Book Reviews

N. K. Jemisin – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

This one really grabs you.
Yeine, the main character is a relative nobody suddenly thrust into royal politics. (Not precisely true in the sense that she’s a chieftain of her people in the North, but she’s very much a nobody in this circle of ultra-powerful nobles and divinity.) Really engaging book right from the get-go, in a world where Gods are walking around, but enslaved and weaponized by a powerful family that rules from a massive castle floating over nations and barbarian hordes. A Zelazny-esque take on a family powerful enough that the line between Gods and people becomes very blurred. Packed with Machiavellian family politics and maneuvering for the throne of a giant city in the sky. Best part is how the Gods and Goddesses are fascinating both as mythology and as individuals. First in the Inheritance Trilogy. Might as well get all three, because you probably won’t be stopping at one.

Jo Walton – Tooth and Claw

Billed as Pride and Prejudice, only all the characters are dragons. That’s right Dragons. So debates about peerage and inheritance, marriage, fancy dinners and etiquette, but with, you know, dragons. Actually deceptively more interesting than even that premise seems, because the outrageous practices that dragons get into but that modern dragon society finds totally acceptable like, say, eating your dead relatives, or peasants (living or dead) or sickly children, or anyone that crosses you, really, throws a wicked light on the kinds of things that Victorian (or modern) society still accepts. Or, ignore all that and just get caught up with Felin saving her kids, Selendra’s difficult marriage or Berend’s career. Captivating if you love dragons or that period of England. Maybe even if you don’t.

Tim Powers – Anubis Gates

It’s pretty redundant for me to review this book, since it’s been out for decades now and won the 1983 Philip K. Dick Award and 1984 Science Fiction Chronicle Award. It’s influenced a ton of work, including my own. I’d read and loved this book when it first came out, and the re-read did not disappoint. (Also, his other books, including some of the newest, are also brilliant, so I was glad to revisit this one.) Finding it just as madcap and brilliant as before. My old high-school friends may find a lot of this as familiar as I think I stole huge portions of this plot for a long-running D&D game. Even more England.

Quirky time travel, madcap Egyptian sorcerers with some of the strangest and most interesting magic you’ll ever meet. Bizarre twists and intricate plotting make this a must-devour read. Throw into this an extremely detailed understanding of the various time periods and this book stays with you long after reading. Highly recommend.

Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor

Maia, the estranged son of the Emperor of the Elflands, is shocked to learn that his father and three of his siblings have perished in the crash of their airship and he is now the new emperor. Deeply interesting world and I liked Maia right off the bat. This book was so engrossing, it's hard to believe. I was looking for something that I could lose myself in, and this was it.

The novel received the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards.  

Also, Katherine Addison is a pseudonym for Sarah Monette, so my copy of The Bone Key, by her, is shipping now. Looking forward to it!

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)

First, hats off to Cindy Spencer Pape  who recommended this to me ages ago. I finally got around to picking it up, and am I ever glad I did. This is listed in a lot of steampunk lists, which fits, but that's such a minor element to this book. It is a book in Victorian England, and there are plenty of fantasy elements running around, such as vampires and werewolves.

But what adds this book to the 'books I wish I'd written' list is the tone. This thing is hee-larious. It pays full homage to Victorian society, and yet discards or lampoons them at the same time with a wit that's hard to describe. When I wrote a fantasy set in Victorian London, I found that all the sections dealing with any kind of London society just had to end up on the cutting room floor because it wasn't very entertaining. (This wasn't too hard in my book, because London society quickly falls apart when the Faerie invade and the whole place is torn up.)  But if I'd been able to infuse every bit of that society with the wit and flare, Carriger does, I would have gone that route instead.

Another interesting facet is the romance. Like some guys, I prefer to have the romantic elements in stories kind of slide in sideways. (It's super important to me, sure, but I don't always want to admit that. Romance should happen Crocodile Dundee style, while the main character is on his or her badass way to their heist/mystery/shootout MacGuffin of choice.) Carriger doesn't do that, the romance is front and center, but it's again so charming and funny - because if you can't make fun of necking with a werewolf around proper English clothing near the full moon when your female protagonist is supposed to be a spinster because she's too smart, too pretty in the wrong non-English ways, and too full of her own opinions for the average Londoner....well, you're just missing out. Really, this charming book is better than a sum its events. Go check it out. 

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