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Archive for April, 2013

Acalia

I have a new cat. Her name is Acalia.

Acalia 2

The circumstances of acquiring her were a bit complicated, but, cutting a long story short, I’m officially fostering her until a permanent home becomes available for her in May. However, it’s entirely possible that I might keep her permanently – or at least for the foreseeable future.

I picked her up one Monday night from a Canadian woman in Cheonan and took her home. As soon as I opened her carrying case, she jumped out and dashed under the bed, where she pretty much stayed for a week. I’m sure she came out when I left my flat, and I often heard and saw her moving around when I went to bed; she ate and drank and used her litter tray without any problems.

I’m not entirely sure what breed she is, but she has long-ish blue (ie, grey) fur, bronzey eyes, two small, wispy tufts on her points of her ears and a curly tail. And she’s a squishy faced cat – by which I mean that she has no protruding snout, but rather her face is completely flat.

Acalia 3

Gradually – very gradually – she started coming out of hiding when I sat still for a while by my computer – but she would dart back under the bed if I stood up. She’s slowly getting used to me standing up and moving around; she now doesn’t always run away if I walk by her – especially if she’s under my clothes horse and can’t see my upper body.

A friend of mine suggested that I get her some cat treats to encourage her out of her shell – and, the first time I offered them to her, she came closer to me than she’d voluntarily come before. A few days ago, I crawled towards her on my belly, reached out my hand after having tossed her some treats and she gave my fingers a sniff. A couple of days later, I fed her some tinned cat food and she let me stroke her as she ate – although she was very nervous; I suppose her hunger outweighed her fear.

She still shies away from me whenever I reach for her and she still flees if I walk towards her, though. The process of her getting used to me is a long and slow one, but progress is continual. She’s now becoming more interested in what I’m doing; when I woke up this morning, she was sitting in the middle of the room looking at me; last night, when I was washing dishes, she was peering round the kitchen door at me.

Acalia 4

She’s very well behaved. I haven’t noticed her scratching things other than the scratching board I got with her. She climbs up on one of my cabinets while I’m out – when I come back home, some of the bits and pieces I keep there are on the floor. She’ll ruck up my bedsheet and move my bath mat. I fished a couple of missing pencils out from under the wardrobe. The laundry rack that shelters her from my gaze also seems to be a tempting vantage point to her; several times I’ve come in and an item will be disarranged exactly as if a small animal had tried to stand on it.

She’s quiet, too. Once every few days – usually after using the litter tray – she’ll give a single, loud, plaintive miaow. Other than that, she doesn’t make any noise.

In the first week or so, I started to dislike Acalia. What on Earth is the use of a pet that you never see? I was also a little disappointed that she was a squishy-faced breed, as I think they’re kind of ugly. But she’s grown on me. I like greeting her as I come home and she peers anxiously at me – usually from the bed. I encourage her not to run away when I enter the room – generally in vain.

I’m very hopeful that Acalia’s acclimatisation will continue. I’ll have her eating out of my hand … eventually.

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The Book of Atrix WolfeI picked this book up recently at What the Book? in Seoul. McKillip is not one of the more well known authors, but I’ve read one of her previous works, The Riddle-Master Trilogy, and remembered it as interesting, low-key, well written, but a little slow and dull. Like that previous story, The Book of Atrix Wolfe is short, gentle, thoughtful, but less than totally gripping. Even at less than 250 pages, it took me a long time to get through it – I had other things that just seemed to demand my attention more.

However, I still liked the novel.

The story starts with a prologue set twenty years before the main narrative takes places and shows how one of the land’s most powerful wizards – Atrix Wolfe – is persuaded, coerced – tricked? I’m still not entirely clear on the motivation – into working some sorcery to facilitate a war of conquest. The resulting magical entity is uncontrollable and kills many and ends the war. The Hunter is awakened a couple of decades later when the prince born on the night of the slaughter discovers a paradoxical spellbook written by the wizard. The spell that created the Hunter turns out to have wreaked devastation beyond the world of mortals; the fey Queen of the Wood has been seeking her lost daughter for two decades.

The main character, Prince Talis Pelucir, is a bespectacled trainee wizard whose parents were killed (one directly, one indirectly) by a malevolent magical being when he was a baby. Remind you of anyone? This book was published a couple of years before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, though, so it’s OK.

Another main character is called Sorrow – or Saro (in an American accent I suppose they’re homophones) – and sorrow is a major theme of the novel. Everyone’s lives have been overshadowed by the murder committed by the Hunter – and, inasmuch as the Hunter is his proxy, by Atrix Wolfe himself.

Another theme is the paradoxical nature of the spells written in the eponymous book. When trying to extinguish a candle flame, Talis instead shatters every nearby mirror. The ambiguously named Saro is unable to speak, and yet she is capable of magic, although the spells often rely on language. I suppose you can read into this the message that language is a kind of magic – why else do we read fiction, if not to be enchanted by things that are not real and yet somehow true?

I enjoyed reading the shapeshifting battles of Atrix against the Hunter. Wolfe changes himself into animals, leaves, stones, stone, water in his efforts to evade his overly puissant creation. The mute version of Saro has lived her life in the Pelucir castle kitchen, working as a pot scrubber. The environment and social hierarchy of the kitchen is also fascinating; the place is populated with a head cook, a tray mistress, undercooks, pluckers, spit boys, mincers, peelers, musicians (who announce meals with a fanfare) and more.

Patricia A McKillip

I think The Book of Atrix Wolfe is a better story than The Riddle-Master books, and I really wanted to be more engrossed by it than I was. It has a uniquely gentle and subtle but definitely high fantasy feel to it. I’m going to try to pay better attention to the next Patricia McKillip book I read.

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