Book Review: The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre
Historical Fantasy / Pocket / Standalone
The Moon and the Sun is a historical fantasy, or alternate history, about the discovery of a sea-monster by a 17th century scientist. At the behest of Louis VIX, who believes the monsters hold the secret to immortality, Yves de la Croix captures two sea-monsters for study. His sister Marie-Josèphe assists with his studies, but finds that the more she learns about the sea creatures, the less convinced she of their monstrosity she is. This Nebula Award winner from 1998 is an interesting mix of politics, science, art, and history, with obvious research and attention to detail behind it.
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Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
Historical fantasy / Standalone
“I mean that two of any thing is a most uncomfortable number. One may do as he pleases. Six may get along well enough. But two must always struggle for mastery. Two must always watch each other. The eyes of all the world will be on two, uncertain which of them to follow.”
Hundreds of years have passed since the decline of English magic, which is believed to be gone now. Everything changes one day in the early 1800s when the secluded, antisocial Mr. Norrell shocks a group of scholars with a display of magic that catapults him to fame as the only magician in England. When he finds a protégé in the younger and more charming Jonathan Strange, the two form an uneasy friendship and mentorship. But their partnership is threatened by Strange’s interest in faerie magic, more dangerous and volatile than what Norrell purports to practice, and by the dark forces that the return of magic to England has unleashed…
I’m sure everyone has already heard a lot about this much-loved book set during Napoleonic Wars. I will add my words of praise: this is a really wonderful and unique book. It’s like Jane Austen with dark magic, the characters often trading witty and barbed remarks through a veil of excessive politeness. It’s both laugh out loud funny and desperately creepy, sometimes almost simultaneously. And it’s incredibly quaint, with the occasional bit of old English spelling dropped in, all while being suffused with the darkness and eeriness of the book’s system of magic.
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Review: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
Historical fantasy, #2 of 9 Temeraire
‘“You speak in ignorant disdain of the foremost nation of the world,” Yongxing said, growing angry himself, “like all your country-men, who show no respect for that which is superior, and insult our customs.”
“For which I might consider myself as owing you some apology, sir, if you yourself had not so often insulted myself and my own country, or shown respect for any customs other than your own,” Laurence said.’
This is the second book in Naomi Novik’s fantastical reimagining of the Napoleonic Wars… with dragons! After the events of His Majesty’s Dragon, Temeraire has been revealed to be a Celestial, a Chinese dragon that is supposed to be ridden by only the Emperor and his kin. His Captain Will Laurence being neither of these things, the Chinese have come to take him back. Temeraire, naturally, refuses to be parted from Laurence, and thus the two of them begin the long journey to Temeraire’s homeland.
I have to confess that I felt let down by this book. There were several problems that served to make it less interesting than its humourous, exciting predecessor: Continue reading Book Review: Throne of Jade (Naomi Novik)
Review: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
Historical Fantasy – Standalone
“A man might desire something for a moment, while a larger part of him rejects it. You’ll need to learn to judge people by their actions, not their thoughts.”
A lonely man commissions a disgraced rabbi to create him a perfect wife, a clay Golem who will be always obedient. When her husband and master dies en route from Poland to America at the end of the 19th century, she is left alone and directionless in a new and unfamiliar world.
Imprisoned in a flask, a Jinni is freed to discover he is far from his home in the Syrian Desert, and bound to a physical form in the mortal world. As he adjusts to his new life, and his new home in New York City, he meets the Golem. This is the story of their friendship as they both try to figure out what they want out of their lives, and how they fit into their new communities.
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