One of the nice things about 2021 was that I finally seemed to get enough of my brain back to start reading novel-length work again. So I figured I’d chat about some of the highlights…
Nectar for the God, by Patrick Samphire. This is the sequel to Samphire’s Shadow of a Dead God, which I reviewed back in June 2020. Like the first book, this is quick-paced epic fantasy, following down-on-his-luck wizard Mennik Thorn as he once again gets in over his head with pretty much everyone and everything. This one had a darker tone, an almost Lovecraftian layer of deep, forgotten magic and gods. It also gives us more of Thorn’s background and what he went through with his mother, the high mage known as Countess. Overall, a bit grimmer than the first book, but still a fun read.
A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell. A near-future story about Doctor Janet Watson and the brilliant agent Sara Holmes. I really liked this take on Holmes and Watson, particularly the way it shows Watson working through the traumatic aftermath of her experiences in a modern U.S. civil war. Holmes is presented as a more mysterious character — a mystery Watson works to solve — and that approach worked for me. My one disclaimer is that if you own a MAGA hat and believe Trump won the 2020 election, you probably won’t enjoy this one.
The Purloined Poodle, by Kevin Hearne. This is a shorter book set in Hearne’s Iron Druid world, but told from the point of view of Oberon, the protagonist’s Irish Wolfhound. There’s a mystery plot and some magic, but the best part is the sheer fun of Oberon’s narration. Scheming for treats, watching out for suspicious squirrel activity … anyone who loves dogs will probably enjoy this one and the sequel.
A Game of Fox and Squirrels, by Jenn Reese. This is a powerful middle grade fantasy about an eleven year old girl who’s moved out of her parents’ home, and has to come to terms with the abuse she and her sister faced there. She starts out just wanting everything to go back to normal, and she discovers a magical quest that could grant her wish … but that wish comes with a cost. Her quest and the eponymous card game she learns about show different patterns of abuse and power and control. I know I said this already, but it’s a very powerful book.
This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. An award-winning love story between time traveling agents on opposite sides of an ongoing war. It’s beautiful and poetic and playful and dark and ultimately quite satisfying. Not a traditionally commercial page-turner, but very rich. I had to read this one more slowly.