Last week, my husband brought a stack of books home from work. He’s a librarian, so that’s a normal occurrence. But all these books were novels! For me! A month earlier than I’d expected!! (Which reminds me – I must return them on today. Other desperate readers are in line behind me.)
First, I got to read Tongues of Serpents, the latest (and I assume the last) novel in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. The final book in a series is always bittersweet – a series that doesn’t end gets dull and exhausting, but it hurts to say goodbye to characters still in their primes. Novik handled it well, I think. The book follows Temeraire and Lawrence as they go into exile in Australia. Novik wraps up the main story-lines, but leaves a few of the side plots unfinished – perhaps there will be room for other novels in the world she’s created? The ending was satisfactory- not unicorns and rainbows, but a good, sturdy ending that was faithful to the characters we love. I’m sorry to see the series end, but I’m glad it ended well.
On the other hand, since the series HAS ended, it’s time for all my friends who wait until and author has finished to get started on this series! (Thank you, George R.R. Martin, for breaking their hearts and turning them into cynics. I just love waiting years to discuss books with the people you’ve burned. ) I like to describe Temeraire as “Master and Commander meets The Dragonriders of Pern for grownups.” It’s the Napoleonic wars. With dragons. And Lawrence, a naval captain, acquires a young dragon by mistake. Except, where McCaffrey’s dragon riders are perpetual adolescents, Novik’s are adults, with adult responsibilities, problems and aspirations.
Honestly, if you’re at all interested in fantasy, you ought to read this series.
(As a bonus, Novik was also part of the team that designed the “Never Winter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide.” I wish I was a tenth as talented as she is!)
The second book my husband brought home was good clean YA fun: Ally Carter’s latest Gallagher Girls novel:
The Gallagher Girls books take place at an exclusive school for teenaged spies. While the early books had the feel of Katherine Hepburn’s screwball romantic comedies, the more recent ones have been dealing more with the dark side of being a teenaged spy. In Only the Good Spy Young, Cammie is in hiding from “The Circle,” a shadowy, black-helicopters style conspiracy. A missing teacher holds the key to her father’s disappearance, and Cammie is ready to risk her life for the information. After all, she’s a Gallagher girl, and that’s what Gallagher girls do. The book ends with a dark cliffhanger, which means we’ll get at least one more book in this series. I can’t wait.
Ally Carter’s YA books are clean (just a few kisses), exciting, and have well-crafted characters. Even though she writes romantic spy thrillers, she doesn’t cut any corners. I can’t wait until my own daughters are old enough to read these – they’re the sort of YA I wish had existed when I was in junior high!
The final book was critically acclaimed, much anticipated, and had an incredibly long waitlist at my library. Suzanne Collins' MockingJay is the final book of the “Hunger Games” Trilogy. The books are set in a post-apocalyptic United States, where “The Capital” rules over 11 districts, each devoted to serving a particular need. There are farming districts, fishing districts, technology districts, etc, The districts are surrounded by barbed wire and wilderness. Their residents are not permitted to travel or to communicate with people in other districts. Once a year, the capital holds something called ‘The Hunger Games.” The games are a coliseum-style battle to the death – a version of ‘Survivor’ where the contestants kill each other for the entertainment of the capital.
Each district must send two tributes – a boy and a girl. Katniss is from 12, the mining district. When her delicate younger sister is chosen for the games, Katniss volunteers to go, and to die, in her stead. Her spontaneous act of love makes her an instant celebrity.
The first book in the trilogy follows Katniss as she fights in her first Hunger Games. In the second, the districts are beginning to tire of the Capital’s cruelty, and Katniss must stop a rebellion or risk losing her family. In Mockingjay, the third book in the series, Katniss is among the rebels, an unwilling symbol of the revolution. Her life has become a series of compromises as she attempts to protect the people she loves. But how can she even be sure that she’s chosen the right side in the conflict?
Collins closes her series on a much darker note than Novik chose for hers, but it’s the right note. In the end, a new beginning in post apocalyptic America can’t be as happy as one in nineteenth century Australia.
So, that was my weekend – a welcome respite in the land of good fiction – better fiction than I can write—unless I get back to work and start working harder!