a must-read author
A children’s book writer and artist, Chris Judge, lives down the street from my parents. Last year, or the year before, he gave them two of his (quite charming) books for Young Indiana, who is very fond of them. (My parents gave them fudge. When Dad arrived at their house with it, Herself answered the door and said, “Oh! Thank you! We were just discussing what to have for dinner.” :))
I saw on Friday that Chris’s new book, THE SNOW BEAST, had just come out, and I told Indy about it. “A SNOW beast?!” he cried. “It must be a YETI!” Anyway, nothing would do but we go get the book immediately, so Saturday we did that, and we read it twice in a row last night before bedtime.
So I told Chris on Facebook that he had become my son’s first must-buy author, and Chris responded with an “aww shucks thanks!” sort of thing, but best of all was that his FB icon is a picture of the Beast, which Indy saw and said, “The Beast?!”
I said, “Yes, I’m talking to the man who wrote the Beast books.”
Indy bellowed, “CHRIS JUDGE?!?!?! YOU HAVE HIS TEXT NUMBER?!?! THAT’S AMAZING!!!!!”
And so it is. :) :) :)
Recommended Reads: Hunter, Tzavelas, Sperring
The other day on Twitter someone said she’d just finished all the Walker Papers, and now what was she going to read! So I made some suggestions, and not only she but several other people were delighted. So I thought maybe I’d try to make Recommended Reads a regular blog feature (in so far as anything is a regular blog features these days @.@), separate from the Recent Reads I generally try to do.
I figure the point of this isn’t just to list names—I could do that for weeks—but to give a few more in-depth reasons as to why I’m recommending these particular writers. So I’ll start with the three I recommended on Twitter the other day, and we’ll go from there!
Faith Hunter: I specifically recommended Faith to this reader because she’d just finished the Walker Papers and I figured if she liked one 6′ tall, Cherokee-heritage urban fantasy female lead she’d probably like another. It’s shooting close to the mark, and if you’re recommending books to people it’s nice to have one pretty sure fire hit in the list.
I obviously like Faith’s work very much: so much, in fact, that we ended up writing a crossover novella, EASY PICKINGS, which features both Joanne and Faith’s main character Jane. Faith is insanely good at sensory detail—I invariably get hungry for Cajun food reading her books—and she’s got that knack for romance that plays at a level both intriguing and not embarrassing.
Chrysoula Tzavelas: I specifically recommended Soula to this reader because it’s staying within the urban fantasy realm, but straying a little farther away from the Walker Papers: her protagonists are younger, so her books skirt the YA field. She shifts points of view from book to book, making her Senyaza series a much more ensemble cast than the Walker Papers, although it shares some of the more metaphysical qualities (the 3rd book, for example, takes place almost entirely in what Joanne would call the Lower World, although it’s nothing at all like Jo’s Lower World).
Chrysoula uses analogy, metaphor and description beautifully, like, to the level that I was recently enthusing at her about us maybe doing a crossover and then I read some astonishingly beautiful bit of writing in WOLF INTERVAL and was like “except if we do a crossover you will totally show me up as a fake and a charlatan…” :) She also writes terrific stories of female friendship, which is practically unheard of.
Kari Sperring: Kari writes epic fantasy, so I was shooting wider of the mark by recommending her to this reader, but I feel pretty confident that if a reader likes the lyricism of Chrysoula’s writing they’re going to find something to love about Kari’s. I can do, to some degree or another, what Soula and Faith do. Kari’s writing is outside my skill set, and that’s part of why I love it so much.
The pacing of Kari’s writing is very different from the above two writers. Urban fantasy tends to be pretty ruthlessly action-oriented with no space for breathers, but what Kari does is set the reader into a slow current that runs very deep. These aren’t books that throw the stories at you: they unfold the story with beautiful, inexorable strength, and it’s a wonderful journey.
Recommended Reads: The Crossroads Trilogy
(This post was written over the course of a few weeks.)
I read Kate Elliott’s SPIRIT GATE a few years ago when it first came out, and have had the sequels sitting on my shelf for over a year, unread because (as I may have mentioned previously) being a full-time writer (and Mommy!) really cuts into your reading time. So I wanted to re-read SPIRIT GATE before tackling the other two, ’cause I barely remembered what had happened in it.
I liked it even better the second time through, which seems to be something of a trend for me and epic fantasy. I suspect I read too fast to appreciate all the nuances and story developments the first time through, and that I catch them more solidly the second time, even if it’s been a long time since I’ve read it.
What I particularly noted this time through was Kate’s descriptive abilities. I honestly have no idea how she does it, even when I’m sitting there reading and trying to analyze it. Someday in my copious free time I’m going to have to try my hand at real epic fantasy, and go beg her for help. :) Anyway, as usual with Kate’s work, it’s a great solid book of good characters, alarming encounters, desperate measures and inevitable conclusions. If you like epic fantasy and haven’t read it, do. :)
SHADOW GATE: The second book in the Crossroads trilogy is stronger than the first, I think, and that’s even with enjoying the first very much. I’ve been friends with Kate a while now and it’s really interesting to see what she talks about in her blog posts being reflected in her stories–things I wouldn’t necessarily have noticed actively on my own. There’s a *lot* of (not just women, but very often women) playing the hand they’re dealt, no matter how dreadful that hand might be, and it’s making for astonishingly good characterization. As a reader I completely understand where each of the characters is coming from (even if I don’t necessarily like the character very much), and that’s pure gold both from a reader’s and a writer’s perspective.
Also, holy crap, someone I totally didn’t expect to died and I’m still a bit O.O over it. Actually, two people, though the second one I probably should have seen coming because it’s going to totally cause everything to go to hell (and also probably maneuver a major character into the position that appeared to be inevitable when I began reading the trilogy. But maybe not, so I’m all eager to find out!), whereas the first one is sheerly “BUT HEY WAIT NO I LIKED THAT ONE WAIT STOP ACK!” O.O
Cannot. Wait. To read the third book! Eee!
TRAITORS’ GATE: The inevitable totally failed to happen, and something else obvious and yet completely surprising happened instead. This is the strongest book of the trilogy, and it ends beautifully, although my instant reaction was NEXT BOOK PLEASE AGGHGLGL! Somewhere in the last third of the book, when it became clear what had been going to happen all along even though I had utterly, completely not seen it coming, I started panicking: how were they going to get out of this? And then: Oh, crap, they’re not AGHGLGLGH NEXT BOOK PLEASE! Furthermore, it became increasingly apparent that Kate Elliott has subscribed to the GRRM School of Epic Fantasy*, where nobody is safe, and I really had no idea who was going to come out of it alive, which was terrific. I love that palpable sense of distress as a reader, watching the tragic inevitabilities unfold and wondering how it’ll affect the characters. And there are highs to meet the lows, love stories that are not romantic or which break the rules of the societies the characters come from, so it’s a beautiful, satisfying ending to a whacking big epic fantasy.
Looking back at the trilogy, it’s…it’s epic fantasy on a personal scale. I mean, epic fantasy has to be or you’d just be listening to someone narrate “And then this happened, then this happened, then that happened.” But the Crossroads Trilogy dives into the hearts and stories of individuals in a way I’ve rarely encountered. One set of major characters, the reeves, who fly with giant eagles, can literally see it all from above, but despite that, the story is very much told from the ground level. There are battles, but at most we get glimpses of them from an eagle-eye view; mostly we see them from the points of view of soldiers and slaves, from people who have lost everything to the war and from those who, having lost everything, are willing to sacrifice the last thing they have to end or profit from: themselves.
The pacing is therefore…not, perhaps, what one would expect from epic fantasy. There are tangents, stories told not precisely because they drive the main thrust of the books, but because they reflect the world as a whole, and how it’s being changed, and how the people in it are being changed, and the choices they have to make and live with. If I had written this (nevermind Kate Elliott’s descriptive abilities, which far outshine my own), it wouldn’t have delved into so many characters so deeply, telling their stories alongside the main thread. It wouldn’t have really occurred to me to do that, even though I’ve enjoyed other writers who’ve done the same kinds of things. The worldbuilding here is astonishing and deep, and I would happily, happily spend many more books in the Hundreds. Hell, despite its problems, I’d be pretty happy to spend some real time in the Hundreds, and I feel like I’d even have a fair grasp of the customs and behaviors expected of me, which is quite something for a purely fantasy world.
*She may have subscribed to this a long time ago. I’m afraid it’s been so long since I’ve read Jaran or the King’s Dog books that I simply can’t remember anymore. :)