15 storytellers each tell a mesmerizing tale for the Raconteur’s Commonplace book, a book as clever as any Milford has written.
The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book : A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford. Clarion, 2021. 400 pages.
Reading Level: Teens, Ages 12-15
Recommended For: Ages 12 and up
A storm is brewing outside the Blue Vein Tavern in Nagspeake. Its inmates are trapped, at least for the time being, as the waters of the Skidwrack rise. A motley gathering of unlikely companions it is, too: a folklorist, an old lady, a gambler, a captain, an orphan, and many more, each with a story to tell. And, in a manner reminiscent of Chaucer, each does tell a story in turn. As the stories are told, the characters come to light—not just to the reader, but to one another. Nagspeake is a land of mystery, of spirits, of sinister creatures; not everyone is who they seem.
Nagspeake has an interesting history, including living iron and a host of superstitions and traditions stretching back generations. Even readers who aren’t familiar with Milford’s work will begin to unravel some of the details as they hear each story in turn. Milford skillfully weaves in details from her other novels, but this book can stand alone as well.
Milford is a wonderfully gifted writer and can weave a clever tale with the best of them. Her writing reminds me just a little of Megan Whalen Turner’s, her complex plots just a little of The Mysterious Benedict Society Series. But the Greenglass books stand alone as unique. Note the considerations below; Milford isn’t for everyone, but she is tremendously rewarding for those who enjoy these sorts of stories and are okay with the supernatural elements. The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book is a book for those who enjoy puzzling through a work, who enjoy a book in which the author respects her readers enough to resist doing all the work for them. In fact, Milford fits her own character’s thoughts:
…sometimes the better the story, the greater the restlessness that comes when it ends and the listener has to go on, imagining the story continuing somewhere, but untold and out of sight. Milford, p. 380-381
Language: “Bloody,” “What the h–,” and “Good L—” occur occasionally. I noted 2 uses of d— and one of G–.Supernatural elements: there are curses, spirits, and other supernatural elements in the Nagspeake world; this is a fantasy series with a little bit of a creepy edge. Some readers will enjoy that, others will wish to abstain.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Worldview/Moral Rating: 3.5 out of 5Literary/Artistic Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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Related Reading From Redeemed Reader
A Review: Greenglass House by Kate Milford (another mysterious tale) A Review: The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford (a Nagspeake story that discusses the living iron, in addition to other swashbuckling adventures)A Resource: Mega Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book List
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