–What a difference this job was making in my life! On the plus side: magic! And maybe even more important: friends. On the minus side: also magic. The dark, scary kind ~ the kind that makes you worry about warding off evil.–
The typical thing about this book was that it took place in New York (and you know what kind of crazy chiz goes down in New York. Two words: the Avengers). The cool thing about the book is that it had magic in it, as you probably assumed from the title. It had a bit of a Warehouse 13 feel to it, except instead of gathering magical artifacts, the Repository loaned them out. But not all the items at the Circulating Material Repository were magical ~ some were just old things, like Abraham Lincoln’s hat, or armor for plays or instruments for someone who wanted to learn to play flute but wasn’t sure they would stick to it.
Elizabeth Rew got a job at the Repository as a page, which means she and the other pages were in charge of collecting whatever item the visitor wanted to borrow. It sounded like a smashing job to me. What annoys me, though, is how easy it always is for people in books to get jobs. It’s REALLY not that easy in real life.
I’ve realized that I usually spend very little time talking about the actual book, which kind of destroys the whole “book review” idea. So let me tell you a bit about the plot of this book.
Life at the Repository was not all peachy-keen when Elizabeth arrived (as you would assume ~ this is a novel, and it is written for entertainment purposes). There was a giant bird seemingly preying on the pages, and magical items from the top-security Grimm Collection were going missing. This collection held items that you find from the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales ~ the twelve dancing princesses’ shoes, Hermes’s shoes, Puss in Boots’s boots, Cinderella’s slippers. There were an awful lot of shoes in the Grimm Collection.
Not only the items in the Grimm Collection were magical, though ~ some seemingly ordinary things were magic, too. There was a flying carpet, a mermaid’s comb that made your hair gorgeous and silky smooth, and a flute that when played made everyone around you dance until they die. It was VERY Warehouse 13. That was probably why I found it so interesting.
Then Anjali, one of the pages, went missing, and Elizabeth and a couple other pages and Anjali’s younger sister Jaya were determined to find her. It’s funny to me how there was a character named Anjali and a character named Jaya, and that they were sisters, because I only know of one Anjali and that is Anjali Jay, who played Djaq in BBC’s Robin Hood. Djaq was pretty legit.
-“Life is unfair, and the bad guys keep winning and good people die. But I like how that’s not always the end of it. Like when the mother dies and turns into a tree and keeps helping her daughter, or when the boy who everybody thinks is an idiot figures out how to outwit the giant. Evil is real, but so is good. They always say fairytales are simplistic, black and white, but I don’t think so. I think they’re COMPLICATED. That’s what I love about them.”-
It does seem like a lot of people downplay fairytales, especially Disney, which has made a simplistic version of plenty of fairytales in which the evil villain always loses, the princess always marries her handsome prince, and wild animals are somehow totally not afraid of humans at all. I’ve only seen part of the movie Grimm, but it was scary. Like, legit SCARY. And even though I didn’t see much, it was obvious there was a plot WAY deeper than the Disney movies.
It’s encouraging to know that no matter how terrible things get, no matter what evil you have to face or how real it is, the good in the world is just as real. There’s always a tiny bit of kindness in SOMEONE. (Unless you’re in a specific territory in my book. There is NO good there, and that’s sort of the point. But never mind.)
-“How can we be so lucky? Is it really just affinities, like Doc says?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, the things you’re drawn to. The things you find compelling. Like the way I’m always trying to figure out how stuff works. Or with you, you always seem to be looking closely at everything. You see how objects relate to each other. It’s as if, for you, the whole world is alive.”–
Elizabeth and fellow page Aaron were talking about the Repository (almost said Warehouse there) and wondering why they were chosen to work there (there were recruiters outside the Repository. You don’t get a job there unless you’re recruited, as I understood it). Why would they be the special ones? They seemed so ordinary to everyone else, and to themselves. (And they were. Seriously. Totally ordinary.)
But look at the little things Aaron pointed out. He was observant enough to see them, which is a gift in itself (don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people aren’t too observant). He acknowledged that he was always trying to figure out how things work, which shows that he had taken the time to look inside himself and learn about who he was. And he recognized Elizabeth’s gift of efficiency (or possibly resourcefulness? I’m not sure what word I’m trying to find here ~ obviously, because I haven’t found it). Elizabeth probably grew this gift from a young age, because her mother had a doll collection that she treated as though they were alive. It was probably just natural for Elizabeth to see things like that. But it’s still a gift.
The little affinities like that are what make people so interesting. Some people don’t have any, really, or just one or two. But others seem to be bursting with them. If you’re a person with the gift of observance, like Aaron, you get to see them in others, which is one of the coolest things in the world. Then you get to pair that knowledge with a bit of encouragement when the person is feeling worthless.
-“Those are okay, but these smell wrong ~ I mean, they smell normal. There’s no magic in them.”
“You can smell magic?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’ve never tried.”
I handed him a comb that smelled like oyster shells ~ no, wet marble. “Try this one; it’s pretty strong. Can you smell it?”
He sniffed and shook his head. “I don’t smell anything. I think you’re right, though. It has that shimmer.”
“It’s ~ you know ~ the color. It’s sort of…it’s hard to describe. It’s like the colors are sort of buzzing. Like there are more colors than just the ones you see.“-
This is how magic is supposed to work, in my opinion. The perfection in this book was all in the magic. Everyone seemed to sense the magic in a different way. Elizabeth could smell it ~ everything with magic didn’t have a specific scent, but it seemed like all of them at once. Aaron could see it ~ like he said, the colors buzzed. Marc, another page and a very important person in this book, could tell by touching. Dr. Rust, the boss of the Repository, could hear it. I guess that leaves taste. If anyone would be able to sense magic by taste, it would be the Tenth Doctor.
You know I’m right.
-“Forfeit fair and given free,
I resign a part of me.
In exchange I’ll keep with care
What is given free and fair:
Potent, uncorrupt, and whole.
Else the bargain shall be null ~
My pledge forfeit, or my soul.”-
Those who were allowed to borrow magical items were required to give something in return, just until they gave the item back. You could give anything that was yours ~ your sense of direction, humor, privacy, smell, your firstborn child, your color eyesight, your courage, your beauty. It’s amazing ~ and humerous ~ how lost you feel with just one of those seemingly mediocre things gone from you (sometimes literally, as Elizabeth found out!). They are a part of you, and no matter how much you may hate it, they help make up who you are. Outside of you, they float weightless like a ball of smoke with a tiny center of gravity holding it together.
–Seeing the transformation in Aaron made me wonder how it would feel to have someone ~ even a not-so-nice guy like Aaron ~ look at me the way he looked at Anjali.
I hoped that someday I would find out.-