A Hidden Hope is such a familiar love story; I’ve been to a couple of SF/F cons; I could almost imagine the panels, the nervous debut authors, the stupid and not-so-stupid questions about the attendees. I definitely remembered the whirlwind romance-ness of sharing story critiques, loving each other’s writing, fiercely supporting one another — and then just as fiercely falling out, over stupid things that only a few years later I’d feel daft about, and now would solve by talking. This is a story about getting past that and learning: Natalie and El get a second chance when they meet at a convention in London, having expected that they’d be totally safe from running into each other there, and Natalie lets El sweep her back off her feet despite the bruised feelings.
It feels a little rushed, partly because I didn’t get much of a feel for the characters outside their relationship — even within fandom, there’s only a little glimpse of that. It means they didn’t quite feel real to me, despite how much I recognised their relationship and how they worked together. It felt like it was a little sketched in.
It’s sweet enough, and I’m glad of the HEA that they get, though Natalie’s negativity and self-sabotage is a bit of a downer and makes me wonder if I believe they’ll make it as a couple. There are several sex scenes, and I think the relationship seems rather built around sex and their sexual connection in a way I’m not interested in, so perhaps that didn’t help me connect to it. I’m not sure I particularly recommend it, but it’s not bad either. I’m pretty sure the same story wrapped in just a few more details would have worked for me.
I was pretty much glued to this for a train journey in which I just ate it up. There are some very satisfying reveals, and one particular plot element I was somewhat dreading was actually handled in a way that made me feel not so terrible about it. Content note, though, if you have problems with addiction — there’s quite a few references to drugs and craving in this one. There’s a lot I still want to know — how can Cyan be Matla and Micah, Dev? What exactly did Doctor Pozzi do? And other aspects wrapped up a little too easily; the change in the aristocracy was just, whomp, suddenly there in the epilogue.
But it was still really satisfying, and what I really loved is the relationship between Drystan and Micah. I wasn’t sure I’d support it from the first book, got fully on board in the second, and have now decided they’re a definite favourite fictional couple. I adore that they make mistakes and have trouble with communication, but they deal with it. And where authors often have adversity tearing characters apart, straining the relationships almost to breaking point, Drystan and Micah turn to each other even more, and that’s just… yeah.
Also, shoutout for Cyril as a pretty awesome secondary character in his unwavering acceptance of his sibling, always.
Really, I don’t know why I took so long to get around to reading this trilogy. As with every other book by Lam I’ve read, the pace is great and tempts me to just sit down and read it in one go… which is more or less what I did with Shadowplay, once I picked it up. I greatly enjoyed the development of Micah and Drystan’s characters in this book, and now I’m fully on board the ship, ready to go down with all hands if necessary. The new characters introduced are fun too, and so is the fact that now they go into stage magic.
The best bit, of course, is that the fantasy setting is expanded by the addition of a character with powers, and some explanations of the Phantom Damselfly’s appearances. Doctor Pozzi makes an appearance, apparently sincere and eager to help Micah, and at the same time we get a this-book-only plot of a duel between magicians (with suitably high stakes of said magicians’ careers, of course).
I’m looking forward to how all this wraps up — the background is starting to become clear, and now I just need to know what happens to Micah in the end…
I know, I know. It’s taken me far too long to get round to reading Pantomime, and I deserve a kicking. I really do, because now I’ve finally read it, I wish I hadn’t taken so long. It’s pretty unique in that it has an intersex protagonist and a queer love story, but it’s not just about that. I’m fascinated by the world, too: the different species, the magic, the Vestiges, what the mysterious glass is… And by the end of the book, I very much wanted to know more about Drystan, too.
I did have one disappointment, and that was the love interest’s reaction to Micah’s revelation of the fact that he is intersex. Also, I wish I was a little clearer on what pronouns Micah would prefer, just because I feel weird saying either he or she in the context. In real life, of course, I’d just ask. The ending of the arc with the love interest just really annoyed me, because it felt like an easy way out of dealing with the complex emotions that’d been stirred up by Micah’s revelation.
I’m definitely eager to read the rest, despite that discomfort throughout the book where I felt that reveal scene coming. I hope it’s not such a big thing in the other books, though.
I originally received this to review, and then didn’t get round to it, because I suck. So I bought the paperback last week, picked it up to read a page — and looked up 170 pages later. Suffice it to say, it sucked me in and I’m glad I finally read it — and that I have an eARC of Shattered Minds to read. And Lam’s other trilogy, too! Her writing works really well: it’s not stylised and beautiful like, say, Patricia McKillip or Ursula Le Guin, but it’s competent and strong and she brings across the voices of her characters. That makes it both easy to read and absorbing.
The best part about it is that the whole thing relies on the bond between the sisters, Taema and Tila, and Taema’s trust for Tila. The whole drive behind the story is the sisters’ need to protect one another, and that’s what makes solving the mystery and going through all the tension worth it. The thriller aspects in themselves aren’t revolutionary, but coming at it from this angle made it feel fresh and urgent.
I enjoyed the supporting characters, too. It’s a little odd to be reading a book in which people seem to be, on the whole, good. Sure, Mana-ma and the Ratel don’t exactly have people’s best interests at heart, but Nazarin and Kim, Taema and Tila, the other characters they come across — they’re all trying to do the right thing. It’s a nice antidote to the total cynicism of other books I’ve been reading lately, in this genre and others. There are bad things, but there are good people too. And there are good people who get caught up in bad things, and regret it, and remain good people.
The ending of the book feels good; it all unfolds smoothly and stops just at the right point, with Tila and Taema reunited — for good or for bad.
This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More”, which… I’m not quite sure if I can do, since I tend to go on sprees. Let’s see what I can manage.
Steven Brust. I’ve only so far read Jhereg, though I know I’m gonna read the rest of the series.
Laura Lam. I’ve read one of the short Vestigial Tales, but not the main series.
Phyllis Ann Karr. I loved Idylls of the Queen (and wrote part of my dissertation on it). Lucky for me, I have a few more of her books waiting in my queue.
Steven Erikson. I’ve got almost the whole Malazan series to go. I might have to reread Gardens of the Moon by the time I get round to that, though.
Philip Reeve. I’ve read Here Lies Arthur, and have a bunch of others on my list.
Jorge Luis Borges. This is more because, much as I wanted it to, The Book of Imaginary Beings didn’t wow me.
Italo Calvino. Same goes, with Invisible Cities. There’s a lot I wanted to love.
James Morrow. I haven’t actually quite finished This is the Way the World Ends yet, but it fascinated me the way he managed to draw me in, despite my usual aversion to comic novels of any kind.
Kameron Hurley. I’ve actually only finished reading her book of essays. I really need to read God’s War and Mirror Empire.
Lucius Shepard. I’ve only read The Dragon Griaule, and that was just fascinating, the weirdness of the world and the way he built it up.
Oh, I could manage after all. What about everyone else?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is ‘top ten books everyone’s telling me to read’. Which really isn’t hard, because everybody’s always on at me to read something, heh.
Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch. I love Scott Lynch’s first two books, and I actually got this one back when it was an ARC. I’m just terrible. I’ve bought it since and still… Mum and my partner both reaaaally want me to get on with it.
The Vorkosigan Saga, Lois McMaster Bujold. Again, so many people want me to read these. I’ve actually read Cordelia’s Honor, and I wasn’t that impressed? But I was also cranky and feeling a bit harassed. If nothing else, Jo Walton’s recommendations mean I should really get on with it…
Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas. I read the prequel short stories way back before the first book was out, and wasn’t really interested enough to read more. But I hear so much about the trilogy, and Leah was urging me to read it, so.
Pantomime, Laura Lam. I’m going to read this reaaaally soon, or that’s the plan at least. It’s the only book I can think of, other than arguably The Left Hand of Darkness, with an intersexed protagonist.
The Enchantment Emporium, Tanya Huff. This has been recced me a couple of times, and it’s the book I happened to pick up for Tanya Huff to sign for me at Worldcon, so there y’go.
A Song of Ice and Fire, G.R.R. Martin. My first rec for this came from Robin Hobb when I was about fourteen, and I still haven’t got round to it — and the recs are mounting up. It’s actually one of the books in a reading challenge I’m doing, so I’ll get round to it soon.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente. I’ve been meaning to read it since it came out, and now there’s a whole trilogy. Also in my challenge list.
Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell. I’ve read part of it. I have the special edition, signed. I’ve read Attachments and Eleanor & Park. And yet. I’ll get there eventually. Sorry, Leah, and everyone.
Yendi, Steven Brust. I read the first book of the series at Jo’s recommendation, promptly bought a whole bunch of the omnibuses, and then… got distracted by so
The Healer trilogy, Maria V. Snyder. I like Snyder’s work as a casual fun read, and my sister will kick me if I don’t hurry up and read these. And probably many other books too; she likes kicking me.
Another review of this said that you can read it without having read Pantomime and Shadowplay, but I’m not sure of that; I think I might’ve preferred to start with those two, after all. Still, it gives a nice taster of the world and some of the things that’re out there — and, I gather, some of the characters. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Drystan, and exploring this world more.
I did feel like I was at a disadvantage, though, not knowing the world already. You can pick up on the key terms/concepts — Vestige, Lethe, Drystan being the son of some high-class family — and maybe it’s just my love of world-building, but I felt like I wanted to know more before reading this, to appreciate it more, and maybe how it fits in with the novels.
Ah well, definite impetus to get on with it and read Pantomime and Shadowplay!
What did you recently finish reading? Reza Aslan’s Zealot was the last thing I finished, and before that it was Fables vol. 3: Storybook Love, by Bill Willingham et al. I’m really ambivalent about the Fables series, somehow: I’m interested and I want to see where it goes, but when I read other people’s criticism, I can’t help but agree. It uses some tired old tropes, and the stories often feel banal. Still, there’s something in the sheer interest of watching characters from fables navigate the “real” world, and in recognising them and guessing ahead how their unique properties will affect the story.
What are you currently reading?
I’m mostly trying to work on ARCs that I still owe reviews for, so I’m currently reading David Hoffman’s Seven Markets. The structure is a little awkward, but it remains to be seen whether that ends up working for the story or not. I still have my “book prescription” to read, too, Christine Ingham’s Panic Attacks; I think I’ve barely started it. There’s a lot of other books I’m technically partway through… Oh, I did start The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman, which is fun enough but not really keeping my attention.
What do you think you’ll read next?
I think I’ll be trying to finish Seven Forges (James A. Moore), from my ARCs list. Although I just got a couple of new ones, and I’m very tempted by Strange Chemistry’s The Almost Girl (Amalie Howard)…
I think it might be none. I got the latest issue of Young Avengers in the last week, I’m sure, but other than that, I really think it might be none. My most recent ARCs were The Almost Girl, The Cormorant (Chuck Wendig), Iron Wolves (Andy Remic), and Shadowplay (Laura Lam).