This month was a bit of a mixed bag. I read some fluff and some not so fluff. I read a story set in the most incredible, detail-rich world, and I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. I was surprised; I was disappointed. The surprise, at least, was a good one.
Lily Tuck’s I Married You For Happiness rushed by. If I had to pick a single word to describe the story of a woman remembering her life with her husband on the night of his death, I’d go with poignant. It was. Sometimes you get the sense Nina loved her husband more than he loved her, that sometimes she was a pet or a small child to be indulged. But with each page, you can feel Nina’s pain growing, her shock giving way to the knowledge she’ll never get to hear her husband tell her about his day again. I probably would have cried if I hadn’t been reading so fast, but I felt like I was racing with Nina to hold on to something that would disappear as soon as the sun rose.
I’d enjoyed the Jane Yellowrock novels by Faith Hunter, so I thought I’d try her first novel, Bloodring. In an odd, post-apocalyptic world stuck in a new ice age, where religions have morphed and melded, Thorn is a mage forced to hide what she is. In this new world, mages are not welcome amongst the general population. But when her ex-husband disappears, hiding what she is from the people around her becomes ever more complicated. I wanted to like this book. I really did. Hunter excels at world-building, and if you’re looking for an example to study, this would be my recommendation. The world she’s created, the characters, the backstory, it’s all lush and detailed. But the pacing is slow, and the final fight just felt…off.
Speaking of wanting to like something better…Archangel’s Storm, Nalini Singh’s latest Guild Hunter novel, definitely qualifies. Jason, Archangel Raphael’s spymaster, is sent to another archangel’s court to help with the investigation into the death of her husband. Despite his reservations, he ends up in the arms of her niece, a rather innocent young angel. The biggest problem I had with this story was, unfortunately, Jason himself. He’s quiet. Too damn quiet, and too damn reserved to be terribly interesting. Frankly, he didn’t do it for me as a romantic hero, although there were other parts of the story to love: the overall dark tone, the glimpses we got into Honor and Dmitri’s new life together, and the heroine, Mahiya. But the end result was it just left me wanting Singh to get on to Venom’s story already, except her release schedule says the next story in the series will be another Raph and Ellie story. I’m down with that-what’s not to love about a recently Made angel who’s taken on a big, bad Archangel?
I was starting to get a little worn out with all the lackluster stuff I’d been reading lately, so I pulled out my copy of Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to re-read. I’ve read this story many, many times. So many times, in fact, my parents bought me a hardcover version ten years ago, to replace my falling apart paperback. And as I cracked it open and fell into the comfort of the familiar story, I realized something. I hadn’t read the book since my parents gave it to me. How I could have gone a decade without reading this story is just all kinds of wrong.
I put it aside when I got Cast in Peril, the next book in Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series. I wrote a much longer, more detailed review over on Goodreads, but in sum, this book was probably my favorite out of the last two or three. The Kaylin/Severn relationship is hands down one of my favorite non-couple couples in fiction today. Whatever journey Kaylin’s making, toward discovering herself, her limits, her weaknesses, the edges of the abilities she’s been gifted, he’s there with her, every step of the way, never once saying a word. Basically, Severn is the perfect guy, only you don’t realize it until someone else points it out. This book was less about the action and more about character, and Sagara never falters when she’s building character. Kaylin grows with each outing, as does Severn, and the way they relate to each other changes and grows with them. But this time around, it’s not just them. Teela, their fellow Barrani High Lord and Hawk, is along for the ride (or journey, as it is, since they’re traveling to the West March) and Sagara’s got something up her sleeve for Cast in Sorrow. Seriously. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, you should.