The Tears of the SalamanderThe Tears of the Salamander by Peter Dickinson

True confession: part of my collection development job in the children’s library is to periodically run a list of things that haven’t been checked out in several years and decide if they’re worth keeping (the library is simply not big enough to keep everything forever – the shelves are PACKED). Some things are easy to get rid of (falling apart, dated, obscure), others are easy to keep (authors or titles I know and love) and still others fall into the middle. How do I decide if it’s worth keeping? This one fell into that category, and here’s the confession part – I checked it out to myself, knowing that would take it off the list for a few more years. And if I check something out, I have to read it. I do this sometimes – little book rescues. Usually it’s with those titles that I know I liked as a kid, but I’d never actually read any Peter Dickinson before this. But I thought I’d give him a try, mostly on the basis that he’s married to Robin McKinley, of my Favorite Ever Authors.

The results were mixed – it’s a slow story to get into, set in southern Italy some unspecified historical period, with a main character who’s interesting but not particularly distinct apart from his passion for music. The writing is evocative but never lets you get too close to things – accomplished but not gripping. The plot was compelling and the quality of the magic tied in nicely with the setting. I might recommend it to fantasy readers who enjoy setting and mood more than characters – but I wouldn’t fight to keep it in the collection if no one else checks it out in the next three years.

Source: my library

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