The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg: An impulse grab at the library, but oh, so worth it. Set in a pseudo-Renaissance world, this features an unlikely trio of failed mage-turned-librarian, a court dandy and a lowborn mage with great powers and heretical ideas secretly investigating the magical assassination attempts on the king. Sequel comes out next year (not soon enough for me, as I am desperate to know how the character arcs are going to turn out). In the meantime, must seek out other books by the same author.
The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk: Writer claims that how we turn out is based on a complex interaction between genetics and the environment. I could’ve told you that. *grin*. Anyway, Shenk attempts to debunk the myth of innate giftedness, pointing out that deliberate practice reshapes our brain. He shows how child prodigies like Mozart are actually a product of their own drive, environment and parental influence, rather than springing out of nowhere. Seems commonsensical to me, really…
Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin: I wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s a decent story competently told, but it has an urban fantasy tone to it that doesn’t work for me (I’m not a big fan of UF). I found the voice and attitudes to be really contemporary and jarring in their otherworld setting. But if you like urban fantasy, I think you’ll like this one more than I did.
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Heiber: I thought I was picking up a fantasy with a romantic subplot, but what I got was really a romance with a fantasy subplot. The protagonist, Miss Percy Parker, is timid and passive and doesn’t *do* anything besides swoon and shrink and cling to her One True Love. The lyrical prose turned overheated and cloying pretty quickly. I don’t think I’m the intended audience for this one. Pity, because that Gothic/Victorian setting was such a draw.
The Drowning City by Amanda Downum: Ah, finally a fantasy I could really get into–I was beginning to think my vacation reads were all going to be disappointments! The tropical setting, with its canals and jungles and monsoons grabbed me, and I liked the way the POV is passed around among three women on different sides of the multifaceted political situation in Symir. Some things that didn’t work for me: I felt like I didn’t get much of a handle on how the gem-based magical system really works and Issylt didn’t live up to her billing as super-spy. But she’s a sympathetic enough character that I would follow her into a sequel. Also, as a fun aside, I was rather taken aback when one of the Middle Eastern-inspired character names was my maiden name–I don’t expect to run across my name in fantasy novels!
Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher: First off, a BIG thank you to my wonderful husband who drove most of the way home from Maine so I could finish reading this first volume of what promises to be a sweeping epic story. The Alerans are furycrafters, using the spirits of air and water, fire and earth, wood and metal, to protect, fight and build. But their homeland is in trouble as a rebellious High Lord works to overthrow the First Lord Gaius, and the savage Marat are on the move against them. Young Tavi, at fifteen, is unusual in that he has shown no ability to furycraft. When he finds himself thrust into the affairs of lords and armies, he must rely on his wits and courage. Tavi was a wonderfully sympathetic character (I really liked how he operated without the benefit of furycrafting), and the rest of the characters, both protags and antags, were compelling if not always likeable. This was the best of my vacation reads and I’m happy to note that all the books are out and waiting for me on bookstore/library shelves. Definitely recommended.
Any good reads this July?