The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch

“The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a ghost that walks through walls. Half the city believes him to be a legendary champion of the poor. The other half believe him to be a foolish myth. Nobody has it quite right.
Slightly built, unlucky in love, and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. He certainly didn’t invite the rumors that swirl around his exploits, which are actually confidence games of the most intricate sort. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else, pray tell, would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny of it. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves, the Gentlemen Bastards.

Locke and company are con artists in an age where con artistry, as we understand it, is a new and unknown style of crime. The less attention anyone pays to them, the better! But a deadly mystery has begun to haunt the ancient city of Camorr, and a clandestine war is threatening to tear the city’s underworld, the only home the Gentlemen Bastards have ever known, to bloody shreds. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends will find both their loyalty and their ingenuity tested to the breaking point as they struggle to stay alive…” (via Goodreads)

B000JMKNJ2.01.LZZZZZZZ

Good Things: Who doesn’t love a con story? Generally speaking, audiences love the dramatic irony of being in on the con, seeing how the marks get taken in, getting the behind-the-scenes action. And, of course, there’s often an added twist or extra tension that comes from a part of the con being withheld from the audience as well as the marks, and The Lies of Locke Lamora is no exception. Honestly, though, it’s not just the con story that makes this book amazing, although it’s definitely a part. I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels in my day, and the world-building in this book is honestly up there in the top ten–Camorr is Venice-flavored but has history all its own, and information about the city and the world around it is doled out with such a careful hand that there’s nary an egregious infodump to be found. Likewise, the plotting and pacing of the story is so engaging that I couldn’t read it before bedtime because a) it was too compelling and I’d be up until 2am, and b) the events were too exciting and my adrenaline would get all fired up. (I’m a delicate flower, I know.)

The characters, too, are wonderfully built and well-rounded, and as the story flashes back and forth between present-day and Locke’s youth, their motivations and personalities are revealed in an excellent show-don’t-tell kind of way. I really enjoyed the main characters’ relationships with each other–Locke, Jean, Calo, Galdo, Bug–and their fondness for each other was obvious.

Bad Things: My main complaint with The Lies of Locke Lamora is the female characters. First off, there should be more of them! I know they’re the Gentlemen Bastards, but come on. There are a few main-ish characters who are also women, but their stories aren’t as rich or complex as those of the male main characters, and we spend way less time with them. I’ve been told that this is rectified in the series’ second book, Red Seas Under Red Skiesbut here it’s a bit of a disappointment. To put a finer point on it, one character gets refrigeratored in what was the biggest letdown for me–I kept hoping that it was a trick or that something more interesting would come about, but nope, it’s a pretty straightforward refrigeration.

While I said above that the pacing and plotting are well-done, there is a point near the climax of the book that does get a bit “let-me-explain-to-you-how-this-all-went-down,” and it’s possible that it really only stood out to me because the rest of the story had so little infodumping going on. The resolution was a little rushed but still quite satisfying.

For trigger notes, it’s worth mentioning that this is a fairly violent novel. There’s a lot of death, torture, and pain inflicted, although most of it didn’t feel overdone to me, but that’s a very personal thing that you’d have to measure for yourself.

Overall: Basically, this book is compelling as shit and I was never once bored with what it chose to let me in on. To use an old cliche, it’s an edge-of-your-seater, and I’m glad that Saladin Ahmed recommended it on Twitter. I’ll most definitely be reading the rest of the series, with my fingers crossed that the women get better, and if Scott Lynch is as devious with his plotting with the sequels as he was with The Lies of Locke Lamora, they’ll be a hell of a read.

Advertisements

Medicus, by Ruth Downie

Medicus

by Ruth Downie

“Divorced and down on his luck, Gaius Petreius Ruso has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. In a moment of weakness, after a straight thirty six-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to compassion and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner. Now he has a new problem: a slave who won’t talk and can’t cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar. Now Ruso must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next. With a gift for comic timing and historical detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own.” (via Amazon)

Medicus

Good Things: I picked up Medicus for Kindle because the price was right–it’s still $1.99, actually–and because the premise was pretty interesting. I’m starting to get more into mysteries these days, and an unusual setting can spice up what might otherwise be a predictable story, so why not a murder mystery set during the Roman Empire?

Which is not to say that the mystery in Medicus is predictable–at least, not to me it wasn’t, although I’m still a mystery newb at this point. The solution to the murders is both more and less complex than I expected, and while the answers that come out left me a little with a feeling of really? that’s what was going on?, it felt like a rather realistic, muted end to things, especially in comparison to some of the weirdness that the story goes through as it races to the denouement. I enjoyed the setting, although I couldn’t speak to the historical accuracy, which may end up being a sticking point for those more versed in Roman history than I. (As an aside, how much does historical accuracy matter to you in a historically-based novel? I’m still working through my feelings on authenticity and how much I care about it.)

There are moments of casual misogyny that don’t feel out of place for such a patriarchially-oriented society, and most of the moments that would have become really uncomfortable–oh great, Ruso thinks, my slave has misbehaved and now I must beat her–are thankfully averted in a way that doesn’t feel too contrived. I feel complicatedly about historical novels that impress current morals and culture on a historical setting, especially with all the preternaturally modern-sounding Bluestockings that end up running around; I don’t want to read super-misogynistic things that make me feel terrible, of course, but ignoring the reality of times and places that weren’t so hot for women (and POC, of course) and pretending everything was hunky-dorey doesn’t seem like the way to go either? To that end, I appreciated the way that Ruso slowly comes to an understanding of how shitty life is for a large number of women in his time and place, but doesn’t end up acting on that realization in a way that seems unrealistic. Plus, you know, many of the supporting characters in the story work as prostitutes and they are (for the most part) not slut-shamed by the main character or the internal narration! Yay!

Bad Things: Although I generally felt comfortable with the line between historical accuracy and blatant misogyny that the book walks, I wasn’t comfortable with the moments when Ruso reminisces about his ex-wife Claudia. These memories don’t seem to serve any purpose other than to remind us oh yeah, what a shallow bitch she obviously was and give us a reason that Ruso doesn’t want to get involved with another woman, which–what’s the point? Now, this is the first book in a series, and this may be setting the stage for something that happens later down the line, but I didn’t feel great about the inclusion. There were also a couple moments of fat-shaming and other things that made me unhappy, and which didn’t really build towards my seeing Ruso as a sympathetic main character. Actually, he’s kind of a curmudgeon, and while he’s got that soft spot that keeps him doing good things–doctoring, helping the helpless, financially supporting his brother’s family–his grouchy view of the rest of the world as taking advantage of his good nature got a little tiresome. I also didn’t feel super-strongly about Tilla one way or another, which isn’t great since she’s supposed to be the (eventual) love interest. On the other hand, some of the other female characters were pretty rad (holla, Chloe!), so that made up for it a little bit.

Overall: I’ll probably pick up the second book at the library since I bought the third one as a Kindle Daily Deal a while back. (Those Daily Deals, they get me sometimes!) Pretty interesting, although it didn’t leave a strong lasting impression–for historical murder mystery, I’d be more inclined to recommend The Unquiet Bones, by Mel Starr.

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler (A More Diverse Universe)

Like a couple of others, I decided to (re)read Wild Seed for Aarti & Co’s More Diverse Universe Blog Tour. Any regular reader of NBP knows that diverse reading is important to me, so signing up for the tour was a no-brainer. The real question was what to read. I have several SF&F books written by POC that have been on my TBR for a while (A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Who Fears Death, etc), but I’ve been meaning to reread Wild Seed for years so that I could continue on with the rest of the Patternmaster series which I haven’t read. Since it’s been on my TBR list for the longest, Wild Seed won.

Anyway, tl;dr for why I chose Wild Seed. Onto the book itself!

From Amazon (that link is to just Wild Seed, but I would recommend, if you are interested, in instead getting Seed to Harvest, the compilation of the four Patternmaster books): “Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex — or design. He fears no one — until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss…and savage anyone who threatens those she loves. She fears no one — until she meets Doro. From African jungles to the colonies of America, Doro and Anyanwu weave together a pattern of destiny that not even immortals can imagine.”

The good: I love this book. It explores many of the same themes of other Butler novels: race, gender, sex, power. Butler also explores what it means to be truly immortal, in Doro’s case, or effectively immortal, in Anyanwu’s case. She explores the loneliness that each experience and their differing ways of dealing with it. She explores the relationship between morality and mortality. Wild Seed is about the relationship between Doro and Anyanwu, and is really a prequel to the rest of the series, so there isn’t an arcing plot. I’m fine with that, enjoy it even, but beware if you’re the type of reader who wants a big bad to fight or whatever. I should perhaps mention here that the next section will have spoilers, but given the not-so-plotful nature of the book, I don’t think it will ruin your experience. Still, don’t read the next section if you hate spoilers!

The rough: Many (most? all?) of Butler’s novels have an at least partially uncomfortable sexual and/or romantic relationship and this is no exception. Anyanwu and Doro are very different people and, truthfully, the one thing that keeps them together is that they are the only two immortal people they know of in the world. Doro’s lack of empathy, his obsession with his breeding program, and his ultimate power mean that he uses people, including Anyanwu, in very gross ways. I don’t blame Anyanwu for growing to hate him, and I don’t judge her for growing close to him again, in the end. If I was immortal in a world where almost everybody and everything is mortal, I don’t know that I could forever stay away from another immortal person. Anyanwu realizes this for herself and realizes that her only real choice is to either let herself die (which she can do, and which Doro cannot) or live with him. She chooses the latter and I refuse to belittle her choice. And I strongly disagree with Fangs for the Fantasy that that choice makes Anyanwu a long-suffering mammy. (I also disagree that Anyanwu and Doro’s ability to change sex, whilst still retaining their gender, and having relationships with women and men respectively is in any way excluding LGBT experiences and, in fact, is inclusive of trans* experiences. I do think Fangs for the Fantasy makes an important point about Anyanwu’s healing and what the books says about disability and the problems therein, but I do not think there is as much erasure/negativity as they are saying. I will have to think more on it. Anyway, head on over and see what they had to say!)

The bad/overall: For me, there is nothing, really, to say here. If you like book plots to have a distinct arc, you may have trouble. If you are sensitive to or triggered by race/gender/sex issues, I would recommend it only with extreme caution. Otherwise, I highly recommend it to everyone. If you haven’t read any Butler at all, you are seriously missing out! Get thee to the library/bookstore!

The Einstein Intersection, by Samuel R. Delany (A More Diverse Universe)

The Einstein Intersection

by Samuel R. Delany

“The Einstein Intersection won the Nebula Award for best science fiction novel of 1967. The surface story tells of the problems a member of an alien race, Lo Lobey, has assimilating the mythology of earth, where his kind have settled among the leftover artifacts of humanity. The deeper tale concerns, however, the way those who are “different” must deal with the dominant cultural ideology. The tale follows Lobey’s mythic quest for his lost love, Friza. In luminous and hallucinated language, it explores what new myths might emerge from the detritus of the human world as those who are “different” try to seize history and the day.” (via Amazon)

Good Things: As I’m sure other reviewers of this book have said before me, The Einstein Intersection (or, if you want to call it by its intended title, A Fabulous, Formless Darkness) is a tough book to talk about. It’s short, clocking in at around 150 pages, but it’s not a breezy read. Samuel Delany wrote it in his early twenties, and the book’s sections of narrative are interspersed with short journal entries that Delany jotted down while writing the book during a trip around Greece. That’s not a surprise, because The Einstein Intersection is dense with mythological references to the Minotaur, to Orpheus, to Phaedra, and many more besides that I’m sure went over my head. The main characters are all aliens who have come to Earth and inhabited the planet long after humanity has ceased to exist, and have taken human form for reasons never fully explicated. The main character, Lobey, describes himself as an oddly-shaped 23-year-old brown person with a bottom half larger than his top half, with hand-like feet and a great love of music. In this world, many people are born deformed, terminally disabled, or otherwise “different,” and Lobey begins to learn that he himself is “different” in a way that could endanger his life. When the also-“different” girl he loves, Friza, is killed, he sets out to find her killer and deal with him himself.

The language of The Einstein Intersection is often beautiful and fits the dreamlike structure of the story. I felt the atmosphere quite vividly the whole time I was reading, and there are certain scenes that will probably occupy my brain for quite a while. There are also moments of surprising humor that make me smile and which help define Lobey’s character and the world around him:

I began to learn what I was doing when about twenty dragons got stuck in a mintbog (a slushy quicksand bog covered with huge bushes of windy mint, right? Mintbog). (p. 68-69)

There are interesting explorations of gender and able-bodied-ness and able-minded-ness that are often ignored in science-fiction; it’s a very thoughtful, cerebral book that wanders through mythology, genetics, history, music, and death, touching on all and asking questions that it doesn’t necessarily answer.

Bad Things: All that meandering, that dreamscape quality, that obliqueness of the text? Is probably frustrating for some readers. It’s not a book that makes itself easily accessible to a lot of people. Do you know how it is when you get the feeling that the book you’re reading is probably smarter than you are? That’s sort of what reading The Einstein Intersection feels like. I felt a little lost at times when I didn’t get the mythological references or the talk about parthenogenesis and haploids, and I think some readers might end up feeling left out and quit reading partway through. I don’t believe it’s something Delany does on purpose; he was and is a brilliant man, and his books definitely go through cycles of being more or less accessible to a wide audience. The Einstein Intersection in and of itself feels less like a straightforward novel and more like an exploration of the themes mentioned earlier, hung on a fictional frame. The ideas explored don’t always come to a satisfactory conclusion–for me, particularly the parts regarding ableism and gender could have been taken farther and to more interesting places (why do the androgynes make Lobey so uncomfortable? difference and the true meaning of “functional” are discussed, but why is it okay to stick the severely non-functional disabled in “kages” and treat them as not-people?) .

I also felt a little sad that, of the few female (and neither-male-nor-female) characters in the story, none of them had much in the way of agency; La Dire exists to give Lobey direction and set him on his journey, Friza and Dorik die early on, and Dove is used by–who?–at Branning-at-sea to keep genetic lines from becoming too inbred.

Overall: Not easy reading, and may turn some readers off with its oblique references and shaky plot. Interesting and thoughtful, though, and a clear beginning of some of the ideas that Delany explores more thoroughly in later books. For more casual readers looking for more developed ideas and a stronger plot in POC-centered science-fiction, I’d suggest Nova, Babel-17 (reviewed at chasing bawa and to-be-reviewed at Necromancy Never Pays on Thursday), or Trouble on Triton over The Einstein Intersection, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. Plus, the current edition available at Amazon has a foreword by Neil Gaiman! And who doesn’t like Gaiman, huh? (Don’t answer that.)

Intro Meme

Mia and Jessica, checking in, heroically waking up at 5:30 am.

Jessica
1)Where are you reading from today? Last time Mia came to my house, so this time I came to Mia’s.
2)Three random facts about me… 1) The last time I awoke at 5:30 in the morn was… honestly, I don’t even know. 2) I love Mia’s three-legged cat, Flat Tire. 3)  I am…tired.
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I’ve got 10 books to choose from: one picture book, one middle grade, three young adult, three adult SF&F, one graphic novel, and one nonfiction book. And, of course, Rain.
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? I think we’re both going for as close to 24 hours as we can.
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Don’t be afraid to put something down and pick something new up. Even if you’re the type to only read one thing at a time, the read-a-thon is not a time to be book-monogamous.

Mia
1)Where are you reading from today? My new house! How peachy.
2)Three random facts about me… 1. I do not like peppermint tea. 2. That is why I’m drinking chocolate chai instead. 3. I am very tired as well.
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? Nine. Two short story collections, two graphic novels, three SF&F, one YA, and, as Jessica said, Rain. The interminable Rain.
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? We! Could! Go! All! The! Way!
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Fortify yourself with food and drink, and never give up, never surrender.

What Mia Has Been Reading

Ahoy, all! I’m going to copy Jessica and write a little bit about some of the books I’ve been reading lately in preparation for the Read-a-Thon. (It starts in six hours or so, folks!)

+ M.T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales: Whales on Stilts! by M.T. Anderson:”Lily Gefelty is just an average twelve-year-old girl. But her dad–a normal-enough seeming guy–just so happens to work for an evil genius who plans to unleash an army of extremely cranky, stilt-walking, laser-beam-eyed whales upon the world. Lucky for Lily, her two best friends are anything but average. Both of them are famous for their adventures. Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, invents gadgets; Katie Mulligan spends her spare time fighting off zombies and were-goats. Surely they’ll know what to do. And if they don’t? Then it will be up to Lily–average, everyday Lily–to come up with a plan.”

I picked this up at the thrift store for thirty-nine cents because I recognized the name of the author–and, okay, because of the title. It looked like a fun, goofy middle-grade read. It wasn’t until I got it home that I realized that the author is none other than the M.T. Anderson who wrote The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. “Holy crap,” quoth I, because, because it’s so easy to forget that authors capable of writing acts of great cruelty and pain may also author books for younger readers, and vice-versa. So, I did read it, and it is a fun, goofy middle-grade read that very successfully and in good humor parodies the kind of middle-grade reads that have been around since books started being written for young people. The narrator is delightfully intrusive and given to tangents, and when a joke is carried on, it’s carried just a bit father than you’d think was appropriate, but is given a twist that makes it ten times more hilarious. There’s one particular footnote that runs from page 173 to page 179 that, while unrelated to the main story, squeezes my heart in a very thoughtful sort of way. Just more proof that middle grade works can and mostly do be beautiful and nuanced and extremely funny at the same time, and that very, very good authors don’t have to dumb down their writing when they’re working for an audience of younger readers. Double extra points for the fake reading guide in the back.

+ Mendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker: I’m not going to quote a summary of this book, the third novel in the Company series, because they all contain spoilers for what happened in In the Garden of Iden, the first book–and as I am trying to get some friends to read the first one and get into the series (hint, hint), I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice to say that Mendoza, immortal cyborg botanist sent into the past by the mysterious Company, finds herself posted to Southern California in 1865, and despite her desire to avoid mortals she manages to get tangled up in some pretty nasty stuff. The stakes begin to rise for the reader about the Company’s true intentions, and I was so bloody hooked into this book, you don’t even know. In fact, I picked up the fourth book in the series, The Graveyard Game, immediately upon returning Mendoza in Hollywood to the library (thank the stars for a library that has the entire series stocked). I want to savor the books, since Kage Baker sadly passed away early last year and I want to make her writing last, but I just can’t–they’re stay-up-all-night-oh-my-god-did-that-really-happen kind of books–both character-driven and story-driven. It’s smart, funny, and exciting science fiction written by an extremely talented woman, and the world’s worse off to not have her in it anymore. Get thee hence and pick up a copy of In the Garden of Iden if time-traveling immortal cyborgs sound like your cup of tea, or even if they don’t.

+The Princess Diaries IV: Princess in Waiting and The Princess Diaries V: Princess in Pink, by Meg Cabot: What can I say about the Princess Diaries books? They’re such sweet, sweet candy crack. Mia is such a goofy worrywart, and the books are nice filler reads if you don’t want to get into anything heavy. I read these two back to back in a couple of hours, and they were just right for what I wanted. Anybody who’s got Queen Amidala panties is a literary friend of mine, and I’m always happy to support a Mia who’s got herself a Michael.

I think that’s it from me for now, folks, but Jessica and I will be back again soon, simply flooding you with our brilliance and Read-a-Thon antics. See y’all in a few hours!

Short Reports 5/13

I know, I know, I haven’t been around here lately. You-all (our threes and fours of readers) have Mary and Jessica to thank for keeping this site fresh and full of wonderful poetry lately! I love poetry, but as a scholar of prose, poetry is still very mysterious to me. Good poetry is like a herd of ethereal and dainty unicorns, and all I understand are Nubian goats. That’s right, I just compared my literature degree to raising goats. AND I’M NOT SORRY.

Um, anyhow. As Jessica mentioned, I was gone last week in order to say goodbye to one of the people I was closest to in the world. I’m glad I could be with her family, and it was a very fitting farewell, but it’s left me with little energy for my usual hobbies. To wit: I’ve been reading, but haven’t been able to form a coherent thought when it comes time to REVIEW the books I’ve read. So I thought I would try to ease back into things by doing some short reports on what I’ve picked up (and put down again) in the past couple of weeks.

Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock:

I LOVE YOU, D.J. SCHWENK. Okay, folks, if you’re at all a fan of YA, please go pick this up and read it. D.J. is a small-town Wisconsin girl who has been tasked with basically running her parents’ farm while her dad is out of commission. Tough stuff. Family politics and a growing sense of unhappiness with her lot in life don’t make it any easier. But, you guys–D.J. is so charming! Her voice is so honest and fresh and funny. I often feel dissatisfied with a lot of the YA I read because, while the side characters have gobs and gobs of personality, the narrator sometimes tends to be a little bit bland. Maybe so the reader can identify with her more? D.J. doesn’t suffer from Bland Hero Disorder, though; I felt that I got a very clear feeling of who she is, and who she’s trying to become through the course of the novel. And the person that she is, I want her to be my GOOD BUDDY FOR LIFE.

Bonus material (and SPOILERS, so cover your eyes if you haven’t read the novel!): I looked up Dairy Queen on Wikipedia because I cannot remember Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s name to save my life for some reason, and the summary of the novel has this AMAZING line of information:

Then Amber reveals, “You’re with me. You’re not with him. It’s the two of us. Don’t you see that?” It then occurs to D.J. that Amber is in love with her (Which is how you know that Amber is a lesbian.)

I love whichever fifteen-year-old wrote that. “Which is how you know” indeed.

(Okay, you can stop covering your eyes now.)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie: I’m still boarding the YA train, so I haven’t had the chance to read many of the titles that have been raised on high as being The Young Adult Novels To Read. To that end, I picked this one up at the library, since it seems to turn lead to gold wherever it goes. Sadly, though, I can’t tell you whether I liked it or not, and I don’t think I will be able to for a long time: I read the first twenty pages, came across the part that has detailed descriptions of a dog getting sick and having to be put down, and was absolutely DESTROYED. It more or less turned me into a useless ball of sadness for the rest of the evening. I know it sounds silly, but there are boundaries I recognize in myself for what I can and cannot read at the moment, and that sort of thing is definitely not on the list to get into the club. This isn’t the fault of the book or the author, but I think I’ll be returning this unread and pick it up some other time.

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld: Another DNF, although not for the same reasons. I just…I was bored, you guys! I don’t know, I just wasn’t compelled by the world or the story that is being told. I’d say it’s because I’m tired of dystopia in my reading material, but I recently read The Giver for the first time and was completely blown away by it, and Riddley Walker (which EVERYONE SHOULD READ STARTING RIGHT NOW. I’M SERIOUS. READY STEADY GO!) is still one of my favorite novels of all time, so, who knows? I put it down when I realized that I just didn’t care. While I can appreciate the message of loving yourself the way you are and not, you know, submitting teenagers to compulsory plastic surgery, I didn’t feel like it brought anything particularly new or interesting to the table.

The Old Kingdom Trilogy, by Garth Nix:

Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. How did I not read these before? I want to go back in time and give these to twelve-year-old Mia so that she can spend less time idealizing vampires (yeah, that’s right, I was ahead of the trend by ten years, bitches!) and more time idealizing CRAZY AWESOME NECROMANCERS. Sabriel and Lirael are two of the bad-assin’-est main characters I’ve read about in years! And that’s saying something, because I recently read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in two consecutive days. Forget Katniss, give me the Abhorsen! Although I have to admit that, at the beginning of her titular novel, Lirael was cracking me the heck up with her mopey-teenager-turned-up-to-11 behavior. NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME, NOBODY LIKES ME, I’M GOING TO THROW MYSELF OFF OF THIS GLACIER. Um, Lirael, if you talked to people and opened yourself up a little bit, maybe it wouldn’t matter so much that you don’t have the Sight like the other Clayr? Then again, maybe she’s a teeny bit justified since she spent her entire life around people who can see the future when she couldn’t. I’m sure if I were a clairvoyant precognative I’d spend most of my waking hours talking about how awesome it was, too. Anyway: it’s got dead spirits, good and evil necromancy, amazing and thorough worldbuilding, a pseudo-England of the WWII era right across the wall from a magic-and-mayhem world, and the Disreputable Dog (oh my god do I love the Disreputable Dog). Good, good stuff. And all the titles have beautifully illustrated covers that capture well the feeling of the Old Kingdom.

What do y’all think? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Do you have any quick-fire capital-”O” Opinions on books you’ve read lately? Speak up!