Among Others – Jo Walton
A Tom Doherty Associations Book, 2010
I read this book for the first time last year, largely because of a comparison to Diana Wynne Jones, whose books are a personal benchmark of greatness for me. And amazingly, Jo Walton meets it. Among Others is narrated in diary form by spiky Welsh teenager Mori Phelps. Her leg crippled in the same accident that killed her twin sister, she escapes her deranged mother only to be exiled to England by Child Services to live with the father she’s never met and his wealthy half-sisters. They rapidly pack her off to an elitist boarding school, where she ignores her isolation by immersing herself in books. Even behind the walls of Arlinghurst, however, she still isn’t safe. It was no accident that killed her twin. And now her mother knows exactly where to find her…
Already winner of the 2011 Nebula award for Best Novel, Among Others was also recently awarded the 2012 Hugo for Best Novel. It deserves the success. The sometimes shockingly frank thoughts of a lonely, angry but immensely intelligent and determined fifteen-year-old girl are brilliantly written. Many first-person narrations invest too heavily in their central protagonist to the detriment of other characters, but everyone in Among Others feels absolutely real, so much so it is difficult to believe this is not a true account. I wanted it to be true. Mori herself is a fascinatingly flawed heroine. Also, this book has one of the best takes on magic I have ever read. I could say it reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock, and it sort of did, but Walton is too original for the comparison to be fair – let me put it this way, if you like Wynne Jones, it’s very likely you’ll like Walton too. Re-reading it, my only complaint is that there isn’t more. It’s that good.