Ten years of Top Ten Tuesday! Wow. This week I’m turning to an old one… that I probably did before, knowing my interests. Here are the ten books I wish I could experience again with fresh eyes. I’m mindful that the suck fairy may have visited books I loved when I was less mature, so I’ve steered away from childhood favourites.
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. Everyone knows I loved this one, I think! I wish I could read it again and then compare notes with myself. Did I love the same characters? Did I suspect the same characters? What different things would I focus on, being a different person now than I was then? Honestly, that goes for all of these, though: I’d love to know how things would stack up if I could experience them anew from where I’m standing now. The Goblin Emperor is a special favourite, though.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. This book has been around for 10 years now, and had 12 reprintings! Whoooa. I remember the first time I read it, it was so compulsive — I had to know what happened, how everything was going to work out, why things we’re happening… I’d love to have that experience again.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. My mother made me wait to read this until I was eleven, to try and ensure I was mature enough to understand some of the subtleties. I know I didn’t get it all, and my readings of it more recently have been layered with those early impressions, and also with studying it. I’d love to be able to read it for the first time with all the stuff I know now about mythology and Tolkien’s intentions.
The whole Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood. I’ve read all of the Phryne books now, some of them twice, and I’d love to be able to recapture the first time reading them and falling in love with the characters. Some of it’s getting a little too familiar now!
Band Sinister, by K.J. Charles. It was just so sweet and funny and I laughed so much. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy reading it knowing what happens… but I’d love to recapture that breathless ack, how are they going to deal with this?!
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. I’m not sure I can take rereading it in full knowledge of where it’s going, but I remember being so blown away by it.
Fledgling, by Octavia Butler. I feel like I’m better equipped to handle Butler and where her work was coming from now, but I know this book had a lot of impact on me because it was uncomfortable to read. I don’t know if it’s lost that uncomfortableness now… but I don’t feel like it should. I’d like to get uncomfortable all over again, as an older and wiser adult.
A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. The first time I read this book I didn’t love it, and that feels like a waste now. I’d also love to know if it’s something you have to read again to love, or if I was just a crankypants that day.
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Same! I ended up loving both these series, and yet… did not love the book first time through. I was just drawn back by something to give them another try. I’d love to give them another first try and see what happens!
Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee. I feel like this one actually gains from rereading, because I felt like I understood it better on a second read, when I’d absorbed more of the world… but also I remember the way it completely grabbed hold of my brain the first time. I’d like to have a clear schedule and a rainy day, and just… give it a second first try.
Some of these are probably obvious choices, but… it’s not just books I like to reread (actually, I’ve struggled to reread The Sparrow). It’s about recapturing that first impression, and I’ve no idea if I would love all these books the same way if one could do that… but I’d love to find out.
So if I’m ever found with a lost memory… you know what to sit me down with! What would you want to re-experience for the first time?
Hmm, this week’s theme is about recommending stuff you like if you like something popular, and I’m never sure about what’s actually popular and what I just know about because I’m in my own little circle. So I’m just going to suggest some readalikes.
If you like N.K. Jemisin, especially The Fifth Season, try Kameron Hurley. Reading the start of The Fifth Season, I was so struck that it ‘felt like’ The Mirror Empire.
If you like J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly in The Lord of the Rings mode, try Poul Anderson. He was also one of the founding writers of SF/F, and dug into a lot of the same material that influenced Tolkien.
If you like Raymond Chandler, try Chris F. Holm. Mostly if you like SF/F as well, because the Collector series is a lot of fun, and riffs on Chandler and Hammett’s style and plots. But The Killing Kind is also great.
If you like Jacqueline Carey, particularly the Kushiel books, try Freda Warrington, starting with A Taste of Blood Wine. There’s a similar lushness there in the language and style.
If you like Ilona Andrews, try Jacqueline Carey! She has written some urban fantasy type stuff with the Agent of Hel trilogy, which is now complete.
If you like Catherynne M. Valente, try Patricia McKillip — or the other way round, both being differently famous depending on your circles. The lyrical writing and some of the themes seem akin.
If you like any books at all, try Jo Walton. She’s written in a whole range of genres, but mostly I’m thinking of the fantasy/coming of age story, Among Others. If you’re in love with books, you’ll have something in common with Mori.
If you like Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, try Tanya Huff’s The Fire’s Stone. Also has LGBT themes, in a more fantastical world. Never seems to get the love I’d like to see for it!
If you like epic fantasy, of whatever stripe, try Tad Williams. I really enjoyed the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books, and though they stick quite close to a traditional fantasy mould, they had a lot there that I appreciated, especially by way of characters.
If you like Gail Carriger, try Genevieve Cogman. The tone is less silly, but some of the same enthusiasm and tone is there.
I’ll be interested to see what other people are recommending here! I found this one difficult, because I’m never sure how to judge other people’s taste.
This week’s theme is auto-buy authors! I think I did this topic the last time it came round, but these things are prone to change. It’ll be interesting after I’ve made the list to look for the old one!
Scott Lynch. Even seeing a short story of his is in a collection is enough to prompt me to at least consider picking it up.
J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure he’d even approve of the state of the stuff Christopher Tolkien is putting out for him is in, but I will always be fascinated with every word the guy wrote.
Jo Walton. If I can’t get the ARCs, at least… Jo is my friend as well as a favourite author.
N.K. Jemisin. I think I knew she’d be an auto-buy author from the first page of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
Jacqueline Carey. I’ve seen her deal with stuff I wouldn’t be that interested in ably, in a way that comes out fun. Yeah, I’ll buy anything.
Guy Gavriel Kay. Person most likely to make me cry at his work, except possibly Jo.
Garth Nix. I haven’t even read all his backlist yet.
Patricia A. McKillip. It took me a while to get into some of her books, but I think I’m securely hooked now. I’m glad there’s still a whole bunch of backlist titles I haven’t got to yet.
Neil Gaiman. Okay, I’m not 100% a fan of everything the man says, and the title of his latest collection of short stories didn’t work for me, but if he writes a book, I’ll probably get it. Maybe not immediately. But in the end.
Rainbow Rowell. It surprised me, but I just preordered Carry On and realised that yeah, I probably will automatically buy anything by her. Something about her style just… works for me.
It’s been a bit of a spree week for me again, I’m afraid. I’m going to blame the heady feeling of getting paid for freelance work several times this week!
So excited to fiiiiinally have my hands on The Fifth Season. The Rights of the Reader was pretty interesting; I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. The Scott Lynch books were just because I didn’t have a physical copy of any of them, though I am intending a reread! The Lackey book is for a challenge to read a book published in the year I was born… The Kitty Norville books came as a bundle from The Works, always worth checking there for good deals like that.
Rat Queens… well, I wasn’t sure about the first volume, but I have been encouraged to try the second, so. I’ll try. The Wicked + The Divine was gorgeous in the first volume, so is probably just as stunning. And this issue of Ms Marvel is the one we’ve been waiting for, really: the team-up between Captain and Ms Marvel.
A somewhat random grab bag of library stuff, really. I blame The Stainless Steel Rat on Ryan from SpecFic Junkie, of course, and Soul Music on Cardiff’s SF/F bookclub — I figured I’d read it even though I won’t make it to the meeting.
What’s everyone else been getting their hands on? Anything particularly exciting?
Just two books bought so far this week — I couldn’t resist it, since it’s N.K. Jemisin and set in her The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms world. And there’s Terry Pratchett’s essay on death, which supports assisted dying, a subject I’m very interested in, even if it’s a little morbid sat here in my STS post!
I’m excited for The Fifth Season, too. I’ve got a preorder, so hopefully I’ll get that one as soon as it’s out.
Hurrah, so glad The Dark Blood of Poppies came in for me at the library before I had to leave for my holiday. Relief! Now I can get on with that.
This ebook is a collection of three short stories set in the same universe as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. It revisits some of the characters and the consequences of the original trilogy, giving us a little more of Nahadoth, Hado and Glee Shoth, in turn. I’m fairly sure I missed out on some of the details because I haven’t read the books recently enough; I’m very sure I’ll reread this when I have, to fully appreciate it. As it is, though, they’re well-crafted stories, with the beautiful imagery and clarity I expect of Jemisin’s writing.
There are moments of characterisation that you don’t need to have recently read the trilogy to appreciate: Itempas, confronting change, his body treating it like an infection. Nahadoth, grieving and betrayed, betraying himself with the odd moment of affection for Tempa, with moments of regret. Glee Shoth, claiming her birthright, with strength from both her parents.
I think I liked the Nahadoth story the most, because it deals with that early aftermath of betrayal, and also most directly with Nahadoth’s nature. The various ways of describing him, “that which cannot be controlled”, etc, all work to crystallise the character, to get across in as few words as possible what Nahadoth is, and what he stands for.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “ten authors I really want to meet”. Now, I’ve actually been lucky and met a fair few authors I love — Jo Walton, Robin Hobb, Alastair Reynolds… But I’m sure I can come up with ten more.
Ursula Le Guin. And nobody is at all surprised. Not even a little.
Patricia McKillip. I know very little about her as a person, but her writing is awesome.
J.R.R. Tolkien. I mean, not as a zombie or anything, but if I could go back in time. Attend one of his lectures maybe?
Hazel Edwards. She wrote There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake. Obvious.
Cherie Priest. She seems cool, I want to pet her dog, and I like her on Twitter.
N.K. Jemisin. Granted, I’d probably just babble quietly, but that’s the same with anyone I admire.
Robin Hobb. Again. I was fourteen at the time, after all.
Jacqueline Carey. Sign all my books. All of them.
Guy Gavriel Kay. Ditto.
Susan Cooper. The first thing I move into a new house is my copy of The Dark is Rising sequence, and I’m not even kidding about that. It goes in the first box or bag to enter the new place, and gets put on the shelf symbolically before anything else.
So, uh, yeah. I could probably think of more, but I’d better stop daydreaming now…
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “ten books for readers who like _____”. I’m gonna go with epic fantasy, since I do love a good epic fantasy and it can be difficult to find ones that are to your taste. I’m going to assume that Tolkien’s work is a given, in this category…
Poul Anderson. He did a lot of sci-fi stuff, but also some fantasies. I love The Broken Sword (I posted my old review as one of my Flashback Friday posts here) and Three Hearts and Three Lions. This is fantasy that isn’t directly affected by Tolkien, so it doesn’t have all the same aesthetics — but The Broken Sword in particular draws on some of the same sources, and has some of the same interests. The poetry, for example, in The Broken Sword — there’s definitely comparisons there with the way Tolkien used verse.
David Eddings. No, okay, I know all his series are basically the same stories and characters recycled, so I’d only recommend reading one. But for brain candy, I do like a bit of Eddings. Personally, I would go with The Diamond Throne et al. I think Sparhawk was my introduction to Eddings, and I still have affection for those books.
Jacqueline Carey. Specifically Banewreaker and Godslayer for a flipped around version of The Lord of the Rings, something that goes into a lot of shades of grey and finds that few people are irredeemable, and that there’s more than one side to any story. If you like court politics more, then Kushiel’s Dart is more likely to be your speed. (And she’s even written some urban fantasy more recently, too.)
N.K. Jemisin. I liked her more recent duology, but it was the Inheritance Trilogy that really hooked me. Court politics, gods and men. And women. Interesting mythology, various different perspectives, and it’s not a multi-volume epic. Each book doesn’t stand completely alone, but one level of the plot is certainly accessible without reading the other books. Lots of interesting narrative voices, too.
Raymond E. Feist. This is a case of a multi-volume epic. I’ve never read them all, but I do love his Riftwar Saga. It’s something I want to come back to. I fell for so many of the characters and ideas, and this is a case where there is a ferocious amount of world-building. You’re never gonna go off the edge of Feist’s maps and find the writer’s forgotten to account for the world outside his tightly controlled setting.
Robin Hobb. So many characters to love and to hate. I’m not at all sure what I think of the Soldier Son trilogy — there were some persistent themes in them that I just didn’t like — but the Farseer books are great. Assassins, quests, dragons, magic, animals, politics… It has a little bit of so many things that I love, with a convincing narrative voice too.
Steven Erikson. Willful Childwas really disappointing to me, but I loved Gardens of the Moon, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the books. And this is another of those wide worlds with lots to dig your teeth into.
Tad Williams. The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books are awesome. I started reading them and thought it all fairly typical — you know, kitchen boy is probably going to turn out to be a hero, etc, etc. I was probably reminded of David Eddings, actually. But there’s a lot of world building, a lot of other characters to love, and I found it all so compelling that I read all four massive volumes in less than a week.
Scott Lynch. I hardly need to say this, do I? The Lies of Locke Lamora is great; the world the books take place in is rich and full of wonder (things the characters wonder at, and things that the readers wonder at while the characters take them for granted). “High” fantasy? Maybe not; we’re not dealing in princes and kings, nor even kitchen boys who turn out to be knights, just a bunch of orphans from the streets who turn out to be real good at scamming people. But there’s epic background.
Guy Gavriel Kay. Particularly the Fionavar Tapestry books, which seem like a synthesis of so much else from the genre. There’s hints of Stephen Donaldson, Tolkien, Anderson, so on. These were his first books, but he was already very powerful with the details of character and relationship. Tigana is also highly recommended, and stands completely alone, with all the politics and magic you could wish for.
I thought I’d find this week’s hard, but actually, I quite enjoyed doing this. Let me know what you think — and let me know what you’ve posted about!
This week’s topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a great one: top ten heroines. Let’s see…
Yeine, from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. Seriously, seriously kickass lady who navigates politics, would prefer a fair fight, and becomes a goddess. Why not?
Tenar, from The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin. That was always my favourite book of the bunch. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Tenar is strong in a way that has nothing to do with physical strength.
Mori, from Among Others by Jo Walton. Because she’s quite a lot like me, only she really can see fairies and she has a streak of pragmatism I could really use.
Harriet Vane, from the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Bit of a change of pace from the first three, being a different genre. But she’s a woman in a man’s world, pursuing both writing and academia, a strong woman who knows her own mind and sticks to her principles. But at the same time, she’s not perfect: she snarls at Peter, she’s unfair, etc, etc.
Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève, from Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. If there’s anything that can hold her back, I don’t know what it is. She’s gorgeous, she’s a spy, she manipulates politics and gets involved in all kinds of stuff on behalf of her country.
Katherine Talbert, from The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. Even if she doesn’t want to learn to fight at first.
Ki, from Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm. Practical, determined, fierce, and good to her animals, to her friends.
Caitrin, from Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. She doesn’t seem like she’s going to be a strong person at first, yet she learns to face her fears — without it ever seeming too easy.
Mirasol, from Chalice by Robin McKinley. She’s thrown in at the deep end, with very little gratefulness or support from those around her, and she pushes through it to do whatever she has to do.
Csethiro Celedin, from The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. She basically says that if anyone hurts Maia she’ll duel them and gut them. Like!
I’m gonna have to look at loads of posts on this one, because stories with good heroines are definitely of interest to me!
The evil lair is where a great fantasy villain will spend the plurality of his or her time.
Now of course, there are some really iconic ones — Saruman’s Isengard, Sauron’s Mordor, even Shelob’s Cirith Ungol and Smaug’s Lonely Mountain — but I’ve been racking my brains to think of something a little off the beaten path. So I remembered a quote I read somewhere quite recently, about the people who ultimately do the most evil being the people who are unshakeably sure they’re right.
Which gave me…
Roke, from The EarthseaQuartet and The Other Wind. It’s a stagnant world, not willing to bend with the times and let in new people (particularly, women). It’s the Establishment, really. With the best of intentions, they make a total mess of things. I think that goes for a lot of magic regulating bodies in fantasy…
Malthus and Aracus’ strongholds/camps/etc from Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering. I could’ve picked Satoris for this without twisting it even slightly, since most people view him as the bad guy — essentially this world’s Sauron. And yet, his side are more accepting of grey areas and outcasts, while Malthus and Aracus’ forces are completely self-righteously convinced that they’re on the side of right. That’s more dangerous, to me.
Sky, in N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. There are some good people trapped in the system there, mostly kept turning by Itempas’ injustice…
10 Downing Street, circa Tony Blair’s stint as prime minister. Oops. That’s not fantasy.
Looking forward to seeing what other people came up with, here; hoping it won’t make me want any new books, because I don’t have a debit card to buy them with at the moment!