It’s that time again, when I briefly scrabble around for an interesting topic in the detritus of my brain cells, come up with OUT OF CHEESE ERROR, and fall back on talking about my recent reading.
There are several books that I’d like to call particularly to your attention in this column. I have a list!
It starts with Roz Kaveney’s Rituals: Rhapsody of Blood Volume One, continues on through Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito: Guardian of the Darkness, and Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, sidles around to include Julian Griffith’s romance Love Continuance and Increasing, Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Sorrow, and Cat Hellisen’s When The Sea Is Rising Red, tips a nod to Lilith Saintcrow’s* The Iron Wyrm Affair and The Red Plague Affair, and finishes up with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s forthcoming Trade Secret. And an honourable shout-out to Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names.
*It probably says something terrible of me, but I cannot take that name seriously.
Since I’ve already geeked out over Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, let’s start with Roz Kaveney’s Rituals. Jo Walton reviewed it here on Tor.com last year, and I’m an ABSOLUTE FOOL for not paying attention and getting my hands on it sooner. (On the other hand, the sequel is about to happen, so maybe I’m not such a terrible fool after all.) It’s excellently written, but a difficult novel to describe because it is so full of amazing stuff. It’s halfway between urban fantasy and epic fantasy, only better. If you like ancient god/desses and lesbians and ghosts and BOOM and QUEERNESS and BOOM (and you do, you know you do), go READ THIS BOOK NOW.
You won’t regret it. And if you do, I’ll feel sorry for you.
I’m a little less full of pushy glee about the rest of my recent reading, but I really have to recommend Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito books. Alas, only two of them have been translated from the Japanese—or look to ever be, since the second one has a publication date of 2009 and there’s been nothing since. But they’re really quite excellent books: epic fantasy with detailed worldbuilding, good characters, and a YA vibe. You should check them out... and if you like them, go bother Scholastic about giving us more.
Julian Griffith’s Love Continuance and Increasing isn’t SFF. It’s a Regency romance. But this Regency romance has a different kind of love triangle—a polyamorous one. A pretty solid entry in the lists, is what I’m saying.
Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Sorrow is the latest instalment in her Chronicles of Elantra series, and completes the arc begun in the previous volume very well indeed. Plenty of BOOM, and some interesting new revelations. I’d been worried that Sagara’s standard was slipping, when Cast in Peril didn’t resolve the plot it left hanging—but Sorrow has proved those worries groundless.
Cat Hellisen’s When The Sea Is Rising Red is a talented YA debut. It has great worldbuilding and characterisation, and a plenitude of Things Going On. Its climax and denouement don’t quite live up to the promise of its pages, but it’s a good book, and I’m looking forward to Hellisen’s next.
The nice people at Orbit UK sent me copies of Lilith Saintcrow’s The Iron Wyrm Affair and The Red Plague Affair. At some point, I want to talk about feminism, class, and steampunk—but for now, these books. Hectic fast-paced and occasionally downright weird steampunk/magic alt-London, more interested in getting to the BOOM than in filling in the interesting holes in its worldbuilding or throwaway asides/Dark Pasts of its characters. Occasionally perhaps including a tendency to Other the foreigner, as with most steampunk—but on the other hand, it does a pretty good line in BOOM. Sometimes a body wants a nice bit of BOOM without having to invest too much attention in what comes before.
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Trade Secret is the latest in their Liaden Universe series, a sequel to 2003’s Balance of Trade. It’s definitely a series book—you wouldn’t want to come to it cold, instead of starting with Balance of Trade—and Lee and Miller have grown worse rather than better about giving their Liaden novels a self-contained arc since Mouse and Dragon. But there is much to be said for that feeling of visiting old, safe friends, and this is a delightfully comforting book to visit for the first time.
Honourable mention this time out goes to Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names. As most of you are aware, Sleeps With Monsters prefers to focus on works by female and/0r queer creators—but we’ll make exceptions for the guys who write women well. Wexler’s The Thousand Names is a very decent military fantasy novel in the gunpowder mode—think Sharpe but with more magic—and among its important characters are multiple women. Including Winter Ihernglass, one of the main characters, who joined the army disguised as a man. I recommend it to you all.
And now it’s over to you, Dear Readers! What’ve you been reading lately? Did you enjoy it? And why?