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Literature / Among Others

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Among Others is a fantasy novel by Jo Walton.

15-year-old Mori has recently lost her twin sister at hands of their mother, a powerful witch. She escapes into fiction and the dullness of her boarding school life, but the world of fairies and dangerous magic is always closer than is comfortable.

Loosely inspired by events from Jo's childhood in Wales. Won the Nebula Award in 2011 and the Hugo Award in 2012.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Mori's mother, culminating in her hitting the twins with a car.
  • Always Identical Twins: Mori and Mori. Morwenna and Morganna were so identical they shared the same nicknames—although their family could always tell them apart, despite that.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Mori.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Mori helps the librarian she befriends shelve some new books, mostly in the "teen dealing with issues" genre. She lists these issues as "drug addiction, abusive parents, boyfriends who push for sex, and living in Ireland".
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The fairies. They aren't bad, they just don't think like humans at all. At the climax of the book, one of them decides to "help" Mori by killing her and turning her into a fairy, because she once did try to kill herself and he thinks it's what she wants.
  • Bookworm: Mori is obsessed with books, especially fantasy and science fiction. They are her lifeline after the horrific tragedy that killed her twin and left her crippled for life.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mori's mother.
  • The Fair Folk: The creatures that Mori and her sister called elves were presumably the inspiration for legends of the fair folk, but are a lot less human than they're usually depicted in stories told by humans. One thing the stories get right is that caution is required in all dealings with them; they're not usually malicious, but they have Blue-and-Orange Morality and even when they want to help their idea of what would be helpful to a human can be a bit off.
  • Halloween Episode: The dead come back for a day on Halloween.
  • Magic Realism: Life in a girl's boarding school, whose bookish, Fish out of Water protagonist just happens to be the daughter of a witch, a witch herself and who consorts regularly with fairies.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Mori is able to see supernatural beings and work magic. However, it is somewhat ambiguous as to whether the beings she sees are magical or the product of a lonely teenager's imagination, at least in the beginning of the book. The magic in this book mostly works in a subtle manner through coincidences that leave plenty of room for doubt as to whether the results were really due to magic after all, a fact which gives Mori a moment of existential crisis at one point.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mori goes through this after she does a spell to ask for friends, and ends up invited to the science fiction book club—she wonders if she ended up mind-controlling them all into liking her and is horrified. (Luckily another character later convinces her that this is not the case).
  • My Sibling Will Live Through Me: Mori is the surviving one of a pair of identical twins, Morwenna and Morganna. It gradually becomes apparent that the name she supplies when people ask her what "Mori" is short for is the name of the sister who died.
  • Oh, Crap!: While the twins were fighting their mother's plan to take over the world, she repeatedly threw phantoms at them, which they had to ignore in order to stop her. Mori describes the horror of seeing headlights and realizing the car was real.
  • Offing the Offspring: Although technically Mori's twin died in a car accident, the car accident only happened because their mother made it happen.
  • Parental Incest: During one outing, Mori's father - who is almost a complete stranger, being absent all her life having only 'met' her for the first time after the accident - gets drunk and tries to kiss her. She shoves him away and nothing further happens. They never discuss it afterward and it's not clear whether he even remembers the incident.
  • Reference Overdosed: A significant part of Among Others is describing the main character's experience reading science fiction and fantasy. Though as it's all time appropriate for just-barely-1980, some of the references may require research for the modern reader.
  • Removed from the Picture: After Mori's mother finds out where she's gone, she starts sending Mori old family photos with Mori burned out of them. Since Mori's mother is a witch, there's more to this than just an expression of her feelings.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: When the story opens, Mori has already had the amazing adventure with elves culminating against in a showdown against an evil witch; the story is about what happens after the great battle is won and the surviving heroine is left to pick up the pieces of her life. She refers several times to Tolkien's coverage of this subject at the very end of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Take That!: When Mori's in the hospital, the librarian brings her some Piers Anthony books, which Mori comments she hadn't read yet because "frankly, they looked like crap".