Tag: Nicola Griffith

Review – Spear

Posted December 6, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Spear by Nicola GriffithSpear, Nicola Griffith

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 19th April 2022

I don’t know how I skipped reading the summary, or if I just blanked it, but I hadn’t actually realised this was an Arthurian retelling. It was kind of interesting to come to the story that way, and see the clues emerge so that I suddenly went, oh, right, and knew a little more about where I was and where I was about to go. Spear is a gender-bent retelling of the story of Perceval/Peredur, which fortunately skips the Welsh jokes and “lol he’s a clown” that got played out in the tradition at one point (and which put me off Perceval as a character).

Griffith plays with the legend and with a sort of etymology for the name to create a story that hits some of the same notes, but in a different key. Her version of Kay is interesting, halfway between the Welsh version and the French, and her footnote about him in the author’s note gets him (as far as I’m concerned) spot on. Bedwyr’s around, too, though no sign at all of Gwalchmai that I can recall — despite the Dyfed setting, it’s not the most Welsh of retellings in that sense.

Honestly, I don’t want to say too much; it would get to sound nitpicky, given my academic background and all the little tiny features I was interested in and had thoughts about, rather than enthusiastic. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it, greatly enjoyed certain touches surrounding the usual triad (Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere), and definitely don’t mind a queerification of Arthuriana. In fact, let’s have a lot more of it!

I do have a few concerns, like: does Griffith realise how that changes the pronunciation? It’s nothing at all like “Lancelot”, a double L in Welsh is a completely different sound. The natural nickname wouldn’t be “Lance”, as far as I can tell — I’m not a Welsh speaker, but I have doubts here. Mind you, the Welsh alphabet doesn’t have “Z” either, so if “Llanza” is an attempt to make the name fit, then it’s an awkward one.

And my other concern might seem ridiculous, but… in the author’s note, to refer to “the Red Knight of Troyes’ Perceval” is painfully wrong. It’s referring to Chrétien de Troyes, obviously… and the way you do so is by referring to him by his full name initially, and then abbreviating to “Chrétien”. Troyes is a city, not a name. It’s like you said “Monmouth’s work”, meaning to refer to the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It should be “Chrétien’s work” — “de Troyes” is not actually a surname, and “Troyes” super definitely isn’t. It should be “the Red Knight of Chrétien’s Perceval“.

It’s something that was hammered into me at university, that we’d look ridiculous if we made this mistake, so obviously I noticed it right away! Maybe it’s a weird pet peeve to have, but here we are.

That said, the story itself works really well for me, and I enjoyed it a lot, both as an avid consumer of Arthurian retellings and for itself.

Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books My Bookclub Have Read

Posted August 11, 2020 by Nicky in General / 31 Comments

This week’s theme from That Artsy Reader Girl is books you love and haven’t reviewed, but I’ve been reviewing every book I’ve read for fifteen years now. So I’m going off-piste with a retrospective on my “book club”. I run it on Habitica, with a book each month, and I pick all the books based on my whim in that moment. I don’t guarantee the books’ quality or literary value or anything like that; it’s literally just a book I want to read, probably one I already own. It’s been a nice way to get some accountability for reading books from my shelves, and read alongside other people… without having to put up with anyone else’s taste in books. 😂

So here’s a shortlist of ones I’ve enjoyed discussing with the group…

Cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon Cover of Seeds of Science by Mark Lynas Cover of Pale Rider by Laura Spinney Cover of The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard Cover of Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac

  1. The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon. I’ve actually not finished this one yet, since I’m also reading it with my Beeminder coworkers at a nice conservative rate everyone can stick to. We’re near the end now! I’ve really enjoyed it, and even enjoyed reading it in this really slow drip-wise fashion, because it was something I could always manage, no matter how crappy I was feeling about reading (or how daunted by the size of the book).
  2. Seeds of Science, by Mark Lynas. This is by someone who was previously really anti-GM, and came to change his mind. He picks away at some of the myths and lies around genetically modified food, and makes an excellent case for a rethink.
  3. Pale Rider, by Laura Spinney. I’ve read two books on the 1918 flu pandemic, and I honestly couldn’t choose one over the other; both looked at it from slightly different angles, though I think perhaps Spinney dug a bit further on the social and cultural effects.
  4. The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard. I kept thinking this wouldn’t be my thing, and then picked it for the book club to encourage me to give it a try. Lo and behold, I inhaled it! Such a fascinating mixture of mythologies, and a fantastic setting.
  5. Murder by Matchlight, by E.C.R. Lorac. I’m not sure if this was the first book I read by E.C.R. Lorac… it might have been. Either way, it was the one that switched her work from the “it’s a British Library Crime Classic, so I’ll probably get it and try it” to “I’ll pick up anything I find by her”. Her mysteries are often deeply rooted in a place, so that you can almost smell the farms or the fires of the Blitz.
  6. The Bell at Sealey Head, by Patricia McKillip. Pretty much anything by McKillip is going to be interesting, though I sometimes find the conclusions to her stories a bit difficult to follow. The Bell at Sealey Head was one I tore through, though.
  7. Provenance, by Ann Leckie. I’d have read this one anyway, and the Habitica challenge might actually have been for a reread for me. I love Provenance a lot; it’s not doing the same things as the Imperial Radch books, and it doesn’t feel the same in terms of narration or characters or plot. I think that led some people to be disappointed in it, but I wasn’t.
  8. Hild, by Nicola Griffith. Confession: I still haven’t actually finished this. But some of the descriptions are just perfect and beautiful, and I still mean to come back and finish it.
  9. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. I probably wouldn’t have read this one without a book club, because YA with a contemporary setting isn’t normally my thing. I’m really glad I did, though; this book deserves all the hype.
  10. Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart. I should really read the second book in this series, because I read the first book sooo fast. As I recall, it wasn’t a universal win in the book club… but I really enjoyed the story, and appreciated learning about the real Constance Kopp as well.

Cover of The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip Cover of Provenance by Ann Leckie Cover of Hild by Nicola Griffith Cover of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Cover of Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

One thing I want to do going forward is diversify the picks a bit — there have been authors of various marginalisations in the lineup, but I can do better. Luckily I’ve been picking up plenty of books that will qualify for that, in the past year!

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Review – Slow River

Posted May 15, 2015 by in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of Slow River by Nicola GriffithSlow River, Nicola Griffith
Review from July 2nd, 2013

I don’t think I read the summary of Slow River when I bought it. It wasn’t familiar at all when I started reading it, anyway. And I… kind of liked that. Everything was a surprise. I loved the careful unfolding of the threefold narrative, the careful bringing to light of secrets you begin to feel you should’ve known all along. And I loved that LGBT relationships were normal, just taken for granted. I loved that the main character learns all sorts of things about privilege and the lack of it.

I even loved the slow plot. I never thought I’d find a book focused on a water remediation plant and the family that own the technology surrounding it so fascinating, but it really was. I love it when someone takes something so necessary but unseen to our modern lives and just expands it a little, showing how vital it is and could be.

Very much looking forward to the other Nicola Griffith books I have, now.

Rating: 4/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted November 20, 2013 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Let’s see… mostly comics. The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells, was the last novel — read it for my SF/F class, though I discovered I hadn’t actually read it before anyway. Comics-wise, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Avengers vs X-men: VS., and Young Avengers Presents. All Marvel comics.

What are you currently reading?
Actively, P.G. Wodehouse’s The Small Bachelor, Molly Beth Griffin’s Silhouette of a Sparrow and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland; the latter, is once again, for my SF/F class.

What do you think you’ll read next?
The plan is to read Captain America: Winter Soldier, I think. Then maybe I’ll get round to the acclaimed Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie).

Books acquired:
Last book before I came here was Nicola Griffith’s Hild, I think. Then there was a little shopping spree in Brussels and Leuven: Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation (Ruby Blondell), The Book of Barely Imagined Beings (Caspar Henderson), The Prisoner (Thomas M. Disch), The Song of Troy (Colleen McCullough), In Search of Shakespeare (Michael Wood), The Folding Knife (K.J. Parker) and Alphabet of Thorn (Patricia A. McKillip). Some bought for me by my partner, eee. Also I bought her Fly By Night (Frances Hardinge).

There was also a library trip. I have to report that the library in Leuven is pretty good for English-language books. So my haul from there was Mockingbird (Walter Tevis), The Short Novels of John Steinbeck, The Lover’s Dictionary (David Levithan), and White as Snow (Tanith Lee).

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