Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book Review - Paul Magrs' Brenda and Effie Forever

Brenda and Effie Forever (Brenda and Effie Book 6) by Paul Magrs
Book Provided by Headline Publishing
Published by: Snowbooks
Publication Date: September 1st, 2012
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Brenda and Effie are taking in the sights on the continent. Of course the sights happen to consist of an odd man obsessed with Opera and a hunchback giving them dire warnings. It wouldn't be a true holiday without something weird coming along and reminding them of their true calling as defenders of Whitby. Even if the hunchback is telling them to never return there. His insistence spurs them homeward where once again they will face their foes and keep the seaside city safe for another day. But there's a dark secret in Effie's past lurking beneath the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth that might destroy everything. There's also a Panda there too, he wouldn't want to be forgotten. Again. This will be their deadliest battle with revelations and danger, and hopefully a nice cup of spicy tea.

I love Paul's books. There's something about reading them that makes you feel like you're home. When I think of a happy place while stuck in the mundanities of real life I think of Brenda's little jewel box of a room at the top of her B and B. But what strikes me most about Paul's books is that he has a looseness to his worldbuilding. Things change, facts get a little distorted, the story of the moment is more pressing then the story that came before. While I am usually a stickler for a rigid adherence to plots and facts, there's something about Brenda and Effie that make this work. Brenda's inability to remember her past in anything other then bits and pieces might be one reason why this works, but I think the truth is far more complex and human.

The truth is that we, as people, aren't the best at remembering things as they happened. We change facts to fit our memories. We remember what is convenient. Of course we also remember in excruciating detail that which we would care to forget. Minds, always playing tricks on us, making what we thought concrete nothing more then daydreams. Brains are fickle, so why can't narratives of books be fickle as well? Stick to the general plot, keep some through lines, but don't worry about what came before or what will come after, just enjoy the ride.

This fluidity to his world has allowed Paul to make a greater universe that his characters inhabit. I love that people drift in and out from one book to the next, and not even within the same series, but within Paul's whole oeuvre. It's like that scene in one of the later Jasper Fforde Thursday Next books where Temperance Brennan wanders out of Kathy Reichs's books and right into his. But while the characters come and go they are never exactly the same. It's almost as if Paul has not only created this huge interconnected world, but also all these parallel interconnected universes where everything connects but it's always just slightly different. Just look to the Danbys... In Brenda and Effie Forever one of my most favorite characters from Paul's universes pays us a visit. Yes, I'm talking about Panda. I adore Panda. There's something so wonderful about this gruff little guy that I think he should just be everywhere.

Yet, despite Panda trying his hardest, the Brontes stole the show. Just the conceit that the Brontes aren't dead but are living in a secret base underneath Haworth? I can't stop laughing at this idea. The idea that they ran an unholy school set by fairy standards (a year and a day), seriously, this is brilliant. Oh, and sacrifices to the Brontes! How can this get better? How about add to that the "Charlotte's Angels" aspect that they were training up girls, including Effie, to be witches on the side of good. AND they were basically training Effie for the time she'd meet Brenda and have to kill her! So not only do we get this amazing humor, we get an answer to why, despite Brenda and Effie being the best of friends, there has always been an underlying tension. It wasn't because of men getting in their way or magic improperly used, it was their destiny to be adversaries, and I adore that instead of following their destinies they have both bucked them. They have decided to be what they want to be NOT what others wanted them to be. Isn't that the best message of all?

For a "final" chapter in their stories despite the amorphous nature of details between books we get several loose ends tied up. Mrs. Claus, Frank, a certain limo... we get an ending. But the truth is I don't want an ending. I am here to scream "MORE" like a petulant little five year old or a drunk Panda at a bar! I could read endless pages and pages of the gang just sitting in Brenda's garret drinking tea. There's rarely books out that revel in good people having a good time. Think of all the negativity being produced on pages and pages of books. I read to escape, to be taken on a ride, and as Brenda and Effie Thelma and Louise it out into the sunset, I want to reiterate how much I've enjoyed the ride.


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