Tess Of The Road – Rachel Hartman

Tess Of The Road - Rachel HartmanThis is a YA fantasy story set in medieval times with dragons, etc. Tess is a 17 year-old misfit, an obnoxious headstrong anarchist-in-training who invariably chooses to behave in a way that produces trouble and discord. Because of particularly scandalous behaviour, according to the norms of the day when women are supposed to lead constrained and subservient lives, Tess leaves on a journey of discovery, a pilgrimage of sorts. She is accompanied on part of this journey by a quigutl, a flightless sub-species of dragon (readers should consult the Glossary at the end of the book). Surprisingly, the story then becomes quite introspective about the nature of bad behaviour and finding one’s ash in the world, and thus more interesting than the average fantasy story. Overall, a very fun read.

A Darker Shade of Magic – V E Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic - V E SchwabThis is a terrific fantasy novel, set in London in 1819. Except that there are 4 versions of London, completely different worlds so multiple parallel universes. A small number of magicians can travel between the different Londons, but there is black magic and tragedy. Full disclosure, there is a significant kill count with collateral damage to some very sympathetic characters (the kindly innkeeper, for example), so this is not Harry Potter magic. Best of all, there is a great character called Lila, a feisty pick-pocket and wannabe pirate. This is a very imaginative and enjoyable read that is often philosophical; thanks Amy for this recommendation.

Arcadia – Iain Pears

Arcadia - Iain PearsThis is a wonderfully imaginative novel that represents a superb example of speculative fiction, with both time travel and travel to a parallel universe. The parallel universe is created from a writer’s imagination so there are allusions to CS Lewis, Tolkien and Shakespeare (a central character is a young woman called Rosalind who disguises herself as a boy while living in a forest!). All the characters are memorable and the story telling is complex because of multiple time periods – a very enjoyable read.

The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian - Elizabeth KostovaThis fascinating book has a Dan Brown-like plot (but with much better writing). Academics search for clues to find missing persons and to research Vlad Dracula’s life (is he still living?). This research is conducted in medieval libraries (yay!) with much travel: Oxford, Istanbul, Budapest and Bulgaria. Actions happen in three times: the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s, often with parallel stories so the complex plot with much historical detail requires the full attention of readers. This is a really enjoyable read; thanks Steph, for this recommendation.

Lilith’s Brood – Octavia E. Butler

Lilith_s Brood - Octavia E. ButlerThis is a trilogy, comprised of Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. Earth has had an apocalyptic world war, and the few remaining humans have been “rescued” by aliens and kept in stasis for hundreds of years. What follows is a brilliant description of the human instinct for violence, and the complexity of feelings when humans encounter the aliens for the first time. Lilith is utilized to choose humans to be re-animated, and so there is the strong psychology of humans learning about aliens and distrusting Lilith’s role. The aliens have breath-taking powers or healing, aka resurrection, but have their own agenda. The human-alien relationships are an imaginative form of symbiosis with genetic sharing in offspring. Thus there is yet another interesting new relationships, that of parents and offspring. Butler wrote these books almost 30 years ago, so she anticipated and described genetic engineering very accurately. She also wrote the great Kindred which is in the archives of this blog. Thanks Amy, for sharing this imaginative and compelling book.

Making History – Stephen Fry

Making History - Stephen FryWhat if you had access to a “Temporal Imaging Machine” and could send a male contraceptive back in time to a village in Austria in June 1888, to prevent the birth of Adolf Hitler? This would be a good outcome, right? What could go wrong? This inventive novel shows that the Law of Unintended Consequences is diabolically operative and so history should not be tampered with. Thanks Amy for this recommendation. Although sometimes Fry’s writing is too cute, this is a very entertaining book.