Update, and comments about books

First, a very brief update about MARAG:

I started it Jan 1, so that was a nice way to start the new year.

I don’t want to jinx it, so I’ll just say it’s going pretty well and let’s leave it at that.

***

Next, comments! By which I mean, your comments.

Here is the post where I pointed to a new(ish) fantasy novel called Pomegranate Gate, by Ariel Kaplan. This post features a review by Liz Bourke, who as you may know writes really good reviews that tend to point to things important to me. I said in that post that this book looked appealing and I hoped to read it. I also pointed out that negative comments tended to say the pacing was slow and that sounded fine to me. I have not (of course) actually read this book yet. But some of you expressed interest, and commenter Kate read it recently and kindly left a comment. Here is that comment, which I’m pulling out where you’re more likely to see it:

Overall, I liked it a lot, but I do see where some of the negative comments are coming from.

I didn’t think that the story was particularly slow-paced. What I noticed was that the first few chapters were faster, and then once the author got all the characters into their places, the story slowed down. Neither pace seemed unusual or bad to me, but I could see how the change might be disappointing for some readers. The pace picks up a little in the final chapters too.

I think the comment that it feels like a prequel is because this isn’t a book where the main conflict gets resolved by the end. It has the kind of ending where I would usually expect to turn the page and see “Book 2” in the same volume. It’s clearly an intentional choice, but if I had realized that before starting the book, I would have waited to read it until the next book was at least available for pre-order.

As far as good points go, I second everything in Bourke’s review. The prose is lovely, the world is fascinating, and the characters are compelling. I loved Naftaly and found Toba occasionally frustrating, but I could imagine someone else feeling the opposite.

I did worry going in that the threat of the Inquisition might be so looming and oppressive that the book would be too dark for me, but it wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t cozy, but it didn’t get too dark or bleak (for me). HOWEVER, there was one thing that happened near the end made me wonder if future books might be darker. This is mostly because the author is new to me – if a similar thing happened in, say, a Rachel Neumeier book, I would be pretty confident that the rest of the story would make things okay, but with an unfamiliar author, I’m a little bit worried that this might be the beginning of things taking a dark turn. So that’s another reason to wait for the series to finish before giving it a try!

Thanks, Kate! This still sounds very good, but maybe there’s no rush, considering I might like to wait for a sequel, as you suggest. I’m going to just mention to anyone who has picked up the first book that the thing that is most likely to kill a traditionally published book is poor sell-through to the second book, so if you DO like the first book, it would always be nice to pick up the second book when it is released even if you don’t plan to read it right then, in order to encourage the publisher not to cancel the third book.

Next!

Recently I pointed to Molly Templeton’s end of year post at tor.com. This was the quirky post where she mentioned, among other things, “Two books from one criminally underread author.” That author was Alaya Dawn Johnson, who has written various novels that I haven’t read, including one called The Summer Prince that I did sort of wanted to read. A couple of you commented about that, so:

SarahZ says, I loved The Summer Prince, but I read it when I had a lot more capacity for conflict in my books. That being said, I don’t remember it being grim. I really liked the protagonist’s journey as a character, and liked the mix of cyberpunk and mythological influences (although I don’t know a ton about the epic of gilgamesh). It also had a line from a secondary character that really stuck with me.

And Kim Aippersbach adds, I remember The Summer King as gorgeously written, unique, with wonderful world-building and characters I didn’t quite connect with. Worth reading for the twists on mythology and the very Brazilian feel of the futuristic world.

Both of these comments make me continue to want to someday read this. I’m a sucker for setting. In case any of you feel the same, here you go, reader reactions.

Seriously, your comments about books are really helpful! This is true even if I just drag my feet ENDLESSLY about actually reading something. Or, indeed, anything. At the moment, I am writing MARAG and not reading anything at all except tiny bits of nonfiction.

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6 thoughts on “Update, and comments about books”

  1. Demon’s daughter is out. It is not quite a cozy read-horrible things do happen early on, to be resolved later. But you just know everything will work out. Plus after years at the university, Penric initially isn’t very good at teaching practical theology to a confused six-year old girl, though he gets there in the end. His 7yo daughter is there to take up the slack.

  2. Thanks for the update Pete! When I checked yesterday Kindle didn’t have it yet, and I didn’t know the date. This is gonna be a late night for me.

  3. I just found an absolutely wonderful book – “This Impossible Brightness” by Jessica Bryant Klagmann. It’s almost as if Patricia McKillip decided to write a magic realism story about being alone in the middle of people, and grief, and ghosts, and memory, and what it means to listen, shot through with hope, in a world that’s being destroyed and/or forgotten. If you like the prologue, you will love it. It has an absolute ripper of an opening paragraph, which is exactly how far *I* read to decide I wanted to buy it: “Esmée Taylor was making a sandwich when the teakettle told her the ship was going down. Moments later, she was tying her boots, and it was still talking to her from the stove top, broadcasting a distress call that no one else from town would hear. They were all dancing anyway.”

    But perhaps don’t read it at work like I did. Trying to NOT have my normal reaction to something like this (a good cry) because I was At Work was… difficult. Very difficult. I will probably reread the last bit of it when I get home so I can have my cry then.

    It’s one of the Amazon First Reads offerings for this month. Good time to pick it up cheaply, if it looks like it’s your sort of thing!

  4. Well, Heather, I’m sold. Especially since it’s free at the moment. There, it’s now on my kindle app. Thank you!

  5. Sold me on This Impossible Brightness too. I’ve been looking for new writers, and mostly striking out.

    (Kaplan’s Pomegranate Gate didn’t work for me at all. )

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