After reading Joanne Hall’s post here, I decided to also take part in the Discovery Challenge – that of reading and reviewing at least two female authors new to me every month. So how did I get on last month?
Heart of Obsidian – Book 12 of the Psy-Changeling novels by Nalini Singh
I scooped this offering off the shelves because the notion of reading a Psy-Changeling series was intriguing and I also loved the cover. The narrative engine of this story is the tale of Kaleb and Sahara. That they have a tangled and rather fraught past is complicated by the fact that Sahara, for a variety of complex and spoiler-connected reasons, cannot recall this past. Another difficulty is that Kaleb is insanely powerful, with a mind that can teleport him anywhere on the planet in the blink of an eye. So what can undermine and cause havoc to such a very powerful protagonist? His fierce, single-minded love for a girl who may grow to hate him, once she becomes well enough to remember what he has done, that’s what. It’s a nifty plot device.
Singh writes with the brakes off, her prose is drenched with emotion and the tumult of her conflicted main characters. In less skilful hands, this could have descended into a parody of itself. But Singh manages to pull it off, because she writes with focus and conviction. This is mainly a love story and while I generally avoid books featuring romance, I was held by this particular narrative due to the sheer originality of the setup. Read my full review here.
Radiance by Cathrynne M. Valente
I enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own.
Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.
For starters, this is a novel with a fractured timeline, so the story skips around and is told in a mixture of interviews, gossip and through extracts of old classic film, among other narrative modes. Therefore you need to pay attention. Initially I wondered what I was getting myself into – for the sheer oddness of the world wasn’t anything I was prepared for, given that I’m allergic to reading any kind of blurb. Was it worth the effort? Oh, yes. Read my full review here.
Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
I hadn’t heard of this intriguing series, until Himself stumbled across it and recommended it to me. Though since then, I have learnt that she was awarded the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010 for Rosemary and Rue. Subsquently, she has also gone on to write the successful Newsflesh series under the name Mira Grant.
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…
Oh yes. McGuire has absolutely nailed this one – and it is a lot harder to achieve than she makes it look. A half-breed not entirely welcome in either the human or Fae world, who is driven onto the streets in her teens makes for a feisty, interesting heroine. And right at the beginning of the book there is an incident that had my jaw dropping – it is a major game-changer that changes the whole tenor of the story and Toby’s subsequent life. Read my full review here.
What stands out for me looking at these three books, is just how very different they are. Nalini Singh’s romantic science fiction adventure has more in common with McGuire’s fae private investigator, than with Valente’s fractured narrative and various viewpoint modes in her literary space opera. All three novels were rewarding, satisfying reads. In fact, so far this year I haven’t abandoned a single book because I didn’t like it – which is the first time I can recall that happening. And if you are looking for something well written and enjoyably different – all these books definitely tick that box.