There’s an appalling sense of guilt associated with my to-be-read pile at this point. It’s only going to get worse, especially since I appear to have signed up to read an extra hundred books between now and next March. (Don’t ask. It seemed like a good idea at the time…)
So this week, let me tell you about two books and a short story. I was going to write about a couple of novellas as well, but I ran out of time to read them. Time appears to be in strikingly short supply—Anyway!
You may remember I was pretty enthusiastic about Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, her new fantasy novel with Fallen angels and alchemists, set in a Paris in decay after a great war that isn’t quite our Great War. For anyone like me, who wanted more after that—or for anyone who isn’t quite sure they want to read the novel, but would like to dip their toe in—de Bodard has written a short story in the same continuity, “Of Books, Earth, and Courtship.” It’s about the beginning of the relationship between two of the characters who feature in The House of Shattered Wings, Selene and Emmanuelle. It’s gentler in tone than the novel, but with an appropriately sharp undertone, and though it’s only about twenty pages long, it really works with its whole length. Also, well worth the $1 it’s retailing for.
I may be turning into a de Bodard fangirl. Well, there could be far worse fates…
There’s a whole lot of fun in S.L. Huang’s Root of Unity, the third instalment in her indie-published Cas Russell series. Root of Unity is a step up in terms of technical skill and energetic storytelling—which were already pretty high—from the first two novels. A mathematical proof has been stolen. This proof could change the world—or at least the parts of it that need encrypted data. Cas’s friend Arthur gets her involved in tracking it down. Along the way, there’s criminal conspiracies, the NSA, and more than one really big bomb.
Cas isn’t exactly a superhero. (Although she does have a superpower.) She’s a little too… well, noir for that. But that means that Huang is writing interesting stories about a character with superpowers—the kind of superhero stories I actually want to read. It’s a gloriously unapologetic action novel, full of explosions, and I enjoyed it tremendously.
Serpentine by Cindy Pon, published by Month9Books, is a short and slightly peculiar novel about a young woman who discovers she can transform into a serpent demon. Skybright’s been raised as a servant to a young woman of her own age, Zhen Ni. They’re almost as close as sisters, despite the difference in their stations, but when Zhen Ni falls in love with someone she can never marry—another woman!—and Skybright discovers she can grow fangs and a tail, they start keeping secrets from each other. When Kai Sen, a young monk from the local monastery, tells her that demons from the underworld have started attacking local monks, Skybright’s life only gets more difficult… until eventually a demon kidnaps Zhen Ni, and Skybright sets out to rescue her.
I wanted more worldbuilding and depth out of this novel, and I found the ending… lacking in the kind of emotional payoff I really wanted from it. But this is a story about friendship between women, so I’m primed to feel positively about it. And the voice is pretty good. I enjoyed it, even if I’m still sort of tilting my head sideways at some of its elements.
In an odd coincidence, I read all of these as ebooks. Mostly I don’t enjoy reading ebooks very much—probably because I still use my laptop as my sole ereading device.
So, what are you all reading at the moment? Anything really good?
ETA: This post initially mispelled Zhen Ni as Zhan Li, for which embarrassing mistake I beg your pardon.