Recent Reading: Stained Glass Monsters and The Sleeping Life by Andrea K Höst

I hope you all had a merry Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas, or at the very least a pleasant weekend. A nice quiet Christmas here: all adults, no children. Nice, but not as exciting as a Christmas with lots of kids running all over the place.

We had such a non-white Christmas here in south-central Missouri: sixty degrees and light mist/drizzle/fog all day. It’s going to be the same today, I believe. Possibly it will be dry enough to take a couple of the dogs hiking. Still, though I do like a white Christmas, this is far nicer than an ice storm.

Meanwhile, recent reading — lately I’ve had more time than usual for reading, plus this dratted cold is dragging on a bit, which makes me look for comfort reads. So I finally opened up almost my last unread Andrea K Höst novel, Stained Glass Monsters:

When a motionless woman dressed in white appears in the village of Falk, Kendall has no inkling that the strange apparition will soon leave her homeless and tangled in the affairs of mages and monsters…

What a creepy image that is. An unconscious woman in white, lying on her back with her arms spread. Too heavy for anyone to lift, the air surrounding her heavy as well.

No doubt in a different kind of story the woman would seem helpless. Harmless. Saving her could be the object of someone’s quest. Not in this story. In this story, she’s a portent of disaster.

Kendall is kind of at the edge of events through the whole first book of this duology. She might be a mage someday, but at the moment she just makes pebbles quiver slightly. She’s an interesting pov character, though. Suspicious, practical, irreverent. Not accustomed to magic or well versed in history, which allows Höst to explain things to the reader smoothly and unobtrusively.

It seems that several hundred years ago, a mage queen tried an experimental bit of sorcery which was supposed to make her a goddess. This kind of went wrong in several unexpected ways. We’re seeing the conclusion of those events now, as her descendent, Rennyn Montjuste-Surclere works to prevent disaster and set things right.

There, I think that’s fairly accurate as well as extremely vague and spoiler-free.

What I liked:

The characters: Kendall is a perfectly fine pov character, but the protagonist I appreciated most was Rennyn. In her confidence and strength, she reminds me of Maskelle in Martha Wells’ Wheel of Time. Like Maskelle, Rennyn has no need to be concerned about life’s little inconveniences and problems and dangers. As you might imagine, this leaves the big problems and dangers.

The plotting: Andrea K Höst pulls off startling plot twists better than practically anybody else I can think of. These books aren’t as extreme that way as the Medair duology or And All the Stars . . . to be fair, not much equals the plot twist in And All the Stars . . . but there are definite surprises. I certainly didn’t work out Rennyn’s plan ahead of time. Or, in the second book, what was going to happen with her Wicked Uncle. These things make sense in context, but they’re pretty darn startling.

The worldbuilding: I loved the Kellian. Everybody’s going to love the Kellian.

Light did weird things to the Kellian. Sunlight turned them golden, their eyes yellow disks, their hair and nails pale flames. At full moon, they were silver, and they even went a kind of rose during a painted dawn. Kendall had never seen one in light as strong as this, and for a moment couldn’t even tell who it was, saw only a vaguely human shape of burning blue-white. Even the clothing was lit or lost in the glare.

But of course it was Captain Faille. One lighting-tipped hand found Rennyn’s throat, touched, her cheek, then he picked up a cloak from the seat opposite and laid it over them.

What I didn’t like:

There wasn’t enough Captain Faille!

Oh, well, his role expands as you go through the first book and he is an important character almost from the beginning of The Sleeping Life.

But I almost always particularly appreciate Höst’s male leads. Faille is no exception, but it takes a while for the reader to understand that he is in fact the male lead.

Other comments:

I would say that basically the first book stands alone, but you really need to go straight on to the second book after you finish the first. This isn’t just because Faille comes more into his own in the second book. It’s also because Kendall’s character arc doesn’t conclude until the very end of the second book. Other situations also get resolved in the second book, but Kendall’s story is where you’re going to get a real sense of completion. I will add that at first it looks as though the second book is more removed from the first than is actually the case, so don’t be put off by the introduction of a new character at the beginning of the second book.

How does the Eferum duology compare to Höst’s other work?

I haven’t read Pyramids of London . . . waiting for more of the books in the series to be released . . . but I think I’m caught up other than those. So.

1. Touchstone trilogy. Honestly, it’s hard to beat the Touchstone trilogy. Every time I read anything of Höst’s, I wind up re-reading bits of the Touchstone trilogy.

2. And All the Stars. Just a wonderful story, with the most amazing plot twist imaginable. Perfect for people who like YA, people who like superhero stories, people who like alien invasion stories, people who like post-apocalyptic stories, people who are not quite sure they like science fiction . . .

3. Medair duology. This is the other one I go back to and re-read bits of.

4. I love Aristide a whole bunch, so I would tend to put The Bones of the Fair next. Then the rest are hard to sort out.

How about you all? How would you sort out Andrea Höst’s books (those you’ve read)?

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10 thoughts on “Recent Reading: <em>Stained Glass Monsters</em> and <em>The Sleeping Life</em> by Andrea K Höst”

  1. I rather like Hunting, because I enjoy when the hero and heroine clash. Their dialog has a lot of humor, and by the end of the story, affection. It’s a nice combination. Honestly, she could have just created a story with the two of them arguing and I would have been perfectly happy.

  2. Excellent combination and because you weren’t fresh off a Touchstone read, Faile works really well. I was when I read it first and he seemed like a Kaoren Ruel to me – the second book really lets him do more, due to Rennyn’s situation.

    That Maskelle comparison came to my mind as well :D. I love competent women in the prime of their life (or afterwards – if you ever play Dragon Age Origins, do pick Wynne for your party a lot – she is an incredible gift of representation).

  3. I like Hunting too, and for the same reason; also, I like the protagonist’s casual competence right from the beginning.

    Faille does seem a lot like Kaoren, but that’s a plus. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Kaoren clone appear in plenty of stories…

  4. The ones I bought in paper as well as ebook are the Touchstone four, And all the stars, and Hunting. I guess that defines the ones I like best, those I’d miss the most if ever my ebooks vanished.
    I’m still thinking about getting Champion of the rose and Bones of the fair in paper – I like them but they’re not my favorites.
    I probably won’t get the Medair duology in paper, because though I like the characters, I very much dislike this kind of ending.
    SPOILER FOLLOWS, SERIOUSLY, A REALLY BAD SPOILER for the second Medair book as well as for Stealing the Elf-king’s roses!!!

    If the end is inevitable despite all the long struggle against it, I don’t like that as I like positive endings. But turning such a long-struggled-against end into an ending-and-instantaneous-rebirth, having the world remade in a moment, and most people in the new world not remembering what happened, feels to me like a tremendous bait-and-switch, or a cop-out on the whole story.
    I don’t reread those books, as I don’t want to feel the double sense of getting sucked into their efforts and struggles to avoid a fate, that at the same time I know is not only inevitable but also *doesn’t matter* because everything is restored as soon as it happens. That causes me to feel a deep sense of betrayal, one that is similar to but a lot worse than “they woke up and it was all a dream”. Luckily I loved Touchstone and read that first, so I didn’t stop reading Andrea Host after Medair – she’d built up enough trust that she remains an auto-buy for me, and I’ve loved all her books; even the Medair duology, until that ending.
    Stealing the Elf-king’s roses had been much praised, but it had the same kind of ending, which I purely hated. That was the first time I encountered it, and it was enough to put me off trying anything else by that author, as it was the first and most-praised book I read by her (I can’t even remember her name, I took such a violent dislike against that book for the ending).
    In Medair, it just made me sad that I won’t be rereading those two books which I liked well enough, by one of my favorite authors, because knowing that end is coming will make it near-impossible to enjoy reading the road towards it.
    The Trousers of Time / alternate realities are not an acceptable solution, for me, for an author painting themselves into an unresolvable corner.

  5. STEALING is by Diane Duane, so you can avoid more by her. :-) I find her frustrating myself: she’s a good writer, but I commonly end her works with a sense that she’s offering ‘cheap grace’ not the real thing.

    MEDAIR… I like it, I reread it, but your comments, Hanneke, have made me realize that I stop rereading after she makes her choice early in #2 and we see the magic mcguffin used. I sort of remember the ending, but not in detail. But there’s definitely something in #2 that doesn’t draw me on.

    I’m in a minority in not favoring TOUCHSTONE. The main character got too many powerups for the story to be satisfying, even though the voice is definitely engaging.

  6. I have Stealing the Elf King’s Roses, and now I am more likely to try it just to see how I feel about the ending. It’s interesting, because though there were things I didn’t like about the ending of Medair, including the way people forgot about the earlier iteration of the world, to me it didn’t feel much like the “Oh, it was all a dream” kind of ending — which you’re right, I dislike.

    Elaine, I do feel that Diane Duane sometimes makes her protagonists too powerful during the course of the story (Door Into series, for example) and then doesn’t know how to handle them. But I didn’t feel that way about Cassandra in Touchstone, even though it’s arguably similar, possibly just because I liked Cassandra better than Duane’s protagonists and possibly because I felt Host handled superpowered Cassandra better than Duane handled her superpowered protagonists.

  7. I think Andrea balances Cass’ powers by making it clear that she can never use them without permission by KOTIS. And that she is constantly monitored. Giving such an intrusive disadvantage to her powers (and she can’t save all her people, as the death of Eelie shows). The survival of Lira I always saw as being powered by Lira’s spirit, Cass’s wish AND the catacylsm of destroying the pseudo-Lantaren world and its inhabitants to make the Ena safer again. Not something Cass could have done on her own.

    Anyway, new Touchstone book out today! In Arcadia!!

  8. Thanks, Estara, I hadn’t spotted that! *buys*
    I’d decided not to read Medair because the premise just sounded so depressing, so knowing that spoiler about the end makes me more likely to read it- it’s interesting how differently the same concept can hit people, isn’t it?

    (There’s a very good book where the ending involves the protags being exiled from their home country and sailing off to make a new life in America- written as a fairly uncomplicated happy ending. Nothing against America, but the *exile* bit should have made it bittersweet, not happy (but the authors are American…))

  9. What?? New Touchstone book???

    And, hang on: there’s a sequel to Stained Glass Monsters? Did I know this? Why didn’t I know this?

    *Runs off to amazon to spend more money*

    (Re: Cassandra’s powers: I liked that they were always more of a problem than anything; they kept complicating her life more and getting her almost killed all the time!)

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