Skip to main content

Retro Friday Review: The Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! I include roundups from participating bloggers in my post every week.

Just over six years ago I walked into this little bookstore called Books of Wonder for the first time in my life. And on the front end cap, directly facing the revolving door, on the middle shelf, was a thick book with a purple cover and a gold spine entitled The Claidi Journals. I had heard of Tanith Lee before, but never read any of her books, and I had her sorted in my mind as a dark fantasy/horror writer. As I picked up the hefty volume and examined it, it appeared it was actually an omnibus collection of three novels: Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, and Wolf Queen. A fourth and final installment--Wolf Wing--was subsequently published. I usually prefer to start with the original volumes themselves and then invest in an omnibus edition if I like them and if it's a particularly attractive edition. In this case, however, something about the collection grabbed me. DH and I were stopping off in New York to visit my sister-in-law and her family on our way to Italy to visit my parents, and I was in need of some good trip reading to take with me. Then I made the mistake of opening the book and reading the first few lines.
Yes.

I stole this. This book.

I don't know why. It looked . . . nice, I suppose, and nothing has been nice for years.
That right there sealed the deal. I loved how she sounded both defiant and utterly lost at the same time and I simply had to know who she was, what was in that book she stole, and why things had gone so badly for her for so long. So, like Claidi, I made up my mind to take the book with me. Only I decided to go ahead and pay for it first.


Claidi is a servant and has been her entire life. In the House of Lady Jade Leaf, she spends her days and nights forced to wait on the ridiculous princess hand and foot. Tempers are short and punishments abundant in the House and Claidi chafes against the ties that bind her, physically and emotionally. One day she comes across an empty book and decides--despite the no doubt painful consequences--that she will take it. It turns into a journal of sorts for the lonely young woman, in which she records her thoughts, and later her adventures. For soon after she discovers the book, a stranger walks inside the walls of the House. A stranger from beyond the desert, with golden hair, and an escape route in his hands. And before she knows it, Claidi is off with the enigmatic Argul on the adventure of a lifetime. Trouble is, she's never quite sure where they are headed or who might be after them. It's a rough and tumble journey, full of misdirection, aborted weddings, and not a little abduction. There are palaces whose rooms refuse to stay put, monstrous creatures, and princes who look too much like people they are not. And all of it leads to the mysterious Wolf Tower, which seems to hold in it the secret of who she is and who she might become. Claidi spends much of the time confused and near panic, but she is a resourceful young woman, and her frequent journal entries chronicle the unfolding story in engaging detail.

These books are a wild ride. Claidi has something of the Tamora Pierce heroine about her. Adventure seems to be in her blood, though she's not quite as devil-may-care in her approach to it as some of Pierce's girls. She is thrust forcefully into the outside world after living an extremely sheltered, though awful, life and having the story told in her own words in journal format brings her quickly into the reader's affections. Her growing relationship with Argul is quite sweet and a bright spot among all the subterfuge. This is another case of people not always being exactly who you think they are and, over the course of the four books, there were several times I came perilously close to washing my hands of most of them. All but Claidi, really. But at the same time it served to cement my loyalty to the main character and remember to question each new character that arrived, which is really not so bad a thing after all. Each book expands on the world they live in and these revelations come as just as much a shock to Claidi as they do to the reader. At times, it can be a bit frustrating  to be so in the dark. But the world Lee paints is so foreign, so innately other that I found myself awfully intrigued to find out what particularly rabbit she would pull out of the hat next. There is definitely a strong thread of science fiction running through the fantasy and I found the blend unusual and refreshing. All in all, a highly entertaining series featuring a heroine I never tired of and who becomes much more than she would otherwise have been because she stole a book and took a chance on a stranger. Recommended for fans of Garth Nix and Sherwood Smith.


Reading Order: Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, Wolf Queen, and Wolf Wing.


Retro Friday Roundup
In Bed With Books reviews The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy


Linkage
tin heart tomes review

Comments

  1. Oh yes, excellent recommendation. I believe when these books were coming out, I was rather *obsessed* with finding out what happened next. I think I made it a MISSION to get WOLF WING after I found out there was ONE MORE.

    ReplyDelete
  2. These are already in my TBR pile and I'm so glad to hear you liked them. I have read one other Tanith Lee book and enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Janicu, see? Look at me not adding to your TBR at this very moment. ;) Love that story, btw. I can see you on a MISSION to get that last book.

    Rosey, I keep meaning to try some of her other stuff. I'm glad to hear you liked what you read.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I read these! I don't know that I ever read the last one though, so I might have to revisit them!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I loved these so much. I remember being frustrated when they started coming out in hc and I had to wait for the pb.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I wrote a Retro Friday review here.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've seen these books around and I was wondering if they were any good. Now that you gave them a good review, I might have to pick up the first book soon. I've never read any of Tanith Lee's books.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh Angie, I've secretly been waiting for you to do a review on these books. I found them back when I was in Jr. High and found myself rooting for Claidi almost instantly---especially with those lovely first lines.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lu, oh yeah, might be worth it just for some closure. :)

    Livi, ugh, that is hard waiting. I hates it. I was lucky to get to start with the first three all out. Thanks for the RF review, btw! I love reading about these beloved books that deserve more attention.

    Chachic, this would probably be a good place to start then.

    KIKA, no way! Yeah, those first lines are enough to seal the deal. I'm glad you enjoyed them, too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've never heard of this author, thanks for bringing her to my attention as these books sound wonderful. Isn't it funny how your perceptions of characters change throughout a series, but then in some cases you change your mind right back at the end.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've read a few of Tanith Lee's books but have yet to read this series, even though it's been tempting me for so long. She definitely has an interesting way of writing, which I like. Very off the beaten-path I think.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Jodie, my pleasure. And that really is an interesting phenomenon. I've had it happen more than once but can never tell for sure when it's going to happen that way.

    PolishOutlander, do you have any you recommend? I'd like to know where to go next.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Piratica was where I started with Tanith Lee and that's YA, along with her followup to that called Piratica II. No. Wait. Scratch that. The first book of hers I read was Black Unicorn, and then the Piratica books. Both books were fun reads, and just so different from what's out there now, especially the writing and language that she uses. I also read White as Snow, which is a retelling of Snow White. Definitely an adult book. I have her Secret Book of Paradys sitting on my shelf which is a beat of a book and also an adult book.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous4:24 PM

    Ironel speared me with her sad, cruel eyes. "What else is any of it? Yes, Claidi, you truly rid my City of the Law, and made it dull for my grandson Nemian. But there are other laws. Everything is subject to a law or a rule. How many will you break before you give up?"
    And i heard myself say, "Every one I can."

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Review | If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

It's been years since I picked up a Mhairi McFarlane novel, and I'm not really sure why that is. I liked It's Not Me, It's Youwell enough (it's obvious she's quite a witty writer), but something about the execution felt off and I think I let that keep me from diving deeper into her backlist. Then came an offer to review her upcoming title If I Never Met You, and something about this one seemed to call out to me. As though it was time. As though Laurie and Jamie might be the ones. Spoiler alert: It was and they were. It was the perfect read for a couple of dreary, grey January days. While not perhaps as bubbly as I've Got Your Number, I would definitely recommend it to readers who enjoyed that novel. They share a business setting, two individuals who are more than they know themselves to be, and a wonderfully slow burn romance. Readers who love Sarra Manning and Beth O'Leary's The Flatshareshould also take note.
Comedy was tragedy plus time, but the…

Angie’s Best Books of the Decade

I am winded, you guys. Winded from laboring over this list. This is the first time I've attempted to cobble together a Best Books of the Decade list, and I can't say I'll be up to it for another ten years or so. But my, I couldn't resist the challenge (or profound pleasure, if we're being honest). I kept trying to winnow it down, kept forcing myself to be ruthless. Like somehow I could (or should) keep it to a top ten (flat impossible) or at least a top twenty-five (who are we kidding?). But after bidding those constraints good riddance, I really did press myself to take a hard, clear look at what hurts (to mangle my favorite Hemingway quote). Because these novels hurt in the best way. Each entry on this list is a five-star book in my books. Which means I wouldn't change a single thing about a single one of them. They are the ones I call perfect when I recommend them to friends and strangers. They are the ones I have read and reread over the past ten years and…

In the Beginning, or the First Ten Books I Reviewed on the Blog

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl
It's been awhile, but this topic was too good to pass up. When I thought about it, I genuinely could not recall which were the first ten books I actually reviewed here on the blog. So then, of course, I had to know. The thing is, I originally started the whole thing simply posting a once a month list of my favorite reads and rereads of the month. That went on for some time until lo and behold I went ahead and wrote and posted my first review on November 9, 2007. In hindsight, I probably should have known exactly which book pushed me over the edge into full fledged reviews. So this was a rather delightful journey back in time. Do you remember the first book you ever reviewed (in any forum) or what made you take the plunge? Here are my first ten (and I have to say, looking at this snapshot from the past, these remain some of my absolute favorite authors and a pretty spot-on array of the genres I read and love tod…