There are so many books by brilliant authors that I want to talk about, and I can’t read fast enough to keep up. This is immensely frustrating. Just the to-read pile has at least a dozen recent or forthcoming novels (Loren Rhoads, Karina Sumner-Smith, Lisa Goldstein, Nnedi Okorafor, Angélica Gorodischer, Laura Anne Gilman, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Alyx Dellamonica, AND STILL MORE), while the to-read shelves are groaning under the ambitions of my backlog. (Cecelia Holland’s Floating Worlds, Monica Byrne’s The Girl In the Road, more of the Foreigner novels by C.J. Cherryh, oh, mountains and mountains of things.)
You know, I sometimes still come across people wondering where all the “women who write X”—where X is some subgenre of SFF—are. And depending on the day, I either sigh sadly, or make inarticulate noises of frustration. (Although if you know of new well-written space opera with a military flavour from anyone, please let me know: I never seem to be able to find enough of it.)
So! This week, I want to tell you about three books I’ve read recently and think you should know about.
First—and, I have to say, foremost—is Leah Bobet’s An Inheritance of Ashes, coming this October from Clarion Books. This is only Bobet’s second novel, after the accomplished and ambitious Above. While An Inheritance of Ashes is just as ambitious and if anything even more accomplished, it applies its ambition in an entirely different direction to Above. Above was a novel of strangeness, of hidden people and places within modern-day Toronto: An Inheritance of Ashes is set either in a secondary world or in this world after some cataclysm (for me, I find the textual evidence arguable), on a farmstead run by two sisters. The younger, Hallie, is sixteen, and it’s her voice—her insecurities and her drive—that gives the novel its power and force. There has been a strange war in the south, with rumours of monsters and gods. Many men have gone to fight it, including her sister’s fiancé, and few have returned, and Hallie and her sister have been struggling to keep the farm going. When Hallie hires a veteran—a quiet man, with his own secrets—to help them, trouble follows in his wake. The war might not be over. It might be arriving on Hallie’s doorstep, and monsters with it.
An Inheritance of Ashes is an incredible novel. It’s quiet and intense, ruthless in the best kind of way, with a clear-eyed willingness to show people in all their flaws and frailties, but also… generous. Hopeful about the potential for change, for community, for kindness. It left me thoughtful, and also deeply satisfied. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
I wish I could wholeheartedly recommend Jaime Lee Moyer’s Against A Brightening Sky, out in October from Tor Books. It’s the final—for now, at least—volume in the trilogy that started with Delia’s Shadow, and takes place a few years on, in San Francisco in the wake of WWI. Delia still sees ghosts, and her husband Gabe is still an officer with the police department. When Delia senses something otherworldly and wrong about a sudden and unexpected riot, she and Gabe found themselves drawn into a conspiracy centred around murders in the Russian community and the identity of one young female Russian emigré. It’s an enjoyable read, but for my part, it’s a little too inclined to romanticise European aristocracy and demonise the Bolsheviks, while the sentiments and morals of its viewpoint characters feel for the most part decidedly modern rather than period—which could be bias on my part: I know a little about Europe in the 1920s, and next to nothing about the USA in the same period.
Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Saves The World has been out for a little while. A month? It’s the concluding volume in Vaughn’s long-running “Kitty the Werewolf” series, and for a novel that has the job of tying up several series loose ends while also bringing its own boom, it does that pretty well. It has flaws: the cast of characters has expanded over the series, and some of them turn up for the climax, while one or two wholly new supernatural elements are introduced, and at times the speed of the narrative goes from fast-paced to breakneck to wait what was that? But Vaughn is never less than entertaining, and all things considered, this is a really solid conclusion to a series that’s been vastly fun.
What have you guys been reading lately? What are you looking forward to reading next?