starlady: Toby from the West Wing with a sign that says, "Obama is the President."  (go vote bitches)
What I'm Reading
A.S. King, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future - A Sirens book, and while I'm enjoying it so far, it's very much that sort of contemporary YA voice which I can take or leave, and in this book in particular the narrative voice is thin enough that it's easy to lose a sense of the protagonist as a corporeal being. I was comparing the book to Court of Fives in my mind and actually forgot that Court of Fives is in first-person, not third, because of how much better Elliott is at conveying sensory details through the narration.

C.S. Pacat, Captive Prince - So I started reading the first book finally and on the very first page I had to stop for like 15 minutes because things on the very first page of the first book are matched beautifully on the very last page of the last book, I can't, that sort of shit is just irresistible to me. Anyway, it's amazing.

What I've Read
Seanan McGuire, A Red-Rose Chain - All caught up on Toby! Toby's adventures are only getting more serious! I continue to love these books and I can't really deal with the idea that it's going to be 15 years or so until we get the last of them.

Nova Ren Suma, The Walls Around Us - Another Sirens book, contemporary YA, first person, with a stronger voice than Glory O'Brien, and it very much earns the "Orange is the New Black Swan" description, but even in a very taut story there's a lot of there there. I liked it a lot.

Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows - Sirens again, and I liked this one quite a lot. It's Ocean's Eleven, but only six people, and it's a YA, so they're all extremely damaged teenagers, and it's set in and around a fantastical alt-Amsterdam that is much more interesting than actual Amsterdam. I gather that this book takes place in the same world as Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, which I have been universally assured is not worth reading, but this book was great and I can't wait for the follow-up, of which there is only one, due later this year.

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season - Another stunning Jemisin book, another insta-Hugo nomination. I thought the book was amazing, both in terms of craft and in terms of concepts, and I really liked it, but I did think that Foz Meadows' very spoilery post on the book had some good points, and in general, I continue to think that all my quibbles with Jemisin's character arcs would be solved if she just gave the queer characters romance endings. At this point, though, it seems like that really isn't her project, which is unfortunate.

Kate Elliott, The Labyrinth Gate - Elliott's first book, published nearly 30 years ago, and you know? It totally holds up. The first chapter has some slightly awkward dialogue, but after that it's a fun, interesting romp through an interesting alt-Regency that is almost outright matriarchal, through the eyes of a pair of our-world protagonists who bring their own talents to the political struggles of the world they find themselves in. Badass old ladies! People of color! Thinky thoughts about political and social development! Awesome matriarchal tarot! You should read this book.

Caitlin R. Kiernan, The Dry Salvages - (Note, after Eliot, rhymes with 'assuages') I found an ARC of this novella in my stack when I unpacked my boxes of books, and frankly…I was totally underwhelmed. The narrator, Audrey, is an old woman narrating her part in an ill-fated exoplanetary expedition in post-climate change Paris, but the story makes Prometheus look like a genius work of fiction by comparison. There's not enough payoff in the vague 'I want to be spooky' hints, and all of Audrey's colleagues are assholes. Hell, Eliot is a better version of the book than the book is. I'm selling it at HPB.

What I'll Read Next
I don't know, but I do know that the lack of movement in my stacks of physical books is driving me batty. MUST READ.
starlady: (bibliophile)
We're back and better than ever! Or at least, I'm reading for fun again for the first time since before my exams.

Just finished
Rachel Hartman, Seraphina (2012)
I really liked this YA novel about a girl caught between two worlds in conflict (humans and dragons, natch) in a for once believably plausibly medieval world, with much greater gender equality and non-stigmatized homosexuality, even. I was reminded of Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night in that respect, actually, which is very high praise indeed. I could barely put the book down, given how much I loved Phina, and sympathized with her struggles, and I think the book is also making some fairly sophisticated arguments about embodiment and what it means for who we are. The dragons were great too, and I'm looking forward to the sequel very much.

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Peril (2012)
I really enjoy the Cast books, even though I'm perpetually falling behind--the newest, Cast in Flame, is about to be published, and I still haven't read the one in between them. I was also thinking to myself while reading it that I really wished two characters would sleep together, and thinking that it would never happen, when it was explicitly discussed in text a few pages later (and rejected; I like that Sagara's characters often know and enforce their own boundaries). So there is indeed character development going on, and for a book that's all about a journey from Point A to Point B, it was surprisingly gripping. Anyway. If you like Sagara West's central protagonist type, you should totally check out the Cast books, since they really are Kaylin's story.

Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass (2012)
I think this is Hardinge's best book yet, at least of the ones that I've read. (I only have three left to read! Noooo! I've been trying to pace myself.) Neverfell isn't as brave as Mosca, and that makes her equally interesting in a different way, and the worldbuilding was spectacular. I can't recommend Hardinge's books highly enough to everyone, and I also want to say that I think that her books are a great example of art being found everywhere, even in denigrated categories such as middle grade.

N.K. Jemisin, The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun (2012)
I really liked both these books, though I thought that The Killing Moon stood better on its own, particularly since The Shadowed Sun was rather heavy in its subject matter at times. Everyone should read these books! Pseudo-Egyptian epic fantasy with interesting magic and an interesting and varied cast of characters and…ninja priests of death! All that being said, while I liked Hanani a lot, I didn't like the denouement to her story, or the ending of the book in general; I wanted more of the politics related to the resolution, and less of the personal. I also think that…how do I say this. Jemisin is clearly in conversation with certain romance novel tropes at times, and I'm not personally a romance fan; I also feel that giving female protagonists in fantasy novels romance novel endings feels conservative, even if it's actually not for the characters themselves. I'd rather see Jemisin give queer characters the romance novel endings; that would feel more revolutionary for me, and more satisfying. Also there should be another whole book about Nijiri; I found him annoying initially, but by the end he was my favorite character by a long shot.

N.K. Jemisin, The Kingdom of Gods (2011)
On the other hand, I really liked this conclusion to the Inheritance trilogy; I liked the politics, the magic, the godhood and its problems; I liked Sieh and his trio with the Arameri siblings. I actually mostly just wish it had been longer, really; Jemisin really managed to draw the threads of everything else that had come before together in a very satisfying way.

Sherwood Smith, Revenant Eve (2012)
I hadn't read the previous two books in this Dobrenica trilogy, but that turned out to be mostly okay as it's a time travel tale in which the viewpoint character isn't actually the protagonist, which is interesting structurally, and the book itself was a fun romp through largely under-explored back alleys of the Napoleonic period in France. I quite enjoy Smith's books, and this was very enjoyable. Awesome ladies with swords and pistols! What more could you want, I ask you.

Sherwood Smith, Banner of the Damned (2012)
That said, I enjoy Smith's epic fantasy sequence even more, and this is the next one in the main continuity, set about 800 years after the Inda books. I really, really liked that the main character was asexual (this may be the first book I've read where that was explicitly acknowledged as a thing, actually), and I liked the way that you could see glimpses of history changing and being retold in the background, even as by the ending of the book it became an explicit issue. I'm also really impressed in general at the way that Smith can make just about anything suspenseful, even things that rightly shouldn't be; her pacing is always a marvel. I also think she's a master worldbuilder who doesn't get anywhere near enough credit. Also highly recommended.

Currently reading
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Burning City
Because I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Love Is the Drug on Twitter and I want to try to clear out the backlog. Currently I'm not very far in and I'm still trying to remember who everyone is (I've been consulting the pre-synopsis literally). I'm still really sad that there's currently no plans to finish the third volume, even as I both enjoy the book and recognize that it's weaker than her more recent books. Anyway, she's awesome, you should read everything she's ever written.

Recently acquired
CLAMP, Gate 7 vol. 4 (I don't think I finished 3?)
CLAMP, Gouhou Drug - Drug & Drop vol. 1
CLAMP, xxxHoLiC Rou vol. 1
Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vol. 10 (it was packaged with an ema from the shrine in the manga! I haven't even finished vol. 1)
Yoshimoto Banana, Kitchen
Short Stories in Japanese: New Penguin Parallel Text, ed. Michael Emmerich

Reading next
Probably Diana Wynne Jones or Kameron Hurley or Ann Leckie. Note to self: vote for the Hugos.
starlady: Anna Maria from PoTC at the helm: "bring me that horizon" (bring me that horizon)
Jemisin, N.K. The Broken Kingdoms. New York: Orbit Books, 2010.

It would be misleading to describe this book as a "sequel" because it is clearly intended to stand alone, but it is unquestionably a follow-up to Jemisin's debut The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which I quite liked. Taking place ten years after the events of that book, The Broken Kingdoms follows the travails of Oree Shoth, a blind artist who makes her living in the city at the roots of the sky-tree. Oree has her own peculiar kind of magic, and she also has an undying surly mortal dude who she brings into her house after finding him on the trash heap. Needless to say, Things Happen.

It took me two years to finish this book because I skimmed to the end in a desperate frenzy when I first got it and then I…put it down for two years. It is compulsively readable, and on the whole I enjoyed it a lot. I really enjoy the way that Jemisin wears her anime influences on her sleeve (I can't express how anime the idea of a city in tree roots is, and Jemisin actually mentions the anime she got the image from in the back), in things like character design and setting and also…some quality of the worldbuilding. I was less into Oree qua Oree than Yeine, though I appreciated the flipped perspective of someone whose people ancestrally worshipped Itempas willingly, partly also because the magical blindness thing was the kind of thing I side-eyed. (I also sort of gave the side-eye to the ending, but then, there's multiple reasons that I don't read romance novels.) I did like that the events from the prior book continue to reverberate, and that several characters from last time had small but important parts to play.

All in all, it's no surprise to me that Jemisin's star only keeps rising in the field, because her books are pretty awesome--inventive, gripping reads with female POC characters and lots of interesting worldbuilding. I'm looking forward to the rest of her books!
starlady: Fuck you, it's magic.  (kick ass fantasy)
This post is dedicated to [personal profile] inkstone. Happy Birthday!

Jemisin, N.K. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. New York: Orbit Books, 2010.

This book has been tearing up DW recently, and I was lucky enough to have the author herself describe the plot to me in New York last May, so my anticipation was quite high. And, all in all, I wasn't disappointed, which is great in and of itself.

To get right to it, 100K Kingdoms takes place in a world that is ruled by a global empire which rose in the wake of a war between gods two millennia prior, in which one of the Three was killed, the other enslaved, and the third left to reign supreme, alone. That god gave dominion over his vanquished brother and his brother's children to the Arameri family, who rule the world and the empire. The book follows Yeine, whose mother was the sole and unchallenged heir to the empire until she left (and was disinherited and disowned) to marry Yeine's father, the obscure ruler of a barbarian kingdom. In the wake of Yeine's mother's murder, Yeine herself, an outsider in every way, from her skin color to her very outlook on life, is summoned to the capital of Sky to fill her mother's place by becoming one of her grandfather's three declared heirs. Of course, only one will survive, and Yeine's attempts to discover who instigated her mother's death and why are immediately intertwined with the intrigues of the Enefadeh, the Arameri's enslaved god and godlets; they have their own agenda, and it dovetails with Yeine's only to a certain point.

Not really spoilery, but detail-y )

So, to sum up: a gutsy heroine of color, a divine OT3, a great book by a great female author of color, why aren't you reading it yet?

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