Saturday, April 29, 2023

Small Change series by Jo Walton

I love Jo Walton! Well, I only met her once at a book signing, and she was perfectly delightful, but I mean to say is that I love her books. 

I first encountered her in 2013, when I checked Among Others out from the library - I knew it had won the Hugo and the Nebula Awards and I I wanted to check it out.  I was in love with this book.  I loved the protagonist and I loved the magic.  I remember reading through the section on how the narrator thought she had used magic to conjure up the book club at the library and then I turn the page and found a bookmark that some previous reader had left in this library book I was reading. The bookmark turned out to be a torn our page from her day calendar. The day of the calendar page was the day of my first child’s birth. This made the book feel even more magical.

So when My Real Children came out, I borrowed it from the library and I also loved it. And then I found out about her Thessaly books.  As a lapsed classicist who loves robots, time travel, and Greek mythology, this seemed like the perfect book for me. And it was! I devoured the series and was thrilled to be able to meet Ms. Walton at a bookstore in Brooklyn for her book tour of the third volume, during which I got her to sign all three books in the series.

So I was thrilled beyond belief when Tor and NetGalley gave me an eARC of her Small Change series from the Tor Essentials line. 

This volume contains the complete series, comprising the novels Farthing, Ha’penny, Half a Crown, and the short story “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction”. 

If you haven’t read them before then woo! are you in for a treat!  These may be the absolute best alternate history books I have ever read, even better that the Lady Astronaut series (which I love!).  The books are set in a world where Hitler and England signed a truce. Jews in England are second class citizens at best, and fascism has crept in so slowly that people have barely realized it. These books read even more strongly now in the 2020s than they did when they were written, with the rise of fascism at home so much clearer, now that so many are willing to say the quiet part out loud. 

But they are also mystery novels! Each book alternates between one point of view character and Inspector Carmichael, who is investigating the mystery. 

I don’t want to spoil the plot but I will say that I regret having read these books only because I cannot read them again for the first time. Truly fantastic. 

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