A Swiftly Tilting Planet – Madeleine L’Engle
Fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace and the unicorn Gaudior undertake a perilous journey through time in a desperate attempt to stop the destruction of the world by the mad dictator Madog Branzillo. They are not alone in their quest. Charles Wallace's sister, Meg—grown and expecting her first child, but still able to enter her brother's thoughts and emotions by “kything”—goes with him in spirit. But in overcoming the challenges, Charles Wallace must face the ultimate test of his faith and will, as he is sent within four people from another time, there to search for a way to avert the tragedy threatening them all.
Review: I had planned on reading this entire series, but I’m done after this one. I admit defeat. You have defeated me, children’s books. You win.
A Swiftly Tilting Planet takes place about nine years after the events of the previous book. A South American dictator is threatening to blow up the world for some reason. It’s up to fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace and a time-traveling unicorn to stop him. They do this by going back in time and altering history to keep the dictator from existing.
This book has a lot of the same issues for me as the first two books. It’s tediously repetitive, full of plot holes, and largely consists of an oversimplified battle between good and evil. I don’t like good vs evil stories because the world is more complicated than that. People have complex beliefs and motives. I don’t think it’s fair to reduce a person to something as simple as “good” or “evil.” The good-defeating-evil themes are the biggest reason why I lost patience with this book.
A Swiftly Tilting Planet undoes everything that I liked about the first book. Meg was a plain-looking nerdy girl who loved math. In this book, her brothers and husband are successfully becoming doctors and lawyers. Meg is . . . pregnant. Seriously, all we learn about her in this story is that she’s pregnant and beautiful. What has she been doing for the past nine years? Her brothers have obviously been doing things. We don’t hear about Meg’s accomplishments, and then she spends the entire book lying in bed, psychically eavesdropping on Charles Wallace’s adventure. It’s disappointing.
Charles Wallace doesn’t fare much better. He definitely gets the short end of the stick in the first two books. He’s mind-controlled by an evil communist monster, and then he almost dies from a disease. I was excited to see what he’d do in this book now that he’s older. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really do anything. He hops on his bubble-blowing unicorn, flies through time, and watches history happen. Watching is pretty much all he does. Sometimes he says a rune/prayer/poem thing that somehow makes bad situations better. The book doesn’t give a good explanation of how the magic rune works. It just does.
I found Charles Wallace’s mission in history to be vaguely creepy. Basically, a bunch of Welsh guys have been inbreeding with a tribe of Noble Savage women for generations. They start out breeding in the US, then somehow end up in South America. Charles’s job is to make sure that the “good” Welsh guys procreate instead of the “evil” ones. The author makes this easy for him by giving all the “good” people blue eyes. This seems weird to me. Is the author saying that “evil” is genetic, like eye color? That’s a terrible message to give young readers. Just because someone in your family is a jerk doesn’t mean that you’ll grow up and start a nuclear holocaust.
Also, I’m not sure how many children will be able to follow this story. The characters have very similar names, and it’s confusing. Even with the helpful color-coded eyes, I had a hard time keeping the characters and their relationships straight.
I tried my best, but I’m done with this series. There are plenty of other books in the sea.