starlady: (abhorsen)
So it is May 4th and I am going to attempt to do the impossible: not buy any more books for a month, until June 4th. But I've already bought two cool books by cool people: copperbadge (aka Sam Starbuck) and beatonna (aka Kate Beaton). Monsieur Starbuck has just self-published his novel Nameless, which was edited and critiqued by readers of his blog in consultation with him, the author. I participated in the process as one of many, and I can attest that the novel was quite good before he took our advice. The book is also available as a free PDF, because Sam is awesome that way. Kate Beaton is a Canadian gal who does amazing comics about many subjects, including history and her younger self; if you like history, laughter, or comics, you should check out her LJ, website, or book.

I'm giving up on a book, which doesn't happen very often. Though Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania was recommended to me by a colleague whom I respect highly, I just couldn't keep going. The story is one of those "normal girl in our world is called to her rightful place in another" sort of deals, set in a thinly-veiled Williamstown, MA. Park captures the town, where he lives, beautifully, but I just couldn't take the unrelenting stupidity of the characters, especially Miranda, the teenaged supposed heroine. It's not that Park's characters are dumb, or uninteresting (I have to admit I like the Baronness Ceausceu, the villain of the piece, the best by far), but at every single step of the way they manage to do the exactly wrong thing, and Miranda is especially culpable in this regard. I found her and her friends Andromeda and Peter unbearably frustrating to read about, and the characters in Roumania weren't much better. I also couldn't for the life of me fathom the necessity behind Park causing England to have been whelmed in a tidal wave two centuries prior to the (essentially contemporary) action of the story. Yes, I did just write that England sank into the waves like Avalon. I think alternate historical fantasy should at least be founded in a realistic way of looking at the world--the author decides to imagine the consequences of a change that didn't happen in our history, and the rest of the author's world should be contingent upon that change. Maybe Park reveals that England was sunk by magic in one of the three books that follow this one, I don't know, but I have to say I don't really care. The cover blurb compares Park to Philip Pullman, but I think Park suffers upon that comparison. Though, I have to say, he writes exceedingly well.

At the same time, I'm just about finished Allison Croggon's The Singing, the final book in her Pellinor quartet (having read the third book, The Crow, last month), and I think her teenaged heroine Maerad is a good example of a believable teenaged character making mistakes (terrible mistakes; Maerad murders an innocent man in the second book) along her path but triumphing in the end by fully embracing herself, flaws and all. Croggon is a poet by training, and she writes beautifully. I picked up the first book, The Naming, because it had a blurb by Tamora Pierce, and I haven't been disappointed in the recommendation. I think Croggon does as good a job as anyone can of reinvigorating epic fantasy (very much in the style of Tolkien; I recognized a couple of place names from Middle Earth) by imbuing it with complete gender equity, explicit ambivalence about the nature of human beings (and of the ambiguities inherent in the Dark and the Light), irreligion, and even some fairly sophisticated ideas about spacetime. As a footnote, the portrayal of Irc, the white crow friend of Maerad's brother Hem, struck me as dead-on based on my life with my parrot, and I enjoyed that. Also, these books deserve praise because of their attitude toward chromatic characters: i.e., they're there, and are treated just like everyone else. Croggon's vision of a multi-racial Light makes a startling, discomforting contrast to Tolkien's Middle-Earth, where pale people are good and "swarthy" people are bad, and ditto for most epic fantasy after Tolkien.

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August 2017

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