant and helped with bronchial problems.
This plant was called cullen and the flowers help with stomach aches when made into an infusion. The buds can rid the gut of parasites.
This plant was called cullen and the flowers help with stomach aches when made into an infusion. The buds can rid the gut of parasites. We harvested some of the flowers for our poor gringo tummies.
Another plant that helps with cough and bronchial issues.
Another plant that helps with a cough and bronchial issues.
The reminders that I am in a Catholic country are everywhere. This was found at the very beginning of the trail.
The reminders that I am in a Catholic country are everywhere. This was found at the very beginning of the trail.
There was a really long wall absolutely covered in morning glory, humming with bees. It reminded me of home.
There was a really long wall absolutely covered in morning glory, humming with bees. It reminded me of home.
This was just another nice view of Misti over the dome of a patio at the International Club on our way home.
This was just another nice view of Misti over the dome of a patio at the International Club on our way home.
Being silly at a park on the way home. Sorry for the shadow.
Being silly at a park on the way home. Sorry for the shadow.
Doris and Andre playing with kiddie toys.
Doris and Andre playing with kiddie toys.

It was a fantastic morning. I enjoyed seeing a little bit of nature (because a month without it is way too long), and now I know about a place I can go, not very far away, where I can get my fill of trickling water, singing birds, and the color green.

 

A Circus-Themed Post

A Circus-Themed Post

I’ve recently read two novels with circus themes that I think lovers of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus would enjoy.

Gracekeepers

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan was our book club selection this month, and it was incredibly polarizing. On one side, you have those like me, who absolutely loved it, and you have those who really didn’t think much of it at all. I thought it was an incredibly lovely book. The language was lush and poetic, the setting well-structured and highly visible in the reader’s mind’s eye. It is the story of two women in a drowned, post-apocalyptic landscape. One girl travels with a floating circus, her act involving a trained, dancing bear who is also her dearest friend. The other conducts funeral rites on her lonely island wreathed in mist and surrounded by floating bird cages.

There are many story-lines happening in this novel. Perhaps the author was a little over-ambitious in such a short novel, for there are questions that were not answered to their fullest and loose ends that could have used tighter tying. Despite its minor failings, I thought the novel was so enjoyable that I couldn’t put it down. I loved North, the bear girl, especially. She is courageous and strong. Her circus, the ship Excalibur and its flotilla of coracles, sounds like a rough but adventurous life. I found myself drawn to this watery world, where trees are so rare it’s a crime (or even blasphemous) to harm them in any way. It is only vaguely fantastic, so it will appeal to readers who ordinarily stay away from fantasy stories.

BookSpeculation

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler was another incredible circus book (how I ended up reading two almost in a row, I don’t know). In this novel, narrator Simon Watson is a librarian who lives by himself in his ancestral home on the harsh coast of the Northeastern United States. The house, due to erosion, is so near the cliff’s edge that it threatens daily to go over, but that is the least of his problems. His parents are dead, and his sister is the fortune-teller in a traveling circus. Simon one day receives a book in the mail from someone he has never met–a book that shows a frightening trend in his family’s women’s tendency to drown on a particular day of the year. The women in his family are side-show “mermaids” who can hold their breath for impossibly long periods of time; Simon and his sister both possess this ability as well. The drownings lead Simon to believe that perhaps there is a curse on his family, and his sister seems to have arrived at home just in time for her own drowning, unless Simon can do something about it.

I apologize if I made this sound like a thriller. It is thrilling, but it is so much more than that. It is, in part, a beautiful homage to the written word. Simon and several other characters adore rare and antiquarian books, and it is a feeling with which many of the novel’s readers will feel kinship. It is also, in part, historical fiction, as the narration flips back and forth between first-person in the present day with Simon, and third-person following a mute circus “Wild Boy”-turned-seer in the late 18th Century. Swyler’s prose is eloquent, and her plot is so exciting that I didn’t want to put this book down. One thing I enjoyed in particular was being witness to the origin story of several of the antique relics that Simon comes across in his search for truth–an old theatrical curtain, mysterious portraits of unknown persons, and a crumbling deck of tarot cards that his sister obsesses over.

Though the supernatural is only hinted at and never quite makes a verifiable appearance, it adds enough of an air of mystery and intrigue to hook its readers. Are Simon and his family descended from an Eastern-European water spirit? Is there truly a curse, or are the family merely victims of truly bad luck? Is it wishful thinking, or does Simon truly hear his mother’s ghost in the water? What’s up with the horseshoe crabs?

These books are must-reads for lovers of somber, beautiful prose; sorrowful, nostalgic stories; ethereal setting; and the draw of a carnival atmosphere providing a light in the darkness.

13.11–The Age of Miracles

13.11–The Age of Miracles

  

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is a novel that has the potential for greatness, but is one that didn’t particularly stick out for some reason.  The premise is quite creative, and I enjoyed it, but….hmm.

Goodreads summary:

“On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life–the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.”

Julia’s journey through her preteen years, a complicated time for everyone, becomes entirely more complicated because the turn of the earth has slowed down and everyone is, first, afraid of dying and then second, trying to figure out how to adjust to days that, within months (a term that quickly loses meaning in the novel), grow to 72 hours long.  It’s an interesting premise because we take the turn of our planet and the length of our days for granted, but  Walker has thought out exactly how a slowing of the earth’s turning  might affect both nature and civilization.  None of it is very good, and Julia’s outlook is not very optimistic.  One has to admire, however, her ability to not allow it to affect her.  She is naturally a melancholy girl with few friends, and with the slowing, many people move away (though anyone with half a brain knows you can’t escape the slowing of the turning of the earth by going somewhere else, unless it’s not on earth), including her friends. As her relationships with friends and neighbors fall apart, she finds one friend–a boy–and becomes very close to him, perhaps knowing that putting things off for another day or being afraid to act on her feelings may mean dying before she has a chance to get what she wants.  Her mother, however, is a wreck, and eventually falls ill.  Poor Julia. It’s a lot to deal with at 11.

I was incredibly curious about what would happen to both Julia in her everyday life and the planet at large.  It is surprisingly difficult to revisit those years of my life that I hated. But Julia was an extremely relatable character, and I liked her, despite her somewhat dismal view of life (can she really help it?).  She is narrating the story of her adolescence from a point in the future, perhaps middle age, and tells the story as if she is foreshadowing.  “Little did we know…,” “We would soon find out…,” and various things of that nature make many appearances in the book.  For those who hate foreshadowing, I don’t recommend this book.  It was a little irritating at times, but it also made the narrator seem more present as a character than just as a first person voice with no current feelings who is describing only events and emotions from the past.  It was very different from most first person voices, and I thought it was rather creative.

For some reason, despite the fact that it’s extremely different and I really enjoyed the story, I feel like it’s one of those books I will forget I’ve read.  The details are already starting to blur in my memory.  It was good, but it didn’t have that wow factor, which disappointed me a little.  Still, I recommend it to anyone who likes smart, thought-provoking novels.  If you’re not a sci-fi fan, don’t let the premise spoil it for you.  Despite its rather fantastic nature, the plot does not read like a science-fiction book, nor is it classified as one.


12.35–State of Wonder

12.35–State of Wonder

A customer recommended this book to me as I was ringing it up for her.  She bought several copies to give as gifts because she said it was just phenomenal.  Naturally, I thought, Hey, I gotta get me some of this.  Maybe it’s because I built it up in my mind as being super awesome, but it was a little less awesome than I thought it would be.  It was still good.  Ann Patchett’s prose is lovely, but it wasn’t give-copies-to-all-of-my-friends-for-Christmas good.

Marina and Anders are lab partners at a massive pharmaceutical company in Minnesota.  When Marina finds out that Anders, who months before traveled to the Amazon, has died of a nameless fever, she journeys to the very place where he lived out his last months.  Her mission, for her own sake and for the sake of Anders’ wife, is to discover what exactly happened, how he spent his last moments, and what happened to his body.  While she is there, however, she discovers a lot about herself and what she truly wants for her life.

The premise had potential, but when Marina discovers what the doctors are working on in the Amazon, the research they are doing, and the drug they are attempting to develop, the novel takes a turn for the bizarre and the far-fetched.  It is reminiscent of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, both in that the forest is a living entity with evil intent toward outsiders, and that the forest people are somewhat inferior to “civilized” people.  The jungle seems to change according to its own will, closing paths that once existed and opening new ones where none were before.  At first the natives that Marina and her fellow doctors live with sometimes seemed more like  domesticated pets than human beings.  Other tribes were more wild and would like nothing more than to put an arrow through any and every stranger.  Slightly less off-putting than the whiffs of racism, but perplexing nonetheless, is the truly odd project that Marina’s employer is funding, and the hard-assed doctor who is its leader.

I don’t want to give it away.  There are secrets and surprises that are necessary for enjoying the novel.  But there was also something strained about it.  The events are too far beyond the realm of possibility.  It is classified as fiction, but its element of fantasy is just a little too strong. That said, it at times feels more like an acid trip than true fantasy or simple literature.

A good many parts of it were enjoyable.  Ann Patchett’s characters are fully developed and enjoyable.  Her prose is simple but elegant, and the novel is deeply emotional, as it deals with the connections and relationships between human beings in spite of age, language, and lifestyle barriers.  Though Marina does not enjoy Brazil–in fact, she fears it greatly–Patchett’s descriptions of the ugliness of Manaus and the filth of the river are somehow beguilingly beautiful.  Whether it’s an accurate picture she paints I cannot say, but it certainly is easy to picture in the mind’s eye.

Due to its being well outside the realm of what I normally read, I did enjoy the novel.  Though the plot is a bit weak, other aspects like setting and character development are strong enough to hold up the book.  Like I said, not Christmas gift or rave review worthy, but a decent read nonetheless.


12.19–Frankenstein

12.19–Frankenstein

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So sorry I’ve been out of it lately. I’ve been job hunting, and we all know how fun that is. Also, I’ve been creating a new domain all my own, www.BibliographyBlog.com, and that’s taken some work.  But I’m back! And hopefully back to normal.

Obviously, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein needs no introduction.  It is read every year by perhaps millions of kids all over the globe (or it’s supposed to be…we all know teenagers don’t love to read the things they’re told to read). This, then, is less of a review and more of my reactions to the text.

In school, I loved studying the Romantics.  As bombastic, long-winded, and miserable as they are, I felt at that time that I identified with them.  In some ways I still feel that way, but it is mostly their regard for nature and their hope for escape from the complicated society of man that I feel.  The melodramatic sorrow is something I’ve mostly left behind. Still, I love the Romantics.  In the center of this movement exists Gothic literature, and at the center of this–perhaps the most famous work of Gothic literature–is Frankenstein.

The incredible thing is that this enduring work of literature and the infinitely infamous monster therein were created by a teenaged girl as the answer to a challenge by her older husband and friends.  For those that do not know the history of the novel, Mary Shelley and her husband Percy visited Lord Byron in Switzerland.  One night, Byron proposed a challenge to the poets residing in his home: create a ghost story.  For days Mary strained her brain in an attempt to come up with something good enough to compete with the Romantic titans around her.  According to Mary herself, she was visited by the specter of the very monster she would proceed to create, and out of that visitation arose one of the greatest stories of all time.  It has been adapted for the screen more than any other work of fiction in history. It certainly makes one reflect on our present society.  It was written by a teenager, and most teenagers now can’t even read it.

The text itself is beautiful, and utterly different from what most people think they know of it.  There is not much of a description of the monster himself, and what does exist is nothing like the public’s common conception of him. He is large, yes, and ugly.  But he is extremely smart, well-spoken, and very fast.  He possesses super-human strength, but his massive size seems to reflect the massive heart within him, capable of great love, or of great sorrow and hatred.  Sadly, it is this last emotion that he settles upon in the end, after his creator has rejected and betrayed him. Events do not move swiftly and the novel is not packed with action. As with any good work of Romantic literature, it is mostly self-reflection, thoughts on the great beauty of the surrounding landscape or the nature of man and beast, or long passages of “woe is me” written in about 14,000 different ways.

So, what’s to like about the novel? After all, it’s full of sorrow and tragedy and wrath and destruction. To start, language.  Call me a nerd (I’m totally ok with that), but nothing really gets to me like beautiful, elevated language.  In Mary Shelley’s time, people spoke and wrote in a way that is elegant and thoughtful.  There is a lot of vocabulary in the book that was unknown to me, and I like to think I have a somewhat expanded vocabulary. Both Frankenstein and his monster are bombastic and loquacious. The monster tells a story that lasts for several chapters. Though it could have been shortened drastically, the language is so mesmerizing in its eloquence that one hardly notices the passing of the pages.

Frankenstein’s story, similar to those of the infamous Doctor Faustus or Lord Byron’s Manfred, tells of a man who seeks knowledge far above what man is entitled to know of the universe.  He seeks to create human life, but the unnamed forces of nature do not seem to appreciate this, nor does Frankenstein truly understand how to do so, and his experiment goes horribly wrong.  As with other Gothic heroes, Frankenstein is extremely melodramatic. It is possible for him to solve his own problem in one of several ways, but he must choose to focus on something other than how horrible is the abomination he has created.  Sadly, he cannot move past the hideousness of the creature and the things it does when it is hurt and lonely. He loses everything and everyone he loves due to his single-mindedness, and the creature pulls Frankenstein down to the creature’s own level: completely alone and devoid of happiness. Frankenstein is punished for his arrogance and ambition by powers much greater than himself.  It is this epic human struggle, so common throughout this literary movement, that I find so emotional and compelling. Having never seen any of the numerous Frankenstein adaptations, I had virtually no concept of what the story contained (excepting the obvious). It was extremely intense and stressful for me to read this book, as I knew that nothing good could happen, but I couldn’t help but hope anyway!

I loved this book. The fact that a girl so young could write such an enduring and tempestuous work–one that caused numerous powerful emotions to arise within me–is incredible, and I admire young Mary Shelley greatly for her brilliant work.  It is so unbelievably beautiful.

 

12.18–The Lady of the Rivers

12.18–The Lady of the Rivers

I am such a huge fan of Philippa Gregory. I just think she is the bee’s knees.  The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in The Cousins’ War series, which follows the War of the Roses. This novel is the prequel to The White Queen–the first of the series.

Jacquetta is a descendant of Melusina, a river goddess, and therefore possesses special gifts–namely the second sight.  An early experience with Joan of Arc and her untimely demise gives Jacquetta a life-long fear of using these gifts, though she is occasionally ordered by her sovereign to do so.  Her marriage to the Duke of Bedford and her early widowhood yield her great privilege throughout her life, but also put her in great danger as England’s political cauldron boils over into chaos.  Standing by her side through all of these troubles is her second husband Richard Woodville, who she married for love, and her innumerable children.

Philippa Gregory does extensive research on all of her novels and this one is no exception.  Jacquetta was a real woman whose life occurred right at the beginning of the War of the Roses. Gregory became fascinated by this relatively overlooked woman and expounded on her story.  As ever, I am astounded by Gregory and her capacity for creating beautiful stories out of minor characters from history.  Jacquetta is an easy heroine to love.  She does all she can to protect her husband and children during this dangerous period in English history.  She is a close friend and confidant of Margaret of Anjou, the wife of King Henry VI.  Henry comes to the throne as a boy and never quite becomes a man. He is always naive, and Margaret is no help in that vein.  Jacquetta and Richard attempt to herd them in the right direction, but the monarchs’ petty quarrels with the Duke of York evolve into all out war within their lifetime.  Jacquetta, thrust very close to the throne by circumstance and some family meddling is caught in a vise from which she cannot escape.  Her instinct for self-preservation and diplomacy make her one of the most admirable women in the court of Gregory’s creation.  She is gentle and loving to her husband and children, and sweet to a fault with the queen.  The fact that she’s descended from a goddess and possesses supernatural powers is just a bonus.

The love between Richard and Jacquetta had me burning with envy throughout the entire novel.  As with Gregory’s other books, The Lady of the Rivers spans a very long period of time–from Jacquetta’s childhood to her twilight years.  Richard loves Jacquetta from the moment he sees her as his lord the Duke’s new bride until his death decades later. Though they spend much of their life apart, their passion never fades and neither of them strays from the other.  Each time they are separated, Jacquetta is frantic for his safety, and they fall into each others’ arms like young lovers on his return, even after she has borne him 14 children (ouch!).  In a genre in which it seems like everyone sleeps with everyone (at least according to our favorite juicy historical fiction) it is really refreshing to read about a couple that is still happily devoted to one another.

Gregory’s novels can sometimes be a bit repetitive, especially in this time period.  She does a lot of jumping forward in time, and skims over events that she deems less important to her stories.  During this war, the power switches sides a lot, and everyone accuses everyone else of treason.  Though a lot of people cry foul on each other and it can seem rather trivial and petty, Gregory does a fine job of reminding the reader that this situation is constantly life-and-death for Jacquetta and her family.  It adds tension to the story and keeps the reader engaged despite the repetition.

This is by far one of my favorite Philippa Gregory novels.  Though I try not to read books in a series right next to each other, I may have to go pick up The Kingmaker’s Daughter, just because this novel left me craving more of her writing style.  Definitely read it!

12.12–Shaman’s Crossing

12.12–Shaman’s Crossing

I just realized that I’m only on my 12th blog of the year. Kind of sad considering how many books I read last year. I will try to be more on top of both reading and blogging.

The novel about which I post today I picked up in the airport as I was leaving Belfast for Barcelona.  I felt a desperate need for high fantasy that was nearly unquenchable the entire time I was in Ireland.  Unable to find a book quite small enough to carry about with me, I settled on Shaman’s Crossing because Robin Hobb was a name I knew from working in the bookstore. Sadly, it was not at all the fantasy I desired.  Having my high expectations dashed by the book I choose seems to be a common theme these days. Still, it wasn’t bad and it certainly wasn’t boring.

Hobb’s novel tells the story of a boy named Nevarre, who has known his destiny from the moment of his father’s promotion to noble status. As a second son, he is destined for the King’s cavalla (the cavalry of the nation) and a glorious future as an officer in the military.  But his father’s well-intentioned hiring of a savage instructor to give Nevarre’s military education a (somewhat unfair) boost results in a change to Nevarre’s character that haunts and hounds him for the rest of the novel.  He is possessed by an old spirit that tugs him against his loyalties and his destiny.  It sounds as though the reader should have a clear idea of which side of him they’d like to win, but in reality I was very torn. I felt, almost, that I was rooting for the wrong side at all times.

Hobb’s novel has an interesting and somewhat unique plot, though the style in which it’s written is somewhat generic and dull.  There is not much about her writing style or word choice to latch on to.  She tells the story and that’s that.  The cast of characters that she creates, especially Nevarre’s roguish cousin Epiny, is varied and well-rounded, with plenty of heroes to encourage and villains to hate. Nevarre’s patrol-mates have a lot of learning to do over the course of the novel, and they each deal differently with the suffering inflicted on them by the older cadets in the academy.  Hobb has a decent grasp of human psychology, and the myriad possible ways different people can react to the same situation.  Though the novel is ultimately about Nevarre, she has a very large group of characters to develop and maintain, and she does this very well.

Epiny is in a class of her own. By far my favorite character of all, she is everything a proper Victorian lady is not.  She is loud and out-spoken, spoiled, flighty, flirty, and a dabbler in the occult arts.  This practice is encouraged by her mother, who sees it as a way to court favor with the Queen, and despised by her father as a dangerous phase that could get his senseless daughter in trouble. Despite the fact that everyone views her as unruly, stubborn, and somewhat airheaded, Epiny proves that she has both a sharp mind and genuine conjuring powers. In a book that can at times be very heavy, dark, and unsettling, Epiny is usually the lighthearted comic relief that always comes at much-needed moments.

Being a book that is almost 600 pages long, a detailed account of the plot would be too onerous. All I’ll say is that, of course, Nevarre’s path goes wildly off course (isn’t that always the way of it?) and he must use everything he’s learned in his short experience to defeat both corporeal and phantom enemies.  It is sluggish at times, but for the most part was an entertaining read. If you’re looking for a novel to read on your vacation this summer, this one is interesting enough to keep you piqued and long enough to last you a whole trip.