It’s—is it really January already? Damn.
Well, while we’re all recovering from the shock of finding ourselves in a whole new year, I’m going to seize on the new year thing as an excuse to tell you all about the books I’ve really enjoyed in the last couple of months.
But first, a shout-out for a film.
Anyone in the audience heard of Australian YA writer John Marsden? His Tomorrow, When The War Began series has recently been released by Quercus in the UK, although it’s been around for a while in the States, and longer in Australia. (The conceit: Australia is invaded by an unnamed powerful enemy. A group of teenagers, cut off from their families while camping in the bush, turns guerrilla and fights back.) The eponymous first book in the series was made into a film in 2010, whose DVD I’ve recently watched.
While the books are somewhat terrible—albeit compulsively readable—the film (adapted and directed by Stuart Beattie) is an adaptation that smoothes out the book’s flaws and turns out a startling good motion picture, with a remarkably strong ensemble cast. The teenage protagonists are allowed to have their own strengths and flaws, continuing to act like teenagers who can’t quite internalise the fact their home has turned into a warzone—and it’s that rare thing: a film with lots of action that nonetheless shows friendships between women.
Well, between girls.
Tanya Huff’s The Silvered also deals with war, friendship, and loyalty. It marks Huff’s first return to second-world fantasy since 1999’s Sing the Four Quarters, and although it has epic overtones, it forms a self-contained story. When five mages, the wives of the ruling-class shapeshifters of Aydori, are abducted by forces dispatched by the invading Emperor Leopold, the only people left to go to their aid are Mirian Maylin, a respectable young woman who tested high for magecraft but evidenced no real talent, and the young shapeshifter Tomas Hagen. High magic and desperate adventure ensue, with an honourable enemy, a young woman growing into her own power, and women who aren’t trained to fight being heroic in their own ways.
Sherwood Smith’s Revenant Eve (DAW) and Marie Brennan’s Lies and Prophecy (Book View Café) are books I wish I could like more. But the Ruritanian conceit of Smith’s novel just isn’t for me (although the historical elements were very strong: I hope Smith writes a straight-or-nearly-so historical someday), and the combination of the U.S. college setting and a sense that Brennan was soft-pedaling at times conspired to dim my enthusiasm for Lies and Prophecy’s psychic-gifts-are-real-and-studied Tam Lin-esque bildungsroman. Both of these novels are engaging in their own ways, and I feel I should mention them in the spirit of fairness. As I should mention Brenda Cooper’s The Creative Fire, out of Pyr: a science fiction novel about revolution on a generation ship, first in a duology, it does nothing egregiously wrong save for failing to really click with me.
A book that did really click with me, despite its flaws (when a romance novel marries an adventure plot and is a debut novel from a niche press to boot, a handful of flaws are par for the course) is Barbara Ann Wright’s The Pyramid Waltz, which you may have heard me mention before. What can I say? Finding a lesbian fantasy romance that’s decent at sentence, character, and plot, not just I’m-going-to-cover-my-eyes-and-groan-and-giggle entertaining, is a surprise and a delight.
A final shout-out for Malinda Lo’s YA Adaptation, and Deborah Coates’ Wide Open—which I borrowed from a friend after being assured that no, it really wasn’t another urban fantasy romance, despite the impression of its flap copy. It turns out that it’s really atmospheric modern-day fantasy on the border between rural and urban. I well recommend it.
So, O Readers, what have you been reading lately? What do you recommend? And what are you looking forward to reading in the next few months?
(Please keep the comments and recommendations focused on writing/media produced by or focusing on women and/or genderqueer people, thanks.)