Recent reads – magic, urban fantasy, Chinese sci-fi.

Ok it has been forever since I actually talked about the books I read recently. So while I have the willpower and the kids are taking a break and playing Lego, here are some thoughts!

 

sorcerycecelia

Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country – Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer 

I adored this epistolary story that was written separately by the two writers, in a kind of writing exercise – they didn’t plan out the plot, and Wrede wrote as Cecelia, Stevermer as Kate. And here, I have to add that I wish the title were different. Kate is just as an important character here, why doesn’t she get into the title?? Or just not put any of their names in the title and call it something else, like Sorcery & Crumpets; Sorcery, Tea, & Biscuits. At any rate, if you’ve never heard of this book, it’s set in 1817 England and there is magic. It was the first time I’ve read anything by either author, and am curious to see what else they’ve written. Let me know if you have a recommendation.

trailoflightning

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) – Rebecca Roanhorse

I’ve been drawn to more speculative fiction lately, escaping from our current reality you say? Why yes indeed. Roanhorse is another new-to-me author and she has set this series in the Navajo nation, with most of the world drowned beneath the rising tides. Maggie is a powerful monster slayer who lives alone, far from anyone else, but she needs help from a young and handsome medicine man as there is a strange new monster threatening her people. Maggie takes a while to grow on the reader, emerging from her isolation and learning to accept others. The introduction of Navajo magic and legends was quite fascinating, the pacing of the story was quick and just what I needed as a distraction from the world.

 

threebody

The Three-Body Problem – Liu Cixin

I had a really hard time with this book. Parts of it was quite fascinating but a lot of the science went way over my head and many times I wanted to give up. But at the same time, I wanted to know what was going on. It was clever and thought-provoking but honestly a bit too much of a slog for me at the moment. Will I continue with the rest of the series? I do not know at the moment. Definitely not in the near future…my brain is not ready. I need to read more fluffy floofy things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gideon the Ninth

This book is an absolutely brilliant, soul-sucking, bloody, batshit crazy yet completely absorbing read that has you holding your breath with every insane twist and turn of this roller coaster of reading ride.

It is impossible to really describe this book accurately but I’ll try.

Gideon the Ninth is set in a very distant future (perhaps?) in which there are nine houses and all of them deal in a kind of death-related magic. 

And there is to be a tournament in which each House sends a necromancer and a cavalier who is an expert at sword fighting (although there are clearly more advanced technologies around, these Houses feel very ancient somehow, including the tournament’s preference for the cavaliers to use rapiers). 

Gideon Nav is the cavalier (well, sort of, more like a sub really) to the Ninth House, to Harrowhark, with whom she has had a mutual hatred since they were young. But she has been promised freedom if she accompanies Harrow to this tournament to become a Lyctor. Lyctors are insanely powerful and work directly for the Emperor in his war against an unknown enemy (I’m guessing it’s to be revealed in the rest of the series). And guess what, this tournament takes place on another planet. And it turns out all the Houses exist on different planets. 

So yes, let’s see, there are necromancers, there are warriors, there are skeletons and death magics and they all take place on a galactic empire. And the Ninth House is the creepiest, the weirdest House of all, the kind which has people avoiding their gaze in case they inflict a curse on them or something (and yet dying to watch every little thing they are doing).  Sounds a bit insane but it is gloriously brilliant (and also insane). 

Ok so this might sound a bit too “out there” for some but this was for me, an absolutely compelling read. The crazy world building, the heart-thumping action, the dark whimsical magic, and that Gideon, that funny, irreverent humour, that hate-not-hate relationship with Harrow, it was everything. 

 

 

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep

I usually prefer to describe the book in my own words but this one is tricky. It is a busy, complex world with societies that have been divided because of their beliefs. But essentially there is a Big Bad and it has been in exile for a thousand years, and guess what, those thousand years are now ending.

But before we get to all of that there is so much of this wonderful world-building to explore. And I feel like you really need to enjoy discovering and wandering through all the author’s worldbuilding when it comes to this book. It does take a while to build up, it does take a while for things to happen and at 848 pages, this is quite an investment. Don’t get discouraged though, because once the pieces begin to fall into place it is glorious.

I’m trying not to spoil anything for anyone here so bullet points to the rescue. Here’s what I loved about this book:

  • women-centred
  • there are dragons and dragon-riders!
  • (but also societies that fear and hate dragons)
  • magic
  • some politicking and power play
  • it’s a standalone, so no need to be desperately waiting for the sequel

Here’s some things that I didn’t like so much:

  • The Big Bad felt a bit like evil for evil’s sake. There didn’t seem to be much of a concrete explanation for what it’s doing
  • It is very long and takes a while to get going. Not everyone has the kind of patience required for a book like this. Perhaps if this wasn’t a library ebook maybe I wouldn’t have read it so fast – the Libby app is especially good at alerting one to the fact that “xx people are waiting” for this book. Which meant that when my time with the book was up, I’d have to put it on hold and wait again. So of course I’m going to finish reading it before that nonsense happens!