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The Collectors: 01/20/23

The Collectors

The Collectors by Jacqueline West (2018) is the first book in a duology about the power of wishes. Van as a small, quiet, hard of hearing kid who travels the world with his opera star mother, is one who is usually overlooked by others. He is used to being ignored and good at observing. It's his powers of observation that leads to the collectors.

People aren't supposed to be able to see the animals and people who work together to capture wishes before they can cause trouble. Van, though, can see them as plain as day. He can even follow them into their hidden places.

As with so many children's books that feature an extraordinary child, or perhaps and ordinary one capable of one extraordinary thing, this one puts Van in the middle of an age old war. Neither side wants to be completely frank about what they are doing or why they are doing it. Van (and the reader) is left to decide who is right and who is wrong. He has to take sides without knowing who is keeping things from him for his protection and who is doing it to manipulate him.

The way in which Van's actions and those actions done to him are described remind me of two adult books I've read. The first is The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin (1971) for how the changes in the world as described primarily through descriptive text are related directly back to a person in a position of trust and authority. The second is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996) in the way that the theme of the novel is hidden in plain sight through descriptive wordplay.

Van's time with the collectors also happens to sit on the road narrative spectrum. Van finds himself in a Scarecrow / Minotaur dichotomy (99) as a traveler. He wishes to be a protector but he might end up doing monstrous things if he picks the wrong side. His journey takes him through the city (00), his current adopted home. His route though, is the maze, in that it is a changeable, secretive path, fraught with traps and quite dangerous.

The second book is A Storm of Wishes (2019).

Five stars

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