We close out 2013 with a selection of books that is heavy on magic, witches, potions, and wizards, rounded out with a little bit of historical fiction and … flowcharts.
This month, Fran is reading Hild, by Nicola Griffith. This epic historical fiction about the childhood of the real St. Hilda of Whitby has pulled her in and will not let go. With its brilliantly researched 7th century England, its foreground of dangerous plots, battles, intrigue, and clashes of religions and cultures, Hild is an extraordinary study of history from a (very military) female point of view. There are so many fascinating figures in this story, but it is the central character, the young seeress and future Abbess and advisor to kings, Hild, who is the most captivating character of all.
Fran is looking forward to reading Jack McDevitt’s latest, Starhawk, about Priscilla Hutchins, space pilot. She’s a huge fan of McDevitt’s Alex Benedict novels.
When Lisa purchased Doogie Horner’s Everything Explained Through Flowcharts for her husband for Christmas, she thought it would be something to glance casually through on the rare occasion. Instead, she found herself glued to it, reading it cover-to-cover in just two sittings. Imaginative, educational, and just plain funny, Horner has taken the business-savvy art of creating informational flow charts and applied it to, well, everything! There are charts for superheroes, fears, evil twins, zeppelin warfare and Doomsday scenarios, and even Things People Say To My Dog (e.g. “what are you sniffing there?”). Even the table of contents is arranged in tidy flowchart form. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud, reading aloud to friends, and eventually purchasing two or three more copies of this to give as gifts.
Just before Christmas, Karen was enjoying the debut fantasy novel The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. She found it shelved in literary fiction, but the only possible reason for that is that in chapter one our heroine, Nora, is an English lit grad student who has just been dumped by her boyfriend. By chapter three, she has accidentally wandered into a fairy kingdom and is enchanted by the fae who live there. After a thrilling but disastrous time among the fae (which thankfully doesn’t last too long, given how painful it is to watch their effects on her), she escapes and has to make her way in a fantasy world under the testy protection of a wizard.
The story of how she finds her feet in this world and begins to make her way back to ours is wonderfully done. Karen loved the protagonist, the narrative voice, and the pacing. This would be a good bet for lovers of Susanna Clarke’s smash hit Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell with the added bonus of Pride and Prejudice references. However, what really won Karen’s heart was the unique way that Nora ends up rescuing her wizard toward the end of the book—trying to avoid spoilers, let’s just say that even today’s English majors know quite a bit more math than fantasy land wizards.
Kelly Knox was delighted to start a new cozy mystery series by author Heather Blake this month. Blake writes the Wishcraft mysteries, one of Kelly’s favorite cozy series, and A Potion to Die For has the same charm and magic.
The Magic Potion Mysteries take place in the South in the small fictional town of Hitching Post, Alabama, home to Carly Bell Hartwell. Carly owns a potion shop sprinkled with real magic to help customers with matters of the body and heart. But when a dead body is discovered in her shop, Carly has to put her abilities as a white witch and amateur sleuth to work so she can clear her own name. With a cast of crazy characters and a whodunit that kept Kelly turning pages, A Potion to Die For looks like the start of another must-have series for anyone who loves paranormal cozy mysteries.
Kris picked up Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder on a whim and found herself immersed in a magical world. Kidnapped when she was just six years old, Yelena endures unspeakable acts throughout her childhood but is rescued as a young adult. The discovery that she has magic leads her to a new life in her country of origin, where she studies under a master magician. Yelena’s history creates unease for some who suspect she is a spy, and her secret relationship with an enemy of the state puts her in peril. When the appearance of a rogue magician threatens the safety of her family and new friends, she dangerously pushes her new-found magical abilities beyond their limit. Magic Study is a light and enjoyable read, and Kris has Poison Study, the next book in the trilogy, on hold at the library.