I’ll confess right here that I feel a little embarrassed following a Christian Young Adult fantasy series starring a girl character. But the Rachel Griffin series is delightful, rewarding, and uplifting. The Awful Truth About Forgetting is just as good as its predecessors.
In this episode, Rachel returns to the Roanoke Academy of the Sorcerous Arts after a visit home, following the traumatic battle that ended Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland. Rachel, as you know if you’ve been following along, lives in an alternate world where magic is real and neither Judaism or Christianity has ever been heard of. She is one of the “Wise” – those who see and understand magical things, as opposed to the “Unwary” – ordinary folks who know nothing of Rachel’s world. In other words, Muggles. Rachel is the daughter of an English duke who is also a top law enforcement agent in magical matters.
Rachel has an eidetic memory – she remembers everything, which makes learning easy. But she’s in an odd situation now, since false memories were implanted in her mind after her recent traumas (for her own protection). This means she has a double set of memories. She can fool the people who gave her the false memories by pretending those are all she has, but then her friends – who do remember what she’s supposed to have forgotten – would know something was wrong, and they might get drawn into the whole mess. But she has the help of a very powerful supernatural protector, which also comes in handy when the school comes under magical attack.
There’s also a lot of typical school story material here, about who’s best friends with whom, and how different friendships are ranked against each other. And boyfriend stuff, and a new attraction.
But what I love about the Rachel Griffin books is that there are Narnia moments. Not only moments of homage to those books (“Jack” even gets a mention), but scenes that evoke the feelings I get from Narnia stories. That’s what really makes this series shine.
Recommended for teens and up – except that there’s a lot of magic and wizardry and mythological stuff which some Christian families will find unacceptable.
Rachel Griffin flies again (on a broom) in the third entry in the Unexpected Enlightenment series by L. Jagi Lamplighter: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland.
If you’ve missed my reviews of the first two books, Rachel is a freshman at Roanoke Academy of the Sorcerous Arts, an institution invisible to the Unwary (non-magical) World. Similarities to the Harry Potter books are obvious, but there are important differences too. The chief one is that the Unwary World of these books is different from ours in important ways.
Rachel has only been in school a short time, but has already been through a series of perilous adventures. This time out, she and her friends (who include a princess and a dragon-slaying orphan boy) are refining techniques for traveling in dreams. One of their friends has the ability to enter the dream world and move through other people’s dreams, which allows them to travel anywhere that someone is dreaming of, so long as they keep holding hands. As before, Rachel acquires knowledge that permits her to help thwart the plans of demonic forces – though she never gets credit.
A highlight of this book is a daring visit to the Ghost’s Ball at Halloween, where Rachel and her boyfriend meet various ghosts, some pathetic, some evil, some quite nice – and are able to do favors for a few of them.
As with the previous two installments, the whole thing ends in a rousing sorcerous battle scene, well worth the cost of admission.
I’m enjoying the Rachel Griffin books quite a lot, and look forward to the release of the next one. I was particularly pleased to see that Christian themes are beginning to come into focus.
Rachel Griffin, student sorcerer, returns in The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel, the second entry in L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Unexpected Enlightenment series. It’s another delightful exercise in exuberant fantasy.
We pick up the story immediately where the last book left off, on a terrible night when rogue magicians nearly succeeded in destroying Roanoke Academy of the Sorcerous Arts. Only the quick actions of Rachel and her friends (but mostly Rachel) prevented disaster. Soon they learn that the evil magician behind that attack, Montague Egg, has escaped. Egg has much bigger plans than the destruction of the school – he wants to destroy the whole world. And various Roanoke students, including Rachel, are his targets in a diabolically cruel scheme that will break down all protecting walls if it succeeds.
Through the course of the story, Rachel comes to understand her own powers better, and receives guidance from potent supernatural entities. She also learns terrible secrets about her own family history.
The story is (pardon the term) enchanting. I take it on faith that Christian themes are being served here, because they’re only hinted at in the actual narrative. One thing that troubles me is a recurring pattern of Rachel disobeying her elders and superiors, and being generally proven right in doing so. That’s somewhat surprising in books that pay occasional homage to C.S. Lewis, both his Narnia books and his Ransom trilogy. I await further enlightenment on that point in the volumes that follow.
I recommend the series highly, though I’m not entirely sure they’re suitable for children inclined to rebelliousness. No objectionable material except for the magic itself.
I am manifestly on record as mistrusting a) books by women (in my experience they tend to do male characters badly), and b) modern Christian fantasy books (because by and large they are amateurish).
The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter is both. And I loved it.
So sue me.
A kind of cross between Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia (with just a tincture of Jane Austin), The Unexpected Enlightenment takes us to a world where, familiarly, a school of sorcery exists out of sight of the ordinary (here called Unwise) world. But there are differences – one being that, although the culture is recognizably like ours, nobody has ever heard of monotheism.
Rachel Griffin is the daughter of an English duke who is an important official in the Magical World. She is sent to Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts, which exists invisibly on an island in the Hudson River in New York. Rachel is a gifted child, younger than the other freshmen. She has never had serious friends, and dreams of acquiring real ones, like in the books she reads. She also hungers for knowledge – any and all knowledge. One of her gifts is a photographic memory.
At Roanoke she does make friends – and some Mean Girl enemies. Her friends include an Australian (!) princess, a boy who slew a dragon and sleeps on a bed of gold, and an aspiring reporter. Rachel’s memory gives her an advantage most magicians lack – when she reviews her memories, she can see invisible things that she missed the first time through. By means of this power, she is able to identify sinister, magical activities, and manages to save a friend from an assassination attempt. Trying to figure out the reason for this crime sets her on an investigation of mysterious currents moving beneath the surface of the school’s day by day activities. Eventually she realizes that something very big and very bad is being planned by someone… even as she falls for a handsome upperclassman… who may be evil. Continue reading ‘The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin,’ by L. Jagi Lamplighter