Book Reviews Books Nonfiction

Book Reviews: December 2018 – Lightspeed Magazine

The Wren Hunt

The Wren Hunt
Mary Watson
Hardcover / Paperback / E book
ISBN: 9781681198590
Bloomsbury, November 2018, 416 pgs

Mary Watson has woven a story of modern-day Irish druids and romance on this YA thriller. Wren is from a tribe of Augurs, a faltering druidic custom beneath menace of extinction by the machinations of their rivals, the Judges. The matriarch of the Augurs hatches a plan to undermine the Judges and sends Wren into the proverbial nest of vipers: Wren turns into an intern on the manse of a strong Decide matriarch, Calista Harkness. Wren should discover the supply of Decide magic whereas masking her id from the crafty perceptions of the enemy. Alongside the best way, she meets a boy, and she or he discovers that everybody, even the individuals she loves, has secrets and techniques.

The Wren Hunt performs out in clear, sometimes elegant prose. The narrative attracts the reader in with the senses, particularly—as could be anticipated of a narrative about druids—with poetic and delightful imagery using the pure world. Simply as there’s darkness within the woods, there’s darkness within the story: A creepy, tense, and disorienting opening units the stage for a story the place loss and dying and the top of a individuals are the stakes.

Right here, magic is delicate however fascinating; tradition is intricate, with politics, problems, and lengthy histories. Tradition and magic are inextricable, as is perhaps stated of tradition and language. Inside a couple of pages, this narrative may have you believing that when you e-book a flight, you may discover this village, that stone of energy, stumble throughout the dusty previous guide with Ogham symbols, and perhaps even hear chanting within the night time, throughout the fertile fields the place animals have been slaughtered. In the meantime, cleverly layered all through is a dialog across the nature of notion, using ideas of various myths to border skewed views.

There are a number of of the anticipated plot factors discovered in lots of YA tales. Most clearly, the love curiosity is a Decide. They’ve an ordinary however charming assembly and their romance follows the standard rises and falls. Extra unlucky than this, the mysteries/secrets and techniques/bizarre occasions used as plot units begin to pile up, every individually turning into much less efficient for the mass of them. However, together with some good pacing, there are additionally some good surprises—which I’ll depart as good surprises.

Whereas a few of the characters are a bit cut-out, lots of them are forged in distinctive and weird methods. The relationships between Wren and her household are acquainted sufficient to lure a reader, and fraught sufficient to entangle. The turns they take assist drive the story. Furthermore, Wren is partaking as a personality, and her journey is compelling. She is fearful of the enemy, which makes her braveness extra hanging. She’s sensible, inquisitive, and flawed. She feels actual and this lends enormously to what finally ends up being a stunning learn and a satisfying conclusion.

Alice Payne Arrives
Kate Heartfield
Commerce Paperpack/ E-book
ISBN: 9781250313744 publishing, November 2018, 169 pgs

Alice Payne ArrivesIn Georgian-era England, Alice Payne is the daughter of Colonel Payne, a veteran modified for the more severe by the struggle in America. As soon as rich and revered, the colonel is dropping cash shortly. Alice’s prospects for marriage have diminished considerably together with her age and standing. Alice, nevertheless, is strong-willed and adventuresome. She has no intention of marrying no matter low-ranking noble is foisted on her; apart from, she’s completely joyful together with her secret lover, Jane. Alice dons a masks and makes herself right into a highwayman, robbing the rich to maintain her home.

Not fairly “in the meantime” however “meanwhen” (in one other place and time), Main Prudence Zuniga is caught in a time conflict between two ideological armies, the “Misguided” and the “Farmers.” Both sides believes time journey ought to be used another way, and the 2 sides are incompatible. Ostensibly a soldier for the Farmers, Zuniga plots to destroy time journey utterly within the hopes that the time journey conflict will finish. To realize her treasonous plan, she wants a person who lives in 1788, a local to that point, one corresponding to Alice, or perhaps even Jane.

Alice Payne Arrives is a enjoyable, quick story. The primary characters are cussed ladies of motion. Chapters are brief, making for a fast, always-moving learn. The narrative begins with motion, stumbles a bit by means of exposition, however smooths out early on. Mild-handed social commentary with subtler depths makes for a considerate and thought-provoking however entertaining journey.

For the science fiction followers: time journey. Regardless of the well-worn matter, this novella brings a couple of new, cool, sparkly concepts to the style, melding a few of them right into a steampunk sensibility. There’s sufficient science fictional meat for individuals to argue over, whereas the backdrop sizzles with fascinating, clever social concepts.

A substantial amount of the story takes place in 1788. The descriptions are convincing and the writing is assured, however stays unencumbered by overuse of archaic types, holding the learn clean and straightforward. A lot of the prose is pretty simple, however robust dialogue propels the narrative, with occasional intelligent strains and sprinkles of nice humor. Whereas a lot of the story is couched in a story voice of journey—evoking The Rely of Monte Cristo, for instance—the story isn’t afraid to the touch on the darker elements of conflict and battle. It merely does so with out turning into entangled within the darkness. Higher but, and maybe even extra to the writer’s credit score, Alice Payne Arrives hits residence with moments of real, efficient emotion.

A Cathedral of Fantasy and Bone
Kat Howard
Hardcover / E book
ISBN: 9781481492157
Saga Press, January 2019, 368 pgs

A Cathedral of Myth and BoneKat Howard’s providing brings collectively totally different takes on myths and folklore. Within the introduction, Howard tells us that “not each story here’s a retelling of one thing older.” Nonetheless, the tales share a sure sense of the fabulous, the unusual, and the unusually acquainted. Readers much more schooled within the classics and fairy tales than I’ll discover layered ranges of engagement: There’s a clear depth of data and understanding on show right here. Older tales and tropes are interrogated, turned inside out, examined with essential strains and intelligent strokes. However there’s a lot—a cornucopia—for the informal dabbler as nicely, since so most of the tales on this assortment stand as fantastic narratives no matter precursors.

Maybe unsurprisingly, transformation stands as a robust theme all through. Fable and fairy tales typically deal in transformations. However the how and the why of transformations are surprises in these journeys. The mundane and the magical meet, and the mundane is often left behind. From a contemporary twist on miracles and divinity in “The Saint of the Sidewalks,” the place a lady looking for a miracle turns into an unwilling supplier in miracles, to the hallucinatory “Murdered Sleep,” the place a choice at a masquerade fantastique can change each the dancer and the world round her, acquainted transformations lay new curses or empower in new methods.

There’s additionally an unflinching examination of violence. This violence can take quite a lot of shapes; it may be bloody, nevertheless it can be neat, hidden. Within the putting and deceptively highly effective “A Life in Fictions,” violence is an act of management, typically complicit, typically negotiated, the place a person inadvertently vanishes his muse into his tales, to softly devastating impact. Violence might be revenge and claws, nevertheless it can be obsession. It may be the act of claiming, of imposing one’s will whatever the different’s wishes. Violence is highlighted as a egocentric, self-absorbed factor mistitled love, referred to as to mild within the deliberate, darkish plot factors of “Returned,” or in a easy, passing thought in “Breaking the Body”: “I considered what it might be like, strolling out of dying . . . and what if I didn’t need to go together with him?” (Editors’ notice: “Breaking the Body” was a Lightspeed unique brief:

Hand in hand with these themes, this assortment offers with relationships, although not all the time within the romantic sense. “Painted Birds and Shivered Bones” begins with the connection between an artist and their artwork, in addition to their inspiration, however grows extra complicated as a curse is revealed, shifting the relationships between artist and inspiration/muse. “Saint’s Tide,” a quietly unimaginable story, offers with a lady and her relationship to the enigmatic saints that hang-out her city, her religion, and her household.

A few of the chosen tales appear to comply with few guidelines, focusing as an alternative on the sensory, the luxurious imagery, and an exploration of thriller. Characters in sure tales is perhaps wanderers stumbling by means of a story. In reality, “The Talking Bone” is extra about than being any specific particular person’s story. However the imagery in these tales is persistently robust, the concepts are genuinely fascinating, and the dialogues created by them are socially necessary: management, energy, gender—power and loss; how we stay with ourselves and one another. Furthermore, splendidly structured tales similar to “The Calendar of Saints” and extra conventional, linear narratives, comparable to “Dreaming Like a Ghost” are proof of an unimaginable vary of storytelling method and mastery of character.

I’ve my (very minor) occasional quibbles. And naturally I’ve my favourite tales. However this actually is a guide you must probe for your self.

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