Today is Canada Day, which celebrates the creation on July 1st, 1867 of that single Dominion known as Canada, from the separate colonies of the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. July 1st, 1867 is just one of a surprising number of occasions on which Canada became a sovereign nation, sorta-kinda, but it is the date that won the national holiday.
To commemorate the event, here are five Canadian novels for your reading pleasure.
Imaro, Charles R. Saunders (1981, revised 2006)
Born of a scandalous union between an Illyassai woman and an unknown outsider, Imaro was fated from birth to be an outcast in Illyassai society. Imaro grows into a stalwart warrior, observant of custom and faithful to Illyassai laws. But his mother’s people cannot forget that Imaro is only half-Illyassai. His existence is only grudgingly tolerated because the tribe owes his mother a debt of gratitude: she saved them from a sorcerer hiding amongst them.
Had Imaro been a weakling, he would have died young. His prominence as a warrior, however, only ensures that rivals plot his downfall. Despite his best efforts, there is no place for him amongst the Illyassai.
The Illyassai land is a very small part of a very large world. Outside its borders there is a world filled with danger, but also a world in which Imaro will find true friends.
Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson (2013)
The half-divine conjoined twins Makeda and Abby were surgically parted. Abby emerged from the operation with all of her demigod father’s magic. Abby’s place with her father’s family is assured, whereas poor powerless Makeda is…merely human.
Life among the immortals as a mortal hanger-on would be difficult. Makeda sets out to make a life for herself amongst the mortals. It’s a sensible decision, but turns out to present unexpected difficulties. Makeda may want to step away from her semidivine relatives, but that doesn’t mean Makeda’s family and their magic are through with her.
Fate of Flames, Sarah Raughley (2016)
In the first volume of the Effigies series, Maia is imbued with pyrokinetic powers beyond mortal ken, becoming one of the four stalwarts standing between tasty, tasty humanity and a plague of Phantoms. On the one hand, having powers is good. On the other, the only way for a new Effigy to gain power is for their predecessor to die, which is something that fighting Phantoms is likely to cause. The Effigies fight on, new heroes stepping in as old heroes die, but any given Effigy has a probable lifespan measured in a handful of years. Which is a downer.
At least Maia’s life will be interesting, what with the unending battle against monsters. Unless, of course, the mysterious, quite possibly homicidal stalker Maia inherited from her predecessor manages to kill her before the Phantoms can.
Ascension, Minister Faust (2012)
In this first volume in the War & Mir series, Taharqa “Hark” Douglass visits best friend Thagó’s medical office, just in time to witness and (barely) survive an attack by high-tech assassins. Thagó just happens to be an envoy from a Solar civilization unknown to backward Earth; he’s here to rescue a beautiful princess from terrorists.
Hark helps save the day, thanks to previously unsuspected talents. Hark then finds himself embroiled in the princess-rescue mission. As it turns out, she can be found in the Canadian city of Edmonton, which is not known to be a haunt of off-world royalty. Off they go!
Too bad that the princess is unpleasant and cruel and that the system-spanning civilization of which she is part is much worse. By the time that Hark realizes this, he is millions of kilometers from home.
The Midnight Bargain, C. L. Polk (2020)
Beatrice would like nothing more than to become one of Chasland’s foremost mages. She has the potential. Unfortunately, her native Chasland has no use for women mages other than as breeding stock to pop out the next generation of male mages. Indeed, women’s magic is actively supressed. Female independence and agency of any sort are strongly discouraged by law and custom. Discouragements range from public scorn to a starring role on a pyre.
Not only that: Beatrice’s financially troubled family is pushing her to catch a wealthy husband. No time for magic. Nevertheless, Beatrice persists.
She must teach herself from grimoires. They can occasionally be found in low-end bookstores, buried among the mundane texts. She has spotted one but wealthier Ysbeta outwits her and carries off the prize. Then Ysbeta discovers she cannot read the text she grabbed and must ask Beatrice for help. The two women end up joined in a hidden struggle to master the arcane secrets of the grimoire before their respective families marry them off.
There are, of course, many other Canadian authors I might have mentioned but didn’t. Have fun excoriating me in comments!
In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He is currently a finalist for the 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award and is surprisingly flammable.