I understand why everyone is gone half-delirious over Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. I’m so very glad I read it: it is nothing like The Goblin Emperor in its characters, incidents, even in its narrative mode. And yet, nonetheless, it touches me in very similar ways, for Uprooted is a generous book, and a kind one. It holds out hope both to its characters and to its readers even in its moments of horror. And it does have moments of horror.
It’s also not at all the kind of book its first three chapters led me to expect. It grows into something larger, wilder, and more epic: a novel deeply concerned with friendship, especially friendship between women, and with belonging. Agnieszka, the protagonist and narrator, is a magnificent character, and her friendship with Kasia and her relationship with the tower-dwelling wizard who holds back the darkness of the strange and inimical Wood from their valley form Uprooted‘s keystones. All the characters are strongly drawn and fascinating, and the novel’s climax is deeply gripping—and the resolution as unexpected as it is satisfying.
I haven’t the best of track records with enjoying Mary Robinette Kowal’s work—in fact, I suspect I owe her an apology for being rather ungracious on Twitter a couple of years back—but a friend convinced me to give Of Noble Family a shot. I’d only read the first two volumes in the Glamourist Histories series, and this is the fifth and last—but it can be read and enjoyed in its own right, for it takes its protagonists, married couple Jane and Vincent, out of 19th century Europe to send them to Vincent’s family’s holdings in the West Indies. The clash between their liberal sensibilities and the reality of living on a slaveholding estate—one ruled over by Vincent’s manipulative, controlling father—makes for an interesting novel. I didn’t love it, but I liked it a hell of a lot more than I expected to.
Carrie Vaughn’s Low Midnight is the latest-but-one of Vaughn’s novels set in the world of Kitty and the Midnight Hour. Instead of starring Kitty, though, this one stars Cormac, bounty-hunter turned magician, who has ended up sharing his body with Amelia, a sorceress executed for murder a hundred years in the past. In Low Midnight, they have adventures in rural Colorado. It’s a fun, entertaining volume, and could probably stand on its own reasonably well, too.
I wish I’d enjoyed Jane Lindskold’s Artemis Invaded more than I expected to. Instead, I enjoyed it less: it’s a sequel to Artemis Awakening, and where Awakening was pretty entertaining romp in an old-fashioned “psychic powers and intelligent animals” planetary opera science fiction style, Invaded lacks Awakening’s sense of fun and forward progress. It’s still readable, but it doesn’t really do anything for me.
Also in the “doesn’t really do anything for me” camp is Margaret Fortune’s science fiction debut, Nova, which squanders its interesting premise by giving us yet another vision of 1960/70s suburban America in space complete with a Big Reveal that involves Invisible Psychic Parasitic Aliens (they used to be a pretty good metaphor for American fears about a communist fifth column: I’m not sure where the trope stands in the zeitgeist these days) and adds a touch of anxiety over suicide bombing, and does none of it particularly well. I suppose if you’re an aficionado of nostalgia it might rise above the merely readable: set against the science fiction of James S.A. Corey, or Charles Stross, or Elizabeth Bear, or Carolyn Ives Gilman’s forthcoming Dark Orbit, though, both it and Artemis Invaded fade into the (old-fashioned, slightly peeling) wallpaper, at best.
What have you folks been reading lately?