I've been at a loss lately for what to read. I've started several novels, gotten twenty to one hundred pages into them, then realized that I wasn't at all invested in the story. It's helped narrow down my to-be-read shelves, but it hasn't helped me relax. Finally I hit upon the idea of rereading something I know I'll like. Something that I loved at one time but haven't read in years.
It's been a long time since I've intentionally selected a book to reread. I've been doing research before, hunting through various novels, and caught myself hours later halfway through a novel and ending up finishing it—an accidental or unintentional reread. But to pick a book on purpose...that had the appeal of the unusual.
I automatically gravitated to The Princess Bride, one of the few books I have reread intentionally. It didn't feel right. Neither did one of Jacqueline Carey's novels, which read like a balm to my muse, I'm so familiar with the stories that it's just the beauty of the language that compels me along. But those didn't feel right either.
And then my eye fell upon The Hero and the Crown. A YA novel, which for long-time readers, you know I typically don't read YA. In fact, the last time I read The Hero and the Crown I was twelve. Maybe eleven.
I picked it up and I'm loving it. McKinley has a great, quiet style that sneaks up on the story, one where you're immersed in the fantasy before you were aware it was fully constructed.
I was surprised to recognize some of my earlier work in it. My preteen subconscious had soaked it up and reused it a few years later in my first stories without me knowing it. From character names to pacing to even some minor plot points, I recognized them in my very early works. It was shocking and a bit amusing.
I'm enjoying The Hero and the Crown so much, that I think I'll hunt down a copy of The Blue Sword at my local used book store and see if I find any other unwitting plagiarisms in my early work. I guess the polite term is "influences." I'd be pleased as punch if my work reflected that I'd learned something from reading Robin McKinley, just so long as I'm not unconsciously stealing ideas.