“Reginal Gatling’s doom found him beneath an oak tree, on the last Sunday of a fast-fading summer.”First line in A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
March. Did I do anything in March? Wasn’t it February yesterday? We changed to daylight saving time last weekend and that missing hour is still messing with me. It’s totally not because I stayed up all night last Sunday/Monday to watch the Oscars even though I had work on Monday. But hey, I got to watch the latest scandal live, and we’re done talking about that, aren’t we?
I have great news when it comes to my reading though. Just look at my stats:
I think my slump is over? I haven’t read this much in six or seven months, and as you can tell, the quality of what I was reading had a lot to do with it. I finished my reread of my favorite trilogy by getting through The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, and while I had forgotten a lot, they were just as good as I remembered. That combined with a lot of other books that just had me prioritizing reading again makes me think I have my reading-mojo back. But let’s look at the books I read in March!
Elantris (Elantris #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Published: May 2005
Buzzwords: Cosmere, mysterious city, mysterious disease,
Synopsis: The capital of Arelon, the home to people transformed into magic-using demigods by the Shaod.
But then the magic failed, Elantris started to rot, and its inhabitants turned into powerless wrecks.
And in the new capital, Kae, close enough to Elantris for everyone to be reminded of what they have lost, a princess arrives. Sarene is to be married to unite Teod and Arelon against the religious imperialists of Fjordell. But she is told that Raoden, her husband to be, is dead.
Determined to carry on the fight for Teod and Arelon’s freedom, Sarene clashes with the high priest Hrathen. If Hrathen can persuade the populace to convert, Fjordell will reign supreme.
But there are secrets in Elantris, the dead and the ruined may yet have a role to play in this new world. Magic lives.
Word of advice: If you’re already having doubts about Sanderson (like me), you probably shouldn’t read this book. It is his debut, and it’s safe to say that you can tell. The number is conveniences in the plot is through the roof! I know this because I buddy-read this with Naemi @A Book Owl’s Corner and our comments were basically just us pointing out how convenient or stupid some developments were. I’m actually not sure if the only thing that kept this from getting 1 star was the buddy-reading experience with Naemi because at least we could bond over things not making sense so the reading experience itself wasn’t the most horrible. Besides that, I’m struggling to think of something I enjoyed about this book. The gripes I have with Sanderson’s later books were just magnified in here: simple characters, characters acting strangely in order to make a convenient plot point seem less convenient, his romances that are just friendships (and not even very deep ones). Then on top of that, Elantris had a world that wasn’t explored very deeply. Aspects of it were often just mentioned and then never explored further even when that could have benefitted the plot in order to make it less convenient.
I’m not sure where I stand with Sanderson. I’m too deep into the Cosmere to give up now, so I know I’ll finish the ongoing series, but I doubt I’ll read any more Sanderson beyond that.
Unwind (Unwind Dystology #1)
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: November 6th, 2007
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Buzzwords: Runaway teens, questioning morality, dystopian
Synopsis: In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them.
Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.
Why have reviews led me to believe that this series isn’t good? If the rest of it is as good as this first book, I’m going to be talking about it extensively! Unwind had everything I look for in a YA dystopian: the protagonists going against the system, questions of ethics, brutal scenes that should never happen (a certain scene might have scarred me for life…). A special aspect I really liked about this book is that through the nature of following teenagers meant to be unwound, we also follow teenagers with bad relationships with their parents. Why is that great, you may ask? Well, that’s me who prefers reading about dysfunctional families over loving ones, and this is an entire series full of them! I’m in heaven!
I also need to talk about Neal Shusterman, of course, because this is the sixth book of his that I read and I have yet to rate anything lower than four stars. In this book, in particular, I was so impressed with his plot twists, not only because there were multiple, but also because of how he set them up and revealed them. They definitely took me by surprise more than once, which also kept me invested because at no point did I have an idea of where this book was going. I’m also very fond of a special type of chapter that I’ve noticed Shusterman likes to put in his books, which are short chapters from the perspectives of random people that Shusterman uses to develop the world. They are always so efficient because he can make you care about this person you don’t even know the name of so they don’t feel like they’re interrupting the story while they give small insights into the world that the main characters can’t give you.
A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding #1)
Author: Freya Marske
Published: October 26th, 2021
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Buzzwords: Magicians, Edwardian England, queer romance
Synopsis: Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.
Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.
Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
This book was just a good time. It was fun and sweet and actually managed quite a bit of world-building for a fantasy book under 400 pages. There’s a very cool magic system that reminded me of the one in The Magicians by Lev Grossman in that there’s a scientific approach to it. Not that we get to go very deep into it, but you get a sense of it and see the possibilities for future books. That’s really my overall feeling about the world-building because there is an entire community of magicians we only really get a glimpse of, but I also don’t think we needed more than what we got for this book to work, which I really appreciate.
Then there’s also the fact that this book is as much romance as it is fantasy, which I know can deter some people. And you really need to be into this queer romance to like the book but it’s not hard to love. It’s a very sweet, opposites-attract kind of romance, and I especially liked how the character Robin was a breath of fresh air in that regard. He doesn’t strike me as a typical character from a romance book in that Marske actually dared to create a main character who doesn’t like to read and prefers sports and talking to people. That said though, I feel like I need to stress that this is a romance and by that, I mean that it gets graphic. There are no fade-to-blacks or subtle suggestive hints; you know exactly what’s going on so just be prepared for that. If you don’t mind that (like I didn’t) then I highly recommend this book. The only problem is that the sequel seems to follow completely different characters, and as someone who gets attached to characters and pretty much nothing else about a book, I can only say I absolutely hate that trend.
Fool’s Errand (The Tawny Man #1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: October 15th, 2001
This is the seventh book in Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings and I had been looking forward to spending time with Fitz again whom we followed in the first trilogy. Yet, I think I surprised myself by exactly how happy it made me just to read about him again. The first half of this book didn’t really have much of a plot, but I didn’t miss it for one second because just reading about these characters doing nothing and just talking is all I need. So it was a little annoying when the plot started going, maybe also because it wasn’t the most thrilling plot, but it was necessary because I felt it was setting up a lot of stuff for the next books.
A funny thing I noticed about the book: I think this is the least painful Hobb book I’ve read so far, and while I do like the hard-hitting stuff, getting less of it clearly didn’t influence my enjoyment here. That said, I’m very scared of the last two books.
Including my rereads I had four (!!) 5-star reads this month! What?!? If you’re new here, I’m usually lucky if I have one each month, so I think it’s safe to say that this is the best reading month I’ve ever had. I’m almost hesitant about picking up a new book because what if I break this trend?
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite between Unwind and Fool’s Errand, so I’d rather hear what YOUR favorite book of the month was. How was your reading month?