July’s come and gone–and that means another “top books” post! So, let’s get right down to business.
Station Eleven (St. John Mandel):
When actor Arthur Leander has a heart attack while performing in King Lear, it will be the last “normal” night. After that night, a flu sweeps the globe, killing many and uprooting the modern world. Several years later, a performing troupe travels the landscape performing Shakespeare. Among the performers is Kristin, who was there the night Leander died. As she and her companions struggle to make their way, the beginning still impacts the present story.
I was completely floored by this book. St. John Mandel brings to life a ravaged world just starting to recover, and does a superb job of weaving the past and present events together that turn into a story that was so touching. It’s very hard to explain the plot without really giving away the magic, so just believe me when I say you should read it!
Every year the wizard Dragon takes a girl from the village; they stay with him for several years before leaving the villages near the dreaded Wood forever. Agnizeska never believes she’ll be picked for the role, but chooses her he does. Agnizeska goes to the Dragon’s tower and soon finds herself using her new-found power to combat the onslaught of the Wood.
Novik really captured my imagination with this fairy tale-inspired work. She describes the world wonderfully, and sets up the conflict and the Wood’s ability in a meaningful and fascinating way. The story is strong, and Agnizeska’s growth and determination are a pleasure to read. My one minor complaint was that the romance seemed done to fulfill some kind of expectation rather than truly developed. Overall though, this was a great read, and I recommend it to fairy tale lovers!
Sierra Santiago plans to spend the summer working on her mural and hanging out with her friends. However, a creepy man crashes a party, and her abuelo (grandfather) begins to weep and apologize. Soon after, Sierra discovers a group called the Shadowshapers, individuals who are able to infuse art with the spirits of their ancestors. As Sierra works to master shadowshaping, she must face down an individual who is looking to destroy everything she cares about.
This new YA fantasy is fantastic–it only took me an entire evening to read this awesome story! I love the concept behind shadowshaping–it has a really strong familial connection, and I like how art becomes the medium to channel these spirits. Sierra is a great character who rises to the challenge, and the story is exciting and hits upon issues such as culture appropriation and family without letting them completely overwhelm the story
Leviathan trilogy (Westerfeld):
Prince Alexander is forced to flee his home in the dead of night. Commoner Deryn Sharp joins the British Air Force disguised as a boy; she serves on the great whale airship Leviathan. A crash landing brings the two of them together, and Alex and Deryn join forces to make a difference in World War I.
This YA alternate history fantasy trilogy was a great read! The plot in each part of the trilogy is exciting and frequently humorous, and the worldbuilding–World War I with mechanical machines and biological creations–is creative and fun. The characterization of both Alek and Deryn was well-done; their decisions strongly affect the plot, for better or worse. Deryn with her spunk and drive was my favorite character, and I really liked the relationship between her and Alek. It was well-balanced between them and did not overwhelm the plot. If you haven’t read this trilogy, you should.
Rat Queens, volume 2 : The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth (Wiebe):
The Rat Queens are back! In this volume, they face off against a deadly threat in the city of Palisade. When Dee’s former god N’rygoth is revealed to have a role, she and the other Rat Queens must face up to their pasts to defend what they have in the present.
I very much enjoyed the second volume of Rat Queens. The story takes a more serious tone as it explores the back-stories of Hannah, Violet, and Dee. While perhaps not as funny as the first, I liked these developments and am looking forward to the next installment!
All right–that was July! Thanks for reading!