Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

This book is gosh darned delightful. 

I was tempted to leave my review at that but I guess I should say more. 

Like many people, I first encountered Katherine Addison when I found the Goblin Emperor on a bunch of awards ballots. I was immediately enchanted. Within six months of reading it, I doubled back and listened to the audiobook. Goblin Emperor is charming and delightful and wonderful and even deeper than I realized the first time though. 

So I was thrilled beyond belief when Tor and NetGalley gave me an eARC for her new book, the Angel of the Crows. (I must’ve spent 15 minutes trying to explain to my bemused wife why I was so excited.) 

I have a shameful secret I must confess: when I start a new book, I often skip to the end to read the acknowledgments. I don’t exactly know why. I’ve been doing it for at least the last thirty years. I think it comes from reading single-author short story collections that have forwards and afterwards and really enjoying the authorial insight. I don’t want to have to wait until the end of a novel to get that insight, so I skip ahead. 

And am I glad I did! 

<spoiler alert> 

Ms. Addison explains at the end of the novel that this books genesis was in fanfic. Specifically, something called wingfic (which I have never heard of before, but is fanfic where a character has wings). She explained that the story began as wingfic from the BBC show Sherlock, the one with Benedict Cumberbatch. Understanding the DNA of the story really made me appreciate it more. 

The Sherlock analog is Crow, the angel of London, and the Watson analog is Dr. Doyle, and they become roommates and solve mysteries together in a world where werewolves and vampires are commonplace and it’s just wonderful! Sorry to gush. But as I said at the beginning, this book delights me to no end. The only possible complaint I could have with this book is that it feels a little episodic and the overarching plot seems thin, except that the overarching plot isn’t the heart of this novel, but instead it is the characters and relationships. 

I cannot enthuse enough about this book. Go buy it right now!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Planetfall by Emma Newman

Planetfall was amazing.  I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I stayed up every night of my summer vacation last year to finish it.  Fully realized characters, a fascinating world, and an excellent mystery.  I felt the hoarder’s point of view was so reasonable, it took me by surprise when I realized the extent of her problem.  I can’t wait to read more by this author.

Spy, Spy Again by Mercedes Lackey

I have loved Mercedes Lackey’s books for thirty years. I still have the SFBC omnibus of the Last Herald Mage trilogy on my shelf. I can’t tell you how many times I read it. It was probably my first reading experience with gay characters and it probably helped me to be open and welcoming to my friends who came out a few years after I read it. 

I haven’t read many of her Valdemar books in the last few years. I read the Collegium Chronicles series, which was fun, but I felt it dragged on too long, with too many kidnappings, and Mags’s accent drove me bananas. I lost touch with the series when my library stopped buying the ebooks of the Herald Spy series after Closer to Home, so I was very excited to see what happened to Mags and his kids when NetGalley and the publisher gave me an eARC of Spy, Spy Again, the third volume in the series focusing on Mags’s kids. 

Sadly, I found this tale disappointing. Instead of the interesting coming of age tale the blurb was promising, this book was a boring slog with paper-thin characters. Perhaps I missed something by not reading the preceding volumes? Mags’s cipher of a son and a boring Valdemarian prince are enlisted to help one of Mags’s assassin cousins to rescue another assassin cousin who has been captured. Lackey does nothing here to make me like the assassin family or culture. They kill for money and nothing in the text explains why these characters should be likable. Yet every other chapter is spent with Sira, assassin who is kidnapped by Karsites. Why was she kidnapped? What was the Karsites plans? The book doesn’t bother to go into these things. The book really lost me here when the Karsite guards come to rape Sira. Why? Why is rape necessary as a motivating factor? It seems so unnecessary. Sira fights off the rapists and eventually she is rescued and she and the prince immediately fall in love in a way that feels particularly unrealistic. 

I hope Mercedes Lackey keeps writing Valdemar books. I look forward to when she decides to move away from Mags and his family. And enough with the rape! It’s the 21st century! Haven’t we moved beyond that awful trope? In the meantime, I may go back to my copy of the Last Herald Mage.