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Foxheart

Foxheart

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Foxheart

peringkat:
3.5/5 (81 peringkat)
Panjangnya:
428 pages
6 hours
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Dirilis:
Oct 4, 2016
ISBN:
9780062427755
Format:
Buku

Deskripsi

"A heart-pounding adventure."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Orphan. Thief. Witch.

A classic fantasy-adventure reminiscent of Howl's Moving Castle from New York Times–bestselling author Claire Legrand.

Twelve-year-old Quicksilver lives as a thief in the sleepy town of Willow-on-the-River. Her only companions are her faithful dog and partner in crime, Fox—and Sly Boots, the shy boy who lets her live in his attic when it’s too cold to sleep on the rooftops. It’s a lonesome life, but Quicksilver is used to being alone. When you are alone, no one can hurt you. No one can abandon you.

Then one day Quicksilver discovers that she can perform magic. Real magic. The kind that isn’t supposed to exist anymore. Magic is forbidden, but Quicksilver nevertheless wants to learn more. With real magic, she could become the greatest thief who ever lived. She could maybe even find her parents. What she does find, however, is much more complicated and surprising. . . .

Acclaimed author Claire Legrand’s stunning and original novel explores the danger of lies and the power of truth, the strength found in friendship, and the value of loving and being loved . . . even if it means risking your heart. Full of magic, adventure, and an original and compelling cast of characters, Foxheart will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman and Diana Wynne Jones.

Penerbit:
Dirilis:
Oct 4, 2016
ISBN:
9780062427755
Format:
Buku

Tentang penulis

Claire Legrand is the author of Foxheart, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Year of Shadows, and Some Kind of Happiness, as well as the New York Times-bestselling young adult fantasy Furyborn and its sequels. She is one of the four authors behind The Cabinet of Curiosities. Claire Legrand lives in New Jersey.

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Foxheart - Claire Legrand

.1.

PIGWITCH GIRL

For the first twelve years of her life, Girl had no name.

At least, she pretended that was the case. In fact, she knew very well that her parents had given her a name, but she didn’t consider it to be anyone else’s business.

When she was three years old, on a stormy night that haunted her memories, her parents left her on the doorstep of Saint Martta’s Convent of the White Wolf. There was no note, no birth papers—only a small, drenched girl with a flat, upturned nose and a head of wild gray hair.

The gray hair in particular alarmed the Sisters of Saint Martta’s. It seemed to them too unusual for a young girl, and they had been taught all their lives to be suspicious of the unusual. But they told themselves that most of the witches had been killed, and that the Wolf King was even now hunting those who might remain, and forced smiles to their faces.

What is your name, girl? asked the sisters, again and again, that first terrible summer. But the sisters, clothed in their stiff black robes, their wrinkled skin painted white with powder, frightened Girl. She stared at them in silence and said not a word for two years, choosing instead to observe everyone around her with a frankness that made even stone-faced Mother Petra uncomfortable.

The sisters called Girl by no less than twenty-six different names, and she answered to none of them. Not Arja, not Brita. Not Inga, and certainly not Ruut.

Perhaps one of these names will be more to your liking, suggested Sister Veronika, showing Girl the register, in which were kept the records of all the saints of the Star Lands.

A most noble way to die, assisting His Grace the Wolf King, assured the sisters.

Girl’s heart leaped with hope: had this, then, been her parents’ fate? They hadn’t abandoned her, no; they had gone north, to find the Wolf King and serve him! They had died heroically, and had been sainted for it. Surely their names were in the register; she would know the letters by sight.

Feeling cheered, Girl tried to read the register’s pages and pages of tiny print, but soon found this task not only impossible but unforgivably boring. Her hope faded; none of the names she read meant anything to her. She remained stubbornly silent.

So the sisters, who, according to the Scrolls, were to distrust all disobedient children—for in disobedience lies the potential for great evil—spitefully began to call the child Girl.

If you will not choose a name, Mother Petra told five-year-old Girl from behind her enormous desk, and if you will not answer to any we choose for you, then you will have no name at all.

And Girl was pleased, for it felt like she had fought some kind of battle, and emerged the victor.

The other girls at Saint Martta’s, however, had no qualms about giving Girl a name.

Six-year-old Adele, with soft black curls and the clear voice of a bird, was the one to christen her.

Oh, Pig! Adele called out one morning, when Sister Helena had stepped out of the classroom. Piggy!

Girl did not at first realize she was being addressed. Then a wadded-up piece of paper hit the back of her head.

Girl whirled around to face Adele. What’d you do that for?

Adele pulled up the tip of her nose and flattened it. "Hey, Pig! Do you smell that? Something stinks in here. I think it’s you!" She snorted enthusiastically.

Pig! Pig! Pig! the other girls began to chant, turning up their noses too.

Girl’s skin crawled with anger.

That evening, she sneaked a mixture of herbs from the sisters’ storage closet into Adele’s stew. Girl hoped the concoction would leave Adele ill for the rest of her life—perhaps perpetually plagued with a burning stomachache, or unable to talk without violently sneezing. Instead it tinged Adele’s skin blue, and boils popped up on her tongue. The sisters, tending to the sobbing Adele, were flummoxed. Who could have gotten past the locks and into the stores?

Mother Petra seemed to know; she made Girl scrub each stone in the courtyard with a bristle brush the size of a baby’s finger. Girl obeyed, though for the thirty-six hours it took to complete her task, her mind was full not of penitent thoughts, but rather vengeful ones.

The following Tuesday, Mother Petra awoke to find that someone had stolen every piece of paper from her office and pasted them all across the convent’s rooftop, covering the dark shingles in layers of fluttering white.

Instead of forcing Girl to retrieve the papers, Mother Petra told her, "When these papers have fallen free of their own accord and blown away out of sight—every bit of the paper, even the tiniest scraps—you may return to your room. Until then, you will sleep in the courtyard, with no blankets."

Girl obeyed, even in the blistering cold, even when the sky threw down sharp sheets of rain. Every evening she stood in the courtyard until Mother Petra went to bed. Then, once all the lights had been blown out, she crawled to the roof and slept beneath the bell tower, in a snug nook she had discovered while pasting the papers to the shingles. It was a better bed than her cot inside could ever be, for on clear nights, she fell asleep watching the stars.

One spring day when Girl was seven years old, a pack of boys from town peeked over the garden wall as the girls picked vegetables.

What’s wrong with your hair? called out a boy, staring at Girl.

It’s gray, like an old woman’s! another boy cried.

Are you sick? What’s wrong with you?

How old are you, anyway? Hey! Are you listening to us? Are you deaf?

Maybe she’s a witch! suggested the first boy. They all fell silent, deliciously scandalized by the idea, and then they began to chant: Witch! Witch! Witch!

The other girls gasped. Witch was the most wicked word, a word that even the sisters whispered when reading stories from the Scrolls during lessons. Stories about how the Wolf King had begun hunting the witches of the Star Lands, earning the loyalty of all seven lords.

Girl’s skin flushed as red as the tomatoes in her basket. It wasn’t that she minded being called a witch. She knew she should mind, but as a general rule she found things the sisters deemed important—such as memorizing all one hundred and twenty Songs for the Black Castle—utterly uninteresting. And she found things the sisters deemed disagreeable or even dangerous—such as witches—entirely interesting.

No, it wasn’t the witch insult that sent her blood boiling—it was the mere existence of this simpleminded pack of boys who felt it necessary to single her out and jeer at her, just because they were bored and because she looked different than the rest.

So Girl launched her tomatoes at them.

They screamed and fled, some of the younger ones crying, their faces splattered with juicy tomato pulp. Girl climbed the nearest tree, jumped from a sturdy branch to the top of the garden wall, and ran along the wall, chasing the boys down the road and flinging as many tomatoes at them as she could.

A yellow puppy with a torn ear flew out of the bushes on the side of the road and joined the chase. He galloped alongside the garden wall, barking like mad and kicking up dust, and every time one of Girl’s tomatoes hit one of the boys, the puppy nipped at the boy’s ankles. When Girl reached the end of the wall and could chase the boys no farther, she watched them run away and laughed.

The yellow pup sent one last bark after them before turning his panting, lopsided grin up at Girl.

Just then two dark figures in hooded robes hurried out from the chapel.

"Look, just look at what she has done, cried Adele, pointing up at Girl from the garden. I know they shouldn’t have been talking to us, that’s against the rules, but did they deserve to have things thrown at them?"

Girl knew it would only make things worse, but nevertheless, she threw her last tomato right at Adele’s lovely, astonished face.

As Sisters Gerta and Marketta dragged Girl to Mother Petra’s office, she thought bitterly about how quickly the sisters appeared when she did something wrong, and how they were nowhere to be found when others wronged her.

And who might you be, sweet child? a charitable woman from town said when Girl was eight years old. Girl saw the woman’s eyes flick to her nose and then to her hair, how the woman’s mouth twitched, her eyes widening in genteel alarm.

By now, Girl was used to such looks, but that didn’t mean she would let them go.

I’m Pigwitch Girl, Girl said proudly, and then threw her arms around the woman’s waist, snorting and squealing. When the sisters dragged her away, Girl called out, Horrible to meet you! Please don’t come back and visit!

That earned Girl a week’s worth of scouring the pans after supper, but she accepted the punishment—for no one had noticed her slip her hand into the woman’s pocket and steal her tiny bag of coppers.

Someday, she thought, up to her elbows in soapy hot water, I shall have enough coin to leave this place. I’ll travel the world and steal what I need to get by, and I’ll go north and find my parents, and if they’re busy with the Wolf King, then I’ll join them. I’ll show them I can help. Hunting’s not so very different from stealing.

She knew stealing was forbidden. It said so in the Scrolls, and the Scrolls had been written by the great-great-great-grandparents of the seven lords of the Star Lands, back when the Hunt first began. But what did any of them know? All they cared about was keeping the Wolf King happy, so that he in turn would keep the witches away. Fancy lords in fancy castles didn’t know what it was like to be a pigwitch girl. She was sure of that.

Oh, Piggy? Adele called out sweetly in the courtyard one Wednesday after morning prayers.

Girl, now ten years old, snorted inquisitively and rushed at Adele. Then she sniffed up and down Adele’s clothes like a pig sniffing for slop.

Sister Kata! Adele burst into sobs. Girl is being so cruel to me!

"What is wrong with you?" Sister Kata hissed, hurrying Girl to her room.

Well, I have a pig nose, for one, said Girl. "I have strange hair, for two. How do you know I’m not in fact some sort of witch, Sister? Perhaps I’ve come to eat you all!"

Girl was confined to her room for an entire month after that, with only thin gruel for meals. But every night after Mother Petra had gone to bed, Girl slipped between the window bars and retreated to her spot on the roof. She breathed in the clean air, free of incense and prayer oil, and watched the stars turn in the black spread of the sky.

It was during this month that the yellow dog started coming to see her. He was older now, long and lanky. At first he curled up in the flower bed beneath the bell tower and slept while Girl slept, and he was gone in the mornings. Then he began bringing food scraps—half-eaten chicken legs and savory meat pies and hot buttered rolls. He would hold them in his mouth and stare up at the bell tower until Girl finally climbed down to him.

Did you steal this? Girl asked him one night, holding up a tiny beef pie. It was soaked with drool and looked as though the dog had already torn off bits of it for himself.

The dog growled.

I’m not angry if you did, Girl said. In fact, I think if you did steal it, I would like you even more than I did before.

The dog tilted his head.

Well, said Girl, thank you. You’re very clever, you know.

The dog curled up in the flower bed with a soft huff of annoyance. Girl scowled, stuffed the pie into her pocket, and returned to the rooftop.

A few nights later, Girl waited for the yellow dog with her heart in her throat. When he arrived, he held in his mouth a bag of powdered sugar cakes, and Girl took them with uncharacteristic shyness.

Would you want to sleep up there, with me? she asked, pointing to the bell tower. You can see for miles. And the ground is cold right now, and up by the bell tower, the roof is warm because of the kitchen fires. What do you think?

She held up a sack she had fashioned from her scratchy bedsheet. If she slung it around one shoulder, it was just big enough to hold the yellow dog close to her stomach while she climbed.

The dog eyed the sack dubiously.

Girl rolled her eyes. Fine, then. It doesn’t matter much to me if you freeze down here in the mud.

She turned to climb back up to the roof, her eyes stinging with tears that made her so angry she nearly lost her footing. Then, as she began to pull herself up, she felt something nudge her leg, and looked down only to get swiped with a slobbering tongue.

You smell, she told the dog cheerfully, and helped him into her bag for the climb to the roof.

Later, as he lay sleeping beside her on the warm spot over the kitchen, Girl whispered to him, I should like to call you Fox, for you are so very clever, and his ear twitched, and he smacked his lips and belched, and Girl took this to mean that was all right with him.

Pig. Witch. Girl. Pig. Witch. Girl.

On stormy days, when the world turned gloomy, something inside Girl cried out for her parents. She could only remember pieces of her past—a tired face, a soft touch, a hard voice. Her name, of course. The name she told no one.

On those days, the insults shouted at her landed like the blows of fists. After everyone had gone to bed, Girl would sneak out of her room and, instead of going to the bell tower, find Fox in his flower bed and retreat with him to the chapel, where she would gaze at the stained-glass windows for hours.

Girl did not possess the patience for prayers, and hymns were even more intolerable, but these windows, the painted icons, the intricately carved figurines of the doomed saints and the Wolf King protecting the Star Lands from evil—these things she loved. She did not understand them, but their beauty made the lost feeling inside her shrink and fade.

In the windows, the Wolf King chased witches, fanged and warty, with wild hair in unnatural colors—purple, green, blue. Girl tried to feel hatred for the witches; she knew from the Scrolls that she ought to. Perhaps if she did not look so unusual—and almost like a witch—the others would not despise her so much. Perhaps her parents would not have abandoned her and instead would have brought her along on their heroic travels.

But she could never bring herself to hate the witches. So they had strange hair. So did she. So they had irregular faces. Well, and so did she.

Perhaps witches were simply born funny looking and different. And no one understood them. And so they had been deemed evil. It did not seem particularly fair.

On those lonely nights in the chapel, Girl would hug Fox and stare at the Wolf King’s golden crown until her eyes turned hot and the chapel became a sea of blurred color.

And this was Girl’s life, from the day her parents abandoned her at the age of three until she was twelve years old: Punishments from Mother Petra. Memorizing the Scrolls when she felt agreeable, and stealing from the sisters or hiding on the rooftops when she didn’t. Adele’s soft black curls and cruel mouth. Pigwitch Girl! Pigwitch Girl! Pig. Witch. Girl.

Wondering about witches and magic, and about her parents too, and when they would return from the Hunt to find her. Wondering, wondering, with a lonely twist in her chest that she pushed down until it lodged deep in her belly like a stone.

This was Girl’s life, until suddenly, violently, it wasn’t.

.2.

THE WOLVES THAT WERE NOT WOLVES AT ALL

Girl slipped between the window bars and dropped to the floor. When her bare feet touched the cold stone, her heart kicking inside her chest, she allowed herself a moment to catch her breath and let her eyes adjust to the darkness.

Then, spotting Adele’s sleeping face, Girl grinned.

Pulling tricks on Adele, Girl suspected, would never lose its appeal, and the one she had planned for tonight was perhaps her best trick yet.

She hurried to the door and let Fox inside. He padded off into the darkness, the sack around his shoulders rustling.

Girl set to work.

First the patchwork cloak and gown, sewn together from scraps of cloth that Girl had stolen from Sister Veronika’s mending bag over several long weeks. She slipped the gown and cloak over her own head, and then donned the hat, a lopsided, pointed affair made from the same materials. Then the false hooked nose—clay, baked on the hot roof at midday. She had already painted clusters of warts onto her hands using ointments stolen from the sisters’ stores—would they ever manage to find a lock that could stump her?

Her hair, of course, required no alteration. It was strange and witchy on its own.

She adjusted her hat and looked around for Fox, excitement zipping through her body. If she was caught dressed like this, she would be confined to her room forever.

But she wouldn’t be caught. She never was, these days.

And when she did get back to her bed without being caught, she would really have to sit down, look over her list, and decide on a proper thieving name for herself. If she was to be the best thief in all the Star Lands, she couldn’t call herself Girl, and she certainly couldn’t use her real name.

Perhaps the Rogue of Lalunet, or the Silent Shifter, or Constance Craft, as a sly nod to Sister Veronika, who had tried to call Girl Constance for a six-month stretch when Girl was seven. Or perhaps—

Fox whuffed softly, and Girl shook herself. There would be time for choosing a name later.

She pocketed the coins on Adele’s bedside table, which was the real point of this excursion.

Ready? Girl whispered.

Fox trotted back toward the door, the small cloth sack she had tied around his shoulders now slack and empty. He let out another small whuff of air.

Girl squinted in the dim light, saw the shiny black beetles scuttling across Adele’s bedcovers where Fox had dumped them out—a trick that had taken weeks to teach him. She smiled and approached the bed, her shoulders hunched, her fingers bared like claws. She was ready to pounce, a wild cackle building in her throat—when Fox started growling at the door.

Girl froze.

What? she whispered.

The hair on Fox’s back stood up in a bristly line. Girl heard the creak of the main gate downstairs as it opened and shut.

No one ever came to the convent at this hour.

Girl crept to the window, stood on her toes, and peered out. A cloaked figure swept through the courtyard, Mother Petra herself hurrying alongside it. Shapes Girl couldn’t quite make out swirled above the cloaked figure’s shoulders.

Shadows?

With another low growl, Fox darted into the hallway.

Fox!

Adele shifted in her sleep, smacked her lips. A beetle plopped to the floor.

Girl hesitated. She didn’t want to miss Adele waking up to discover herself covered in beetles with a witch hovering over her—but Fox had never behaved like this before.

Girl hurried after him, down the hallway lined with the somber portraits of dead sisters, down the stairs, past the kitchen, and across the small stone yard to the classrooms.

Fox stood at the end of the hallway, a few paces away from Mother Petra’s office. The door was ajar, letting out lamplight. Girl slipped behind the loose wall panel and crawled into her eavesdropping spot, Fox at her heels. After she’d pulled the panel shut behind them, she crouched and, through a small brass grate, peered into the office. She saw Mother Petra, her desk, and the cloaked figure.

This is most unusual, Mother Petra was saying. "If Lord Aapo wishes to bring my students to see the capital, then I’m certain he would not send a messenger, if that is indeed who you are, to retrieve them in the middle of the night. Now, come. Tell me your full name. Mother Petra arranged pen and paper. You can find a room in town, and I’ll send a letter to Lord Aapo first thing in the morning, and we will get this sorted out. Until then, I’m afraid I will have to ask you to leave."

A low murmur of words then, but Girl could not quite hear. Fox started growling once more. Girl pressed a finger to her lips, and Fox obediently fell silent.

I beg your pardon? said Mother Petra, in a shocked voice.

I said you are a fool, old woman. I tried to approach this as a human might have done, following human rules and courtesies. But you have exhausted my patience even more quickly than I had anticipated.

This new voice was strange, distorted. Girl could not quite fix her ears on it. Was there just the one person in the office speaking with Mother Petra, or were there many?

Fool? Mother Petra rose, tugging her dressing gown straight. You are impudent, young man. That is no way to speak to Mother Petra of the Convent of the White Wolf!

Wolf? A soft spill of unkind laughter. Old woman, you know nothing of wolves.

Seven sharp, lean creatures slunk into Mother Petra’s office from the hallway. Fox backed away from the grate, his tail between his legs. They were wolves. Seven wolves, each a different color: White, black, brown, gray, red, blue, and gold.

Understanding came to Girl slowly. I know those colors, she thought. I have memorized them.

Mother Petra fell to her knees. It’s you! I am so sorry. Forgive me, I didn’t realize! A wondering smile spread across her face. I have dreamed of meeting you!

I doubt you have dreamed of this, came the reply—clear now, and cold.

The wolves lunged over the desk. Papers scattered; claws scraped wood. Girl could not look away. Mother Petra’s screams rang in her ears.

The wolves . . . they were no longer wolves at all.

They were streaks of light, howling and hissing. Girl felt their heat through the grate as though she were crouched beside a crackling fire.

She caught flashes of animal shapes—a tail here, a snout there—but mostly she saw fire, and light, and the cloaked figure standing still as stone. They had been wolves, though, hadn’t they? She had seen them with her own eyes. But now they were most certainly not.

Fox tugged at the hem of her cloak, whining.

Girl couldn’t move. Her heart pounded, her stomach churned. The fiery wolves swarmed over Mother Petra, turning her papers to ash and scorching her great black desk.

And the cloaked figure, dark and terrible, stood watching.

Who was he? He couldn’t be who Girl thought he was. That wouldn’t make sense. The Scrolls, they said—

Fox nipped her leg, hard.

She turned, kicked out the wall panel, clambered to her feet, and ran, Fox right behind her. Heat and howls trailed after them. Down the hallway they raced, through the small yard, past the kitchen—out, out, out. They had to get out.

Out through the gate, down the lane, along the garden wall. Girl’s bare feet pounded the rocky ground. The autumn wind bit her face and hands. Her witch’s cloak caught on a briar, and in her terror, she thought it might be someone grabbing her. She cried out, turned, kicked blindly. Dislodged the cloak, reached for Fox. There was the rough scruff of his neck, his floppy ears. She ran and ran.

Behind her, she heard the screams of the other girls, of the sisters. Adele’s scream—she recognized it, high and piercing—was loudest of all.

They were all waking up to find . . . what? What had happened? Was the Wolf King hurting them as he had hurt Mother Petra?

Girl did not stop running, stolen coins jangling in her pocket and her heart ablaze with fear.

.3.

GOLD AND SWORDS AND CAKES

After a day on the road, her stomach pinched with hunger and her feet raw from walking, Girl stopped to rest at a river. Countless stars, even more brilliant at night than they were during the day, spilled across the sky. In the light of the two moons—one near and pale violet, the other white, more distant—she saw a shabby, mud-colored town, its rooftops a tumble of mismatched shingles. A sign at the town’s western bridge told her that this was Willow-on-the-River, where the sisters shopped for goods when their own small village’s market ran low.

But she would not think about the sisters just yet, nor any of the others back at the convent. First she must find food and a warm place to rest. Then she could sort out everything else.

The Wolf King doesn’t attack children and old women, Girl muttered to Fox, for the twentieth time that day. He only attacks witches. And the witches are nearly gone.

She stopped at the town church, hesitated, then went inside. Though she was normally not one for prayer, as praying required her to sit still and recite someone else’s words rather than her own, she

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  • (5/5)
    This is an absolutely wonderful novel. I had read it before, but decided to pick it back up since I am teaching a Modern Philosophy course this term. The mere fact that I returned to read such a long set of novels (the three collected editions, Quicksilver, the Confusion and the System of the World, rank around 2500 pages) can already be taken as a strong endorsement of the quality of the novels. They involve a serious commitment of reading time and attention, but are extremely rewarding.The novel is a form of historical fiction, focusing on the late 17th and early 18th centuries. This is an era that I already find extremely exciting for its developments in philosophical and scientific thought. These developments form the backdrop of the book, but Stephenson also brings in the fascinating political and economic contexts. Indeed, I had not connected the era with economic innovation until reading the series. Into this vibrant and exciting period Stephenson drops three novel characters: Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe and Eliza. Waterhouse mostly travels in the circles of the Royal Society in London, interacting with luminaries such as Newton, Boyle, Hooke, and Leibniz. Jack is a vagabond, whose adventures take him all over Europe, while Eliza's arc takes her deep into the economic innovation noted earlier.Of these, the Daniel and Eliza storylines are clearly the most interesting, though this is a judgment that not all readers share. I find Jack's sections a little wearying, largely because I'd much rather be more closely involved in the historical storylines. Jack appears in the history, but in a more amusing fashion. He is not a player in the world of ideas, whatever the consequences of his antics and adventures. However, I could certainly see a reader having the opposite reaction. While Daniel and Eliza's storylines can get deep into the philosophical, scientific and economic debates of the day, Jack's are filled with adventure after adventure. For this reader, the world of ideas is the primary draw, but others will find the Jack chapters a welcome respite.The book is meticulously researched, and I found the ideas presented in an admirably clear way. Even a reader unfamiliar with the philosophical and scientific debate will come away from the book with enough understanding to make out the plot, and perhaps their interest piqued enough to look more into those ideas. There are, however, a few places where I think the ideas are used a bit too liberally by the characters (particularly Daniel's ruminations on Leibniz's point about representation from a particular point of view). It reads at times as if Stephenson's got so many ideas and references that he wants to fit that they end up being forced into the prose where they do not really fit. While for the most part I don't think it distorts the ideas (a few exceptions aside), it does frequently generate clunky dialogue. It is hard to imagine even someone as steeped in the Royal Society as Daniel Waterhouse thinking and discussing so extensively in metaphors based on the recent research.Despite these small flaws, Quicksilver, and its sequels, is a book I highly recommend, particularly to any reader with an interest in the Modern period and the upheaval in ideas that drove it.
  • (5/5)
    A lot of work but so worth it.
  • (1/5)
    Neal Stephenson needs an editor.

    Also, it may be cute and even kind of interesting to write an historical fantasy novel using idioms and vernacular from the 20th century on purpose, but it just doesn't work for me.

    And yeah, ok we get it Neal, you're really clever and know a bunch of stuff...that doesn't mean you need to reference every bit of it you can stuff into the books you write.

    It's kind of dissapointing because the ideas and possibilities of where this book could have been going were really interesting...Neal Stephenson just kept getting in the way.
  • (2/5)
    pically never quit on a book, and I didn't quit on this one either. However, I will probably quit on the series. Heck there are two or three more books in this cycle and I don't think I could handle being lectured to for another 2-3 thousand pages. I hear his first work, Snow Crash, is really good but of course this comes from the same folks who love the Baroque Cycle. I just don't get it.
  • (2/5)
    Nicht zum ersten Mal passiert mir das bei Neal Stephenson: Idee und Setting klingen spannend. Voller Vorfreude beginne ich zu lesen, doch die Freude weicht zunehmend der Ernüchterung, und schliesslich bricht der Spannungsbogen unter dem Übermass an Details und Beschreibungen krachend zusammen. Ist wohl einfach nicht mein Ding.
  • (1/5)
    Abandoned at the 25% mark. Too many anachronisms, too much history of science. I don't object to reading about the history of science, but in a novel I'm generally more interested in plot. There isn't enough of that in this work.
  • (4/5)
    This was a BIG book. It is the 1st book in the Baroque Cycle and it was itself split into 3 parts. The first part I found to be slow and a little tedious, though very interesting, it bounces back and forth between the early 1700's on a ship being chased by pirates and 50 years earlier when the main character was going to school. The ship scenes I think were mostly there to give the book some action to help along the boredom of the early story. The second part was much more action packed and I found to be much more fun and faster reading. This is also where we meet Jack "Half-Cocked" Shaftoe, Vagabond extraordinaire and we follow him on his many adventures throughout Europe in his quest to collect a legacy for his twin boys. This one was much better and many places had me laughing out loud.The 3rd book was mostly back to the main character from the first book, Daniel Waterhouse, with a bit of tie-in from the second. This one slowed down again but was still better than the first part.Overall I found the book a decent though long read and very interesting. I actually learned quite a bit about 17th Century Europe and England and a few other things. Quite a few ends and hints were left for the next book in the series.
  • (5/5)
    One of my favorite books of all time.
  • (4/5)
    How to really summarize these books? Very slow starting - much like the novels which he says were part of his inpiration - those of Dorothy Dunnet. Once they start spinning, it is irresistable. Set in the time of Newton, it charts basically the creation of the modern monetary system against the background of an old fashioned (but enjoyable) Sabatini like adventure novel.
  • (3/5)
    Well written and interesting, but a little bit hard for me to get drawn into. The focus is more on the science and history lesson than the story or characters which is fine, just not as engaging as other styles. I would probably enjoy it more if I knew more about the period of history it is set in, or the history of math/science. Without that prior knowledge I've felt somewhat lost in the context, especially at first.

    I would very much recommend this to anyone with an interest in the history of the late 17th/early 18th century or the beginnings of rationalism and mathematics.



  • (5/5)
    While the lack of a tight, page-turning plot will put some off, it's one of the most useful works of historical fiction I've read. One really begins to get a feel for the time, how people thought and felt (very differently from us) and for someone who has read historical accounts of the beginnings of the scientific revolution in England, it is especially satisfying.
  • (3/5)
    [This audiobook contains Book 1 of the print edition of the Quicksilver omnibus. Book 2 is King of the Vagabonds. Book 3 is Odalisque.]

    I’m a scientist by profession and I love history. Thus, I’m fascinated by the history of science, especially the era of Isaac Newton et al. So, Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver should be just my thing and I was fully expecting to love this book (it’s been on my list for years), but I’m sad to say that I was disappointed in this first installment of The Baroque Cycle, though I still have high hopes for the remaining books.

    Quicksilver is well-researched and well-written and chock full of plenty of stuff I love to read about: 17th and 18th century scholars and politicians exploring the way the world works. What an exciting time to be alive! Neal Stephenson successfully captures the feeling of the Baroque world — its architecture, fashion, nobility, plagues, and lack of waste management. He’s done his research, so he clearly and enthusiastically informs us about such diverse topics as alchemy, astronomy, botany, calculus, coinage, cryptography, the Dutch Wars, economics, free will, Galilean invariance, geometry, heresy, international relations, Judaism, kinematics, logic, microscopy, natural philosophy, optics, politics, the Reformation, the Restoration, relativity, sailing, sea warfare, slavery, taxonomy, warfare, weaponry, and zoology... I could go on. Quicksilver will get you half way through a liberal arts education in only 335 pages.

    This is quite an accomplishment, but it’s also a problem. I love historical fiction, but great historical fiction uses the context of an exciting plot, engaging characters, and some sort of tension in the form of mystery and/or romance. Quicksilver has none of that. It’s purely what I’ll call (for lack of a better term) “historical science fiction.” Daniel Waterhouse, the character whose eyes we see through (mostly in flashbacks), has no personality, passion, or purpose. In Quicksilver, he exists to look over the shoulders of the men who are the real subjects of the book: the members of the Royal Society.

    These men are fascinating, yes, but if the purpose of Quicksilver is to relay a huge amount of information about them in an interesting way, I’d rather read a non-fiction account. Then at least I’d know which of the numerous anecdotes about Isaac Newton (et al.) are factual. I can think of no reason to read this history as a fictional account if it contains none of the elements of an entertaining novel.

    As an example, I’ll contrast Quicksilver with Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. I read all 20½ of those novels and was completely enthralled. Not only did I learn a lot about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, but I was also thoroughly entertained by the fictional stories of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. That is excellent historical fiction.

    Quicksilver was funny in places (such as when the Royal Society members talk about time, kidney stones, and opiates during one of their meetings) — and engrossing a couple of times (such as when Daniel Waterhouse and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz discuss cognition, free will, and artificial intelligence), and though I enjoy learning about the invention of clocks, calculators, and coffee, Quicksilver is mostly information overload without a story to back it up.

    I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version, which was beautifully read by Simon Prebble (always a treat). Due to its length, Brilliance Audio has split Quicksilver into its three sections: “Quicksilver,” “King of the Vagabonds,” and “Odalisque.” The next audiobook, then, is called King of the Vagabonds, and it shifts focus to a London street urchin who becomes an adventurer. Now that sounds like fun! I’m going to read King of the Vagabonds and hope that the introduction of some non-academic characters will give this saga some life!
  • (4/5)
    I'll make the standard comment here: this could have been shorter. However, I think I like it as it is: long, rambling, and minute. Despite (and possibly because of) its length, it is fascinating. It's the rare overlong plot that doesn't bore.
  • (2/5)
    This book is best summed up by the following quote from page 674:"Occasionally one discovered correspondences between things in the real world and the figments of pure math. For example: Daniel's trajectory from London to Ipswich had run in nearly a straight line, but after every one of the Dissenters had been let out of gaol, Daniel had executed a mighty change in direction and the next morning began riding on a rented horse towards Cambridge, following a trajectory that became straighter the farther he went. He was, in other words, describing a hyperbolic sort of path across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.But he was not doing so because it was a hyperbola or (to look at it another way) it was not a hyperbola because he was doing so. This was simply the route that traders had always taken, going from market to market as they traveled up out of Ipswich with wagon-loads of imported or smuggled goods. He could have followed a zigzag course. That it looked like a hyperbola when plotted on a map of England was luck. It was a contingent truth.It did not mean anything."
  • (5/5)
    Oh, Quicksilver. Oh, Baroque cycle. How often do I hear you dismissed, as too long, or too confusing, or not cyberpunk. Fear not- I love you still, and always will.Quicksilver is not for the faint of heart, clocking in at 916 oversized pages and filled with vivisections, arguments about the calculus, syphilitic vagabonds, and crazy European politics. And this is only the first part of a three part series, remember. For those willing to commit themselves, however, almost three thousand pages of gloriousness await.Stephenson gallops exuberantly through the eighteenth century, showering nuggets of wisdom, dollops of trivia, and piles of knowledge everywhere. In what other book can you learn about the founding of MIT, read about smuggling a woman out of a harem, and discover Sir Isaac Newton's crazy side, all in the same book? I ask you? A plot summary could never do this book justice. Don't be lazy. If you like history, knowledge (and I mean hardcore knowledge, not first-date know-how), spies, adventure, and politics, read this book. If you don't like those things, I really don't know what else to say. Seriously. We're talking spies here.
  • (3/5)
    Too much! Too big, too long, too slow, too complex. It's like Neal Stephenson took a look back at The Cryptonomicon and thought "What's wrong with this book? I know - it's not long and complicated enough!" He proceeded to remedy this 'oversight' in writing Quicksilver. The book still has many of the strengths of his writing - the humour, the fascinating digressions - but in the end, this book was just too much for me.
  • (5/5)
    A fantastic book by one of my favorite authors. It's the first third of a sprawling story that spans several decades during the birth of science and finance. When I say it sprawls, this is either a compliment and a criticism to the author, depending on your tastes.I find the discursive story, with its tangents, wink-and-a-nod semi-anachronistic cross-century linguistic and cultural lessons/references to be enlightening and entertaining, but for the reader of facile history books or pulp fiction, it would be maddening. I think it's a lot like the meta-story in Goldman's _The Princess Bride_, if the narrator of _tPB_ were too dense to find value in the high wit of Morgenstern.I'm conflicted about giving this book a rating. For some people, it would score four or five stars and for others only one or two. There should be very little middle ground. So, rather than average the two into meaninglessness, I will rate it as I see fit for a reader just like me: 5/5
  • (4/5)
    Way, way, way too many characters.Since I'm not familiar with the setting (late 1600's Europe), this was kind of educational.
  • (4/5)
    Great blend of fantasy and history. Mixes the changing worlds of science, commerce, and banking with lovable, rascally characters.
  • (5/5)
    Oh my... what a ride. This book has a few slow places, but even those are richly illustrated and filled with fascinating linguistic tidbits. This book busts the author out of any scifi or fantasy genre, and places Neal Stephenson into the world of literature.While this book is for a more refined or adult reader than some of Stephenson's other work, it fits quite well with the 30 something (pushing 40 something) crowd that is his fan-base. It's smart, sophisticated, funny and entertaining. But it isn't for the easily intimidated or adrenaline junkies. It's a nice merlot, rather than the everclear and koolaid you drank in college. Enjoy
  • (1/5)
    Despite recommendations from very reliable sources, I just found it too long-winded and slow to develop. Gave up after reading Part 1 and skimming Part 2.
  • (2/5)
    I keep trying, but I just can't make it through this. Stephenson is one of my favorite authors: a brilliantly imaginative mind, a stunning facility with language. But I just can't make myself care about anything in this book: the characters, the plots, the themes...I'm doing all the work, and getting no enjoyment out of it. I thought the audiobook would help -- Simon Prebble is one of my favorite performers -- but even he isn't up to faking enthusiasm or interest in the story.
  • (4/5)
    It’s hard to know where to begin in reviewing Quicksilver, the first massive volume in Neal Stephenson’s truly monumental Baroque Cycle. For one thing, the prospective reader wary of devoting a substantial tranche of his reading life to this series might quite understandably ask, ‘So, just what is this series, you know, about?’ Just pinning down an answer to this would be an accomplishment. My attempt is incomplete, as I’ve just read the first installment, but here goes: the Baroque trilogy is about the hidden stuff that makes the world go, and where that stuff came from. And what is that ‘stuff’? Science and technology; money and banking; politics and war; trade; cultural traditions and quirks and trends – and more. And where does it come from? Obviously, from all sorts of historical roots, but Stephenson has zoomed in on the late 17th to early 18th centuries as the cornerstone of the foundations of modernity, and indeed our own world.The great joy of this book is that all of these potentially dry subjects are immersed in an entertaining, picaresque, often zany storyline that follows several unusual and attractive characters, as they appear, Zelig-like, at all the key junctures of their time. Quicksilver does not read as smoothly as Stephenson’s masterpiece, Cryptonomicon. It’s more foreign, both in time and frequently place, and credit goes to Stephenson for clearly trying to maintain a measure of essential historical accuracy to frame his playful characterizations. But tracking the complexities he recounts, especially the vast multitude of historical personages that people the stage here, requires dedication and effort on the reader’s part. This isn’t a good book to pick up and put down for a while; it’s best read as an ongoing, immersive experience. If you can do this, it gets easier and better as it goes along, and indeed becomes a real pleasure.
  • (4/5)
    Quicksilver is the first of a trilogy, The Baroque Cycle, set at the dawn of the Age of Reason, a time when so much was happening in science that it is hard for us, now, to realize that it was all mixed up with alchemy, slavery and politics even more convoluted than those we confront today. Stephenson’s writing is dense with allusion, anecdote and allegory, and requires close concentration. Several story lines meet and intertwine in the three “books” into which the volume is divided. The first tells of the Puritan Daniel Waterhouse, an acquaintance and colleague of nearly every scientist and alchemist of note of the time. The second is about Half-Cocked Jack, a London street urchin who becomes the King of the Vagabonds, and his adventures with Eliza, whom he rescues from a Turkish harem. All the plots mix together in the third book, which takes place during the 1680s in France, England and Amsterdam, a time of much political and scientific ferment. One wonders whether this is science fiction or fiction about science, but either way, I, at least, am encouraged to continue to the next massive volume in the series, The Confusion. I may wait, however, until my rotator cuff heals; these 1,000-page volumes are damned heavy.
  • (1/5)
    Despite the popularity of this series, and the fact that I've been a fan of his work for decades, I just could not get in to this series. The whole time I was dragging my way through this tome, I was thinking "what he really needs is a good editor to tell him what to cut out." I just felt like he got too caught up in the daily details of his own alternate history to remember that he was supposed to be telling a story. If you are new to Stephenson, I'd recommend starting out with just about anything else, and if you're an old fan, unless you really loved the direction he started to go in with Cryptonomicon, give this series a pass.
  • (5/5)
    This is a hefty, dense book. Thankfully for me, it's set in a period I'm interested in, and the writing is good - exciting, intriguing, bawdy, and in places laugh-out-loud funny.The length was a little detrimental - I got to the end and forgot for a second that the "cliffhanger ending" was actually at an earlier point in the tale than the start of the book was!
  • (5/5)
    Simply the scope and length of Neal Stephenson's 3000 page "cycle" was daunting to me when I first became acquainted with it upon Quicksilvers bulking hardcover release. But with a freshly acquired soft cover in hand I was ready to kick back and try again. The novel fills your head with all the thoughts of Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Robert Hooke and the fictional meanderings of Daniel Waterhouse, "Half-Cocked" Jack and his beautiful tag-along turned market crasher Eliza, while also driving the plot forward with plenty of intrigue and nail biting suspense. Having read Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza and being obviously acquainted with Newton through my college career, I've never felt as if I truly understood quite so well how the world really came to shape these men and their ideas as I do now after reading the opening third to Stephenson's epic. On top of this, Stephenson masterfully involves all of the international intrigues from Cromwell to Louis XIV (and beyond) so well you can forget you are reading a work of fiction and not just a well written historical text. For a reader that doesn't have the time to dedicate to this book to read it at a fair pace, it may be tough to start/stop your way through as there is so much to keep in your head from chapter to chapter that often times you'll find yourself re-reading to catch up. But the reward for chasing after all of these greatly imagined characters is immense and this novel is only the beginning. I'm looking forward to the next 2000 pages that will (I can only hope) answer all of the mysterious questions lurking in the background of Stephenson's encrypted pages.A-/B-
  • (4/5)
    Stephenson's previous work, Cryptonomicon, was easily the best book I've read in the past several years, so it was with great excitement that I approached this book. Overall it was a very good year, although I think that it was definitely not in the same league as the Crypto. The book is divided into three parts, each featuring a character related to the characters and events of Cryptonomicon. The first third focuses on Natural Philosopher Daniel Waterhouse, and follows his relationship with other great minds, including Newton and Leibniz, during the latter half of the 17th century. The second part of the book is more action-based, switching the focus to the noble Vagabond, Jack Shaftoe, as he seeks to make his fortune and his way in the world. The last third returns to Waterhouse, and also greatly expands on Eliza of Qwghlm, a former slave-girl who may just be the lynchpin of European society. Intermingled with all of these events as well is the alchemist Enoch RootOverall, the book was fairly good, although to be honest I felt it dragged somewhat in the middle third. It was interesting, though, to see the interplay of the ancestors of characters that are already fairly well-known, as well as their interactions with various historical characters. I'll definitely have to give a read to the next volume in the story.
  • (5/5)
    Great beginning! This is my absolutely favorite period in history - there was so much going on. The characters in this trilogy are wonderful. And I love how the real life people are depicted - it is gritty and authentic.
  • (3/5)
    Quicksilver almost put me off Stephenson. Almost, which would have been a shame because the rest of the series is really good. And this one isn't bad, it's just that there are so many people (each with multiple names) and so much going on, it's nearly impossible to keep them straight. After a while it's just some action by some people, and you can't remember who these people are exactly but you know it's important.Not the whole book is like this; there is a hilarious battle between Captain Hook and Blackbeard :) And of course the vagabond exploits of our Shaftoe ancestor (for the Cryptonomicon fans) are great. And there is lots of interesting historical stuff on Newton, the Royal Society, Restoration England, good stuff. Just wish I could keep up :) I have been meaning to re-read it... maybe it will be easier the second time... but can't bring myself to.