Pico lives in a city by the sea, an orphan, the wingless son of two winged parents. He makes a home in the unused library and falls in love with a winged girl. In order to make himself fit to live with her, he sets off on a journey to find The Book of Flying, which will teach him how to get his wings. This is an adult fairy tale, a coming of age tale where Pico collects stories about others and learns about himself as he journeys.
This is a joint-review with Kailana of The Written World.
Kelly: When you emailed me the other day to see if I was still going to be reviewing this book with you; I almost said no. I have tried to read it a couple times over the last couple years, so I only really agreed to read it because Ana (Nymeth) suggested it and I owned it. I had heard really good things about it, but for whatever reason was never able to get into it. Instead of answering you, I went and picked up the book to give it one more try. I am so glad that I did! I think you said you liked it, too, so it should be fun to review the book both enjoying it. Other than the potential buddy review, what lead you to this book? I give credit to Carl, who said great things about it, but I know that Chris read it somewhere in there, too. Since my initial reaction to the book changed a few times, I am curious to know what were your first impressions of the book?
Amanda: First, for the record, I did enjoy the book! It was actually very different from what I expected. I first heard about the book back when Chris did his readathon vlog back in October. It looked like such a neat book, and when I saw it at Half Price Books not long after, I grabbed it up. I decided to read it now because it seemed perfect for Once Upon a Time. I didn’t really have any idea what the book was about, though. I had vague notions of a fantastical journey, but didn’t realize it took place in a different world altogether. I thought it was illustrated all throughout, and not just on the chapter headings. At first, I wasn’t sure about the prose – very long and rambly sentences – but quickly I got into the rhythm and I very much enjoyed the book. I know you don’t want me to say it, but it reminded me of a fantastical version of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (which I didn’t hate like everyone else seems to). Epic journey, learning about yourself along the way, episodic stories…but I won’t harp on it. I promise. 😀 Why do you think you enjoyed it more on this third attempt than you did before?
Kelly: Yeah, I hated The Alchemist. When you told me it reminded you off it, I tried to remove that thought from my head. That being said, I can see what you mean. I probably wouldn’t have made the connection myself, because I try to forget that book exists, but I could see where you would get it from. That being said, it didn’t destroy the book for me that it reminded me of that book, so that’s always good! I am glad I am not the only one that had a few issues in the beginning with the prose. I actually think it might have been that which made it so hard for me to get interested in the book previously. It’s a weird writing style. I’d love to have a magic answer for why this book worked for me this time, but I honestly don’t know what it is. I am not sure if my mood changed, I felt bad because your buddy review partners were abandoning you, or was just determined to get through it this time. For whatever reason this time everything just clicked. I got used to the writing style, loved the references to books, and enjoyed the journey of this rather anti-social librarian going out and having magical adventures. What was your favourite part of the book?
Amanda: My favorite part…hmm…I guess I really liked the trio between Pico, the robber queen, and the minotaur. It was a very interesting dynamic and despite the monstrosity of many of the characters, I liked that we got to know them for who they really are rather than their evil reputations. I guess the whole book was like that. In some ways, it was an epic journey or quest towards a goal, but at the same time towards finding a Self. I liked that every character had their own story and was on their own journey. Each person that Pico met shared part of his path with him, and each went on their own way, to find their own Self and their own goal. Epic journeys are so often solitary, and in some ways this was set up the same, but I got the feel that there was no real solitude. Like when Narya tells Pico that he abandoned his story, so she’s going to take it and make it her own. She obviously doesn’t – she makes her own story instead – but it shows how interconnected our lives are. Whose story most intrigued you?
Kelly: I really enjoyed that Pico was in every chapter, but it was like it was a collection of stories. In each chapter you got to see Pico’s development as a character, but you also got to know a great cast of characters that backed things up. You got to know them and cared for them before the next chapter and another cast of characters appeared. I liked how each character had their own story, too. I had a day or so to think about the book and I am trying to think of which story intrigued me the most. I am not sure if I could say any one impressed me more than another. I think I just enjoyed different aspects of all the stories, so they were all fantastic stories. I mean, there is Narya who is a prostitute, but she has also written a fantastic novel. The robber queen had a tragic story. You want to hate her for some of the things that she has done, but at the same time you couldn’t help feeling sorry for her. The common theme throughout the book of reading added to the overall story, too. What did you think about Pico? Did you like him?
Amanda: I liked Pico a lot! Though he wasn’t from our world, he seemed so human, but he also wasn’t perfect. I like that he lost himself at one point and nearly gave up his quest because he was content. It makes sense. So many of us do that. I liked that he collected the stories and learned from them, even if they weren’t his. At the end, I found myself wanting to know more about what was going to happen to him now. The ending was…not what I expected from a fairy tale quest like this one. It took me by surprise, even though I was expecting some sort of irony. I suppose I should have seen it, given the clues that were put forth in the beginning of the book, but I was blindsided. What did you think of the way Miller ended the book?
Kelly: Yeah, the ending. I was going to ask you about it, too, so I am glad you brought it up first. I was surprised by the ending, too. I was a little worried that something like that was going to happen, but I still didn’t expect it. Even though it has been a couple days and I have been thinking about the book here and there, I still can’t decide if I liked the ending. Did you like it? I think it was my least favourite part of the book. It was a bit of a letdown, but that being said I don’t think I hated the ending. I guess it is just one of those things that I need to think about more before I make any sort of decision. I don’t know if I really answered your question. It’s also hard to talk about the ending without saying specifically how it ended. Anything else you wanted to talk about?
Amanda: I know what you mean about not wanting to give it away. Though I feel like the end was appropriate. It had balance, like the rest of the book. I felt like it was a good choice for an adult fairy tale, you know?
But I think that’s all I had to say too. I really enjoyed the book, loved the prose even though it took me a few pages to get into it, loved the thematic elements and the emphasis on books, stories, and self-evolution. It was a unique coming of age sort of story, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of Miller’s work.
Kelly: Yeah, I can see your point about the balance. That’s why I didn’t really hate the ending. Maybe I have just been used to conventional fairy tales and need to read more adult ones!
I am glad I read this book. I look forward to more from Miller, too! Thanks for reviewing it with me!
Amanda: Thanks to you, too!!