Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Holiday Reads

A lucky quirk of fate has resulted in my having five days off in a row this week - hurray for unexpected holidays! I've read two books - Emma Newman's 'Any Other Name' and Catherynne Valente's 'The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There'. 
Angry Robot, £8.99

   'Any Other Name' is the follow-up to this Spring's release in the Split Worlds series - 'Between Two Thorns' (you can find my review here). It's due for release on June 6th. 'Any Other Name' picks up directly where the first novel leaves off, as Cathy prepares for the very advantageous match which has been made for her by her family and their Patron. It doesn't matter in Fae high society that this marriage is the last thing that Cathy wants - her parents and family elders have total control of her fate. 'Any Other Name' continues some of the plotlines introduced in the first novel, as well as presenting new locations, characters, and phenomena - Max the arbiter continues his investigation into the strange events concerning his colleagues, Sam the mundane (person untouched by Fae magic) tries to help some of the 'innocents' captured by Fae in the first book, and we discover London society and its brightest stars, and the mysterious members of the Elemental Court.
   The strange conventions of Fae society continue to bear more resemblance to the Edwardian era than to the modern day, which makes it particularly hard for Cathy - who has lived for a time in the modern world - to accept once again her place in her family and next to her husband. She is expected to attend to interior decorating, hiring of servants, embroidery, and the perpetuation of her husband's family name. It makes interesting reading from this perspective alone, as we see how Cathy struggles to figure out how exactly she is going to bring about wholesale change in this backward social group.
   This seems like a classic 'middle book' in a series, with the accompanying issues. How to develop characters and plotlines, achieve perhaps minor but no major resolution, while maintaining the interest of readers. This novel does manage the feat quite well, but I didn't feel that it also forms a novel which could satisfyingly be read as a standalone, which is disappointing. I have to say that, while so many of them are amazing (and this one is very good), I'm very bored at the moment with the obsession of publishers for making any science-fiction or fantasy novel into a series. I'm dying to read a couple of good new standalone novels! (Suggestions in a comment, if you have any!) Having said all of that, this series is well worth the read, and Cathy is a fantastically sympathetic creation - I rooted for her as I haven't for a character in a while.
   As you may know if you've come across my blog before, Catherynne Valente is one of my
Constable and Robinson, £9.99
absolute favourite authors (my review of 'Deathless' is here). 'The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There' is the sequel to the much-lauded 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making', which was released last year (my review is here).

   I really want to avoid any spoilers of either book here, as I love them both so much and really want everyone to read them. Suffice it to say that September is a little older and wiser in this instalment - she returns to the magical world of Fairyland and discovers that all is not well there. In the course of her adventures she meets a host of new characters - the Duke of Teatime and his wife the Vicereine of Coffee, Aubergine the Night-Dodo who is a student of Quiet Physics, gets a Watchful dress, and takes a ride on an Electric Eel. The illustrations are once again by Ana Juan, and are simply beautiful. These are marvelous adventures, written with a clarity and fluidity which is just miraculous.
Illustration from The Girl Who Fell Beneath.., Ana Juan