Secret Lives and Guarded Hearts
by Stephanie Wallace, LIS Library Assistant 2
In three very different places, bare feet skip down a silent, waterlogged tunnel beneath an ancient university of magic; steam pumps through pipes to power the spindly talons stomping over a rocky cliff; and the clamor of a thousand strangers’ wishes fills a clay woman’s mind. Each of these moments reveal a glimpse into the secret lives and guarded hearts found in “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” by Patrick Rothfuss, “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones, and “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker.
I’ve always been fond of stories about people who have mysterious homes, like “All the Crooked Saints” by Maggie Stiefvater, or who have special powers other people don’t understand, such as “Fire” by Kristin Cashore. The people in these kinds of tales usually feel alone or misunderstood, a feeling many of us are familiar with, and yet they always find hope somehow. Since hope and a safe place to escape is something we especially need right now, it seems apt to recommend stories that can help. The titles I’m featuring stand out in particular because of how their authors use outstanding world building to develop unique, memorable characters.
“The Slow Regard of Silent Things” is a fantasy novella and a companion to Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Kingkiller Chronicle” series. It follows Auri, a wisp of a girl some think is more spirit than human, as she tries to find the rightful – if unconventional – places for the many strange and wonderful things she finds in her labyrinthine home underground. Auri’s story has the charm of a fairy tale, yet also a somber tone that is cathartic and soothing. It’s a must-read for anyone with anxiety or too many problems on their plate.
Many people may be more familiar with the animated adaptation of “Howl’s Moving Castle,” but the original young adult fantasy novel has just as much to offer, if not more. The headstrong main characters, Sophie and Howl, learn as much about themselves as they do about each other. Their bickering is both hilarious and heartfelt, and Sophie’s no-nonsense attitude carries the whole story. Howl’s magic, enchanted home, and lively companions all complement each other and showcases exactly why this novel has captivated readers for generations.
The titular characters of “The Golem and the Jinni” are unique in that their home is in the people they befriend when they both find themselves stranded in 1899’s New York City. The Golem, a woman born of clay on a ship bound for the New World, and the Jinni, an ancient fire demon released from a dented bottle of oil, are as different from each other as the elements they came from. The people who shelter them, a rabbi and a metalsmith respectively, and the rest of the characters in the well-developed Jewish and Syrian neighborhoods are all connected in brilliant, subtle ways. All of their lives intersect or run parallel with each other while they each try to keep their origins a secret, growing ever closer until the explosive moment everything comes together.
For the characters in each of these stories, the places they’ve built for themselves define who they are. Auri, the finder of lost things, finds the perfect place for herself amongst broken and beautiful relics. Howl, a self-made magician, built his own castle, and Sophie transforms it into a home. The Golem and the Jinni, both outcasts with overlooked gifts, join neighborhoods that accept even the strangest newcomers. Without the homes they made, their stories would be not have been complete.
Home may not always be an easy place to find, but it is always there, patiently waiting. I hope you can find a second home with the characters of these stories, too.