Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Battle of the Sun

by Jeanette Winterson
Bloomsbury, 2010. 388 pgs. Fiction.

Jack Snap, son of the pirate Roger Rover's housekeeper, is kidnapped at noon on his twelfth birthday, August 14, 1601. Soon Jack finds himself in the home of the Magus, an alchemist and sorcerer determined to transform the entire city of London into gold. Jack, it turns out, is key to his project, the Radiant Boy whose power must be joined with the power of the Magus to bring his plan to pass. When Jack's mother follows him to save him, the Magus turns her partly to stone and promises Jack he will restore her only if Jack joins with him to turn the land to gold. What choice does Jack have? But the Magus does not keep his promise. Only fear and uncertainty can keep Jack and his friends (the Keeper of Tides, Mother Midnight, Crispis the Sunflower) from defeating their formidable enemies (Master Wedge and Mistress Split--male and female halves of one bottle-born person; the dreaded Eyebat, and the Magus himself), but fear and uncertainty are plentifully available. Three-quarters of the way through this truly delightful narrative, the reader learns that it is the sequel or a companion volume to Winterson's earlier Tanglewreck, and that young Silver of that story will come back through the ages to help Jack. The Battle of the Sun is charming, memorable reading all on its own, but to know a bit better what is going on, best to read Tanglewreck first.

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