Book 5 of 2016
Juman Malouf’s debut novel, The Trilogy of Two, comes highly recommended by Vanity Fair, and Time magazine. Categorized as a children’s book, this four hundred page fantasy novel takes the reader’s imagination on an adventure as soon as Book One begins.
The protagonists, twins named Charlotte and Sonja, are talented twelve-year-old circus musicians in a world that is no longer recognizable. The girls are much more than musicians though; lately every time they play their music, something magical happens, and they can’t seem to control it. Their magic frightens their fellow circus performers and the twosome is banned from playing any future shows.
The ban drives the headstrong twin, Charlotte, to the next best thing: to audition for a children’s music school. Charlotte sees it as an opportunity for the girls to play their music as much as they’d like. She and Sonja meet a talented violist named Jack Cross, and he tells the girls the details of the audition. Against their caregivers wishes, the twins sneak to the audition to play their instruments. But something spooky and magical occurs yet again and the girls must flee the audition before they are caught. Soon, in Book Two and Three of the novel, Sonja and Charlotte are running for their lives, searching for their kidnapped caregiver, learning their family history, and exploring the magical world they never dreamed was real.
My thoughts: the novel was mildly disappointing. The Trilogy of Two was fast-paced enough (especially towards the end, don’t get me wrong), and the twins relationship and love for one another was believable and well thought-out, but it seemed as though I was being introduced to new characters in the magical world at the beginning of every chapter. While this makes sense for a young adult or adult fantasy novel, I’m not sure the target demographic of this novel would care about all of the characters and creatures that were introduced. I also found some of the plot lines a bit predictable, but then again, that doesn’t make for a ‘bad book.’
Combining Malouf’s prose with his vivid illustrations, the New York Times calls The Trilogy of Two a “richly imagined hipster-Victorian fantasia” and I agree with the description. Overall, I would say this is a good novel for teachers to read with their students, or for parents to pick up to read with their middle school-aged kids. It’s not one I will rank as one of my favorites for the year (and I know we are only at the beginning), but I do think it offers some valuable lessons, along with beautiful, scattered illustrations, some thought-provoking family scenes and an all-around magical world. And I can always get on board with a little magic.