Archive for January 29th, 2010

January 29, 2010

January Reading (II)

(In which there is much genre)

One of the books I’ve been looking forward to for a while now is N.K Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (it’s out in a few days, and I am checking the post every day with great anticipation). Recently Jemisin wrote this post at the Orbit Books blog.

All those stories about restoring a deposed king to a usurped throne, for example — well, what makes the deposed king any better than the usurper? Why must power be kept in the hands of the people who originally had it (and weren’t competent enough to hold it) as opposed to someone new, with better organizing skills and possibly fresh ideas? The message in these fantasies seems to be support the status quo! Don’t question it! Change is bad! What does it mean that we readers find such comfort in these fantasies that we’ve made quite a few of them bestsellers?

Which made me curious to revisit a set of fantasy books I’m very fond of: Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. I’d reread the Song of the Lioness quartet comparitively recently, so decided to read the Immortals Quartet (after Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the Numair-Daine relationship was refreshingly noncreepy) and the last two Protector of the Small books to see how they dealt with monarchy.
So to list those out in a format easily readable to people skimming this:

Wild Magic
Wolf Speaker
Emperor Mage
The Realms of the Gods
Lady Knight

And…I’m not sure Pierce does anything particularly radical with the notion of monarchy, however awesome she is in other areas. The first two series are told from the perspectives of characters who are reasonably close to the Royal family – Alanna and Jonathan (the prince in the first few books, the king in all the books thereafter) are close friends, and Daine is definitely a fan of the king and queen. Thayet’s status as deposed royalty definitely contributes to her attractiveness as a prospective bride for Jon. And King Jonathan’s enemies are the enemies of The People as a whole – they are all shown to be ruthless, unconcerned with the larger population or the land itself, and power-hungry – none even attempt to appear as liberators or people with a Cause.
Then in the Protector… series you finally have an outsider of sorts (still a member of the nobility, but a critical outsider to the court) who is able to see that a lot of Jonathan’s actions are flawed, if well meant. But while Keladry, and occasionally Raoul, criticise a lot of Jon’s actions, it is ultimately understood that a) ruling is complicated business b) Jon and Thayet are doing better than most and c) when it comes down to it, they’re on the side of the king. Who is their employer, so this is hardly to be wondered at.
I need to reread the Daughter of the Lioness books (Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen) soon – those actually do deal with a successful people’s movement and the removal of a royal family. Which is the sort of thing I love to read about, but the royals here are replaced with someone who is not only a distant relative, but also a descendant of the rulers this last set of royals replaced. And she’s destined to rule; it’s in a prophecy and everything.

Felix Gilman – Thunderer: I got about half-way and there was a freak accident with the book and a tomato, and I am going to have to get myself a new copy or perform extensive surgery on this one. I’m quite upset about this, since up until that point I’d been utterly absorbed. This is the first thing by Gilman I’ve read, and I am definitely a fan now.

Philip Pullman – Northern Lights: My first reread in many years, and I realised I was picking up a lot more of the alt-history and steampunky elements I had overlooked as a child. I’m now very tempted to reread his Sally Lockhart stories – I’m pretty sure my knowledge of (and appreciation for) Victoriana has increased exponentially since I read them at fourteen or so.

Maureen Johnson – Suite Scarlett: Maureen Johnson was awesome and put her book up for free on the internet for a few weeks. I like free books, and I like what I’ve seen of her as a writer. Suite Scarlett worked wonderfully for me; it’s charming and warm and generally happy-making. Must get hold of Scarlett Fever soon.

Sandra Marton – Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin: Oh dear. Mills and Boon titles are getting more and more ludicruous, and this – honest Italian-American banker who hates his family’s mafia connections is coerced into marrying pretty Sicilian girl with mafia connections and she yells at him a lot before they fall in love – is not one of the better pieces I’ve read; these books really need a completely over the top ridiculous (as opposed to mediocre ridiculous) plot to carry it off. On the bright side it does, as Supriya reminds me, describe the Tempestuous Virgin’s pubic hair as “the delicate curls that guarded her feminine heart”. Which makes the whole thing worth it, somehow.

Stephanie Laurens – Devil’s Bride
Rake’s Vow
Temptation and Surrender: I will read any regency romance that is written in recognisable English. I cannot help it. I blame my mother for all the Georgette Heyer love – Regencies are the only form of romance novel that really grab me, and I am not picky at all. Even so, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I have now read all of Laurens’ “Cynster” books – a series of sixteen or so books about a the Cynster family (the men have names like Devil Cynster, Scandal Cynster, Lucifer Cynster, Gabriel Cynster…I don’t know) and how each of them finds love, while solving a mystery (frequently a murder). Rake’s Vow was disappointing in terms of what was at stake in the murder plot – more disappointing still is my knowledge that I must now commence upon Laurens’ Bastion Club series.

One more post on a couple of days and my January list will be at an end. Coming up next, among other things: school stories, child prodigy, and Angela Carter!