November 2021 Book Blog

This is a proper winter list of books, the nights have lengthened and it’s cold and wet outside, so there’s even more time for reading. And I’m not complaining.

I started the month with two anthologies from National Flash Fiction Day. ‘Legerdemain’ is this year’s collection, on the theme of magic. ‘And We Pass Through’ is the 2019 collection, on the theme of Doors. I enjoyed these short glimpses into many different worlds and lives, and found several short stories that I genuinely loved.

My next read was ‘Recursion’ by David J Harrison. I know the author’s dad, but even if I didn’t I would probably have been intrigued by the premise of an alien time shifter lurking in a Lake District village. It’s a genuinely creepy story with some interesting ideas.

Then I moved onto Body Shocks, a new anthology of body horror stories, edited by Ellen Datlow. Whilst the anthology is new, the stories aren’t guaranteed to be, and I was pleased to find an old favourite, ‘Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report’ by Michael Blumlein, tucked in at the end of the book. There wasn’t a dud story in the book, but I was a little bit surprised not find any Lisa Tuttle or Tracy Fahey stories in there.

I picked up Madeline Miller’s ‘Circe’ secondhand at a charity fundraising event. It was practically forced on me by a friend who had read it previously and guessed that I’d love it. I did. The witch, Circe, appears in many old tales and this novel brings everything together and tells a story from her point of view. I found myself caring for the characters and rediscovering my teenage obsession with Greek mythology.

I passed Circe along to my niece, and decided that it was time to find out if I’d been right or wrong in buying pretty much the complete (so far) set of N K Jemisin’s novels. Other writers had recommended them, and I think I’d been avoiding them because I’d have felt a bit of an idiot if I’d hated them, Luckily, I loved them, Moving from ‘Circe’ to Jemisin’s ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ turned out to be an accidentally perfect move. Both books deal with the interactions of gods, the children of gods, and mortals, and both books throw in a fair amount of magic. Of course, I found myself half in love with Naha, the lord of shadows, and entertained by Sieh, the god of childhood, who is a very naughty boy indeed. The second book in the series is ‘The Broken Kingdom’ and deals with the downfall and slow redemption of the god of light, alongside the story of a blind woman who is trying to survive in a world newly awash with magic. A great story, well told. I liked the change in perspectives that gave us another way of looking at the protagonists of book 1. I’ll include the third book of the ‘Inheritence series’ in my November blog, because I just about started it in November and it keeps things tidy if I talk about it here. ‘The Kingdom of Gods’ is a thicker volume than the preceding books, and tells a more complex story, Sieh, the god of childhood, is sick. He’s growing up, and growing old, and he’s mortally in love with a pair of siblings from the family that cruelly kept him imprisoned for countless years. I really enjoyed this book, and the short story at the end of it, and hope that the author revisits these characters and this world at some point.

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