Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Wednesday Review

I have been a fan of Eva Ibbotson since the days of Which Witch? and The Secret of Platform 13.  When I saw Magic Flutes on the shelf at Waterstone a few weeks ago, I pounced on it. The blurb on the back cover equated it with four of her other novels marketed for young adults, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. What can I say? I'm a sucker for Ibbotson, her quirky supporting characters, and a bit of romance. Magic Flutes promised to be the light, fluffy, and charming read I had come to expect from this particular collection of novels. I bought it and rushed home to devour it.

Magic Flutes is the second in a loose collection of books, all published in the 80s and 90s. In the past several years, they have been re-published and marketed for the YA audience. While I have read and adored the rest of these books, I found Magic Flutes the least memorable. I admit that having read her other novels has made me a little snootier, so to speak. My main problem with Magic Flutes was that it was too similar to her other works, only not executed as well. 

The story revolves around Tessa, a young princess who gives up her privileged life to work for the Viennese opera. She hides her background and performs a variety of menial jobs with the patience of some mystical angel. Every member of the opera, from the wigmaker to the soprano, relies on Tessa in order to function. Tessa happens to meet a wealthy and dashing Englishman named Guy backstage, and well...I won't spoil the entire story.

For me, though, the story was stolen by the supporting characters. They are each so funny and fascinating. Ibbotson always excels in creating supporting characters that feel as if they truly did exist, as if they each had their own lives outside of the main story. I loved the members of the opera and Tessa's aunts. I even loved the relationship between Maxi, Tessa's intended husband, and Heidi, a ballerina in the opera. I almost wanted the story to be about them instead of Tessa and Guy. 
What I would have liked to see in this novel is a little more spirit to the main characters. Tessa's only spirited moments were when she talked about her republican beliefs. Other than that, she mostly seemed to be a paragon of perfection and beauty. Guy doesn't have much to him other than his relationship with his foster-mother, which was the most enchanting piece of his character. To be honest, Guy and Tessa seemed fairly boring compared to the rest of the characters. 

I still enjoyed the book, but I liked the others much better. I wish I'd gotten this one out of the library instead of purchasing it, as I'm not sure how many times I'll re-read it. I would recommend A Countess Below Stairs and A Song for Summer over Magic Flutes


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