Review – Titan Magic (Jodi Lamm)

titan magic jodi lamm coverTitan Magic (Titan Magic #1)

Jodi Lamm

ASIN: B005R9RJI0

eBook ISBN: 2940013244245

Paperback ISBN: 1466443693

393 Pages

Goodreads

From Goodreads: “Mute, heartless, and tormented by auditory hallucinations, Madeleine Lavoie never questions why her family has hidden her from the world. But the night her brother casts her out, she learns the mysterious voice she thought existed only in her mind is no delusion, and no matter how hard she tries, she can never disobey it.

Now Madeleine must find her own voice in a cacophony of powerful tyrants, monsters, and gods. If she fails, she will forfeit her life and the lives of everyone who loves her. But if she succeeds, she may finally gain the ability to love someone in return.”

The Premise:

Madeleine (Maddy) Lavoie is an invalid. Her memories go back only three years. She has very few emotions. She hears voices – including her own, though she has always been mute. She tries nightly to escape her family home and has to be physically restrained. She naturally assumes that she is insane. Her first inkling, though, that something is seriously wrong, comes when her brother suffers an extreme change in personality, ignores her for a year, and finally kicks her out of the house. Alone in nothing but a shift, corset, and greatcoat, she encounters a number of increasingly bizarre characters, almost all of whom seem to want to control her, most of whom treat her as something less than human. Her assessment of her own sanity isn’t helped much by the fact that one of them is a talking stag who claims she is his property. Maddy’s goal, then, is to discover whether she really is inhuman, avoid being controlled or killed, and figure out whether she is capable of or even wants to feel love as normal people do.

The Good: 

Pretty much everything. I’ve reviewed Lamm before, and as before, her prose is stunning. She is a master of words. The plot she has crafted for Titan Magic is complex and unpredictable without falling into the trap of the outlandish that sometimes springs up when authors try too hard to defy convention.

I was very much intrigued by a protagonist who is both emotionless and mute, and I think Lamm dealt with those challenges admirably, especially given that the protagonist is female. It is very hard to find a female protagonist in fantasy (or any genre, really) who does not degenerate into hysterics at least once. Maddy is very practical and rational, except in one or two instances when she is supernaturally forced to endure someone else’s emotions.

(As a slightly spoilery aside, I did take issue with her placing a woman in a position of “natural” servitude, at least for the first few chapters. Once I realized where she was going with it, though, I rejoiced in the allegory. Maddy’s journey is very much womankind’s journey from object to personhood as she seeks her voice and her own agency.)

Her world-building was beautiful, rich and complex without beating the reader over the head with the place’s history. I do want to know more, though, about this political system and the old religion and the mythology. I hope for more tasty tidbits in the sequel.

The Bad:

Not much. As some other reviewers on Goodreads have noted, there was an awful lot going on, and an awful lot of plot threads to keep track of, which made me go back to check on things once or twice. Also, while I found Maddy very interesting, it was difficult for me to connect with her for about the first half of the book. (I think this might be partly because of the word heartless in the blurb, which lead me to expect more cruelty than apathy.)

There were exceptionally few typos in the book, but I did notice that the author consistently used “bore” for “bared” in reference to characters exposing their teeth. However, the version I read was the version the author emailed to me, and that might be corrected in the version available for sale.

The Interesting: 

Or, things that stood out to me, but that I wasn’t sure whether to call good or bad.

*SPOILERS*

Lamm seemed to be setting up something like an ironic love triangle, in which neither potential love interest really worked well. Marcus is the brother, who later is revealed to be a sort of foster brother, who later is revealed to be a powerful supernatural creature without any real blood connection to the family. He can be pitied for his mood swings, which are caused by his being possessed, in a way, but toward the end, he turns up as bat-wig insane, even when not possessed. He seems to want Maddy to share in his world-domination, but is perfectly willing to use her up to get what he wants for himself. Jas, who turns out to be Maddy’s creator, is described in various relationship roles, including mother and god. He starts out very whiny and self-pitying, which is addressed by other characters with all the appropriate disdain and exasperation. His character does evolve admirably. However, while he can be excused for having complete control over his creation, he uses that control to coerce her into actions she does not want to take, even after it becomes obvious that she has acquired a real personality. Of course, he has been brainwashed into believing her incapable of being a person, and does eventually come to see her as real, but I found it incredibly awkward that she should be romantically interested in someone who treated her as an inanimate object for most of her life. 

That’s both good and bad. I enjoyed the emotional contortions the characters had to go through, which is very much in agreement with real life, but I think I would have been happier if Maddy had ended up on her own for a little while.

*END SPOILERS*

In Conclusion:

I recommend it. Lamm has given me the opportunity to beta-read the sequel before she publishes it, and I’m chomping at the bit to get into it.

Also, I’m not sure whether Lamm intended this book as YA or not. Several Goodreads users have categorized it as Young Adult, but I read it as a much more mature character study. I enjoy YA, but the majority of the genre is nowhere near as sophisticated as Lamm’s work, and I think that readers who go into Titan Magic looking for fast plot and romance will be disappointed. Readers would be better off going in with the attitude that they will be given a thoughtful critique of humanity, couched in a fantasy framework.

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6 thoughts on “Review – Titan Magic (Jodi Lamm)

  1. Looks like a good read — added to the Endless Booklist.

    I may have commentary re: more sophisticated than YA when I get to it (eventually, sigh), if only because (as a YA reader) I tend to have a suspicious reaction to the suggestion that ‘if it is YA it must be less sophisticated than adult fiction’ (parallel to ‘if it is genre it must be less sophisticated than literary fiction’). I can see a heavy focus on worldbuilding/character study (which I’m differentiating here from forward-moving character arc; i.e., the sort of novel focused on examining/illuminating without necessarily moving the story or characters forward) as de-YAing a book, but I tend to read YA style more in the writing voice and coming-of-age character arc than in speed of plot or romance per se.

    • I admit that was a generalization. I didn’t intend to suggest that YA -MUST- be less sophisticated than adult fiction,having recently read some truly appalling work intended for adults. It usually is, however, expected to be less complex, even by its readers. (Based on having heard, during my own high school and college careers and up through teaching, various breeds of young adult express the sentiment that “I read X because Z is too hard.”) I certainly don’t think it OUGHT to be less complex.

      I also noticed a few of the lower ratings on Goodreads were accompanied by comments along the lines of “There was too much going on / I couldn’t keep up / Too many things were referenced but not spelled out / Ending wasn’t explicitly explained / Characters motivations were too grey-zone / Romance wasn’t romantic enough.” And of course, the one review that explicitly states that young adults will be too confused to continue reading (written by an adult, I think).
      The impression I got from that was that the people who rated it low expected that they would be spoon-fed the plot, would be told exactly whom to like and whom to dislike, and just generally would not be challenged.

      I do have a long list of YA books I love, but most of them predate the millennial YA explosion. Once it had become an industry and started churning out hundreds and hundreds of volumes every year, the overall quality started to decline, and there will always be lazy readers who are perfectly okay with that. I always enjoy finding gems like Titan Magic, but I do feel volumes like that are the exceptions to the rule.

      • Ah, I see. Sorry – I came into the review cold without any previous knowledge of the book/other reviews. I wouldn’t have jumped to what I said if I’d known it was a response to other reviews.

        (I’m lucky enough to know some voracious teenage readers and some really excellent (post-millennial) YA novels, so when I hear that readers won’t pay attention/complicated books don’t belong in YA my first instinct is to run around wailing, “But look at these readers! Look at these books! They’re YA and they’re excellent!” Sometimes I forget that my experience tends to be the exception.)

      • My current obsession is Sarah Rees Brennan – her mission in life appears to be deconstructing popular YA tropes, and she writes some pretty complex characterizations (the first few pages of Oh God This Character Again are ALWAYS a setup for subverted trope). Her Lynburn Legacy trilogy (first book’s the only one out so far) is the ONLY paranormal romance I’ve liked in years. The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy is satisfying if somewhat less subversive.

        I tend to like most of her writing group – Libba Bray’s writing varies between the extremely, wonderfully odd (Going Bovine and Beauty Queens) and fairly standard YA (Gemma Doyle trilogy, The Diviners series). Cassandra Clare writes pretty stock books but I love what I’ve seen of her as an essayist/analyst; ditto for Holly Black. Which, when I think about it, makes me rather sad, because the latter two are definitely more popular than the former. There’s a few other names I hear tossed around associated with this group, but I haven’t read them so can’t vouch for their quality. (I’m pretty heavily influenced by the internet presence for this group as a whole – read their books as much because I’m influenced by their thoughts on writing/analysis as because I like the books in and of themselves. YMMV.)

        Pretty sure Tamora Pierce counts as pre-millennial since she’s been published since the 80s, and I’d be surprised if you read YA/fantasy and haven’t heard of her. I like her Emelan stuff best.

        Other names coming to mind – Garth Nix (Abhorsen trilogy), Phillip Pullman (His Dark Materials, which is basically an anti-Narnia in religious propagandism, but has some of my favorite worldbuilding ideas and is one of the most formative series I read as a kid) – are from the mid-late 90s/early 00s, prior to solid genre convention.

        Also – now that I think about it – most of these do have fairly conventional plots; they’re just satisfyingly written and not to trope. Boo, I guess I lied. Regardless, they’re 10000x better than the stock stuff on the shelves.

        This is just the big names off the top of my head – I’ll take a look at my shelves when I get home tonight and see if there’s anything else worth mentioning.

      • Some other, less wildly popular names:

        Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy (2003-2008) – a relatively conventional story, but more of the older YA’s Child on a Quest conventions than the newer candy YA’s Romance and Suspense.
        Alison Croggon’s Chronicles of Pellinor (2002-2008) cleave more to traditional epic fantasy than YA – including appendices and endless description of travel – but it’s shelved in YA and features a sixteen-year-old protagonist. The prose is absolutely gorgeous.
        The Claidi Journals (1998-2002) by Tanith Lee I haven’t read in a while, and they werre published 98-2002, but they are wonderfully wacky and set in a universe not quite like anything I’ve read before. These are pretty quick reads.

        Some others I haven’t read in quite a while, but remember loving:
        Another Faust (2009) by Daniel & Dina Nayeri – more conventional YA than anything else on this particular post, but much more complicated & satisfying than the stock.
        The Blue Roan Child 2002) by Jamieson Findlay – This book has almost a dreamy quality, where it’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s false. This is one I’ve reread just often enough to have a sense for the tone and a vague memory of the storyline, so I might be lying. I’ve adored it every time I’ve read it, though.
        East (2005) by Edith Pattou – another Child on a Quest story, a retelling of a Norwegian fairy tale. It’s one of those where the POV changes by chapter, which is fun.

        In case you can’t tell, I did a lot of my book-buying in the early/mid 2000s xD I think it was a lot easier to find the gems then – it was right after Rowling proved that teens would, in fact, read longer/denser books, but before the market was totally standardized. I haven’t got as much from 2005-13.

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