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Spring Reading 2014

4 June, 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of the books I’ve been reading – in all honesty, I didn’t have a lot to add to the list, but I’ve had a lot more reading time lately, and so I’ve got a few recommendations. Here they are.

A Shadow in Summer – Daniel Abraham     Daniel Abraham is one of those authors who appeared on my fantasy radar quite suddenly (due, I think, to differences between US and UK publication dates), then proceeded to put out a whole series of novels that have been very positively reviewed. I finally got round to picking up ‘A Shadow in Summer’, the first in a quartet, and was very glad I did. This is complex, thoughtful, intelligent stuff, though so emotionally dark that I frequently had to put it down. In some ways, that was a good thing: there’s so much to take in and Abraham’s writing is often quite subtle, so this is a book worth taking your time with. Abraham also joins my incredibly exclusive list of ‘male authors who write really good female characters’, and trust me, there aren’t many of those!

Range of Ghosts – Elizabeth Bear     I loved this book. In fact, I really loved this book. I actually came across a signed copy in a London branch of Waterstones, tucked in amongst the shelf of fantasy imported from the US, and remembered how intriguing I’d thought it looked when it first came out. It’s difficult for me to say anything coherent about ‘Range of Ghosts’, other than how much I loved it – in summary, this is Mongolian-influenced fantasy, with a cast of complex yet engaging characters, a fascinating magic system, an even more fascinating world and absolutely beautiful writing. The rest of the series is definitely on my ‘to buy’ list, though if I end up having to buy more imports, it may well cost me!

The Demon King – Cinda Williams Chima     I have a real soft spot for YA epic fantasy, particularly when it doesn’t feature endless mooning over attractive boys, ‘insta-love’ or, well, much romance at all really. ‘The Demon King’ delivers beautifully: there are certainly a few sparks between some of the characters, but the female lead doesn’t spend all her time worrying about the love of her life (she’s not even sure who that is, and doesn’t much care), and there’s a shedload of action, adventure and politics to keep things moving smartly along. This really is a YA to appeal to all ages, as although the characters are all teens – and act appropriately – the story doesn’t shy away from darkness and loss, nor are the characters oblivious to the wider world around them or their place in it.

Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo     Continuing the YA fantasy theme, we come to ‘Shadow and Bone’. There’s a lot more romance here than in ‘The Demon King’, but it’s integral to the wider plot and feels appropriate to the ages of the characters. I’ll admit to predicting the ending long before I reached it, but there’s a smoothness about Bardugo’s prose that keeps the story moving, and I genuinely liked the characters, who managed to get themselves out of tricky situations without constantly doing something to land themselves in another one (which is one of my common complaints about all fantasy, not just YA; I can forgive nearly everything in a well-written character, save stupidity).

So, there you have my favourite books of the spring. I’ve finally got my new wall of bookshelves erected and the majority of my books out of the attic (including one which I genuinely don’t remember buying, which has never happened before!), so I – hopefully – have a long summer of reading ahead of me.

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