Ariel by Steven Boyett

Few teenagers have the fortitude it takes to write a novel. Fewer still have the publishing mogul parents to get their books published for them. The others all have to go through traditional means. Even if they get published the writing quality is almost always bad. If you think real hard you can probably come up with a couple of published teenagers who actually wrote good books – and I personally don’t count Mary Shelley among them (have you ever tried to read Frankenstein – she had no idea what she was doing).

I will note then that Ariel was written by a teenager.

One day our world changed, the laws of physics (some of them) quit working and magic suddenly became real. Fairytale creatures appeared stalking across the land and civilization fell apart. Guns didn’t work, cars wouldn’t run, everything stopped.

Pete Garey wanders around in this world with his familiar – a unicorn named Ariel. In the beginning they bungle along meeting cool samurais and having exciting fights. Then they find out that a Necromancer in New York is after Ariel’s horn so they set out to confront him before he confronts them.

Let me just say that, in general, this book works really well. Just don’t look too closely. Technology doesn’t work so people carry medieval weapons and have learned to use magic. Unicorns are real as well as gryphons and dragons. Cars don’t work but neither do bicycles. A windup watch works, as well as a pendulum and hang gliders – and for that matter gravity – which all depend on physics, and some of them on the same principles of physics that bicycles and cars depend on. There are an awful lot of broadswords and battle axes and maces being carried around to be believable only six years after the Change and stores are surprisingly well-stocked and not yet looted even in large cities like Atlanta and Washington D. C..

While the beginning of the story has that ‘and then guess what happened’ quality that so many young writers fall into, the writing itself is solid and never feels awkward.

The ending is decidedly not a happy one but also a problematic one in that it seems to be communicating a message that makes little sense.

I enjoyed parts of the book. I hated other parts. I think the two ends balance each other out.


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