Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 22
Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors, bloggers and publishers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2010, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2011.
Recent Work: Lord of the Changing Winds, first in the Griffin Mage Trilogy, reviewed by Thea HERE.
Folks, please give it up for Rachel!
Thank you, Ana and Thea, for inviting me to participate in 2010’s Smugglivus! This is a great year for me to join in the fun because for the first time ever I have actually kept track of the books I’ve read for the entire year. I read a whole bunch, and I have to say, there were so many good ones that it’s really difficult to narrow the list down. To make a tough job at least possible, I decided to limit myself to my favorite five books that were actually published in 2010. In alphabetical order:
1. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whelan Turner
I can’t say enough good things about the outstanding YA Attolia series. The Book Smugglers themselves reviewed Turner’s series and I don’t have much to add except I agree with every word. Eugenides is one of the great protagonists in all of YA fantasy – in fact, in all of fantasy, period. But when Turner shifts to other protagonists, they’re great, too. These books are just about flawless in every way.
More than that, let me just mention here, if you have any ambition to write, this series could serve not only as a primer for “how it’s done” in every sense, but also specifically as a guide to writing first vs. third person narratives and when and why and how to switch between first person and third person. Turner does awesome things with narrative voice and person and point of view all the way through.
2. Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
Usually I can take or leave Tamora Pierce, but the Beka Cooper series is blowing me away. The slang! The grittiness! The clever details! (I’m lovin’ those pigeons!) These books are slower-paced than some, but the slower pace is an asset, letting you really stroll through the world Pierce has brought so vividly to life.
3. Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
No, this wasn’t my favorite Miles Vokosigan book ever. But it was Miles! How could it NOT be among my top five for the year? Sent to Kibou, a world obsessed with living forever, Miles uncovers the “slowest, creepiest” plot of planetary conquest ever. But what makes this book fun is watching everyone else react to Miles. I’d have liked a little more from his own point of view and a bit less from everyone else’s, but still, I loved it.
4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I loved – really loved – The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. The final book of the trilogy, Mockingjay – what can I say? It’s such a step away from the earlier two stories. People seem to generally love it or really be disappointed with it. It lacks the intimate scale of the first book, which does make it less approachable and “catchy”. But the broad scale is appropriate to the action, and the choices the characters matter a whole lot more because of that broader scale.
Lots of reviewers were upset by the lack of focus on the romantic triangle, but these books were never actually about the romance – especially not Mockingjay. This trilogy was about war, not love. Lots of reviewers also believe that Mockingjay is an anti-war book. I don’t think so at all. I think the overall theme, not in the least subtle, is that war is sometimes absolutely necessary, even though it is also brutal and thoroughly destructive of individual lives.
I’d have suggested just one small but important change in order to let Katniss be a more deliberate actor at the end: I’d have loved to see one last impassioned speech, delivered along with that final arrow. But overall, for me, a very satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy.
5. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Just what you’d expect from Kay: lush prose and a brilliantly detailed setting. I read the first page several times, just admiring the actual writing, before I got down to actually reading the story. And the worldbuilding! Absolutely fabulous. The setting is Tang China with a name change and a tiny bit of magic flickering around the edges. Yes, there were details I wondered about (what ABOUT the painting of the horse in the cave?). Yes, the ending felt truncated. I do think Kay might have broken Under Heaven into two books and finished the story off properly. Nevertheless, a beautiful book I’ll definitely be reading again.
Now, how about a list for Books I’m Dying to Read in 2011?
1. Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce – I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book of this great series!
2. Betrayer by CJ Cherryh – The twelfth book in the series. The twelfth! But I’m still not bored. How IS Bran going to finesse the situation this time? Nobody does nonhuman psychology like Cherryh, and Bran Cameron serves as our key to understanding the atevi species. Too slow-paced for some, but I love the steady unfolding of this complicated long-running series.
3. Dead and Buried by Barbara Hambly
I’ve loved this mystery series since I read the first one, A Free Man of Color, years ago. Barbara Hambly is the author who made me realize that what I love most about mysteries is not the mystery – for me, that’s almost beside the point. No, what matters to me in a mystery, besides the characters, is the SETTING. This series delivers setting in spades – 1830s New Orleans. It also has a fantastic protagonist – a black man whose mother was a slave, who was trained as a surgeon in Paris and is now a pianist to earn his bread. Add Hambly’s ability to tell a story, and I was hooked.
4. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
As far as I’m concerned, nobody writes a better paranormal urban fantasy than Patricia Briggs. I love Mercy Thompson. I’ll have this one preordered long before it hits the shelves.
5. And last but NOT LEAST, Patricia McKillip’s new book, The Bards of Bone Plain.
I know, I know, it came out in Dec 2010! But I won’t have a chance to read it until 2011! I am planning to save it as a special treat; something to savor and enjoy after, say, finishing another manuscript of my own. Nobody beats McKillip for beautiful writing and lovely storytelling.
Of course, I’m also waiting impatiently for one or two of my own books to hit the shelves. Or maybe three, depending on how you count ‘em.
1. My second YA fantasy, THE FLOATING ISLANDS, is due out in February 2011.
The Junior Library Guild chose ISLANDS as one of their Fall 2010 selections, and Kirkus just gave it a starred review (!!). I’m pretty excited about this, you can probably guess. Here’s what Kirkus said:
“Intelligent, richly detailed fantasy featuring two young cousins battered by losses, personal passions and larger events. Shy, inarticulate, recently orphaned and newly arrived in the aptly named Floating Islands, Trei is transformed by the rare chance to strap on a pair of feathered wings and join the legendary corps of soaring kajuraihi. For his fiercely intense cousin Araenè, constraints on women are but annoying obstacles to be overcome in pursuing first the forbidden (to women) culinary arts and then the magical abilities that well up in her, all unbidden, in the wake of a family tragedy of her own. The arrival of an expanding empire’s invasion fleet, augmented by a new, mechanically powered magic, propels Trei and Araenè into actions that test their courage, loyalties and cleverness to the utmost. The author delineates complex characters, geographies and societies alike with a dab hand, deftly weaves them all—along with dragons of several sorts, mouthwatering kitchen talk, flashes of humor and a late-blooming romance—into a suspenseful plot and delivers an outstanding tale that is self-contained but full of promise for sequels.”
2. Also, my first YA fantasy, THE CITY IN THE LAKE, is coming out as a paperback. Does that count as a new release? CITY’s new cover is fabulous:
All of CITY’s reviews were good. any reviewers compared it to Patricia McKillip, which was wonderful and flattering. I hope the new look helps CITY catch the eyes of anybody browsing shelves at their local brick-and-mortar.
3.And finally, I’m also expecting another book of mine, HOUSE OF SHADOWS to come out from Orbit – probably in 2011. Orbit’s still working on the cover, so nothing to show yet!
HOUSE OF SHADOWS was a complicated book to write because, see, I started it three times in three different ways with three different protagonists. Then I couldn’t decide which I liked best. I wound up braiding them all together, which worked out beautifully, but makes the book a little hard to describe. I mean . . . what to leave out? I could give this description:
“After their father dies unexpectedly, Nemienne and her seven sisters must find some way to survive — but Nemienne never guessed that she would apprentice herself to a mage, nor that her new master might prove to be a deadly enemy to everything she loves.”
But so much gets left out of that kind of one-sentence description. What about Leilis, cursed by a rival so that she has become literally untouchable? And Taudde, a sorcerer-bard who slipped illegally into the city to study the magic of the sea and now finds himself drowning not in the waves but in political intrigue? All I can say is, it’ll be fun to try to write the back cover copy one of these days . . .
Thank you Rachel!
Now, for the giveaway!
Rachel Neumeier is generously offering one ARC of her upcoming YA novel The Floating Islands to ONE lucky winner. The contest is open to all and will run until Saturday, December 25 at 11:59PM (PST). In order to enter, leave a comment here and we will randomly pick a winner and post it on our Sunday stash. Multiple comments will be automatically disqualified. Good luck!