Reading Log: Songs from the Seashell Archives
Songs from the Seashell Archives by Elizabeth Scarborough is actually two novels in one: Song of Sorcery and The Unicorn Creed. These two novels describe the adventures of Maggie Brown, a hearthwitch, and Colin Songsmith, a young minstrel. In the first, Maggie and Colin set off to rescue Maggie's sister, and in the second, to save the kingdom of Argonia from Maggie's malevolent sorcerer uncle.
Very fun novels. As a hearthwitch, Maggie's magical skills are related to improving a household. She can whip up fuelless/smokeless fires, mend any fabric, make fabrics, extend meals beyond their apparent capacity, and many other skills that can come in useful in a variety of circumstances (for instance, during a battle scene in Unicorn Creed, she causes the enemies' bootlaces to weave themselves together and hobble the wearers). What also makes Maggie particularly appealing is that she is a rather unlikely heroine. She's not especially beautiful, and definitely not in possession of many of the finer "womanly" qualities (such as silence, obedience, cleanliness, etc.).
Song is the better of the two, in my opinion, though that's not to say they aren't both great. I enjoyed reading about the characters getting to know each other better, and the story plot and actions were much simpler. Unicorn Creed has so much going on at anyone time that the last few pages are a complete rush to wrap up all the story arcs (Step one: set story in motion; Step two: a miracle happens; Step three: end).
In both books, though, Scarborough's writing is very entertaining. Characters frequently have charming names, such as Maggie's granny's cat, Chingachgook (a distant relative of magicians across the waters), or the Nymph Nasturtium who changed her name to Sally Forth. We also learn about other less savory characters, such as Elsphat, Maggie's great-great-great-etc. grandmother who lured children into the woods with her candy house then ate them. Elsphat's descendent, Maggie's aunt Sybil, still lives in the house, but she lets the children eat the shingles until Maggie has to lay a strong preservative spell on it to keep it from disintigrating in the rain. Other fairy-tale characters pop up in the novels, which I always enjoy.