Several books recently read

Here are some books which I read in recent weeks.

Karina Sumner-Smith, Defiant. Talos, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Excellent sequel to a very good debut.

Kate Elliott, Court of Fives. Little Brown, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

A really excellent Young Adult fantasy novel. Will talk about it in a Sleeps With Monsters column, and also probably closer to the publication date if someone reminds me – it’s AMAZINGLY good fun, with interestingly crunchy bits. Also tombs. I am fond of tombs.

Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove, White Raven. Egmont UK, 2015.

Another excellent YA from Wein – not quite as heart-wrenching as her Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, but very good.

Stacey Lee, Under A Painted Sky. Putnam, 2015.

Historical YA debut. Two young women on the run for their lives in the 1849 American West. A lot of fun.

Sandra Barret, Blood of the Enemy. Ebook.

Fun fast not terrible space opera with queer women in.

Barbara Ann Wright, The Fiend Queen. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Conclusion to series. Structurally off-balance, but entertaining enough.

Julie Cannon, Because of You. Ebook.

Lesbian romance. Not particularly great.

Gun Brooke, Advance. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Space opera. Terrible worldbuilding. Prose not-so-great. Characterisation could use work. Somehow it still entertained me.

A.J. Quinn, Hostage Moon. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with serial killers in. Neither great nor terrible.

A.J. Quinn, Rules of Revenge. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with spies in. Neither great nor terrible.

Merry Shannon, Prayer of the Handmaiden. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, variant of epic. Worldbuilding on the naive side. Prose okay. Characterisation pretty good. Entertaining.

Rae D. Magdon, The Second Sister. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, sort of fairytale retelling (Cinderella). Could have used better worldbuilding and smoother prose. Still entertaining.

Rae D. Magdon, Wolf’s Eyes. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, starts out looking like a fairytale retelling, develops werewolves, turns into a variant on epic. Could have used better worldbuilding, smoother prose, and some more thought in its structure. Still entertaining.

M.B. Panichi, Saving Morgan. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Near-future solar-system science fiction. Could have used a stronger structure, and the romance felt rushed, but it was fun.

M.B. Panichi, Running Toward Home. Ebook.

Sequel to Saving Morgan. Very uneven pacing and I’m not sure it has a plot so much as a collection of incidents, but I found myself entertained anyway.

Heather Rose Jones, The Mystic Marriage. Bella Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Wow. THIS BOOK. This book. FILLED WITH INTELLECTUAL LADIES OF QUEERNESS.

It’s not a romance, not structurally, though it appears to be being published as one: it’s a complicated novel of relationships, friendships, family, alchemy and intrigue. Jones has leveled up from Daughter of Mystery in terms of her skill with prose, narrative, and characterisation – and they were already pretty freaking good. The only point at which the novel weakens slightly is the climax: it is an effective climax-conclusion in emotional terms (although I really feel that one of the characters was a little short-changed), but in terms of concluding the current of intrigue underlying the novel, perhaps not so much.

I love it a lot. I am planning on writing a whole column about it.

nonfiction

Theresa Urbainczyk, Slave Revolts in Antiquity. Acumen, 2008.

A slight volume that nonetheless succeeds in providing a comprehensive – and enjoyably readable – overview of slave revolts in antiquity and their presentation in both the ancient sources and the historiography of slavery and antiquity. A useful addition to anyone interested in either slavery in antiquity or – particularly – the political situation during the late Roman Republic.

Heather Rose Jones, Daughter of Mystery

Heather Rose Jones, Daughter of Mystery. Bella Books, 2014.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher. Dear publisher: this is My Sort Of Thing. Where do I sign up for MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING?

The setting is an alternate historical Europe, with a fantasy twist to do with religious miracles. There is a Ruritanian conceit about the country of Alpennia, but as the fantasy element is brought forward, it did not annoy me the way Ruritanian conceits usually do, and like its geography, the chronology of this version of Europe is not pinned down – it feels in many ways late-1600s, early 1700s, but references to “the Corsican” and “the French wars” and lack of mention of religious conflict may mean the author intends it to be read as later.

This is a love story. It is also a coming-of-age. Politics enters in as well. Jones has a smooth turn of phrase and an excellent way with characterisation, although the pacing at times feels quite leisurely, and the fact that the main characters have academic, intellectual concerns rather delighted me.

A wealthy baron unexpected leaves the bulk of his fortune to his bookish god-daughter, Margerit Sovitre, in order to spite his nephew. Among that fortune is his bodyguard, the swordswoman Barbara, counted among his possessions. Barbara was of good birth, but the terms of the baron’s will bind her to Margerit’s service until Margerit has reached her age of majority. The growing affection that develops between the two women is complicated by their respective stations, and by the fact that Margerit remains under the official guardianship of her maternal uncle and paternal aunt – and by the new baron’s enmity.

An enmity that will ultimately lead to Margerit being framed for treason.

I really enjoyed this book. (Although I think the coda at the very end is entirely unnecessary.) It reminds me of Courtney Milan’s work, except queerer and with more fantasy elements. If that sounds at all like your thing, I encourage you to go forth and read: as for me, I am immensely interested in seeing more from this author in years to come.