Flashback Fridays: Across the multiverse . . .

So you’re a girl who is on a quest with an invisible cat-like creature to gather chosen champions from across the multiverse to stop a growing evil.  The trick to defeating this evil in then end won’t rely on strength or guile or wisdom but on something very powerful indeed .  . .

Do you remember?

Charmed by Marilyn Singer (Atheneum, c1990)

Miranda has just turned twelve years old, and has been sent an odd woven basket for her birthday . . . not the sort of gift she was exactly expecting.  But that basket wind up to be a portal that will lead her on an incredible adventure.  It’s a journey that spans many different worlds as they work to assemble the “Correct Combination”–the five beings that can stand against the evil Charmer.  For the Charmer threatens all the worlds with his production of  highly addictive and numbing drugs as well as mind-control gadgets, and he is nearly invincible.    Apart, none of them have much hope of succeeding, but together, they may just save all the worlds.  And Amanda’s special talents hold the critical key.

Interestingly enough, I think Miranda is front and center on the cover, and she’s looking determined and slightly dour.  This is no pretty fantasy adventure or wonderland style world. The worlds that Amanda visits have been poisoned by evil, making them dangerous places for a young team of questers.  They escape danger several times before their final confrontation.

For a girl who loved Labyrinth and Tamora Pierce’s Alanna, here was another girl I could enjoy in the main role of the story.  I remember seeing this book come into the library and snatching it off the new book shelves and devouring it in a night.   Rather than a sidekick in the quest of a Chosen One, Miranda is that character.  And despite containing many of the traditional fantasy tropes of this story type, the fact that it’s a twelve year-old girl in the role made a huge impact on me. (For a while in my “I want to change my name” phase, I decided Miranda would be a good name)   There is something to the stories that start in a world like your own with a character a lot like you that just touches something hopeful inside all of us, I think.   But unlike other portal fantasies I had read, Miranda could have come from my own time and from a similar family, a similar lifestyle.  There’s a real excitement in reading something like that.

I’ve always enjoyed a good multiverse story.  This wasn’t my first introduction to the multiverse since Diana Wynne Jones took me there earlier on, but it was one of the few.  While multiverse stories seemed to be in abundance for adults,  there were not so many books for kids that dove into multiple worlds with different creatures and histories.  All five members of the team bring something different into play and all have their own personalities to charm readers with. (Bastable the cat is particularly fun)

Marilyn Singer may have written this obscure fantasy for middle grade readers back in 1990, but the author herself is far from obscure!  With over seventy books to her name for children and young adults, she seems to have a new title or two out every year.  And she doesn’t write just fantasy, she’s done realistic fiction, non fiction, picture books, mysteries and quite a bit of poetry.   You’ll find quite a lot of her work in any public library, but you probably won’t find this book quite as easily.   This book and one other fantasy by Marilyn Singer, The Horsemaster (1985) are the  two I really remember.  Both with central female protagonists in a time when this wasn’t as common a thing in fantasy novels.  They’re worth a look if you can find them, though I suspect Charmed may feel quite dated by the passage of decades.  Still a younger me still wishes we would have seen more of that multiverse . . .

Check out the first page of text for this book here on Marilyn Singer’s author site.

Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on August 26, 2016, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Goodness, this sounds right up my alley but I never heard of it. (I also wanted to be named Miranda as a kid.) I wonder how much its obscurity has to do with that definitely off-putting cover. Looks like she’s saying “Go away! Don’t read me!”

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