Books in the Queue – The Currently Reading Edition

Hello, fellow lovers of books. This month I believe I have taken on a bit too much. What with various challenges, my ever-changing mood and the poor books that have been queueing for a while, my current Books in the Queue is almost identical to my Currently Reading list.

China Miéville – Un Lun Dun (finished March 9th)

un lun dunChina Miéville is the guy I would like to have discovered when I was a teenager. I’m not sure my 14-year-old self would have made it through Perdido Street Station, but this young adult novel is just so  much fun. I picked it up because I wanted a nice big book that I could nibble at a little each night (and it’s on my TBR-challenge list). A mere couple of days later, I find I’m halfway done with the book. What? How did that happen? So I’m reading what feels like a little every day and just having fun discovering UnLondon. I am especially in love with the sentient empty milk carton, Curdle.

dividerJuliet Marillier – Daughter of the Forest (finished 19th March 2013)

daughter of the forest1I have owned this book for so long, I can’t even remember. A few days ago, I finally picked it up (again, that TBR-challenge got to me) and found myself liking it quite a bit. I notice that I am reading this very slowly. I had a few hours at my disposal on the weekend and read, and read, and read. In the end, I saw that I had gotten about 50 pages into the book. It’s the opposite Miéville effect. That said, I really don’t mind. I like large books that slowly build an entire world and let me get into the characters’ heads. Sorcha, the protagonist, is a likable young girl, whom I enjoy following around. I am looking forward to the part where The Six Swans retelling begins, though. Also, I find myself looking for good music to go along with this book. It feels like it needs a soundtrack… any recommendations?

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Martha Wells – Emilie and the Hollow World (finished 29th March 2013)

emilie and the hollow worldI got an e-ARC of this and have been reading on and off in it for several weeks. For a short book, it’s taking me an enormous amount of time. And it’s not bad at all. Emilie runs away from home to catch a ship to her cousin’s place. She ends up on the wrong ship and has to join an expedition to the inside of the Earth (vie aether current). I enjoy the adventure quite a bit. My only problem was that Emilie, in my mind, is about 12 years old and behaves as such, but in the book, it is said she is 16. I’m just ignoring the author and imagining my 12-year-old anyway. Right now, I’m about halfway through this Jules Verne-esque YA adventure book.

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Here’s the actually queueing books (that I haven’t started)

Caitlín R. Kiernan – The Red Tree

red treeWhy do I want to read this? If you haven’t read my gushing review of The Drowning Girl, you won’t know how much I need to read another one of this author’s books. I have no idea what this one is about (and I don’t need to), except that there is another unreliable narrator. And I do love me some of those. If Caitlín Kiernan’s books are at all alike in style, theme, or darkness level, I believe I have a new favorite author on my hands. An author I would never have picked up because I find the covers unappealing. Thank you, Worlds Without End.

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Dubravka Ugrešić – Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

baba yaga laid an egWhy do I want to read this? It’s all Catherynne M. Valente’s fault, really. She tore my heart out with Deathless and gave me a taste of Russian mythology. Ever since I read Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana,  I wanted to learn more about rusalki. Then Cat Valente comes along and introduces me to Baba Yaga. I now know that I have been missing out on Russian fairy tales for a long time. I will start my journey of discovering Russian mythology with this book here. I heard very mixed things about it and am not sure at all that I will like it – but I’ll give it a shot.

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And the rest…

You may think these aren’t all that many books, right? But of course, I’m still trying to read as many of the Nebula nominees as I can fit into my free time (I do have that annoying time killer called work to think about, after all. Plus another semester at university.) as well as some other books I’ve started and am somewhere in the middle of:

  • Connie Willis – Blackout
  • Tina Connolly – Ironskin
  • John Crowley – Engine Summer (finished April 21st)
  • Meljean Brook – The Iron Duke
  • Stephen King – Wolves of the Calla
  • Leo – Betelgeuse (The Worlds of Aldebaran cycle 2) (finished April 19th)

Other than that, I still have a lot of catching up to do for my older Books in the Queue. Patrick Ness’ Monsters of Men is eagerly awaiting to be read, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been jumping at me for months now, Jean-Cristophe Valtat’s Aurorarama just looks at me with sad puppy eyes from my shelf. And I won’t even mention The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood (edit: Ha! Finished it. It was awesome.). It gives me a serious case of guilty conscience for being in my late twenties and not having read it yet.

Guy Gavriel Kay – Tigana

I am huge fan of book-related podcasts and without the Sword & Laser show I probably would have let this book rot on the TBR pile for even longer. Thankfully, it was this month’s pick for their book club and I enjoyed myself immensely. Be sure to check out the discussions on Goodreads as well. For the paranoid ones among you: I shortened the synopsis (as the original one contains some massive spoilers) to a minimum. So this review is absolutely spoiler-free.

TIGANA
by Guy Gavriel Kay

published: Penguin Canada, 1990
ISBN: 0451457765
pages: 673
copy: paperback

my rating: 9,5/10

first sentence: Both moons were high, dimming the light of all but the brightest stars.

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Brandin’s younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana’s royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer, and Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family’s guilt.

A book of this size can be daunting, even for the experienced fantasy reader. The prologue started out promising enough, but in chapter 1 I was completely lost. Names are thrown around, political situations gossiped about and me, poor reader, in the middle of it all, not understanding any of it. Then I got some advice from the reading group which I will now pass on to you, dear readers. Just make it to chapter 3 or 4 and the initial confusion will be gone. At that point, this book had its hooks firmly set into me and wouldn’t let them go until the very end.

For me, the perfect novel needs to excel on all levels. Characters and their development, plot, themes, world-building and writing style. Tigana is nearly perfect in all of those. The characters got to me in a way that I haven’t experienced since Robin Hobb’s books. Incidentally, Kay’s style is also somewhat similar to Hobb’s. Attentive Devin, Alessan with his dream, seemingly cold Catriana, and mysterious Baerd each took their own time to become truly interesting but in the end, I cared for every one of them. My favorite character by far was Dianora – I could have read a whole book just about her internal conflict. That said, Erlein also grew to be a favorite – I do have a thing for characters who have to fight conflicts within themselves.

Speaking of conflict: Until the very end, I had no idea what conclusion the story would reach. It could have gone either way and honestly, Kay probably would have pulled either of them off. I am very pleased with the way it did end, even though it was bittersweet and broke my heart a little. Because of all the incredible plot  twists along the way, my hopes for the characters actually changed quite a bit. Kay’s slow revelation of certain truths and other twists that come with a bang managed to create a huge novel without a boring moment in it.

The more I advanced in the story line, the more moments of WTF I can’t believe this just happened came up. And Guy Gavriel Kay drew me into this tale of patriotism and memory and made me fall in love. With the incredible things I had heard about Kay’s writing,  I should have been disappointed. But my high expectations were surpassed, and by far. I came to care about Tigana as if it were my home too.

It’s not a book I’d recommend to everyone. If you don’t like Guy Gavriel Kay’s winded language, long descriptions, or if you hate waiting for a particular plotline to pick up again, this is not for you. If you do like these things – or at least don’t mind them – then let me push Tigana your way. It is definitely worth the read and personally, I enjoyed every page of description, of inner conflict and of characters reminiscing and dreaming about a home that has been taken from them and for the moment only lives on in their memories.

However different opinions may be, for me this was an absolute standout. A book that accompanied me for more than a month and that, when I wasn’t reading it, kept me thinking and worried about the characters. Most of all, it constantly kept me guessing. The ending is a highlight that I can’t begin to describe. But I loved that while the reader finds out the truth about certain things, not all of the characters do. And I’m not even going to start about that last sentence. My mouth was agape for about a minute. Guy Gavriel Kay just got catapulted to my top authors (and people say Tigana is one of his not-so-great novels).

THE GOOD: Amazing, vivid characters. Gorgeous language, plot-twists, surprises and action mixed with calmer moments that make you think long and hard about what’s important.
THE BAD: The language is sure to put some people off. It takes a while for the story to pick up and the style is sweeping and flowers. Not for everybody.
THE VERDICT:  Fans of Robin Hobb’s writing will find a new favorite in this story. Similarly epic in scope and style, this story deals with big themes and all-too-human characters that break your heart on every page.

RATING: 9,5/10  Damn close to perfection!

Other reviews: