Review: Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn

by Carrie VaughnDiscord’s Apple

Written: Carrie Vaughn [Website]

Published: Tor Books, Hardcover

When: July 2010

ISBN: 0765325543

Obtained via: GoodReads’ First Reads Giveaway

Cover blurb: When Evie Walker goes home to spend time with her dying father, she discovers that his creaky old house in Hope’s Fort, Colorado is not the only legacy she stands to inherit. Hidden behind the old basement door is a secret and magical storeroom where wondrous treasures from myth and legend are kept safe unit they are needed again. The magic of the storeroom prevents access to any who are not intended to use the items.

Evie must guard the storeroom against ancient and malicious forces, protecting the past and the future even as the present unravels around them. Old heroes and notorious villains alike will rise to fight on her side or to undermine her most desperate gambits. At stake is the fate of the world, and the prevention of nothing less than the apocalypse.

* * *

Discord’s Apple is the story of Evie Walker coming home to visit her dying father, alternating with the story of Sinon, the Greek soldier Odysseus left behind to convince the city of Troy to bring inside the famous wooden horse.

Vaughn’s writing is always vivid. There’s a sort of intangible quality to her characters that make them stand up from the page and give you a peck on the cheek. Kitty Norville and Evie Walker both have that aspect, the one that makes you feel like you’re only getting the smallest glimpse into a life that continues over, above, and past the written page. These are the best sorts of characters.

Sinon is a classic tragic hero, whose story has an honesty that I think is missing from many modern reboots. Much of Greek mythology was not pleasant or pretty to look at; I’m glad to see Vaughn being true to the old tales. In fact, all the mythology and old stories used here feel real and true, even when Vaughn has skewed them just a little bit to suit her own purposes. I don’t think there was ever a myth about Hera wanting to bring about the apocalypse- but in the context of this book, it’s not unbelievable.

I really enjoyed the premise of the story: a dystopian world where gas and groceries are rationed and there are security checkpoints in every town and city. The old gods are dead, and the whole world borders on general war. The only disappointment is that we don’t get to see too terribly much of it, as Evie spends most of her time in her father’s mysterious house in Colorado.

We also don’t get to pry into as many of the house’s secrets as I’d like. There are many fabled objects referenced during the course of the story: a glass slipper, a golden apple, a shiny yellow fleece, a sword that slips smoothly into stone – and many more. It would’ve been nice to hear more about these items, and the history of the archive that housed them over the centuries. Honestly, a lot of this book reads like an elbow-nudge to mythology & fairy tale scholars. Being one myself, I think I got most of the references, but I wonder if a layman could have kept up with the many layers of mythological allusions. However, with the addition of the golden apple (whose history is explained during the course of the story), one only needs to know the background of the glass slipper and the sword in the stone. These should be a given for all children of Western culture (or anyone who has ever seen a Disney movie), so the other references don’t detract from the story if you don’t recognize them.

In the end, Discord’s Apple gives us a tale worthy of the gods and monsters of legend. The characters are some that you can love and hate and, more importantly, come to understand. We get just a tiny, tantalizing peek into a not-so-distant future that is frankly frightening to see. If only the story had been given the length and breadth to really do it justice.

Actually, I’m very torn on my opinion of the length and depth of this book. On one hand, I want to know more: MORE about Evie’s world, MORE about the objects hidden away inside her father’s basement, MORE about the previous caretakers of those precious objects squirreled away. I believe this could easily have been an epic-length novel, and I hope – given the moderate length of Vaughn’s other novels and her formidable list of short stories – that the author is not afraid of trying to manage such a beast. I firmly believe she has the talent and abilities necessary for a much longer book.

On the other hand, Evie’s story comes to a natural (if depressing) conclusion. If the cat and mouse game with Hera and her cronies had gone on any longer, I might easily have grown bored. So, again, I just can’t come to a decision as to whether these 299 pages are just right or not enough. I suppose you’ll need to read it for yourself to decide.

Buy Discord’s Apple: Amazon | B&N | Indie Bound

[xrr rating=3.5/5 imageset=default]