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Summer Reading 2014

18 August, 2014

I’ve been talking a lot about writing recently, and I haven’t come to the end of my music-related posts either. However, it’s time for a break in all that, for one of my regularly scheduled reading updates – and as my reading time has been boosted immensely lately (one of the hazards of owning a new business that hasn’t yet got off the ground), I’ve been charging through books as quickly as I can choose them. Here are a few of my favourites.

Umbral – Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten     Let’s break with tradition and start with a graphic novel. It’s fair to say I don’t read much in the way of comics – I’ve always found myself daunted by the back catalogues of the big publishers, Marvel and DC, and also fairly uninterested in their endless revamps of the same characters. However, I’ve recently dipped into indie comics for the first time and found a much more appealing selection awaiting me. Umbral is, actually, the perfect starting point for a reader like me: the sort of well-developed fantasy world I’d expect from a novel, a headstrong female protagonist, and smart, snappy dialogue. The story is intriguing and sinister in equal measure, the artwork appropriately moody, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Prince of Thorns – Mark Lawrence     Prince of Thorns is one of those books that has received a huge amount of hype ever since its release. It also falls fairly firmly into the ‘grimdark’ category, which is a section of the fantasy genre I find myself frequently drawn to, without ever actually liking the books I find there. I’m still not entirely sure I liked Prince of Thorns either, which might make its inclusion in this list a little odd – except I raced through it in less than a week and will probably pick up the rest of the series. In truth, I suspect Jorg, the central character, isn’t exactly supposed to be likeable, but Lawrence’s writing is so strong and compelling that I couldn’t help but enjoy this one.

Pantomime – Laura Lam     I picked up Pantomime following the implosion of its publishing imprint, Strange Chemistry. Now, I feel I should get one confession out of the way: Pantomime is a book set almost entirely in a circus, and I really hate circuses. I find them deeply creepy, and clowns even more so. It’s amazing, then, that I enjoyed Pantomime so much, a fact I attribute solely to the characters. Micah, in particular, is such a wonderful character, determined and vulnerable in equal measure. There are all sorts of mysteries scattered throughout the book, too, which feel appropriately placed rather than there simply to tease the reader – we discover aspects of the world as Micah does – yet Pantomime always puts the characters first, and rightly so.

A Natural History of Dragons – Marie Brennan     Finally, we come to one of my most recent reads. By the fact that I finished A Natural History of Dragons in less than three days, it would be fair to surmise I adored it. Female character fighting against the conventions of her day (Victorian era, at a guess, or Brennan’s equivalent of it), not to marry an inappropriate suitor, but to pursue her scientific fascination with dragons? What’s not to love?! Brennan also writes Victorian-style prose effortlessly, evoking a time and place without ever being stuffy, and making the whole book a joy to read. I almost ran out and bought the sequel as soon as I’d finished A Natural History, but managed to contain myself. Just (and probably not for much longer)!

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