Victoria Schwab’s 2013 adult debut Vicious was without a doubt one of the best novels I’d read that year. In fact, if I’d read it last year, it would have been on my best-of list last year as well. It was that good. When I found out she was working on another adult novel, it was pretty difficult to contain my excitement. Then began the long wait for more information on the book. Soon there was a title: A Darker Shade of Magic, followed shortly by a stunning cover by Will Staehle, and come summer, I happened to be an intern at Tor when the first round of galleys came in. When it comes to early galleys, I try to wait until at least a month or two prior to release to read them. But there’s no waiting when the galley comes from an author of Schwab’s caliber.
Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is an incredible novel. It’s immensely popular, with upwards of 60,000 ratings on Goodreads, and it won the Goodreads Choice for best historical fiction in 2014. Upon finishing, it’s no wonder the novel has received such praise and attention.
Marie-Laure LeBlanc is just six years old when she loses her sight. Her father, a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, handcrafts a model of their entire neighborhood, with every detail included, down to the shutters on the houses and the manholes in the street. Marie-Laure learns the model, memorizes every aspect so that she is able to traverse the neighborhood on her own. The German aggression at the start of what would become World War II is a distant thing to Marie-Laure. The Parisians hear horror stories of the German advance. Surely they cannot invade France? We must be safe here in Paris. When the Germans come knocking (read: battering), Marie-Laure and her father flee from Paris to the small walled city of Saint-Malo, Brittany and the household of Etienne LeBlanc, Marie-Laure’s great uncle. Little do they know, there’s no escaping the war in France.
Couple things. First, earlier today, I was interviewed by S.C. Flynn over on his blog as part of his big blogger interview project, check it out! He’s interviewed a bunch of people so far and they’re all well worth reading.
Second, I’m renewing my search to try to get a logo for the blog on the cheap-ish. No luck so far but the search’ll continue for a while. Meanwhile, expect some new content besides the intermittent reviews (hopefully) soon.
Hic sunt leones.
When I finished Pierce Brown’s debut Red Rising last year, apart from being stunned by how good it was, I sat still and contemplated how it was labeled as a young adult book. YA is one of those genres that has never worked for me, right there alongside urban fantasy. Red Rising had the setting that is ever-popular in YA: a dystopian class conflict where people of the young adult age group fight to the death while others watch. But my issue, if you can call it that, was in a few different points. First, novels with young characters don’t necessarily make the novel YA. Second, while it did utilize the dystopian setting that is immensely popular in YA, I don’t know if I could automatically assume the novel itself is YA. Third, Brown doesn’t really go out of his way to explain various things that could be inferred, which, from what I’ve read in reviews of popular series in the genre, is something that can categorize a novel as YA. The series is extraordinarily brutal as well. That’s not to say YA can’t be dark, but here, the reader is inundated in the brutality and the blood of loved characters. What I take away from my enjoyment of Red Rising is that these genre defining features still don’t necessarily define what goes where.
Many times the anticipated and best-of lists are tediously similar (but usually for good reason). I’m not going to list things like The Doors of Stone or The Winds of Winter because they’re simply not coming out this year. I attempted to avoid some of the repetitive tedium, but as I said, the works wouldn’t be anticipated if the author’s previous works weren’t good.
A few 2015 releases that I am particularly excited for:
Hugo-Award winning author Elizabeth Bear offers something new in Karen Memory, an absolutely entrancing steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 19th century—an era when the town was called Rapid City, when the parts we now call Seattle Underground were the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront. Karen is a “soiled dove,” a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered. Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper-type story of the old west with the light touch of Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.
I’ve only read the first in Bear’s Eternal Sky series, Range of Ghosts, but if Karen Memory is anything like it (albeit in a science fiction setting), I have a feeling I’ll love it.