melita66: (ship)
After a big purchase of books on "Buy from Tor" day, plus illness, busyness at work, I haven't been in the book to read a new author.

Instead I reread Patricia Wrede's Frontier Magic series which is comprised of:


  • Thirteenth Child

  • Across the Great Barrier

  • The Far West



Set in the 1800s, it's an alternative Earth complete with magic and a lot of magical plants and creatures. Franklin, Jefferson, and ...someone else set up a magical barrier along the Mississippi, and connecting into the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence to hold back the majority of the magical creatures and enable homesteading. A few hardy souls are starting to homestead on the far side of barrier and investigate what's in the west. Eff is the thirteenth child of a college professor father, and the twin of a double-seventh son. She's supposed to be quite unlucky based on classical magic theory, and having problems with relatives who believe it. Her parents decide to relocate to the frontier and a new college where it won't be obvious that she's a thirteenth child. Eff ends up assisting professors in caring and studying the fauna and flora, including traveling beyond the great barrier. Very fun stories, but reading them back-to-back, I found myself getting a little bored in the third book--too repetitive. I'd still love to catch up with Eff.

I then felt like reading Caroline Stevermer's A Scholar of Magics but thought I should read A College of Magics. The latter focuses on Faris Nallaneen, the heir to a Ruritanian country in eastern Europe. Sent off to Greenlaw (in France) to acquire polish, she ends up learning magic too, and becomes quite powerful in her own self. Her best friend, Jane, is a major character in the second book, when she is sent off to Glasscastle (in Britain) to convince a scholar there to take up a similar position to Faris's. While there, she ends up working with Samuel Lambert, an American sharpshooter, who is helping with some research. Both books are just lovely, with interesting twists and turns.

I also read Lois McMaster Bujold's new novella, "Penric's Demon", set in the Chalion universe, I think earlier than Curse of Chalion. Light fluff, but an engaging character.

I also read a short story by Megan Whalen Turner set in her Queen's Thief series. The story is about Eugenides as a child, hell-bent on becoming the Thief like his grandfather.

In other fun news, Martha Wells announced that she's sold a duology, set in the Raksura universe. Yay!!! Happy Dance!!!!
melita66: (ship)
I believe I'm missing at least one book, but it would have been a reread.

**SPOILERS for Ancillary Justice**

Yea!!! Ann Leckie's second novel, Ancillary Sword, finally came out in October. The first, Ancillary Justice, took home a bunch of awards last year--deservedly so. This book continues to follow Breq as she takes up with one of factions of her emperor, Anaander Mianaai. Mainaai has multiple cloned bodies, which have now split among how to maintain, or not, the Radchaai empire. Breq is given control of a small area--the only duty she would take because the sister of someone she killed lives there.

Once there, she finds several other mysteries and, of course, problems that she will try to fix or figure out. As many other reviewers have said, it's a much more interior book. Breq appears to have had a very solitary existence for about 20 years after losing her AI and other bodies and has to now re-adjust to dealing with a lot of contact. We find out more about the aliens through a very, very strange translator who shows up. Anyway, recommended, recommended, recommended.

I also reread Patricia Wrede's Magician's Ward which is set in an alternative Regency London. Kim has been rescued from the streets by an aristocrat and made his ward. Kim has the ability to become a wizard, and Merrill (Mairelon) will help her. A sweet, fun little story.

I then felt in the mood for more historical fantasy and reread Guy Gavriel Kay's A Lion in Al-Rassan. Set in an alternative almost-Reconquista Spain, it follows a young Kindath (Jewish-analog) doctor as she gets caught up in the struggle between the Jaddites (Christian-analog) and the Asharites (Muslims) in Spain. Rodrigo Belmonte is "El Cid" and Ammar ibn Khairan is a "renaissance man" (so to say!) among the Asharites. It's my favorite Kay book and the one I reread most often. The characters are beautifully done.

I'm still in the midst of Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr. This one is set just before and while Alexander the Great conquers Egypt. Meriamon, a priestess and daughter of Nectanebo, comes to Alexander to ask him to becomes Pharaoh.
melita66: (ghibli house)
Patricia Wrede wraps up Eff's story in The Far West. Set in an alternative history, Eff lives in Columbia, aka the US, around the late 1800s. The new world didn't have any humans living in it before being settled by Avrupans (Europeans), Aphrikans (guess), and Cathayans (on the west coast). What the new world does have are a lot of dangerous creatures, both magical and not. Some of the founding fathers (Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson) created a magical barrier (Great Barrier) that runs along the Mississippi, over to the Great Lakes and then down the St. Lawrence Seaway/River. This blocks most magical creatures out and allows the country to be settled relatively safely.

Eff is the thirteen child of a professor who moves a lot of his family out to the great barrier to a new college that's starting up. Eff's twin is a seventh son of a seventh son with plenty of magical power to spare and she's always been overshadowed by him, and all the older siblings. She's been forging her own path in the two previous books, Thirteenth Child and Across the Great Barrier. She's studying both Avrupan and Aphrikan magic styles because she's always had trouble getting her magic to work properly. She also assists some professors with the college's menagerie. Because of this work and her previous experience on the far side of the Great Barrier, she's chosen to accompany one of the professors as an assistant on a scientific journey of discovery. They're going to try to reach the rocky mountains and see if they can figure out why some very dangerous magical creatures have started migrating towards the settled lands.

I liked the book, but nothing really stood out for me. Much of the book is homey details about Eff's relationships with her family and friends. The trip also discusses a lot of the logistical planning and accommodations that have to be made on any long trip like this. For instance, they winter over and how they prepare and cope is quite interesting. I do look forward to re-reading the entire trilogy which may change my feelings about this book.
melita66: (ghibli house)

I've been very lax on the blog. Partially because I just haven't finished many books. I started a Hugo nominee, but didn't make too far before something shiny came along, so I switched books. In the new book, I got a lot farther, but it's a bit of a slog (I'll talk about it once I finish it), so dropped it for the next shiny!! That one I did finish.

It's a sequel to last year's Thirteen Child by Patricia Wrede and is called Across the Great Barrier. It starts pretty soon after TC and Eff is quite tired of the notoriety she gained from those events. Her twin, Lan, is heading off to college back East and trying to get her to come along. She just knows that she wants to do something else.

Wrede generally writes stories with young protagonists. It is officially considered a young adult novel.

In this alternative history, magic is real, and there are different schools/methods depending on continent, roughly. The U.S. has been colonized and gone through a civil war, but the latter occurred decades earlier. Colonization is also slower because they had to clear land of magic-related pests coming from the west. Franklin and Jefferson somehow created the Great Barrier along the Mississippi and extending up into "Canada" along the Great Lakes. Eff lives with her family on the eastern side of the Mississippi. Small settlements have started on the western side but have to be protected by magical barriers that need adjusting as new beasties arrive from the west.

In the first book, Eff managed to stop an incursion of 'mirror bugs' which could drain any magic cast against them. In this book, she goes on a scientific expedition with a new professor at the local college. They run into some new beasts and begin to wonder two things:

1. Are the creatures attracted to the magic that they're using?
2. Is something driving them east?

More in the next book...

Wrede's good at characterization, the characters have different personalities and speech and I want to read more of several of them. Eff's an appealing main character who's battled prejudice and is only now overcoming self-doubt about her own capabilities. Her twin is a seventh son of a seventh son, and very powerful. She's the thirteen child and considered very unlucky.

I very much look forward to the next book in this series.


melita66: (Default)

I had a short trip in the middle of February. I find that I often have trouble reading new books while traveling. The journey itself is occupying my brain so I prefer reading newspapers or books that I've already read. 

I did take Charlie Stross's The Atrocity Archives with me and managed about half of it. I've like other books by Stross and do plan to finish this one, but at some later date. In this world, certain mathematics can open a hold between worlds/dimensions and let, well, demons and monsters in. The main character works for a British governmental organization that tries to minimize or stop these incursions. Bob Howard has been working there as an inside agent, but wants to become a field agent. Of course, the 'easy' missions he is assigned don't exactly go as planned. The series is humorous--I appreciate the (as) horrifying look into British health and safety regulations and bureaucracy. There are several sequels.

While away, I re-read Martha Wells's Wheel of the Infinite. It's mainly set on an alternate world in a culture that has a south Asian feel. Narration switches between Maskelle, the Voice of the Adversary, and Rian, a kjardin, or personal bodyguard, from a 'barbarian' society set on the edge of Maskelle's Celestial Empire. For a change, the main character is 'middle-aged', somewhere in her 40s. Rian is younger is probably around 30. Maskelle was exiled from the Empire after seeing visions of its destruction if her son takes the throne and leading a failed rebellion. Stripped of her secular power and the ability to contact the Adversary, she is being chased by dark powers and demons. The destruction of the Empire didn't come to pass so she believes that she misinterpreted the visions and "the fault was in her."

She has been summoned back by the supreme religious authority. She saves Rian along the way from river pirates, or perhaps they save each other. Rian immediately decides that she's a person worth following. Huh, I just thought about the very general similarity to Cherryh's Morgaine and Vanye. Unlike Rian, Vanye is coerced into pledging to Morgaine, but over time becomes completely committed to Morgaine and her destiny. Rian immediately throws his lot in with Maskelle, much to her bemusement.

One thing that I love about Wells's characters is that they're smart and just a touch snarky. Here's the opening lines:

     Maskelle had been asking the Ancestors to stop the rain three days running now and, as usual, they weren't listening.

Hee!

I then read some short stories spread across two anthologies and one collection.

Tanya Huff's Valor's Choice popped out from the to-read bookcase. I've enjoyed other books by Huff, in particular, the Vicki Nelson series, and thought a mil-SF book fit my mood. Torin Kerr is female human staff sergeant in an intergalactic confederation that is being threatened by another alien race/empire. Most of the races in the confederation are pacifist, but faced with the Others, have recruited several younger races to provide military forces. A new 2nd Lieutenant is assigned to Torin's division and they're given the light duty of ceremonial attendance upon Confederation diplomats who want to recruit a newly found race.  As you might imagine the ceremonial duties soon turn into active military action.

I liked Torin and some of the other characters, but not enough to buy the rest of the series right now. I may pick up the other books when I'm again in the mood for some mil-SF.

I was waiting for Tortall and Other Tales from Tamora Pierce so decided to re-read Patricia Wrede's charming pair of young adult novels, Mairelon the Magician and Magician's Ward. I originally read MW first, and because MM was out of print, had to hunt pretty hard to find a copy that wasn't outrageously priced. The books have been republished since and an omnibus version was published last year. Kim is an orphan turned street thief who is hired to check out Mairelon's wagon. He is in disguise as a travelling magician while investigating some stolen magical artifacts--the theft of which he was framed several years earlier. It's the time of the regency and the Corsican has been defeated. Although stated to be unrelated, they have a similar feel as a series of books by Wrede and Stevermer that start with Sorcery and Cecelia.

I started Kage Baker's Empress of Mars, but am not really in the mood for it; I'll come back to it.


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