So, I like this guest post by Sherwood Smith, just up over at Fantasy Book Cafe.
Modern history toward the front, grading into this:
“There were also the games, such as ‘portraits’. These are verbal, or written, pictures of famous court figures, delving behind the courtly mask. One is described cleverly, sometimes in poetry, and perhaps secrets revealed or alluded to. Then participants must guess who is depicted.
Madame de Sevigny and her cousin Bussy-Rabutin were hailed everywhere as quite good at this game, but where the latter confined himself to scoring off the king’s mistresses with his wickedly apt observations (and ended up kicking his heels in the Bastille), Madame Sevigny was far more delicate. And insightful.
She was also good friends with one of the blockbuster best-seller novelists of the day, Madame de la Fayette, whose La Princesse de Clèves went through countless editions. Everyone in Europe was reading it, as well as her other works. Now it is sometimes counted as the first modern French novel, the first psychological novel, but for centuries, the only writers of the period you heard about in school were Moliere, Descartes, Cervantes, and of course the great (male) writers of England.
Yet I venture to say that Madame de la Fayette was at least as influential; people were not only buying her novels for the stories, they were using them to winnow out the ways of court. Or, put a different way, the novels had become guides to civilization, the rules of etiquette. And what is more fundamental in shaping the way we behave and think?”
French history and the history of women writers — very interesting to read about! There’s lots more in this post, which you should certainly click through to and read if you have a moment.
But! The pressing question for me now is, since I somehow have never read anything at all by Sherwood Smith, what should I try? I like complicated history and politics in a fantasy novel, so lots of them sound good.
I will say I just picked up a couple of titles on my Kindle, but I picked them pretty much at random from a long, long list of titles. Anybody Sherwood Smith fans out there want to give me an extra pointer?
8 thoughts on “Soon-to-read: Sherwood Smith”
I LOVE her YA duology (which has been republished as one book) Crown Duel and Court Duel. I’ve entirely failed to get through the adult books I’ve tried. I’ve really wanted to like her other books, and I do like the attention to detail. I’ve just been bogged down in the sheer length of them all. But that might just be me, as I’m less and less able to read adult SFF at the moment. Nevertheless, I highly recommend Crown/Court Duel as lovely comfort books.
Inda, the first in that series, is a really strong and memorable book. It’s got very complicated politics and history but from the point of view of a young boy into teenager. Lots to go with loyalty, strength, being a good ruler, etc. I liked the whole series actually but Inda was my favorite. And they are not short books.
If you want a sort of quicker read (and stand alone), I love Danse de la Folie. It is exactly as described, light Regency folly but filled with manners and politenesses typical of that time.
Whatever you pick, definitely don’t wait to try some by Smith!
I vote for either Crown Duel or Coronets & Steel to begin with. The former if you want high fantasy and the latter if low. Also, the latter is very intensely political, more adult than young adult (in my opinion), while the latter is more adventure-y (though still plenty political and with interesting world-building), and more YA.
I sometimes like long novels, but I admit recently I haven’t often felt much need for a complicated long epic fantasy. I think I’ll try some of her YA first.
I’m so pleased to see recommendations for CROWN DUEL, since by pure change it’s one of the ones I bought for my Kindle — yes, the duology edition. I’ll add INDA to my wishlist, now, too. And CORONETS — I like politics in my fantasy, if it’s handled well. Thanks for the suggestions!
I also enojyed the Inda series, which is on par with Greg Keyes, or Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, or Raymond Fiest. But If you’re not in an epic fantasy mood, I’d actually recommend her fairy tale flavored middle grade series starting with Wren to the Rescue before the YA wars-and-thrones fantasy Crown Duel. The heroine of Crown Duel exhibits a kind of flailing, willful ignorance and stupidity similar to that of other protagontists you have disliked in the past.
Ouch! Thanks for the warning about the heroine of Crown Duel, Janet. Even if she drives me crazy, I’ll definitely check out the Wren one before deciding how I feel about Smith as a writer.
I’d say Meliara is earnest and misguided but she really does grow during her adventure in Crown Duel – the new BVC ebook version has the added benefit of one more revision AND at the end of the book bonus pov-scenes from Meliara’s eventual beloved (of what he was doing/thinking in the scenes were they were at odds, for example).
I admit to liking him better than Meliara, too, but I discovered Sartorias when I was in my 30s, I would have LOVED her as a teenager. So I also enjoyed the prequel about her future husband A Stranger to Command, which does Marloven Hess military academy life 800 years after Indas time and has only ONE viewpoint character.
I like A Posse of Princesses a lot and the much more together heroine and her mother (but then the heroine is in her 20s and not 16, like Meliara) of Sasharia En Garde (Once a Princess + Twice a Prince).
Admittedly I loved the epic scope of the Inda series, too, because I cared for more than just Inda, although he remains the lynchpin.
Thanks for your input! I’ll be braced for a certain amount of misguided idiocy, so hopefully I’ll enjoy Meliara. So glad to have had a warning, though. I believe A Stranger To Command is one I also picked up, so I’ll definitely look forward to that one. And I’ll add Once A Princess to my wishlist, too, now, since I do think a “much more together” heroine sounds great.
Really looking forward to diving into Sherwood Smith’s books! Very Soon Now, I hope.