Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Hidden Land by Pamela Dean (1986)

I don't remember when or where I purchased The Secrety Country.  I do know for quite some time (years in my mind), I only owned this book, and had no idea there were even sequels to it.  The Secrety Country ends with the five discovering that they had not broken the Crystal of Earth after all, and arguing about the ramifications of that, and then this:

"They looked at the Crystal of Earth for a long time, but its colors made no shapes or pictures, and no answers."

And the book ends!  With Pamela Dean herself telling us there was no answers; all of the riddles of the book, how they got there, who was Claudia, the meaning of Laura's visions...  And I was completely okay with that!  I guess this is where I get my penchant for not liking today's lengthy and often pointless sequels - I once read a book apparently without a sequel, and didn't seem to ever care.  I just let the lack of knowledge wash over me, I guess, and thought "that's part of the story, the not knowing."

But Pamela Dean knew, and she wrote a sequel, and then another.  I haven't ever liked the sequels as well as the first one, although they are both just as beautifully and elegantly written.  They aren't bad books, but they fall into my perception of most sequels:  why write them?  Why not just make one wonderfully huge, dense book?  Financial reasons probably come into play here; also, maybe Dean wasn't ready at that point to write one big, dense book.  Fantasy comes in threes (The Lord of the Rings) or fours or fives; that's the way fantasy works.  

The Hidden Land is still a pretty good book; there are some haunting scenes (Ted going to the land of the dead is probably my favorite) but it lacks the strength of the The Secret Country.

The Hidden LandThe Hidden Land by Pamela Dean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The middle child to The Secret Country trilogy, this is certainly not as strong as book as the first one; it's also somewhat shorter, which makes me wonder why it wasn't just tacked on to the first one. Unlike the stereotypical poor middle child though, this doesn't feel neglected; Dean writes elegantly, beautifully, full of grace and charm. And again, creates something dense and strange.


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