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I feel like I have been hearing about Frances Hardinge from my dwircle for quite some time now, and I've finally gotten around to reading her after a reading binge that I blame on [personal profile] skygiants' posts on the Fionavar Tapestry. (I started with The Fionavar Tapestry last weekend and then.. kept reading things! It was great! I think I read more books this past week than I have all year to date!)

Verdigris Deep

Ryan, Chelle and Josh are desperate for bus money one night, and Josh ends up sneaking down a well to grab some of the wishing coins. But then each of them begin developing strange powers (I am still viscerally creeped out by Ryan's), and they find that they have to start granting the wishes tied to the coins they took. And since granting wishes never goes well, things slowly start to go very, very wrong.

I've seen many comparisons of Hardinge with Diana Wynne Jones, and this book in particular feels very much like DWJ--the oddball kids, the way some unlikable characters grow likable and others turn bad, the slowly growing sense of dread and uneasiness. This book was very creepy in that damp fingers down your spine kind of way, which was not what I had been expecting. There's a lot here about what you wish for on the surface and what you actually want, and how you can be trapped in wishes you've outgrown. I also liked that even though Ryan, Chelle and Josh band together because both Ryan and Chelle would have been picked on at school if not for Josh, Hardinge takes time to show what bits are being friends just because there's no one else and how you can kind of be friends with someone and only get to know them better later.

The Lie Tree

So, I thought Verdigris Deep was creepy. The Lie Tree is SO MUCH CREEPIER O_o.

Faith's father is a discredited paleontologist who has taken his family and a secret project to an island to avoid the public eye, but growing a tree that feeds on lies that you spread never turns out well. This is set in the late 19th century, and it manages to make the time period feel just as alien as a built-from-scratch fantasy world. Hardinge makes fossils and the radical idea of evolution feel terrifying and world- and faith-shaking in a way I haven't really encountered before, and there's a matter-of-factness to the Victorian focus on morbidity that makes the entire worldview feel foreign. I went and looked up tons of details on Victorian photography and mourning rituals after this.

I loved Faith, who is clever and angry and not particularly nice, how she despises her mother and desperately wants her father's acknowledgement even though he is a terrible human being. I love that Hardinge doesn't try to file off her edges (or anyone else's, for that matter), and although it's not particularly new to talk about just how circumscribed women's roles were, it's rare to get that visceral feeling of being slowly stifled. Also, bonus points for not magically making Faith believe in evolution and other things we now know are scientifically correct; one of my favorite exchanges consists of one person arguing that something is caused by animal magnetism only to be pooh-poohed for being unscientific, as obviously it is spiritual energy instead.

This is a very, very good book, and I've been deliberately holding off on binging on more of Hardinge so I don't get through all her back catalog too quickly.


Link me to other write ups! I'm sad I missed the conversations!
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Tiffany Hunter is a fairly normal teenager: she's delighted to be going out with her boyfriend, although her father's not too happy he's white; school is the suck; her dad is super mean; and she really just wants to do exciting stuff and everyone is keeping her from it. And then her father takes on a mysterious lodger who keeps strange hours and never eats anything.

Everything makes this sound like your standard vampire story, except it's not. There's no over-the-top forbidden romance, Tiffany is very much a teenage brat at times, and I want to give it to everyone reading up on MammothFail as an example of SF/F with Native people done well, where there is a sense of history and loss and there are also Native people with phones and sneakers and aren't savage or stoic but just people.

Pierre is an especially great look at vampires done right (says she who is rather tired of vampires); he's creepy and dangerous and not human and very, very, very old. I miss the last part in many vampire books and am always skeptical as to why a several-hundred-year-old entity would want to date a high schooler, and Taylor nicely avoids that. In fact, this reminds me a great deal of Annette Curtis Klause's The Silver Kiss in how it deals with a vampire and a teenaged girl, although making both of them Native changes the story.

And then there's the final chapter, and it has elders teaching the younger generation and the loss of language and culture and history and the past come to life again and finding your roots after you thought you had lost them, and I love it.

Very much recommended, and thanks so much to [livejournal.com profile] maerhys for giving it to me!
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Kyle Murchinson Booth is the insomniac, horrifically shy, socially awkward archivist at the Samuel Mather Parrington Museum. Thanks to a semi-unwilling foray into the supernatural (detailed in the first short story), he now seems to attract all sorts of ghosts and curses. The Bone Key is a set of short stories about Booth and the things that happen to him; all were published first elsewhere save the final story.

Monette writes in the introduction that she was inspired by M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft, both writers I haven't read, one because I haven't heard of him and the other because I avoid horror like the plague. I'm still not sure why I started this book, given my loathing of horror—I am really easily scared, as in, The Sixth Sense scared me—but I'm glad I did, despite several cases of the chills. Also, I think my long-held phobia of mirrors is back again.

Mostly I love the style of the book, and I'm glad I can read something like it without having to actually dip my toes into Lovecraft. I feel for Booth in particular, whom I think is the adolescent in all of us, and as such, "Elegy for a Demon Lover" ended up being my favorite story for the last line. Although I enjoyed getting more Booth backstory, I ended up being the most intrigued by the longer case files; the Booth-centric stories felt like they didn't have enough meat for me to sink my teeth into. As such, the two I enjoyed the most outside of "Elegy" were "The Venebretti Necklace" (which I also liked for the main female character) and "The Wall of Clouds."

In conclusion: a good read with beautiful style, and amazingly not as scary as I had dreaded (this is a plus).

- [livejournal.com profile] desdenova's review
- [livejournal.com profile] buymeaclue's review


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October 2017


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