Orilium: The Novice Path – Readathon Wrap-Up

September and the new-and-improved Magical Readathon are over and it’s time to look back at the journey, see how I fared, what books accompanied me along the road, and what my character for upcoming Magical Readathons looks like.

I didn’t have as much time to interact with my fellow novices this time around, but I soaked up all the YouTube videos and blog posts about your TBRs and characters. Seriously, some of you got so creative with your character designs that it blows my mind!

I very much enjoyed the choices we had to make on the Novice Path (on Twitter and the Discord) and I wonder what they will mean. G from Book Roast created these amazing situations for us, like finding magical runes or getting caught in poisonous gas, and then we had to choose one out of four options on how to proceed. I’m sure our choices will have consequences for the next readathon and I can’t wait to find out all the details.


The Novice Path Journey

For the Novice Path, these are the books I read or am still reading. Two of the prompts remain only partly fulfilled and the easiest prompt of them all I didn’t even start. I thought “a book from the top of my TBR” would be an easy pick because I could just go with whatever I was in the mood for, but then time ran out and so that’s the one I haven’t even attempted.

BOOK TITLEREADING PROMPTFULFILLED
Robert Jordan – The Great HuntNovice Path Entrance reading
John Scalzi – The Consuming FireAshthorn Tree
Nicole Kornher-Stace – FirebreakMists of Solitude reading
Katherine Arden – Small SpacesRuin of the SkyeYES
Sarah Gailey – The Echo WifeObsidian Falls YES
Jordan Ifueko – RedemptorTower of Rumination YES
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes ThreeOrilion Academy YES

All things considered, I did very well and I am happy with how the readathon turned out. I started with a couple of shorter books but then ended up picking up chonkster after chonkster (what’s wrong with me?!).

  • Books read: 7
  • Pages read: 2641

That means I have surpassed the goal of the readathon but I haven’t reached my secret stretch goal of fulfilling all the prompts. I could have probably done it but life doesn’t only consist of reading, after all, and I don’t regret spending some of my time doing other things. 🙂


My Character

There is no urgency in creating my readathon character Sistani, but I still like that I managed to get most of her traits done in September. She’s a half-Iltirian half-Elf girl who lives on Kerador. She grew up in a big city and loves the bustling city life and its multicultural inhabitants. That last part you just have to believe me because I didn’t manage to read the book for the “urban” prompt yet.

BOOK TITLEPROMPTFULFILLED
Colson Whitehead – The Underground RailroadIltirianYES
Linden A. Lewis – The Second RebelKeradorYES
Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the SaintsUrban
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless MoonElfYES
Sistani

As there is still time until next April to create and polish our characters, I will definitely catch up on fulfilling the final prompt for my city girl. I may also come up with a more elaborate backstory for Sistani, just because it’s fun. You’ll see whether I followed through next March, I guess.

ETA: Last night, G revealed the consequences of those choices we made on the journey to Orilium Academy and I am so excited!!! Because our choices helped us find our Guild, which is basically our group of likeminded people at Orilium Academy but which also grants us each certain abilities, specialties, and probably weaknesses that will be relevant in the next instalment of the readathon.

My character turned out to be an Archivist, which totally cracks me up because they are essentially the nerdy book club of this fantasy world. 🙂
Our colors are white and gold, we can make a pact with a god (!) and we are granted access to the Academy’s incredible spiral library that goes all the way down into the crater the Academy is standing on.
I find the other three guilds really interesting as well and I’m certainly a bit jealous of their abilities but I feel very much at home in this one.


The Books (the long part)

The first book I finished was Small Spaces by Katherine Arden with its spooky cover and its spooky plot – fitting for Ruin of the Skye. This middle grade novel was exactly what I had hoped and 12-year-old me would have gobbled it up with even more delight. Young Ollie is still grieving for her dead mother and doesn’t really care about school or friends or much of anything anymore. When a school trip takes a dark turn, she has to take part in the world again, however, and she’ll learn that she has a lot to live for. Her delightfully non-cliché dad as well as the friends she picks up on the way make this a really charming read. There are creepy moments, of course, but it’s very mild and child-friendly which isn’t to say it’s stupid or dumbed down in any way. There is a cool backstory and nice world building about the particular creeps of this book (the cover gives you a big hint as to what that is). I really loved it and can’t wait to read the rest of the series. It’s the perfect reading slump antidote.

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad was the book that cemented my Iltirian heritage with its red cover. I’d say I knew some of what was coming, this being about an enslaved woman fleeing the plantation where she was born by using the (literal) Underground Railroad, but I really wasn’t prepared. I’ve read a fair amount of books with graphic descriptions of violence in them, and I expected the slave characters to be treated terribly, but Whitehead still managed to write scenes that absolutely punched me in the guts and made me gasp out loud. Was this a fun read? Hell no! Do I recommend it? Absolutely!

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is proof that this author has an endless amount of great ideas and knows how to tell a story. A recently divorced woman has to team up with her clone (with whom her ex-husband has been cheating) in trying to cover up the murder of said husband. Perfect thriller material for Obsidian Falls.
It’s about science and agency, about what it means to be human and how far technology should go. It’s about being a woman and not conforming to expectations (such as motherhood). It also has murder and betrayal and twists galore. I cannot praise its complicated characters enough or the way Gailey just always nails the pacing to keep you engaged every damn page. I loved this book.

Next up was The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino, a book that perfectly fit my current mood because Dark Academia just goes so well with the season and the weather and schools starting again. So I chose it for the Orilium Arc prompt. It started out well enough with dual POVs of its fleshed-out characters, each with quite complicated family lives. Tess and Eliot accidentally summon a demon and then have to deal with the aftermath. Sadly, there was a large slumpy part in this book, the solution was super unoriginal and the one tiny twist was predictable from miles away. I did like the understated romance and the characters as such, but the plot was paper thin and the whole supernatural aspect felt like it was thrown in there as an afterthought because there’s so little worldbuilding. This book wasn’t bad, but I think I’d much prefer to read a contemproray romance by this author.

Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko was my five star prediction and thus my book for the Tower of Rumination. This second part of the duology did many things really well, others suffered a bit because they needed more time to be fleshed out. I can’t believe I’m saying this but maybe a trilogy would have been better?
Either way, I adore Ifueko’s characters, the way she writes found families warms my heart, and the ending to this series felt like putting the last piece of a puzzle into its slot and smiling to yourself happily. I highly recommend this YA duology and I even more highly recommend reading them one right after the other. Especially if you like reading about diverse characters and found families.

My audiobook for the month was The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis, sequel to The First Sister and thus my choice for the Kerador prompt. I had more trouble than expected remembering everything that was important in the first book, so it took me a while to find my way back into this universe of warring factions, tech against religion, evil corporation versus rebel groups. But despite the many confusing things, I thoroughly enjoyed Lewis’ ideas, the diversity of the characters, their relationships to each other, and the excellent twists. Maybe when the third book comes out I’ll do a re-read of the first two and just eat up the trilogy in one go.

Lastly, I read one of my top two books of the month, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon. With its moon on the cover and in the title, this book made sure everyone knew my character is a (half) Elf. After my initial unwillingness to let go of beloved characters and follow a new protagonist, I quickly fell into this story of sabotage, life on the Moon, scientists being sciency, astronauts doing astronauty things, and the deep humanity of all people involved. In no way did I expect this book to touch me so deeply but I found myself crying several times. It does everything Kowal does best: hard sci-fi, mental health, racism and sexism, the beauty of science and the importance of love and friendships. Damn, this was a good book!


So yeah. This was a great readathon and I already look forward to April 2022 at the Orilium Academy! See you there. 🙂

Orilium: The Novice Path – Mid-Readathon Check-In

The first half of of G’s new and improved version of the Magical Readathon is over and it’s time for a little check in. We’re on our way to Orilium Academy, the place where we – the Magical Readathon community – shall spend the next few years studying the magical arts, learning about the lore of our land, and growing our characters.

I was lucky enough to spend a week of this readathon in beautiful Tuscany which was a much-needed little holiday. The pool was wonderful, the weather was amazing, the little towns we visited were gorgeous (also Florence, but that’s not so little). And the food! You guys, the Italians really have food figured out! I already miss the mozzarella and the nduja and the extra fluffy pizza dough and the olives and the Italian espresso… Then again, there were so many mosquitoes that my legs started looking like a body builders because of all the swollen areas. So being back home again has that going for it. No more mosquito bites. And catching up on the blog, of course.


The Journey

I have enterd the Novice Path Entrance by starting Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt but that one will probably take me all month and that’s okay. The recently released trailer for the TV show made me both more excited for the books and a little less excited about the adaptation. I like the actor choices a lot but the overly bright colors make everything look a bit cheap.
I have finished the prompt for Ruin of the Skye by reading Small Paces by Katherine Arden and I breezily skipped past Obsidian Falls with the very exciting The Echo Wife by the always original Sarah Gailey.
And because I finished my re-read of Raybearer on September 1st, I jumped right into the audiobook of Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko which led me to the Tower of Rumination. To make sure I don’t miss out on the Orilium Academy prompt, I am now in the middle of The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino. Reviews of finished books will be coming soon.

So far, my book choices have all been damn great and I’ve just been happily jumping around between these fantastic reads depending on my mood. I did also fix one of my character traits already, but more on that below.


Books Read

BOOK TITLEREADING PROMPTFULFILLED
Robert Jordan – The Great HuntNovice Path Entrance reading
???Ashthorn Tree
Holly Black – The Darkest Part of the ForestMists of Solitude
Katherine Arden – Small SpacesRuin of the SkyeYES
Sarah Gailey – The Echo WifeObsidian Falls YES
Jordan Ifueko – RedemptorTower of Rumination YES
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes ThreeOrilion Academy reading

I’ve already switched things around on my TBR in the very first week of the readathon! Originally, Sarah Gailey was my book pick for the standalone prompt but when that the book turned out to be a really exciting sci-fi thriller, I’ve moved it to the thriller prompt and added a Holly Black standalone novel I’ve been meaning to read for ages… I fully expect something like this to happen several more times throughout the month. 🙂


My Character

I wanted to save the character-related prompts for later in the month (or even year, depending on my reading speed) but I have to say, the more characters and backstories I see on Twitter and Discord, the more impressed I am with my fellow travelers and the more I get an itch to do more for my own character. I had decided on three basic traits:

  • Iltiran
  • Kerador
  • Urban

Now I have already thought about making my character half-Elf, just because I like Elves, they’re wise and beautiful and – in Aeldia, the world of this readathon – attuned to the stars and moon. That’s not at all like real me but I like the idea of that kind of character. I also quite enjoy the thought of the Elf and Iltirian romance which would eventually lead to my character being born. I can totally picture it in my mind. Head-in-the-clouds dreamer Elf man meets quick-witted and confident Ilitiran woman and after a lot of bickering they somehow end up together.

At the moment, my plan is to fulfill the three prompts above and then just read whatever I feel like. If those books happen to fit prompts for other character traits, I’ll check out my stats in the end and finalize my character. Her name, Sistani, was picked by my boyfriend, by the way, who finds this whole readathon business both cute and a little crazy but who humors me anyway. ❤

BOOK TITLEPROMPTFULFILLED
Colson Whitehead – The Underground RailroadIltirianYES
Linden A. Lewis – The Second RebelKeradorreading
Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the SaintsUrban
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless MoonElf

Magical Readathon 2021: Orilium – The Novice Path

Summer is slowly coming to an end and there’s still so much reading to do in 2021, so naturally what the book community needs is a new readathon. G from The Book Roast used to do a Harry Potter inspired Magical Readathon but didn’t feel comfortable with the theme anymore. So she has come up with another, even more brilliant, complex, beautifully illustrated and detailed readathon set in her very own magical world. There’s maps, people! And character sheets! For an introduction and all the information, watch the video below.

All the details, prompts, descriptions, and images are available here on Google Drive.

This month-long readathon is a sort of introduction to the world we’re going to play in for the next few years, so the main challenge is easy to achieve but you can always try and fulfill more prompts than strictly necessary. In order to complete this readathon, all you have to do is fulfil two of the seven prompts that we encounter on our journey to Orilion Academy. Starting next year (probably in April) this readathon will be about our studies at said Academy where we can achieve the title of Master. If you’re so inclined – and you can bet that I am – you can fulfill all seven prompts on the map.

But wait, there’s more! As an added challenge and in order to prepare for next year, you can create a character that you then play with. For the super fast readers out there, you can create as many characters as you want. That’s right, the readathon comes with character sheets and everything. G has also thought up some cool fantasy races, some of which are familiar but others are her own creations. They come with different affinities which will probably be important for later readathons.

I don’t know if you can tell but I am beyond excited. For someone like me who loves lists and challenges and playing around in a magical world with my own character, this is the best readathon I can imagine. Naturally, I am already frantically planning my TBR and trying to decide on my character traits.


The prompts and my tentative TBR

So this whole TBR planning isn’t as straight forward as you might think. The prompts are easy enough to fulfill but it turns out my TBR is full of big, chonky books and we all know those are not great readathon material. So I’ve picked a selection of books for each prompt and once September starts, I’ll see which way things go.

click to biggify

The Novice Path Entrance – read a book with a map

Robert Jordan – The Great Hunt

This one is a fixed choice because I want to read the Wheel of Time books mostly in one go. I’ve decided to try the first three to see if the series is for me at all (I’m liking the first, despite its heavy LOTR vibes) and then either quit the series or continue reading one book per month. It would be smart to make sure this is the only gigantic book on my TBR for September…

Ashthorn Tree – a book that keeps tempting you

C. J. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless Moon

I have a Graphic Audio version of Downbelow Station that I am super hyped for but I also loved the first two books in Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series and cannot wait to read the third, which is nominated for a Best Novel Hugo Award, with the trilogy as a whole nominated for Best Series. I will decide which one to pick based on format. If I feel more like an audiobook, C. J. Cherryh wins, if I want to read an ebook, it’ll be Mary Robinette Kowal.

Mists of Solitude – read a standalone

Sarah Gailey – The Echo Wife
Simon Jimenez – The Vanished Birds
Holly Black – The Darkest Part of the Forest

Jimenez is nominated for an Astounding Award this year and I’ve heard nothing but good things about his book. Sarah Gailey does brilliant new things with everything they write, so I’m quite excited to read their latest publication. No idea which one I’ll choose and technically, The Echo Wife would also work for the thriller prompt further down, so maybe I’ll switch it around a bit. For a completely different mood and setting, I have The Darkest Part of the Forest prepared, in case I prefer fairies and magic to time travel and clones.

Ruin of the Sky – read a book featuring ghosts/a haunted house, or other supernatural elements

Katherine Arden – Small Spaces
Seanan McGuire – Late Eclipses
Ryan Douglass – The Taking of Jake Livingston

I adored Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy but I haven’t yet tried her Middle Grade horror books. They look and sound adorable and creepy at the same time, so I’ll just pick the first one up. Should I not like it – and I very much doubt that – I still have the next Toby Daye book on my TBR. Although I don’t know the details about this one’s plot, there’s always supernatural stuff happening so I should be safe. And just to cater to a different mood, there’s a very new book that’s been compared to Get Out, so yeah, of course I need to read The Taking of Jake Livingston.

Obsidian Falls – read a thriller or mystery book

Catherynne M. Valente – Mass Effect: Annihilation
Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Velvet Was the Night
Jim Butcher – Storm Front

This is a tough one because these books sound really cool and one was written by my favorite author (Cat Valente). It will very much depend on my mood during September because although they are all thrillers/mysteries of a kind, they’re are about totally different things. One is a plague story on a space ship with alien species, one is a 1970s noir mystery, possibly with magic, and the third one is about a modern magician solving supernatural cases I think. I’m new to the Dresden Files, as you can probably tell.

Tower of Rumination – read a five star prediction

Jordan Ifueko – Redemptor
Hannah Whitten – For the Wolf
Sofia Samatar – The Winged Histories

Redemptor is my top choice and I will definitely read that one first, but having a backup plan is always a smart idea, so there’s two other books I think I will adore. It’s been too long since I read anything by Sofia Samatar but she satisfies that literary itch I sometimes get. And Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf just ticks so many of my boxes, I simply must end up loving this book

Orilion Academy – a book with a school setting

Victoria Lee – A Lesson in Vengeance
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes Three
R. F. Kuang – The Poppy War

Okay, so I probably won’t re-read the Poppy War during a readathon. Not only is it a biiiiig book but it’s also not exactly light in content and when I do re-read it, I want to then finish the trilogy in one go. But I’m keeping my options open, just in case I have too much time on hands. I do look forward to the other two books, however, both of which have a dark Dark Academia vibe. I am very much in the mood for that right now. They’re also by two authors I haven’t read yet so I’m always hoping to discover a new favorite.


My character sheet

The reading prompts that determine certain aspects of your character don’t have to be fulfilled in the month of September. There’s time until the next part of the Magical Readathon begins, which is April 2022. But because I like making lists and going through my TBR to see which books fit, I’m planning ahead a little and choosing the blueprint for my character.

My character Sistani

Background: Urban (a book set in a city or town)

I love foresty books as much as the next fantasy reader but I’ve always been a big fan of living in cities, so I want my character to be a city person too. Plus, speculative fiction books with a well-written city setting are among my favorites. You know, when the city seems to be a character in its own right. Possible books:

  • M. A. Carrick – The Mask of Mirrors
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • Nnedi Okorafor – After the Rain
  • Hope Mirrlees – Lud-in-the-Mist

Province: Kerador (a book from an ongoing series)

I admit it was tough not to choose Darkmeadow, what with the secret underground library (!) but “melting pot province” where all fantasy races come together and there is lots to see and do and discover just sounded too good to pass up. So this is where my character makes her home, in a bustling city on the continent Kerador where there’s a little bit of everything – art, music, parties, and friends from all over the world. Possible books:

  • Linden A. Lewis – The Second Rebel
  • Seanan McGuire – Late Eclipses
  • C. L. Clark – The Unbroken
  • Hannah Whitten – For the Wolf
  • Martha Wells – Fugitive Telemetry
  • Tasha Suri – The Jasmine Throne
  • Jessica Townsend – Hollowpox

Heritage: Iltirian (a book with a crow on the cover or in the title/with a red cover)

Iltirians are so not like me but I decided that my character can be whatever I want her to be and the shapeshifting (especially into crow form) was a very good selling point. Plus, spy librarians! Hello?! I’m not too keen on the red eyes and in real life, I am definitely not vegetarian, let alone vegan, but I’ve stayed true to myself with the other two prompts, so I’m allowed to go a little crazy with this one. Possible books:

  • Lindsay Ellis – Axiom’s End
  • Shelley Parker-Chan – She Who Became the Sun
  • Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
  • Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad

Heritage: Elf (a book with the moon/stars on the cover or the title)

Depending on how well my reading goes, I might make my character half-Elf just because I really like elves and this reading prompt. Possible books:

  • Mary Robinette – Kowal – The Relentless Moon
  • Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
  • Shveta Thakrar – Star Daughter

Orilium Academy (artwork by @Lisa)

I cannot wait to get started and to see you all on the journey (on blogs, BookTube, Twitter, and Discord), chat about books, exchange recommendations, discover new stuff to read, and just have fun. The Magical Readathon being back is so wonderful. Thanks to G for the enormous amount of work and love she pours into it every year! ❤