Recent Reads: Gilman, Pierce, Sutherland
Non-Existent Person Asks: I think I have been very patient. Ever since your blog entry about Books of Wonder, I have been waiting with bated breath for you to report back on the three books you bought there. Bated breath, I tell you! But day after day, nothing! What gives?
Sarah Replies: Aw, is someone grumpy? Did you not get any chocolate today?
Non-Existent Person: You hid the rest of the Halloween candy.
Sarah: It's on top of the fridge behind the rolls of paper towels.
[Non-Existent Person wanders off to fridge.]
Hey, don't you want to hear about those books?
Okay, well, I'm going to talk about them anyway. A couple weeks ago, I went into the Big City to attend a book signing at Books of Wonder by three magnificent authors: Laura Anne Gilman, Tamora Pierce, and Tui Sutherland. It was the first time I'd ever been to Books of Wonder, and it took enormous self-restraint not to purchase everything in the store. Including the cupcakes. (The store shares space with the Cupcake Cafe.) Anyway, I did allow myself to buy a book by each of the three authors.
First, I read THE CAMELOT SPELL by Laura Anne Gilman. I devoured this one on the train ride home from NYC. Very fun. King Arthur's knights are on the verge of embarking on their quest for the Holy Grail when all the adults in Camelot fall asleep (as in magic-spell sleep, not partied-too-hard-the-night-before sleep). Three kids have to save them. Best part about this book (other than the concept itself) is that the kids seem very real as they bicker and banter their way across England. Gilman also captures the class differences between the kids. They don't feel like modern kids in medieval outfits; they fit their world. This gives the novel a depth beyond its main adventure.
Second, I read SO THIS IS HOW IT ENDS by Tui T. Sutherland on the plane ride to World Fantasy Convention. This is a very appropriate book to read when you're up in a plane looking down on the world in miniature... It's about the end of the world. Five teens suddenly find themselves among the last humans alive. Virtually everyone else has vanished, everything has aged, and freaky crystal monsters are hunting the kids. The kids need to (a) find each other, and (b) find out what the heck happened. Sutherland tells the story in alternating narratives and succeeds in the impressive feat of making all the different storylines equally interesting. Usually, when I read a book with multiple points-of-view, I skip ahead to the stories that I like best, but with this book I liked all the stories -- though I admit to having a special fondness for the bit with the talking bird.
Third, I read TERRIER by Tamora Pierce. It's a big, fat hardcover so no planes or trains were involved in reading this book. Just me, a comfy couch, and a cat on my lap. :) Anyway, this book is about Beka Cooper, a girl who wants to be one of the Provost's Dogs (essentially, beat cops in a medieval city). She is apprenticed to two "dogs" who work one of the roughest sections of the city, and she takes on solving two violent crimes. If you've read my prior blog entries (here and here), you know that Tamora Pierce is my favorite author. I love all her books, and TERRIER is no exception. She creates wonderful heroines (Alanna the brave girl-knight, Kel the cool-headed commander, Aly the brilliant spy, and now Beka the tenacious crime-solving guard). Beka is a fabulous character, distinct from Pierce's other protagonists but just as heroic. I cheered for her the whole time. And I adored her magnificent feline sidekick. (Wish my cat were that smart.) If you've never read anything by Pierce before, this is an excellent book to start with. You don't have to have read any of her other novels before this one (since it's set two hundred years prior to the others in this world). Also if you don't usually read fantasy but want to try it out, this is an excellent book to start with. It is more about solving crimes and the awesome protagonist than it is about magic, so it makes a good introduction to the genre.
One added bonus to all three novels: all three are book one of their respective series (GRAIL QUEST, AVATARS, and BEKA COOPER). So you don't have to say good-bye to the characters when you close the book!
[Non-Existent Person returns with chocolate.]
Non-Existent Person: So, what did I miss?