Nancy Barber (nlbarber) wrote,
Nancy Barber

Recent reads: Stevermer, Fforde, Rusch, Duane, Altom

Time to catch up on the reading notes backlog: A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Fantasy Life by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Stealing the Elf-King's Roses by Diane Duane, and Kissing Frogs by Laura Marie Altom. These range from "I really, really liked this" (Duane, Fforde) to very good (Stevermer, Rusch), to "so annoying I'm not going to finish it" (Altom).

A Scholar of Magics is the sequel to A College of Magics, and it was equally as fun as the first one. It's set at Glasscastle, England's school of magics (College began at the French version of Glasscastle), and involves a sharpshooter from a Wild West show and Jane Brailsford, who was in College. And a threat to the world, of course. I'm lousy at book summaries: let's just say, if you liked College, you'll like Scholar. And if you haven't read College but you like alternate-historical-Englands-where-magic-works (Lord Darcy, for another example), try Scholar. It's not dependent on the first book.

I'm sure piffle did some talking about Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair--I know that's where I first heard about it--but somehow no one said anything that led me to run out and get the book. So that's 3 years that I could have read this and re-read it, and now there are several more I need to find. On the other hand, now there are several more that I can find and read immediately... This is another alternate-historical-England, this one circa 1985 in a universe where time travel works, the lines between "reality" and literary universes can blur, and where most people are passionate about literature. I enjoyed the plot (investigator/special agent must keep Evil Corporate types from getting the machine that will let them alter reality by going in and out of books), but the most fun were the side notes on a world where everyone is book-crazy: the door-to-door proselytizer trying to convince people of the true authorship of Shakespeare's plays, Richard III performed a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and more.

I have heard of KK Rusch, but hadn't read anything of hers before Fantasy Life. I take that back--I think I must have read a short story somewhere, because the set-up of Fantasy Life was very familiar. The story is set in a county in Oregon that is a haven for fantasy creatures from the sea: selkies and fish-people and others, sentient and not so. The focus is on several women of the Buckingham family, who have powers (think "witches", though I'm not sure a term like that is used in the book) that help protect the fantasy life and the humans as well. Good tale, with nice world-building and interesting relationships between the generations of Buckinghams. I'll be looking for more by Rusch.

I'm a fan, though not a rabid one, of Diane Duane's YA Wizard books, and when the cover for Stealing the Elf-King's Roses caught my eye (it's very...Pink) and I saw her name, I bought it. When I finally got around to reading it I found some really well-done world-building and a great story too. This one I pressed on to my sister-in-law as soon as I was finished with it--I had to share it with someone. It starts out as sort of a legal drama--the team of lanthanomancers (sort of psychic forensic scientists combined with lawyers) of Lee Enfield and Gelert are in court. Lee is human and female, Gelert is non-human and looks like a large, shaggy, white dog. They use various psychic senses to investigate a crime, and their legal skills to prosecute. Cases are decided, though, by the sworn officers of the court, judge and lawyers, calling on Justice, a real force that renders a decision. Lee and Gelert's primary world turns out to be one of a number of parallel worlds, that have differing levels of divergence and that trade goods back and forth. Roses starts off with a new crime for Lee and Gelert to investigate, but then grows into dealing with problems in the world of the elves, and problems between the elves and the other worlds, and how change must be forced upon a society in order for it to survive. OK, I'll end another of my inadequate attempts to describe a book--let's just say, I highly recommend this to any fantasy reader.

Last and least is Kissing Frogs, by Laura Marie Altom. Bought it at GaFilk in January, because it seemed like a fun premise: biologist kisses a frog, who turns into a prince. Trouble was, she wanted the frog so she could describe a new species. I got about half-way through this, and I quit. I can't ignore all the asinine actions long enough to find any humor in this. The description of a supposed scientific meeting that had one error after another (not ones dependent on biology), the heroine who spends her time while giving a paper at such a meeting thinking about how she was teased in high school for her appearance, the frog-prince who has been living in a pond for a thousand years, but who keeps up with the world by listening to people who sit by the pond and talk...I could go on, but I'll stop with the description, too. I'm not much for slapstick at the best of times, and trying to read slapstick with these jarring (to me) bits in every paragraph is doomed. This one is going to the used book store.

And I think I'm caught up! Current reading is Tanya Huff's Smoke and Shadows, but it has gotten a little slow in the middle and has been put down in favor of re-reading Heyer's The Nonesuch, the book for this month on my Heyer list. And I may have to go re-read Have His Carcase for LordPeter before getting back to Huff....the discussion has been lively and has raised some interesting points.

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