A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

In a land much like Renaissance Italy, only in a world with two moons and no Greece, the ripple effects of decisions made by a tailor’s son and a pagan healer have lasting impact. Kay is known for his epic fantasy; this book reads more like historical fiction. Not fast-paced except for a few notable scenes including two horse races, this is a novel to savor. The setting is gorgeously drawn without being overly detailed and the numerous characters are realistic. Strong female characters such as a duke’s daughter turned assassin add appeal. If you haven’t discovered Kay, who’s published a novel every two to three years since 1984, then you’re in for a real treat if you enjoy historical fiction or fantasy. Start anywhere, perhaps with Tigana, The Lions of al-Rassan, Ysabel, or Under Heaven. His previous book, Children of Earth and Sky is set twenty-five years after A Brightness Long Ago.

Brenda

 

Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I found this first book in the Sixth World post-apocalyptic Navajo fantasy series to be a compelling read. After a great flood, walls have risen around the Dinétah, the southwestern Navajo lands. Gods and monsters have appeared, and some Diné have developed special powers. Maggie Hoskie has been trained to fight monsters, but lacks self-confidence and is reluctant to trust after some bad experiences. The Dinétah world is vividly described, and the story is fast-paced and exciting, if a little violent. Maggie is asked to help Coyote, and reluctantly partners with young medicine man Kai, who refuses to use guns, but has some hidden powers. A finalist for two major awards, this novel has already won the Locus Award for best first novel. The sequel, Storm of Locusts, is available now.
Brenda

 

Storm Cursed

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is a coyote shape-shifter married to Adam, an alpha werewolf. Adam, with Mercy’s reluctant help, is trying to arrange talks between the fae lords and a U.S. senator. Recently Mercy declared that their region of the Pacific Northwest was under the protection of Adam’s pack, so she gets to take care of supernatural problems that crop up. Mercy and werewolf Mary Jo need the help of Larry the goblin king to take care of a goblin issue, then they’re off to deal with twenty miniature zombie goats. Miniature zombie goats are a bit of comic relief before there’s serious trouble at the home of Elizaveta, the local grey witch. There’s gruesome evidence of black witchcraft there (feel free to skim that chapter), but unexpected help comes from amnesiac werewolf Sherwood and vampire Wulfe, who turns out to have a lighter side. Plenty of action, a fair amount of humor and great dialogue keep the pages turning quickly. I listened to the audiobook, skillfully narrated by Lorelei King. Moon Called is the first Mercy Thompson book; another, Smoke Bitten, is expected in 2020. Readalikes include books by Ilona Andrews and Kelley Armstrong.

Brenda

Early Riser

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

This is an unusual, quirky book by the author of the Thursday Next series, set in an alternate Wales. Charlie Worthing has just joined the Winter Consul Service and heads out on his first assignment, only to get trapped in Sector 12 when the trains stop running. Winters are so long and bitterly cold that most people hibernate, bulking up before their long sleep. Some unfortunates turn into Nightwalkers, sort of zombies who can work menial jobs. Charlie has many adventures as he tries to make it through his first winter awake and investigates a viral dream about a blue Buick. Darkly humorous and witty with an appealing protagonist.

Brenda

The Raven Tower

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

This is an impressive first fantasy novel from an award-winning writer of science fiction (Ancillary Justice, etc.). The narration is very unusual, as the narrator is apparently a god, who is telling the story of Eolo, the genderfluid aide to warrior Mawat, who returns from battle to find his father missing and his uncle on the seat of power. Hamlet, anyone? But not really. The narrator is one of many gods, and its story takes place over millennia as well as in the current time. Gods can work together and lend their powers to others, be tricked out of their powers, and face very dire consequences if they lie. They include the Raven, a group of mosquitoes, a large meteorite, and a silent forest. Eolo is both Mawat’s defender and the behind-the-scenes investigator, searching for the truth of the missing ruler and uncovering some secrets of the gods. A challenging but very rewarding read; this seems to be a stand alone fantasy, but the author has written other stories set in Eolo’s world.

Brenda

 

Time’s Convert

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Historical fantasy readers will enjoy this richly detailed novel. Vampire Marcus must stay away from his young fiancée Phoebe for 90 days after she becomes a vampire. In Paris, Phoebe’s struggle to adapt to her new strength, speed, and interests are often funny. While staying in the French countryside with his parent Matthew and Matthew’s wife Diana, Marcus relives his years as a boy and young man in the American Revolution, where he learns to be a medic. Matthew and Diana, a witch, have their hands full with twin toddlers Becca and Philip as their powers emerge. Becca has a tendency to bite and Philip has summoned a griffin named Apollo. This book is a good introduction to Harkness’ novels. Her All Souls trilogy begins with A Discovery of Witches. Francophiles may also enjoy Time’s Convert, as well as Outlander fans, with an intriguing blend of history, magic, and romance.

 

Brenda

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The Dream Gatherer

The Dream Gatherer by Kristen Britain

This book has a novella and two short stories written to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Green Rider, first book in a fantasy series featuring Karigan G’ladheon. This is also a good place to start reading the series. Green Riders have minor magical talents and are called to serve as the King’s messengers. Estral, Karigan’s friend, narrates these tales. Lost on the road, she visits Seven Chimneys, where the Berry sisters are coping with a ship that has materialized in the middle of their house and use a dream lantern to draw dreamers to a party. The other stories tell some of the history and legend of Sacoridia. If you’re in the mood for compelling fantasy writing with some suspense and humor but don’t have the time for a long epic, this is an excellent choice.

Brenda