Shinylitwick's summer (SF/)Fantasy reads - Part I
As it turns out trying to complete the r/fantasy book bingo and not wanting to get into heavy reads this year meant that I spent most of my summer reading almost exclusively SFF, and I read a lot of it. I'm sharing my thoughts on these with anyone who might be interested in them. This covers books I read between july and the first week of september 2021. I'll be doing this in two parts because it would be too long otherwise.
As a reminder, these are personal thoughts, not professional reviews, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Without further ado:
Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay
By this point I think I can say pretty firmly I’m a fan of GGK. I just really enjoy his “alternate history with a dash of fantasy” stuff, and I like his writing and the fact that he’s so good at capturing that sort of bittersweet melancholy I’m a huge junkie for.
That being said, Under Heaven started off amazing, spent a lot of time in eh, and finished solid. I like it, but it’s my least favorite of his books so far. I think it essentially suffers from making promises it doesn’t deliver on. There’s a lot of stories which go nowhere, which I’m sometimes fine with, but I don’t think it worked here. Especially with the sister. I have very little familiarity with Chinese history, but from what I’ve read in other reviews, he stuck rather more closely to the history here than he usually does, which maybe limited his ability to maneuver his characters. Still, I would recommend it, if this is your style.
The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski
I’ve tried reading this before…in Russian. Don’t know why I thought that was a good idea (something about maybe a better translation?). Anyway, my Russian obviously wasn’t up to scratch and the books are polish anyway.
So, English translation it was. As many of you will know this is actually a short story collection, which is the first part of the Witcher book series. I’d already watched the tv show, and played a bit of the game, so some of the stories were new to me, and others weren’t.
I liked how the book highlighted the “twisted fairytale” aspect of some of these (e.g Snow White, Rumplestiltskin) – that didn’t really come across so well in the adaptations. I think altogether it was a fun and enjoyable read.
The Farthest Shore, by Ursula Le Guin (Book 3 in the Earthsea Cycle)
Ursula Le Guin made me cry again. I’ve been talking about Le Guin a lot recently, with a friend who’s read a lot of her nonfiction, but none of her fiction, while I’ve for the most part just read the fiction. She’s one of those authors who just seems to get it, and who knows how to use the genre to its full extent. Magic and dragons aren’t just a toy, but a tool to actually say something.
She does that across the board, of course, but Farthest Shore hit me harder than the other Earthsea books have, maybe because imho it’s the saddest so far. There’s a lot about death, acceptance, and time passing, and responsibility in this which I really liked. I feel like it manages to get its themes across in a way that is crystal clear, but not ham-fisted. I loved this book, I really did, but I feel like I will need to read it again in a few years, and I’m sure it will be a different read then.
One of many nice quotes:
“When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.”
The Black Company, by Glen Cook (Book 1 in the Chronicles of the Black Company)
This was sold to me as the granddaddy of grimdark fantasy, and I can certainly see it. It’s clearly influenced a lot of later fantasy authors (Erikson, Abercrombie, to some extent Martin). Yet somehow it manages to be less explicit, or graphic, than some modern grimdark. It can be pretty gross too, but it knows how to cut away when necessary and is usually smart about implying things. I also really liked the basic concept of following characters who work for the Dark Lord (or Dark Lady in this case). The characters themselves are interesting enough – in this first book we don’t go super in depth on a lot of them, but the ones we’re stuck with are decent, and the story holds. Still, I felt like this was more a worldbuilding book than a character book, if that makes sense. And I did like the world. It’s appropriately dark and petty and sucks, but hey that’s what we’re here for.
So overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend to anyone who is interested into the more grimdark side of fantasy. Stay away from it if that’s not your thing or you’re super squeamish.
(most of Tumblr dni I guess)
The Empress of Salt and Fortune, by Nghi Vo
This was a fun little read. I had no idea what to expect going in and I ended up enjoying it. The story follows a nonbinary monk as they go through the affairs of a deceased empress and in discussion with Rabbit, the said empress’s servant, learn her story. The story is mostly told by Rabbit and each section follows a particular object. I liked how that was set up and the way in which the whole picture was slowly revealed to the reader. It’s apparently been read as a feminist story and I can see where that reading comes from, and it was likely intentionally so. It wasn’t the most important part of this to me, but up to you to judge.
I will say though, and this is not the book’s fault, but mine, that reading a story where the POV character uses they/them pronouns was more confusing than I anticipated. I kept expecting there to be more of them at random points in the narrative, and having to backtrack to understand.
It’s a short nice read, but definitely something I feel more comfortable recommending to people here than irl.
Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett (Discworld)
Not much to say here. Discworld is Discworld and can do no wrong, apparently. This might be one of my favorites so far. Loved Granny to pieces, it was fun, it was funny, it was thoughtful without being heavy. It’s the Discworld, what can you do.
The House in the Cerulean Sea, by T.J. Klune
This was pure tooth-rotting fluff, which I think I kind of needed to balance out my reading. It’s cute, it’s cheesy, it’s wholesome it owns it and is proud of it. It’s very LGBT friendly. It’s a good guys win, bad guys lose, discrimination dies today kind of thing.
I’m surprised it’s not bigger on Tumblr tbh (it’s not non-existent either, I checked, just smaller than expected; maybe it’s too nice?).
Anyway, I did like it, and I’m exaggerating just a little bit on the cheesiness. It’s a sweet little story about a character who would normally be played by Martin Freeman (if a bit chubbier) learning that there is more to life than Rules and Regulations and finding love and a family.
If that’s your sort of thing, give it a shot.
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More Black Company doodles no one asked for
Young Croaker, Pre-battle of Charm, I guess. He is already tired af
He doesn't deserve all that shit, my sweet cinnamon roll ;( Yet, his gf is freaking 1000 yo sorceress who conquered almost all continent.
- I was hoping that you finally stop pissing me of
- Come on, One-Eye. If I gone you'll be dead of boredom, like, in a minute ;)
- What a disgusting person you are, Goblin
Circus is gone, but clowns still here lol
Omg, this two are awesome, their friendship is beautiful. Both are pain in other's ass, but still care about each other
If Soulcatcher could feel anything more than anger and insanity, she would still be a bitch whatever
Still, she is hot af🔥🔥🔥🔥
But, girl, go see a therapist or smth idk....
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