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I have wanted to read Orlando Furioso for a long time, even before my friend Stephanie told me a lot of years ago that the kids she was watching needed a new game to play, so she gave them each a character out of the book to be, one with a magic sword, one with a hippogriff that could fly to the moon, and one with a blinding shield. At long last, I got around to it. I am so glad. I knew it was full of knights and the usual swords that cleave enemies from skull to navel, but I had no idea it was so funny! Lost wits can be found on the moon! The poet pokes fun at himself as a failure at love! Mad Orlando uproots a tree to use as a weapon as if it were a stalk of celery!

It is also remarkably pro-woman for its period. There is not just one damsel who can fight with the knights, but two. The knights that accompany them (and fall in love with them) recognize and praise their prowess. The stories of the faithlessness of women (a staple during the period) are both balanced by stories of the faithlessness of men and explained as sour grapes on the part of men.

The plots, for there are many, interlace, with many a “Meanwhile, back at…” to build suspense. I’m pretty sure that there are at least twenty most beautiful damsels ever and an equal number of most valiant knights. Within the obvious constraints of that kind of thinking, the stories do manage to vary considerably, at least in part due to unusual rulers and entertaining monster incursions. The book, as a whole, is kind of like a very smart and funny version of General Hospital on horses.

***

In other book news, Rick Riordan came out with a new book just in time for T.’s birthday. The Serpent’s Shadow is the third book of his Kane Chronicles and by far the best. Riordan is always funny and inventive. I find at least one thing per chapter that I wish I had thought of and written myself. This book reaches the level of The Lightning Thief, both in number of things I want to steal and in number of times I laughed out loud. Also: Jelly Baby Conspiracy. If you read the book, you will know what I mean. And you should read the book.

What’s it about? Oh, right. It is about two kids who are descendants of the pharaohs. They have magic powers, fight monsters, and generally save the world in the company of various Egyptian gods, a baboon who only eats things that end in O, and other interesting folks. Good versus evil, last-minute rescue, great triumph. Very satisfying.

Sorry about being too lazy to make links or pictures today...

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