Book announcement!

bookannouncement

I am thrilled and delighted to announce my debut novel, THE LAST QUEENS OF NURYEVET, forthcoming from Saga Press in fall of 2018!

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Katherine Addison: THE GOBLIN EMPEROR

Looking at the prospect of the next few novels to review on my Epic Reading List (a long stretch of scifi from the late ’70s that I didn’t particularly enjoy), I have suddenly and inexplicably decided that it’d be more fun to just review novels as I read them, particularly ones that I really loved, instead of trying to talk about them in any particular order*.

SO.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Katherine Addison’s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, Hugo nominated in 2015 (and my #1 pick for its category).

You guys. YOU GUYS. If you haven’t read this book yet, you are missing the fuck out. Fantasy! Politics! Worldbuilding! Court intrigue! People trying to behave as ethically as possible in a position which is inherently unethical! There is nothing not to love here.

I had some slight hesitations when I set out to read THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, because politics can get very dry in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Court intrigue can get to be a real strain on the ol’ suspension of disbelief if too many of the characters start acting like they’re not real people — being evil and conniving for no reason beyond “The author needed someone to be evil and conniving”, for example. The thing is, you see, that people are basically the same everywhere: The vast majority of people act in accordance with their own moral code, whether they realize it or not. Most people don’t do things they know are bad. They do things that they think are the right and noble thing to do, and turmoil arises when their personal moral code diverges from the society’s moral code, or from another person’s.

(Which is not to say that we shouldn’t hold people accountable when their actions hurt other people — we should. We absolutely should. But a person who is setting out to Do A Thing generally tries to find a way to justify that the Thing they’re Doing is fine, really, whether it’s helping the little old lady cross the street or arming themselves and occupying a government building to protest ‘injustice’ — the brain finds a way to say, “This is necessary, this is important, this is a thing I have to do to uphold my personal worldview.” We can hold people accountable for their actions at the same time as understanding the mechanism of how they decided to do it. These things are not mutually exclusive.)

THE GOBLIN EMPEROR’s politics and intrigue works exactly because Katherine Addison understands this concept. She understands that 99% of people will act according to their personal ethical code, and if people act unethically, it’s proooobably because it didn’t occur to them that what they were doing was an asshole thing to do. So the book is full of people with contradictory and conflicting moral/ethical codes, who are all trying to uphold their own beliefs in a world which has suddenly changed around them. It’s FANTASTIC. It’s amazing commentary, and it investigates questions without beating the reader over the head about it. You can read the book on many different levels — read it shallowly and it’s a delightful story about an unpopular, semi-forgotten prince, the youngest of his siblings, who suddenly finds himself crowned Emperor when everyone else in line to the throne dies, and (being a generally decent person) what he does with his position afterward. Or you can read it more deeply and get your teeth into all this political and philosophical commentary. There is nothing not to love about this book.

As my final note, I completely, completely ship Maia (the titular goblin emperor) and his bodyguard Cala. I was begging them to make out the entire time. My god.

Love yourself: Read THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. I recommend it with zero reservations whatsoever.

KJ Parker: ACADEMIC EXERCISES

KJ Parker (an alias of novelist Tom Holt, but I’ve never read any Tom Holt novels, only KJ Parker novels) is my second favorite author of all time, period. Period.

ACADEMIC EXERCISES is an anthology of his short stories and three of his essays, each one a jewel. Parker writes beautifully, with no false sense of self-importance; where other writers would dress something up in silver and spangles, Parker depends on the natural beauty of the unadorned and the sheer splendor of flawless craftsmanship — the difference between a reasonably-made floor of pine boards covered in gold leaf and a perfectly made wooden floor made of barely-varnished rosewood and ebony marquetry.

Parker writes pornography for perfectionists. If you’re not a perfectionist, you might misunderstand — not sex. But he’ll tell you in lush and loving detail about things like… engineering. Interchangeable parts. The process of making twelve absolutely faultless and identical pieces, all laid in a neat row on a length of white cloth.

This is a man who has either a ridiculous practical knowledge of six or seven different fields of study (history, economics, war tactics and strategy, blacksmithing, engineering, fencing…), or a comprehensive theoretical knowledge thereof and a real talent for sitting down and figuring out the sensible, practical parts mentally. Or both. I don’t know which option is more impressive.

So the stories themselves, flawless. The essays, though, are on another level completely. Just when you thought KJ Parker couldn’t get any better, he sits down with you, as if over a companionable pint of beer, and spends a few thousand words telling you the sensible, practical ups and downs of sieges, swords, and scale-mail, and he does it with this down-to-earth language and a wonderfully wry sense of humor about the whole thing.

KJ Parker, you guys. KJ MOTHERFUCKING PARKER.

Fran Wilde: UPDRAFT

What’s this? A review from Alex that’s not part of the Epic Reading Project? May wonders never cease.

In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves.

Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother’s side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever—if it isn’t destroyed outright.

So. UPDRAFT. This is just a fantastic book, okay? I could try to write a really pitch-heavy summary of it, using phrases like “riveting” and “delightfully original” and “alright, but invisible sky kraken, you guys, let’s talk about how cool that is”, but you can go to the Goodreads page and take your pick of those.

As you know if you have been reading this blog for more than five minutes, worldbuilding is one of my hot buttons. I love worldbuilding, I love thorough and meticulous attention to detail, I love immersion. From the trash thrown down to the lower levels of the sky-scraping towers of living bone, to the tips of Kirit Densira’s spider-silk wings, Wilde has written a world simply lush with detail, delivered in a tidy little package tied up with some honestly gorgeous turns of phrase.

Go buy this book immediately. It’s great.

And guys. Guys. Invisible sky kraken, you guys.