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Prince Of Neither Here Nor There, The Paperback – Aug 11 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada; 1st Edition edition (Aug. 11 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143171208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143171201
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.7 x 21.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #568,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Quill & Quire

What is it about children’s fantasy lit that attracted two of Canada’s comedy writers and performers? A cynic would say it’s the urge to cash in on the success of J.K. Rowling et al. But there’s another element that dominates former This Hour Has 22 Minutes writer Edward Kay’s first novel for children and comedian Seán Cullen’s fourth, one that testifies to their backgrounds in television. These two new novels are highly visual, and play out as if onscreen, emphasizing physical appearances and relying on familiar stereotypes and special effects. In The Prince of Neither Here Nor There, the first book in Cullen’s new series, Brendan Clair, plagued by all the zits, smells, and clumsiness possible in adolescence, finds the spiral scar on his chest flaring in agony when he is confronted by a “breathtaking, terrifyingly radiant” woman playing otherwordly music on a harp. She tells him he is a Faerie who has been adopted by humans. (Cullen distinguishes “Faeries” from “fairies,” which, the narrator tells us, are “ineffectual little things that flit about in children’s stories.”) Brendan denies his true identity at first, but a fast-paced chase through Toronto with his school friend Kim, a Faerie guardian, introduces him to the trolls, kobolds, and silkies of the city’s subway and harbour, and goes some way toward convincing him. Not until he ends up on Ward’s Island in the Swan of Liir pub (strikingly similar to Rowling’s Leaky Cauldron) does he accept his destiny, and realize that it is up to him to repair the rift between the human and Faerie worlds. His complexion clear and his many Faerie powers evident, he returns home prepared for whatever awaits him in the next book in the series. Prince is an uneasy mix of dumb adolescent humour (body odour, pants-wetting, jaunty footnotes from the narrator), the overblown grandiosity of epic fantasy (“I have wrought a Sending”; “the tone was fell and it throbbed with power”), and cliché (“her voice was irresistible as a hurricane, as inevitable as an earthquake”; eyes “blue as sapphires”; “his feet weighed a ton”). The prose is often startlingly banal, especially where characters’ feelings are concerned. Cullen clearly gets a kick out of describing Toronto and its environs and peopling it with animated action figures, but his lack of flexibility and originality as a writer is daunting. And although I myself appreciate a Deirdre who is “tall and dire” with a “gorgeous face,” an author who reveals that he is using his son’s name for his hero, then claims that the hero thinks “his father [is] just about the coolest person in the world,” is being a bit squirm-worthy. Vivid characters and playful language are more in evidence in Edward Kay’s STAR Academy. Amanda Forsythe is an 11-year-old genius, and when her photon-sail space travel project is mocked at the science fair, she’s shattered. But then she’s offered a place in a school she’s never heard of before – the Superior Thinking and Advanced Research (STAR) Academy. After some initial hesitation, her parents allow her to enroll in this elite boarding school, and Amanda is soon working with her team to win the school challenge to “investigate the nature of synapses in the human brain and suggest a means of blocking the ones associated with memories.” Amanda and her friends gradually realize that the school’s eccentric headmistresses, Leitspied and Oppenheimer, are aliens whose aim is anything but benign. The students have to resort to ancient methods such as carrier pigeons and smoke signals – not to mention plain old courage – to free an imprisoned classmate and foil the aliens’ plan. Kay has his moments of body humour (references to Uranus and a five-page riff on vegetable-beef-soup-smelling B.O. among them) and his own crew of conventional characters – such as a couple of buffoon cops and A-list student Eugenia Asperger,  who is always surrounded by sycophants. But his interest is in his heroes’ courage and enterprising intellects, and his long, calm sentences, if somewhat abstract in vocabulary and distant in tone, show an affectionate respect for his readers. A phrase such as “this riotous collection of mouth-watering scents gave her the appetite of a Dickensian waif in a workhouse” doesn’t have pizzazz, but it does have character. Although Kay’s plot is thin, the very notion of a collection of young geniuses able to outstrip adults in their knowledge of quantum physics is cheering. But in the end, we are still left with something more televisual than literary. Both Cullen and Kay emphasize situation comedy and costume. More noticeably, their prose often tells instead of showing, and is chock full of passages that read like stage directions. Telling us that a character “radiates subtle strength, authority and power,” as Cullen writes of one Faerie, may give an actor something to go on, but it ducks the real work of  storytelling, which is to convey implicitly – through dialogue, action, and imagery – everything that is beneath the surface. Such are the true special effects of literature.

About the Author

Comedian Seán Cullen was a member of the highly influential musical comedy troupe Corky and the Juice Pigs until 1998. His stage and screen credits include CBC’s Seán Cullen Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Showcase series Slings and Arrows, and the Toronto stage production of The Producers. He is the winner of two Gemini Awards.

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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "Nienna" on Nov. 16 2010
Format: Paperback
I really loved this book. I'm an adult but I adored this book - it was a great story, lighthearted, and "magical".

As a person familiar with Toronto it was also fun to follow the characters through the city.

I'm looking forward to the next books in the series
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Stereotyped and trite. Oct. 13 2010
By Rajesh Motie - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
The Prince of Neither Here Nor There is one of those books where every five minutes you stop to say "wait, haven't I seen this somewhere before?"

Protagonist Brendan Clair is an extremely typical high school "loser", plagued by pimples, clumsiness, and bullies. He is as blunt and unintelligent as they come. He reacts to nothing like a teenager would and makes unbelievable decisions. He has no distinct personality.

Brendan finds out he's actually a Faerie whose appearance has been altered by magic. He couldn't just be any Faerie either, no sir, he must be a *prince*. Some craziness transpires and his guise begins to fail, so his location is revealed and evildoers are coming for him. The ensuing tale is full of boring action, hammy villains, a cliched cast, and at the center of it an unready Brendan who must contend with it using his dull Faerie powers.

The supporting cast isn't any better than Brendan. They're archetypal good guys and bad guys. The good guys are loyal to the Faerie Law. The Law, by the way, is a set of rules that asks completely ridiculous and unfair things of people. The heroes are convinced that the Faerie Law is a good thing, though I don't know how they could possibly be so deluded. It is required that newcomer Brendan accepts these rules, even though he is put in mortal danger because of them. Brendan's friends include a classic new transfer student and a "one of the boys" badgirl who always stands up for him. They seem to be collections of overdone tropes posing as characters.

In his narration, author Sean Cullen uses footnotes to state his opinion or give additional information. Often, the footnotes tell you things that the hero really should be learning, because he needs to know and so that we can learn through him. There are also cases where Cullen jokes about overestimating the intelligence of the audience or gives some trivia (which may or may not be accurate). It can be funny at times (and I'm Canadian, so that's a bonus), or just dumb(do we really need a joke about the word "baleful"?) but the whacky nature of these footnotes usually doesn't mesh with the tone of the story (that is, it takes itself seriously), and I don't think it needed a self-aware narrator.

Sean Cullen's interpretation of magic is believable enough in that it requires actual concentration, but other than that, the fictional world is terrible. This is a world where Humans and Faeries (and Faeries are really just prettied-up versions of Humans) used to coexist, but then the Humans started using metal, which Faeries are allergic to. The Faeries also didn't like the way metal was being used, so arguments and disagreement broke out. Apparently, the Humans won the conflict somehow, and so the Faeries went into hiding. Then the Humans just forgot about the Faeries. They just forgot. Just like that. Oh, and that's not all the Humans don't know about. There are Kobolds and Dwarves and Trolls and Selkies and what not, but Humans don't know about them these days. They haven't seen them, even though they're right there, in plain sight. I can suspend my disbelief for some things, but not for selkies swimming in the open or a troll living in a subway.

Sean Cullen loves to talk down to his readers. The Prince of Neither Here Nor There shoves an environmental message down your throat around every corner. Alright, we get it Cullen, Humans suck and Faeries are awesome. And what's with this message about how metal is bad? Cullen isn't the only one pushing it (glaring your way, Obert Skye).
Well people, you know all of that technology that provides homes for people? Get this - we wouldn't have it without metal. You know all that medicine and surgery that saves lives? Get this - we wouldn't have it without metal. This book that I'm reviewing couldn't have been made without metal. I mean, are you really going to oppose invention, architecture, engineering, science? Faeries have created things like cell phones using magic and wood, which is great. Then they go and criticize Humans for using artificial materials while continuing to keep magic a secret. Well excuse us, we can't use a technological method we don't know exists. What do they expect Humans to do? I don't understand.
3 out of 10
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great Read Oct. 18 2010
By SecretAgent - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Great story by one of Canada's funniest minds. This is another great tale full of fantasy, humour and adventure. Anyone who has read his Hamish X series will be pleased to see the comedic "footnotes" are back. It's targeted to tween readers but any adult who enjoys adventures will enjoy this book too. Highly recommended!