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Winter Kill

3/5. M/M. Small town cop meets uptight FBI agent as they investigate serial murder.

This is . . . weird? There's one perfunctory sex scene about one fifth of the way through, when the characters think they are having a one night stand and have only the vaguest of feelings for each other. What ought to be the second sex scene – and a far more interesting one as they are coming complexly and reluctantly together in the middle of a stressful situation – is, get this, fade to black.

I mean, I don't read commercial M/M for the sex scenes. That would be foolish at best, because oh lordy most of these authors drop straight into fanfiction.net territory when it comes to that. But the lack of sex scenes here is just so weird that it made me focus on the other weirdness. How this is a mystery first and foremost, until about 2/3 of the way through when the book is like oh shit, hot gay romance, um hang on, gimme a sec. Which would be fine if the mystery were more interesting, but, uh. You don't read a Josh Lanyon for the mystery. Though TBF this one has a surprisingly big and well-drawn cast.

I don't know, it's not like Lanyon is knew here and doesn't know how to put a book together. This one is just clearly way more interested in the small town cop shop and the arguments over community policing versus federal policing than, like, staying on brand. O…kay?
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The Mermaid Murders (The Art of Murder Book 1)

3/5. M/M mystery romance where the young up-and-coming FBI art crimes specialist tags along – for reasons – with a profiler revisiting a serial killer case that might be active again.

This, on the other hand, I read in a day flat. It's bog-standard Lanyon – serviceable mystery foregrounding a couple where one half is the uptight hardened law enforcement type and the other half is a younger, gentler, more artistic sort. I wanted bog-standard Lanyon for the zing of sexiness and the occasional depth of emotion. This one mostly delivered, but it did leave me wondering, exasperatedly, if Lanyon gets these names out of the freaking phone book. Jason West? Sam Kennedy? The law enforcement types always have these cookie-cutter white guy aggressively American names, which got me scouring my memory for a single Lanyon book featuring a person of color, and I couldn't come up with a single freaking one. Anybody?
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Fellside

3/5. Jess wakes up in a hospital burn unit to the news that, while high, she set a fire that killed her neighbor boy. She ends up in a women's prison and, while doing the slow work of hunger-striking to death and out of her guilt, she begins to see the dead boy, and to hear him enough to know he needs her to help him.

For the record, I started this book on October 15, read no other books alongside it, and did not finish until November 14. That is not my normal reading speed. Work was happening. So you can see how this really didn't have my attention, so when I say that it's good, but it's no The Girl With All the Gifts, who the fuck knows what my judgment is worth.

I do know that this book is made up of a hundred tiny chapters, some only a few hundred words, rotating through a surprisingly large cast of inmates, guards, healthcare professionals, drug dealers, etc. My indelible impression is of this book as a pile of glass shards in the sunlight: each piece reflects light, but at a different angle. That is the mechanism here – each character is so blinkered by his or her own circumstances that they all are coming at the world thinking they understand each other when they almost never do. Jess's search for a scrap of absolution intersects with a drug operation in the prison, intersects with an old murder, intersects with the politics of privatized prisons, intersects with the prison infirmary staff, intersects with – you get it. There are no surprises here – there's a "twist" that even I, giving this book approximately two neurons of attention, spotted half a book before Jess does, but it's not because she's stupid. It's because she can't see it, not until she has to. It's all very skillful, and accomplished. And depressing as hell, punctuated by echoes of a really beautiful, strange, queer love story.

Carey is just going to keep right on being good, though.
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So! I finished that thing where I wasn't reading cis men for a year.

Technically, I finished it back on September 30 and have been meaning to talk about it since, but you may recall that September 30, 2016 was followed immediately by October 2016, and those of you who know what I do for a living will understand that I exist inside a black hole of sleeplessness and obsession and screaming tension right now and that I don't remember what normal is anymore, so there you go. Also, unsurprisingly, this means that I'm barely reading, since my only real reading time is my commute time, and these days I spend that either frantically work triaging on the way in or sitting in complete silence trying not very successfully to become a human being who can talk about something other than work on the way home, which is doubly hard since I mostly can't talk about work at all with muggles.

Sorry, that wasn't supposed to come out.

Anyway, the year of women and trans authors. It was amazing you guys, and I highly, highly recommend it. My overall pleasure in my reading shot way up, I appreciated most things I read even if I didn't love them all, and I felt – "safe" is not the right word, too strong, so let's go with comfortable. I felt comfortable as a reader in ways I am not accustomed to.

I will hopefully have more brain for this later, but two observations that come to mind off the bat. Focusing on women/trans authors freed me from the final trailing sense of canon obligation. You know, 'but it was written by a famous man and it's on all those lists of the most influential scifi of the blah blah blah so--.' Honestly, I thought I was long over that, but it turns out no, it was still lurking back there. So when I took away the ability to read all those male authors, suddenly it was clear to see how much I actually didn't want to read a significant portion of them at all. And from there it was easy to delete them off my reader, and out of my life.

The second thing is that this exercise made me want to find the same satisfaction and the same clarity in other kinds of consumption. I have unsubscribed from so many male-only podcasts in the past year, and my life is better for it (though do you know how hard it is to find sports podcasts featuring all or mostly women?). Same thing with blogs, same thing with a lot of the people I read for professional reasons (though again, kind of hard given the gender balance in my field, ahahahaha ha ha *cries*).

Will I do it again? Definitely, though not right now. Right now I'm barely reading, so it's a moot point. In calendar year 2017, I plan to read only authors that I have never read before, which I'm pretty excited about. But frankly 2017 is on the other side of some epic work for me, so that's all I can manage right now.
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Dogsbody

3/5. The one where Sirius the star is cast down to live as a dog, and gets adopted, and stuff.

Point one: yes, JK Rowling absolutely read this book at a formative time, wow, good to know.

Point two: I read this when I wanted something fluffy and soothing. It's DWJ! It's about a dog! My wife is fond of it! I asked no questions. This was a mistake.

This book is not fluffy. It is, in fact, a study in cruelty, in the overlapping ripples of it as people and creatures are awful to each other in succession. Sirius is mistreated in various ways, as is his nominal owner, a young Irish girl. The book is contrasting various kinds of cruelty – deliberate, absent-minded, childish copycat without understanding – and like. It's a good book! But boy I didn't enjoy any of that.
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Crooked Kingdom: A Sequel to Six of Crows

4/5. Sequel to Six of Crows. More of that – crew of misfits and thieves takes several runs at getting what they're owed.

This is prickly, difficult, very grown up for YA. On the surface it's about these hardened teenagers who have reluctantly come to care about each other, compounding and healing their respective damage as they work through a series of complicated cons. Beneath that, this is a book about consequences. The action and the echo. What grows up in the shadow you cast. How what you put out in the world is what you get back, but twisted. How the wealthy and powerful in that city are no different than the gutter rats trying to swindle them; how the two are an inevitable consequence of each other.

The heart of the book, for me, is a quiet scene, the sort of thing that movie producers like to ruin with music but that ought to be played to silence. Two people – one a girl turned to crime after she escapes the brothel she was sold to at fourteen, one a boy driven by revenge and his screaming touch phobia after he survived a plague in a pile of corpses. The two of them talking quietly and edgily about how they feel about each other and, exquisitely painfully, touching each other just a little bit. This book turns on that holding point.

Audio note: This is a multi-voice production with excellent casting, particularly for the women. And is tragically ruined by the fact that no one thought to coordinate the voice actors so that they pronounce proper names of major characters in remotely the same way aaaaaaargh. Painful.
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3/5. Book *pauses to look it up* nine. Urban fantasy *gestures* stuff, but let's talk about babymaking.

So they get married in this one, and there's a couple prophecies about their kid, and then [spoiler, except come on, it's totally not] at the very end she's surprise! Pregnant. And because I'm me I am stuck on whether they were using birth control. I guess we're supposed to assume not, based on the pregnancy (though in reality, birth control accidents happen all the damn time). And I don't remember if we know anything about how birth control works in this mixed magic/tech post apocalypse world anyway. But can we just –

If you are a couple people with the requisite parts and the ladyparts are, like, less than say 43 years old, and you aren't using protection, you are trying to have a baby. Like, there is no 'oh we weren't preventing but we weren't really trying either' – no. That is not a real thing. That does not exist. Babymaking does not depend on, like, deciding that this month you really mean it. And more pointedly, not using birth control is a specific choice to get pregnant, because 90% of couples will conceive within six months of dropping birth control.* That is, like, why there are billions of us crawling around this planet. This shit is supposed to be easy, and just because it wasn't easy for me and it was in fact impossible for several people I care about doesn't change that.

I am just sick unto death of books of all genres – romance, urban fantasy, general lit – treating pregnancy as a surprise random occurrence. As if not getting pregnant was equally – if not more – likely, and really who could have expected this! Who the fuck are these people who go around banging unprotected and don't expect the outcome?

Write me books about people who actually plan their family-building. Who have conversations about the nitty gritty of it like adults. You know, not just the vague will-we-won't-we, but all the actual shit you talk about like doing the math and realizing that having a baby nine months from right now would be super terrible so let's use a condom for these two weeks. Accidents happen, sure, but funny how they seem to account for 90% of the stories about conceiving I read. And for god's sake, let's stop pretending a lot of these pregnancies are accidents at all when they fucking aren't. It's your body, fucking own what you decided to do with it.

Ugh.

*There's a lot more nuance to this, but you get me.
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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home

4/5. The story of September, who climbs out her kitchen window and rides the wind to fairyland, then comes home, and goes back, and comes home, and goes back, and gets stuck.

So I generally do not do well with books that get popularly described as "lush." E.g., I recently twice failed out of Sofia Samatar's first book because oh god, the boredom. Lush and me, it's not so good. And it seems like everyone calls Valente's work "lush." So I've avoided it for over a decade.

But these books? These books are wonderful. Intricate and dense; full of appropriately fairyland whimsy that has a lot of weight behind it. As if the ever-proliferating fairyland rules are each the ingredient to a magic spell of byzantine complexity, and it will only make sense if you twist your brain around 270 degrees and stand on one foot and think about it in the moonlight. But in a good way!

I've already talked about these books a bit by way of disliking Seanan McGuire, who was doing some of the same stuff but not nearly so well. But I want to say, more directly, that this series is principally about being a child out of place and subject to inexplicable forces – a child displaced to fairy, or a troll displaced to Chicago. It matters, very much, that this book is set in the 1940's when our heroine's mother, like the other women of her generation, is going to work for perhaps the first time. It matters that September knows she should not eat in fairyland, but manages to complicate and muddle the rule beyond recognition. It matters that the displaced troll becomes a hero among his schoolyard peers for discerning the rules of their world and writing them down. "All children are changelings," this series says near the end, encapsulating five books into one thematic statement. Yes. That.

These are beautiful and wonderful and wise and sad and weird and I really love them. And fine, they're fucking "lush" okay.
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Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota)

4/5 (this is me leaving some room for the rest of this series). I read this months ago while traveling, and also explaining this book takes many many words, so let me shorthand. Futuristic post nation state post organized religion sorta post gender science fiction about powerbroking and politics and miracles. And really, really awesome. Have some bullet points.

• I think the SF field is going to bend around this series, once it's done. Just a feeling. And I'm personally looking forward to all the books that are going to be fans of this series and arguing with this series and really mad at this series. Not just that I think some of those books are going to be good books, but also that I think it will all take us through some philosophical territory that I'm looking forward to.

• Remember how I complained that the linguistic gender stuff in Ancillary Justice was fun but kinda pointless? Yeah, this book is set in a culture where the polite pronoun for everyone is ungendered, and it is doing so much stuff with that, I probably lost track. Our narrator plays with gender occlusion and disclosure in hilarious and pointed ways. You end up in the end with a pretty clear idea of who is supposed to be what gender, but very little certainty that you are right, but a lot of certainty that being right is so not the point. Because fundamentally, gender in this book is about performance of a gendered role – often a gendered stereotype – and the narrator is therefore generally uninterested in what is actually in people's pants. It's great, and I look forward to future developments, and I also think this Strange Horizons reviewer really did not get it (that review does give a much more detailed picture of the worldbuilding than I do, though, along with what I consider a spoiler).

• This book fucks with genre. It's science fiction that uses the word "miracle" with deliberation. And the miracle in question – animating objects like toy soldiers with a touch – is jarringly weird in this secularized, very sciency future. I struggled with this for a while, until a twist introduced a particular kind of ridiculously terrible, over-the-top violence into the book, into this society that barely knows what murder is anymore, and I went 'ah' and started looking for other pieces that don't fit. That break the pattern in your head, break your assumptions, make you uneasy and unhappy the way the word "miracle" made me uneasy and unhappy. If this society makes it through the whole series intact, I am going to be very very surprised.

• I laughed. Out loud, unexpectedly, and very ungracefully, in the middle of a sidewalk. It was at the word "Jehovah." Oh, how I laughed. You'll know it when you see it.

• A lot of specfic set in the future is anchored unmistakably in the twenty-first century. Like there are two points in history – today and the speculated future – and the only work of worldbuilding is to draw a line from here to there. This book draws its line instead from the nineteenth century (mostly), which makes for an entirely different and richer experience of created history. Not a totally new idea – Robert Charles Wilson tried this in his Julian Comstock, but this is far more successful.

Next book in December, please and thank you.
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Imprudence (The Custard Protocol)

3/5. More steampunkish airship supernatural nonsense, interchangeable with the rest of Carriger's books in being entertaining nonsense. Except this one includes a charming trope inversion where the virginal young lady selects a young man of her acquaintance to learn sex things from and proceeds to ruthlessly dally with him. That was pretty great, even if it ends in romantical feelings everywhere.
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Still Life, A Fatal Grace, The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

2/5. Books one, two, and eleven of a sorta cozy mystery series mostly set in a tiny Quebec village.

Picked up during the worst of the con crud (pretty sure I was patient zero this time . . . sorry 'bout that, Contxt) and enjoyable in inverse proportion to how healthy I was. So by the time I was getting better I was way the fuck over this nonsense and skipped ahead to find out if everyone continues to be obnoxious. What's wrong with it? I mean, it's populated by mostly kind mostly clever often literate people, some of whom are queer, and I have been known to like a mystery.

Yeah, but. You know that saying about how any book about art is actually about writing? Or is that just something one of my writing professors said? Regardless, it's pretty true. And this series is repeatedly and oh so excruciatingly embarrassingly allllllll about how haaaaaaaaaaaaard it is to be an artist who is unbelievably brilliant but no one appreciates your genius. Sooooooooo haaaaaaard, you guys, and noble and tragic and beautiful, but of course any book of such obvious unappreciated genius 'hem sorry, don't know what came over me – any truly great art will be discovered and adored as is its due. Oh god. It is so embarrassing, I do not know how she is putting these books out in the world without noticing.
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A Fashionable Indulgence: A Society of Gentlemen Novel (Society of Gentlemen Series Book 1)

3/5. M/M historical. Young radical is found by his wealthy grandfather and brought back into society. And then there's the gentleman tasked with teaching him manners.

Finally trying Charles, dog years after everyone else. This is nice, I guess, though the antecedents (Pygmalion and that musical I hate) don't interest me.

But the thing is, this held little to no interest as a romance. I found that aspect quite dull. But the rest of the book – and this is supposed to be a romance, so you'll understand how amazing this is to say – but the rest of the book stands on its own and was a pleasant diversion. There's a density to Charles's world building, and a little extra zing to the historical detail. And this book manages that nearly impossible feat of being about a largeish group of queer men without being about how everyone is magically gay. Instead, it's about like finding like, and co-existing together without ever really talking about it, and the pressure they are all under, and the danger they are in.

Note: Currently $.99 on Kindle.
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Ninefox Gambit (Machineries of Empire Book 1)

3/5. A soldier is tasked with taking back a fortress, and to get the job done she is implanted with the consciousness of an infamous undead general, greatest tactician in history, heretic, murderer of his own people.

One of the cooler weird as fuck things I've read recently. This is a universe where power is defined by "math" – i.e. where civilizations create patterns of loyalty and ritual which, due to magic math, define the parameters of reality, down to what weapon's work, how FTL travel functions, what day it is, etc. Fighting with an insurgent rebellion is complicated when the rebellion redefines its own "calendar," meaning your realities only sort of talk to each other, and fighting back isn't just about violence (though lordy there is a lot of that) but about moving the complex variables.

So cool worldbuilding, though like you might expect, there's a lot of handwaving under the banner of math, and because the rules are so abstruse, it can occasionally feel like the book is cheating by dropping in some whackadoodle turn that you literally had no way of anticipating. But I mostly liked this for the main characters. They're sharing a head, and they argue a lot, and they fight a siege, and they also sit around and watch terrible romantic dramas with their robots while mutually attempting to outthink/mindfuck each other.

Ultimately I do think that the final 'redefine reality' turn of this book is far more prosaic and obvious than I wanted -- everyone else was basically expecting it, right? – and I didn't get the 'what!' mindfuck I was jonesing for. But Lee* is doing something really cool and unusual here, and I suspect that my genuine liking for this has the potential to turn into something much bigger as the trilogy unfolds.

*I did say my year of reading women could also be a year of not reading cis men.
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Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children)

2/5. The one about the school for kids who went to a fantasy realm and then got sent home and who are really upset about it.

I picked this up – despite my . . . lackluster response to other McGuire – because I'm working my way through Kat Valente's tremendous Fairyland series, about a girl who goes there and comes home repeatedly. Thematic, y'see.

And that was a mistake, because comparing these writers and these books, uh. They're just a different class of talent doing a different class of thing. So after the density of Valente's thorny whimsy, Mcguire's straightforward – and so painfully obvious, the characters should be considered accomplices for not solving it sooner – murder mystery simply thudded. And after Valente's playful, stylish, tricky, complicit, kind, cruel, lovely narrator, who stitches those books together so beautifully. After that, the random and inexplicable swerves Mcguire's book takes into the omniscient view seem pointless. And in one case, where we get a girl's backstory and then she is killed and the omniscient voice pops in just long enough to tell us where the doorway back into her realm that she had been living and dying to find actually was, it seems simply mean for the sake of being mean.

So yeah. Did not fare well by comparison. Might be better on its own? It's a novella with a lot of interesting stuff going on – axes of classification for fantasy realms, an explanation as to why the school is mostly populated with girls that made me grimly nod, a transkid who got kicked out of his adventure because his tale did not respect his identity. And the title is great. But yeah. Not a good comparison.

Also, the ending. Can someone who liked this tell me whether you were okay with the ending, because it bugged me a lot.
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The Snow Queen

3/5. On a planet whose only significance is the sea creatures who can grant extended life, winter is drawing to a close. Soon technology will withdraw when the wormhole closes, and power will change hands to the summers. The winter queen does not want that to happen, so she seeds the summers with her clones, hoping that at least one will survive to take her place.

My wife has two enormous framed prints, one of the summer queen, one of winter. They might be the cover art? They're currently in a closet, but they were hanging up in our last place with a lot more wall space (seriously, these things are huge). I said when we hung them that they ought not be across a room facing each other, so we ended up putting them on parallel walls offset to each other. Looking toward the same thing, but from a different place. That was accidentally correct on my part, since I hadn't read this yet.

This book is . . . strange, concerned with the shapes of relationships more than the relationships themselves, if you know what I mean. Concerned with the myth, and pacing out its convolutions with these particular people. This sort of thing usually irritates me. I know better than to read that YA series retelling Cinderella on a moon colony; I know it would not go well for me. I always catch myself so completely not getting the point. Like for the first quarter of this book, which I spent entirely focused on whether there is an Earth in this timeline, and if these are very distant Earth colonists, and if so did those Earth people carry this myth? Because they couldn't have, otherwise everyone would be way more self-conscious. But if they didn't, then –

Totally missing the point on these, that's me.

This did win me over. It's amazingly 80's and it made me laugh where it did not mean to, but at its heart it is about intersecting layers of exploitation; how this interstellar power is using a natural resource in, it turns out, a horrifyingly unethical way, how the queen's efforts to snatch power back make her complicit in that, how she in turn exploits her population as her plans spin out. There are intersecting images of captivity – animals in cages, people in cages, machine intelligences stuck on their tracks. It all ticks through with inevitability, which is a thing you don't see much these days. I did mention 80's.

Glad I read it, but this doesn't really speak to me.
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Wizard's Holiday (Young Wizards Series Book 7), Wizards at War (Young Wizards Series Book 8), A Wizard of Mars: The Ninth Book in the Young Wizards Series

3/5. More Young Wizards, with a definite science fictional turn in these three (well, more interplanetary travel and cosmic whatsits, anyway – the esthetics of the series remain solidly fantasy).

I liked these, but in a measured way. The series matures with our heroes, whose power is settling down into its adult channels after the exuberance of earlier, and they have to learn to live with that and develop the talents they have. I should find this excellent, and I do, but it was around this point in the series that I started really thinking about the philosophical underpinnings.

The enemy – The Lone Power – is supposedly the champion of entropy, of things running down. And the work of wizardry is to fight entropy wherever found. There's a lovely interview with Duane at the end of one of the early audios -- High Wizardry, I think -- in which it becomes clear that this is a reflection of her view of the world. And it's not mine. Entropy in this series wears the face of the Lone Power, who is alternately frightening and pathetic. And who, we know from book one, is ultimately losing. But he is specifically not the face of evil, even if the things he does are appalling. And there is something uncomfortably slippery in this notion of entropy, something very whoops, guess that just happens, which I think ducks the problem of the active evil that so many people choose to put out into the world. Like in one of these books, for example, the world teeters on the brink of war and mass violence, but it all stops when the kids deal with the magic mcguffin evil cloud. Which implies all sorts of things about world history, according to this universe, that I don't like.

I don't know, I can't get this out right. But essentially I think the philosophy of this series is a bit confused about personal responsibility, and for all its time with the Lone Power, it isn't really equipped to grapple with active malice.

It can grapple with other things, though. The philosophy of these books gets more difficult and adult when Nita's mother gets cancer; Nita's reaction to that and to the Lone Power bring a richness to this idea of bad things just happen. But it still doesn't really satisfy me.
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A Wizard Alone (Young Wizards Series Book 6)

1/5. Aaaaand then this happened.

Hoo boy. Plenty of people have taken this book to task over the years, and I was forewarned. But it still left an awful taste in my mouth.

So, in book six, Nita is working through depression after the death of her mother, and Kit is tasked with helping a new young wizard who is autistic. And it's . . . very sincere and trying so hard, and flavored with the usual kindness of this series. And all so absolutely pervaded with toxic ablism that you can't swallow any part of it without choking a bit.

It's not just the overtly ablest ending spoilers ), and it's not just the way the book parallels depression and autism in frankly weird and off-putting ways. It's the whole *gestures* the whole thing. The imagery used to talk about autistic communication. How at first everyone thinks what they're receiving is extra-terrestrial in origin. How this book implicitly and explicitly treats autism as alienness. As not human.

Duane has rewritten this book, too, and to her credit she apparently spent a fair amount of time absorbing the criticisms of autistic and adjacent readers. But given certain events in the rest of the series, I have a hard time believing she would be able to extricate the overt ablism from the book. It's just too deep.
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So You Want to Be a Wizard (Young Wizards Series Book 1), Deep Wizardry (Young Wizards Series Book 2), High Wizardry (Young Wizards Series Book 3), A Wizard Abroad (Young Wizards Series Book 4), The Wizard's Dilemma (Young Wizards Series Book 5)

4/5. Adventures of Nita and Kit, pre-teen wizards in suburban New York.

I have been reading this series slowly for six months. I don't really go in for savor when it comes to books – it's just as good going down fast, fight me! – but once in a while I do. The first five are really strong. They're tense, beautifully-imagined stories of young people riding the first wild wave of power, and learning to use it wisely.

The first book is particularly accomplished, which is unusual for a series. It takes Kit and Nita to an alternate, dark AU New York; the creepy creepy image of the nest where the evil sentient helicopter raises its tiny evil helicopter babies has lingered. As has Nita, holding the book of life in which all truths are written, and lifting her pen, and making a mark. The structure serves these books well; Kit and Nita's greatest victory is the thing they accomplish first, and the rest of the books play out the consequences that echo up and down through time and causality.

Note: Apparently Duane has been editing and re-releasing these books with a modern update, since she has been writing them for thirty years and the 80's stuff is very 80's. I read the originals, and do not regret that decision at all. Frankly, I think her insistence on adding, like, cell phones to make these accessible to modern readers is misplaced, and sort of insulting. Are these early books very 80's? Sure. Is it startling to read about parents allowing their pre-teen children to take the train into NYC alone for a day? Uh, yeah. But I think I – and modern teenagers – are capable of understanding.
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The Fire's Stone

3/5. The one where the alcoholic prince, the suicidal thief, and the young lady wizard go on a mission to retrieve the stolen gem that keeps the volcano from erupting under their city.

Ahaha, bless. This is some kwality 1990 fantasy, this is. Written back when Tanya Huff was not, uh. Well, she wasn't very good, you guys. Points for queer romance, though they get taken away again for the way this book is about a poly relationship, but just can't ever, you know, come out and say that.

But the M/M/F triad is sweet, and clearly the heart of this otherwise kind of boring story. Which makes up for the wild overabundance of daddy issues, and the consistent erasure/irrelevance of mothers, and that terrible thing where a book signals to you that one of the heroes is a good guy because he decides not to have sex with a thirteen-year-old, what a good guy, you guys, applause. So all the things you'd expect, really.

Uh, the triad really is cute? And the book is currently $2.99, if any of this is speaking to you.
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Book 1)

3/5. Bland paint-by-numbers fantasy about the girl who is taken to court after discovering her hidden power that might save them all. Boy am I glad I read Six of Crows, Bardugo's fourth book, first. That one is complicated and scary. This one – her debut -- is derivative in the dull way, not the fun way. And it's never good when the love interest is in deathly peril and I start vigorously cheering for his death, because that could only improve things.

I mean, I guess it's a demonstration of how fast a person's writing can improve?

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