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The High House by James Stoddard
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The High House (1998)

by James Stoddard

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265361,402 (3.78)3
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    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (PitcherBooks)
    PitcherBooks: Both books have a wonderfully eerie claustrophobic mythic fantasy otherworld through which the hero/heroines must journey. And both are five star books. High House predates Neverwhere.
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** spoiler alert **

Published in 1998, this is an excellent, relatively recent take on mythopoetic fantasy in the style of George Macdonald, Lord Dunsany, or E.R. Eddison. The language is more accessible - especially compared to Eddison - there are no elves or dwarves, just humans (although some are far from ordinary; for example, one of the characters is the Biblical Enoch, now several thousand years old). The main character is a young man, born and raised in a strange house but sent away in his adolescence, who returns as a possible heir and must set wrongs to right to identify his destiny.

The High House is practically a character itself, linking a set of fantastic countries and characters, all placed at risk by the machinations of the evil 'anarchists'. (As it happens, 'nihilists' would be a more accurate term, but given that this came out the same year as the Big Lebowski, Stoddard was wise or lucky not to have named them that - the Bobby wouldn't be as convincing if readers were constantly imagining him saying, 'Ve are nihilists...Ve believe in nossing.')

One limiting feature of the book is the lack of central, positive female characters - there are a few women, admirable and otherwise, but for the most part, this is mostly a story about men's relationships with one another - mentor, enemy, rival, ally, or brother. The story takes place within a culturally Christian universe, but it is far from clear whether it is theologically Christian, another way in which this book feels more modern than the books written by MacDonald and the writers he inspired (C.S. Lewis, G.K Chesterton). As compared to the multi-volume fantasy sagas now in vogue, this is fresh, engaging, and already complete, so there's no wait of a year or two required for the next volume to emerge. I'm now looking forward to reading the two subsequent books in the High House trilogy. ( )
  bezoar44 | Feb 28, 2016 |
I cannot believe I had this treasure sitting my my bookshelf for almost 20 years before reading it. It is high fantasy in the tradition of Tolkeien an C.S. Lewis. It has all the elements that make great fantasy, lots of adventure, danger, battles between good and evil, and a completely unique look at the universe. ( )
  marysneedle | Dec 21, 2014 |
Recommended by that sympathetic intelligence known as "withywindle." And, appropriately, a book in which I felt at home. So many elements and echoes of things that are dear to me -- the complexities of internal spaces, large houses (especially when one is small), flashes of George MacDonald, and David Lindsey, snatches of poets I like (Marvell, Stevenson). I am not sure that someone who brought a different taste to it would like it as much as I did. The prose style, like the plot, will not be universally compelling. But I was compelled, and felt I had a friend in the author.

"This is the room of horrors. You will never leave it" ( )
  ben_a | Oct 21, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446606790, Mass Market Paperback)

Once upon a time, the term high fantasy did not refer to interchangeable novels about motley crews of sword-swinging, spell-slinging adventurers on interminable quests to defeat evil wizards. In olden days, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings was unique--yet part of an established literary tradition with the works of Lord Dunsany, C.S. Lewis, William Morris, and many others. The modern armies of Tolkien clones have vanquished the diversity of high fantasy, with few exceptions: Little, Big by John Crowley, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Clouds End by Sean Stewart--and now The High House, an astonishingly imaginative, individual, and assured first novel by James Stoddard. It's no surprise that this is only the second novel chosen in two years for Warner's New Aspect program for extraordinary new novelists.

The High House, Evenmere, is an unusual place. There are monsters in the cellar and a dragon in the attic; many of the rooms are entire worlds, strange, wondrous, often nightmarish; and the High House's existence may ensure the survival of Creation itself. But a powerful enemy has risen against Evenmere, and the Master of the High House has disappeared in an unknown world. Carter Anderson, his long-exiled son, must return to defend the manor and the universe from destruction. But Carter has lost the keys to the doors of other worlds. One of his few allies may be a traitor. And the enemy who assails Evenmere from every world, and even from within dreams, knows the High House better than Carter and may hold all the keys. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:05 -0400)

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