Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong (shadesong) wrote,
Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong

Books I read and liked this week and last

The Patriot Witch, by Charles Coleman Finlay (ccfinlay)

I snapped up a review copy of this because I’ve been hearing great things about his short fiction. Very glad I did. The Patriot Witch is historical fantasy, set during the Revolutionary War. Proctor Brown is a minuteman - and a witch, with power inherited from his mother. One of the things I really loved about this book was the internally consistent portrayal of different types of sorcery and witchcraft, and how the characters use and think of their powers. Brown’s descended from Salem witches, and discusses his powers with his pastor - he struggles with being a witch and being a member of a religion that will not suffer a witch to live. There are also representations of Appalachian, Southern, and Quaker traditions; there’s a lot of clear research and detail applied to something many authors just handwave away.

Oh, and there’s a plot, too! Basically, this is a Revolutionary War fantasy in much the same way that Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books are Napoleonic War fantasy, but with witchcraft instead of dragons. If you’re reading Novik for the engaging and historically accurate-as-they-can-be characters and the military history and maneuvers instead of just the shiny dragons, you’ll enjoy this book; Brown’s every bit as defined as Laurence, and his philosophical internal conflict alone could drive a series, but there are interesting threads for him to follow here as well.

Books two and three are dropping in May and June - get this one now so you can keep up!


Desideria, by Nicole Kornher-Stace (wirewalking)

Desideria is a dizzying whirl of story within story, play within play, folded together like fine silk - our ideas of which version of the story is real change like a drop of ink in a glass of water. It is possible to do this sort of thing very poorly. Kornher-Stace does it very well. The use of language is lavish but precise - details are ample, but not overwhelming. This is a theatre novel, a fantasy novel, a novel of the romance of being someone else, and it held me right to the last page.

And you can still win a copy in the raffle!


Fathers, Daughters, Ghosts, and Monsters, by JoSelle Vanderhooft (upstart_crow)

My new LJ subtitle is “freelance alchemist”. Vanderhooft could use that title herself. As she did in The Memory Palace, she uses poetry to transmute her complex relationship with her father; where her processing was stripped bare in The Memory Palace, it is here viewed through lenses of folktales and fables, science fiction and horror. The title “The Robot’s Daughter” made me laugh, but the story so artfully shaped within is one of the most poignant in the collection. “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” is breathtaking in ways that I’ve yet to fully articulate; like the daughter in this poem, Vanderhooft describes the darkness at the heart by tracing, suggesting; it’s a lovely and fitting use of negative space. There are quiet acts of desperation and revenge by bitter daughters, and love and longing by others. The standout for me is a matched set: “The Step-Father” and “The Step-Daughter”, a mirror, two people trying to find a way to relate to each other in a world that defines their relationship as one of opposition.

“The Vampire’s Daughter” is another note-perfect poem. I’ve never seen vampirism handled the way it is here, and it’s brilliant in a way that makes me wonder why I never saw things that way before. It’s in the form of an interview - a startling departure at first, but ideal for what Vanderhooft needs to accomplish here, and boy, does she pull it off. It’s the strongest piece in a book full of strong pieces, and it lingered in my mind for days afterward.

“Zeus’s Daughter” closes the collection, and it hits all the right notes, given that much of this has been Vanderhooft’s own exploration of herself as a daughter. It is bittersweet, wistful, and calm. The last words of the collection are those of closure: “It’s alright. It really is alright.”

Altogether, this collection is a wonderful examination of a relationship so rarely explored with this sort of delicacy and depth. I enjoyed Vanderhooft’s earlier work, but mining this territory has made her even better - each collection builds on the last, and I can’t wait til the next. If you order this direct from JoSelle, you can get it autographed! Ping her at upstart_crow!


Goblin Quest, by Jim Hines (lj user="jimhines">)

This is a book for everyone who’s ever run a D&D campaign or read a fantasy novel and wondered what life was like for the “monsters”. Goblin Quest is a light-hearted reversed view of the usual fantasy tropes. It’s not specifically billed as YA, but you could give it to your middle or high school kid, especially if they’re a gamer. Or if you are ☺ Hines deftly sets the scene for sequels, and indeed there are two, which I’ll definitely be hunting down… he has a gift for characters, and I want to read more of Jig’s adventures!


Standard disclaimer - I got free copies of the first three to review, but a positive review is never guaranteed. As with my controversial Sharing Knife review last time, if I have a problem with something, I'll say so! :)

Tangentially - if you send me a book, I'll review it. Sometimes it takes me bloody well forever to get to it, but hey, I was punctual about these!

Now I go run errands. When I return, I'll have Elayna (who should be home by then) write you a post about Explo, and I'll pimp the raffle one last time. Closes at midnight. Get your tickets in!
Tags: reviews
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