When I hear an editor or a publicist use “atmospheric” when talking up a new book, my initial, gut reflex tends to be “cringe!” I am wary that the book might have nothing else going for it (not fresh and strong plot or great world building or wonderful and vivid characters) but beautiful words that create some sort of ethereal “atmosphere.” Of course, I’m often proven wrong and some of my favorite books have been quite successfully atmospheric AND complete in their full range of literary elements. (Laini Taylor’s and Susanna Clarke’s works came to mind, and of course, Neil Gaiman’s.)
Book 61 is definitely another example of a book that features most notably a distinct atmosphere of nightmarish darkness, danger, and confusion that is not so commonly found in most other books for children. That is not to say that the readers don’t care about its cast of characters or that the majorly off-kilter imagined world isn’t so vividly drawn that we can not only see but also hear, touch, and smell the place! I was thinking how reading this story is a lot like watching a Miyazaki movie: consciously you are not quite sure exactly what’s going on and who’s on who’s side since it’s told through the view (although 3rd person) of a somewhat clueless child, but you worry deeply for this child and his friends and want them all to come out on top and subconsciously you DO have a firm grasp on what the big question is and how people should treat each other and that serves as a solid theme beneath the shifting water and sand that are the scenes.
This book lingers, for me.