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Thea James

The Conjury of the Written Word in The Reader and Resurrection of Magic Series

With an eye towards female-focused YA speculative fiction, Thea James’s Old and New is a monthly column that examines new and shiny speculative fiction titles, contrasted against an older, foundational (or underrated!) SFF work.

This month’s subjects are two favorites. For the new, there’s Traci Chee’s under-appreciated Reader/Sea of Ink and Gold trilogy (The Reader, The Speaker, The Storyteller). For the old, there’s the sadly unfinished Resurrection of Magic books (Skin Hunger, Sacred Scars) by Kathleen Duey. Both series alternate backwards and forwards in time; both feature a small core cast of main characters including a female character with magical ability who will make decisions that will change their respective worlds. Most importantly, both series meditate on the magic of oral, but especially written, tradition. There is magic in words—Sefia and Sadima know this, and wield that power as best they can.

But I’m getting ahead of myself: let’s start with Traci Chee’s Sea of Ink and Gold trilogy.

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Old and New: Breaking the Cycle of Despair in Strange the Dreamer and The Darkangel

Often focusing on female-focused YA speculative fiction, Thea James’s Old and New is a new monthly column that examines new and shiny speculative fiction titles, contrasted against an older, foundational (or underrated!) SFF work.

This month, I look at common themes in the Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer, Muse of Nightmares), and the Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce (The Darkangel, A Gathering of Gargoyles, The Pearl of the Soul of the World).

This post contains unavoidable, mild spoilers for both the Strange the Dreamer duology and the Darkangel Trilogy.

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Six Works of Short Fiction that Defy Convention

Short fiction is awesome.

No, seriously. I am of the opinion that there are few things in life better than a perfectly executed short story. Creating an expertly paced short story, that makes you care about its characters, understand its world, and be invested in its central conflict—all within the space of 7,500 words—is no small feat. What follows are six pieces of subversive short fiction—stories that have captured my heart and imagination (in less time it takes to ride the subway to work, no less).

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Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices, Book 1)

Following the untimely death of her aunt, twice-over orphaned Tessa Gray sets out from New York to London to live with her older brother. Virtually penniless, having spent every last cent to pay for the funeral services, Tessa makes the trip across the Atlantic with her hopes high, for at least she and Nate will be reunited again.

Upon reaching England, however, she is greeted not by her older brother but by two crones that introduce themselves as Mrs. Dark and Mrs. Black, bearing a letter written in Nate’s hand. Though Tessa is reluctant to leave with the “Dark Sisters” (as Nate refers to them in his letter), she trusts in her brother’s wishes, only to find herself trapped in a nightmare. The Dark Sisters, in fact warlocks, claim to have abducted Nate and threaten to kill him unless Tessa complies with their strange demands. Soon, Tessa learns that she is no ordinary human, but possesses the power to transform herself into another person—dead or alive. Even more unique, however, is Tessa’s ability to touch the minds of those whose forms she assumes—recalling a dead girl’s last thoughts and a vampiress’s secrets, amongst others. The Dark Sisters, finally deeming Tessa “ready,” have plans to marry her off to their master, the mysterious “Magister” of the Pandemonium Club, and all hope seems lost for young Tessa…

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After the Smoke Clears (Or, What To Read After Mockingjay)

2010 has been a bittersweet year. It has seen us through the exhilarating (and infuriating) end to Lost. It has seen us through the World Cup in all its vuvuzela glory. It has given us a cerebral, speculative fiction summer blockbuster with Inception. And now, it gives us the final novel in Suzanne Collins’ awesome dystopian young adult trilogy, with Mockingjay.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been counting down the days, hours, and seconds to Mockingjay’s release. And, once it is finally out in the universe at midnight on August 24th, you’ll head directly to the store and grab a coveted copy, rush home and immediately devour the whole thing in a single, voracious binge.

But have you stopped to consider what you will do when it is all over? Think back to when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, or The Return of the King finally hit theaters. Think of all that pent-up energy, all that excitement and tension finally coming to sweet, blissful fruition. When you’ve finished turning that last page and when those credits start their slow roll across the screen, you are left empty. Emotionally drained. And yet… hungry for more.

So, fellow Hunger Game fanatics, I have decided to do you all a service. Before you get your final, jittery fix of Katniss taking on the Capitol, make sure to have one of these books nearby. After the smoke of the District 13 revolution clears, you’ll be needing your next fix of awesome dystopian goodness.

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Book Review: The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan

THE POISON THRONE is the first book in The Moorehawke Trilogy from debut novelist Celine Kiernan. The first and second books have been out for over a year in Ireland, Australia (and other countries) and are being published by Orbit in the US and UK in April. Set in alternate 15th Century Europe, the trilogy follows protagonist-cum-narrator Wynter Moorehawke as she and her dying father return home after a 5 year absence up North, eager to join up with her two childhood friends, the two brothers Razi and Allberon, only to find a kingdom in the throes of religious and political turmoil. The once kind and enlightened King Jonathon has become a tyrant who opened the doors to the Inquisition, subverting the previous order. Now, the Cats who used to communicate with people have been killed and the Ghosts of the Castle have been declared non-existent. Even more distressing is the political instability as Alberon, the official heir to the throne is nowhere to be seen and his half-brother (and bastard son), Razi has been proclaimed the new heir. The story follows Wynter and her father as well as Razi and his best friend Christopher as they are caught up in the middle of transition.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Book Smugglers’ style of joint book reviews, we write (lengthy) conversational-style analyses of plot and characters. As this is our first post, we could think of no better way to introduce ourselves to the community than to ramble on about a book we have just finished reading.

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