And I am closing out October properly by finishing up a daily re-read of Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, which I highly, highly recommend. It’s a fun story, with references to so many other stories and movies and characters that it takes more than one read to really appreciate it all. Zelazny’s prose is sparse and wonderful, and there’s a lot of humor in it. I’m glad to have finally read it again.
For anyone following me who is subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, here is a list of some science fiction and fantasy books that are available for borrowing (including those by yours truly). The list updates monthly, so you might want to check back regularly!
I believe I came across this trilogy first on Tumblr, and primarily because the author, Sam Farren, keeps ball/royal pythons, and I followed them for posts about their snakes. On seeing that Farren was also a self-published author, however, and being intrigued by the description of the first book, I decided to give it a try, and was glad I did; this is one of the more unique fantasy worlds that I have read in recent years.
(Some spoilers past this point.)
The series follows Rowan Northwood, a young woman from a rural village who has recently failed to hide the fact that she is a necromancer: someone with the power to snatch death away from or push death into other living beings. While her family stand with her and the local villagers are tolerating her presence as long she stays out on her family’s farm, life is not comfortable for Rowan. Taking a chance when one of her country’s famed Knights comes through the village, Rowan goes with her, following her to the neighboring country of Kastelir.
The title of the first book, The Complete History of Kastelir, struck me as a bit ambitious when I first read it, assuming that it was meant to be taken literally. The entire history of a country in a single book?
But the complete history of the country of Kastelir is exactly what I (and Rowan) learned through the course of the book. As a nation, Kastelir is relatively new, formed only a few decades previously out of a land of warring groups. By the end of the book, Rowan has (just barely) survived Kastelir’s fall, and has lost the woman whom she was beginning to love.
The Sky Beneath the Sun finds Rowan far to the south, in a completely different part of the world, along with the handful of friends and allies who escaped Kastelir at the end. Everything is new (and hot), and Rowan finds it mostly a welcome distraction from her grief. Unexpectedly, it also gives her a chance to learn more about herself, to learn that the commonly-used word “necromancer” does not at all begin to encompass the truth of her powers and the kind of being that she is. Through these revelations, a betrayal, and the eventual realization that their work in the land that was once Kastelir is not done, Rowan must decide where she will set the limits on her own power.
The final book in the series, Gall and Wormwood, sees Rowan and her friends returning north across the sea first to what remains of Kastelir, and then eventually back to her birth country of Felheim, where the heart of the conflict truly lies. It takes not just a better grasp of her own powers for Rowan and her allies to unravel the war that has been going on much longer than any of them realized, but also a rediscovery of their world’s more distant past.
The author of the Dragonoak trilogy created a truly unique world, that has breadth and depth enough that it is easy to feel the weight of its history even as the characters do. Farren’s take on what at first seems like a straightforward fantasy element like necromancy, turns into something unlike any other version of necromancy that I’ve seen. There are dragons and phoenixes, though even they are not quite what one might at first assume. This may be the first time that I have read a story in which the main character is dyslexic (though she does not use that particular term for it), and must work around her inability to read, though it is largely something that she just accepts about herself.
I enjoyed the whole trilogy, and would recommend these books to anyone who likes fantasy stories with original worldbuilding, queer characters, or a good story about the heroes fighting for (and winning) the right to live their lives in peace.
I had a good time at the Local Author Fair I attended yesterday, my first ever book event! I sold two print copies of The Wizard of Suomen (exactly as many as I was expecting/hoping for), handed out many bookmarks for the ebook which is on sale this week, and had a poster up for The Witch release.
It was fun to talk to people about the book, and to see what some other local authors are writing. I bought a beautifully illustrated book of Vietnamese fairy tales from one of the other authors! I think I might try having a table at a small sci-fi/fantasy convention in my area in the spring, and see how that goes as well.
The initial round of judging happens over the winter, and four books from each category are announced at the end of January (“genre fiction” for me). I have my fingers crossed that TWoS will at least make it that far! Winners for each category are announced in April.
I probably won’t have many updates about this until January, but will be sure to post anything that comes up. 😀
It is always exciting to discover that an author you like has written more books than you realized! This is apparently true of Joan Aiken, who wrote The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, one of my favorite children’s stories that I still re-read from time to time.
A friend shared this article about Aiken on Facebook today, which taught me many things that I didn’t know. For example, I did not realize that The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (and the other books in that series) is set in an alternate history for England. As the author of the article describes, the book is certainly full of all kinds of tropes, but Aiken uses them with such obvious delight, and is such a good story-teller, that I can’t say I ever really noticed them.
I think I’ll start by looking up the other books in The Wolves Chronicles, and then try some of Aiken’s other work as well. It all sounds wonderfully imaginative!
I’m extremely sad to learn that Victor Milán passed away earlier this year. I was deeply enjoying his latest series, The Dinosaur Lords, and it’s heartbreaking to know that he had planned at least three more novels, as well as short stories/novellas/etc. in that universe, but didn’t get the chance to finish them. Cancer sucks. If you are a dinosaur and fantasy fan and haven’t read the existing three books yet, do it anyway – they are worth it.
RIP, Mr. Milán, and I wish you a dinosaur-filled Paradise.
(This is still SUPER EXCITING)
And quick reminder that the ebook is still on sale for about 7 more hours!