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Late Summer Reads

19 September, 2011

I realised today that, although I’ve talked a lot about writing recently, I’ve been remiss in saying much about what I’ve been reading. As autumn starts to draw in – and it really felt to arrive on the very first day of September here – I always feel a drive to read faster and get through a few more books, but here are some of the ones I’ve enjoyed this summer.

Servant of the Underworld – Aliette de Bodard        A fairly recent debut, Servant of the Underworld is something quite different in current fantasy novels. On her website, de Bodard describes it as ‘Aztec mystery-fantasy’, which sums it up nicely. The worldbuilding and historical background is miles away (quite literally, in this case) from your average European-based fantasy, and the magic system is fascinating. It’s also rare to find such a short book into which the writer has crammed so much plot and characterisation. There are no wasted words here, and the whole story is compelling from start to finish.

The Bone Palace – Amanda Downum        Downum’s Necromancer Chronicles has quickly become one of a very limited number of series that I absolutely have to buy the next book from as soon as it’s released. The Bone Palace doesn’t disappoint, and it’s interesting to see Isyllt back on home turf, dealing both with magic and with her personal life. As in the first book, Downum’s worldbuilding and language are lush and striking, and whilst her characters seem to be becoming increasingly broken, they’re always interesting to read about.

Green Rider – Kristen Britain        Green Rider is the first book in a series, of which the fourth has just been released. As a result, the whole series has just been reissued (or possibly issued for the first time?) in the UK, with some very attractive covers. I’m actually surprised I’d missed the series up to this point – it’s a NYT bestseller and the sort of epic-fantasy-with-strong-female-characters that I love. The beginning of the novel is very traditional quest fantasy stuff, but that changes somewhat in the second half, where the characters and the intrigue really come into their own.

The Tale of Murasaki – Liza Dalby        This one is something quite different for me: a historical novel, set in 11th century Japan. The whole book is beautifully written, quite slowly paced and utterly mesmerising. Far too few historical novels really conjure up a sense of a remote and very different world for my liking, but this one does exactly that, with Murasaki’s poems adding to the atmosphere.

Having written this, I’ve realised that the vast majority of the books I’ve read recently – and particularly the ones I’ve loved – have been by female authors. I have a few books in my To Be Read pile that might challenge that, though, including a Robert Holdstock novel (the second in the Merlin Codex), a Kim Stanley Robinson novel (Years of Rice and Salt) and MD Lachlan’s first book (I’m not usually drawn to werewolf books, but the idea of Viking werewolves is so brilliant that I have to read it).

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