Just stopping in to share this gorgeous picture I found while putting together Monday’s post. I’ve been a fan of Kali Ciesemier‘s illustrations for a while, but I had no idea she’d illustrated a few scenes from Sabriel. This one is for an early scene in the book, where Sabriel, waiting for her father in her study, has just heard screams coming from the girls’ dormitory. You can see the cup of tea falling to the floor.
As the July 1st deadline draws near, I’d like to take a moment to talk about books that I like. It’s an excellent distraction from the overwhelming terror of publishing my first book.
1. Skulduggery Pleasant. I came across this book in a stack of YA hardbacks that one of my grad school professors brought back from a lit conference. (I may have actually taken the whole box of books. Sorry! They were great!) I had no idea what I was getting into, but the Skulduggery Pleasant series has become one of my all-time favorites. So much so that when the US publisher stopped releasing the new books, I had my British friend start sending them to me. They are a fantastic blend of eldritch horror, deadpan humor, and the kind of witty banter usually found in 1930s screwball comedies. The series follows the transformation of Stephanie Edgley, the 12-year-old niece of a famous writer who dies mysteriously and leaves his fortune to her, into Valkyrie Cain, the badass sorceress and detective. Her uncle’s death opens the door to a world of magic that she never knew existed, and she quickly finds that she belongs there. She befriends Skulduggery Pleasant, the skeleton detective, and together they solve mysteries, kick ass, and save the world.
2. Faeries of Dreamdark. Laini Taylor’s most recent book, Daugther of Smoke of Bone, was a hugely publicized bestseller, but I still think her earlier books are better. The first of the two-part series, Blackbringer, tells the story of Magpie Windwitch, an irrepressible faerie who travels around the globe hunting devils with her adopted family of crows. The world is full of deeply-textured lore and unforgettable characters. Taylor’s writing is a delicate and beautiful tapestry, and her books are always a joy to read, but Blackbringer and its companion novel, Silksinger, are her best.
3. Sorcery and Cecelia. I have a great fondness for regency fantasy. Take Jane Austen, add wizards, and stir. This book, written in the epistolary style of many late 18th century novels, tells the stories of Kate and Cecy, two cousins from the English countryside who become embroiled in a sinister sorcerous plot. While Cecy stays at home, Kate travels to London for her Season, and the two write letters to each other. Patricia Wrede (who wrote the amazing Enchanted Forest Chronicles) and Caroline Stevermer each write one of the character’s perspectives, and aside from the delightful story, it’s a great deal of fun to watch the push-pull of the joint storytelling unfold. The two books that follow aren’t quite as good, but still worth a read.
4. Larklight. Philip Reeve is tremendously talented. His Hungry City Chronicles are incredible, although emotionally draining. His other series, beginning with Larklight, is no less brilliant, but it’s simply a piece of fabulous steampunk fluff. Myrtle and Art live in a ramshackle orbiting house called Larklight with their father, where Art dreams of adventure and Myrtle longs for the genteel society of earthbound London. After giant spiders attack their home, they are catapulted into an adventure that will take them to the moon, the storms of Jupiter, and beyond. It’s a rollicking, tongue-in-cheek read in the style of Victorian Penny Dreadfuls, and I can’t recommend it enough.
5. Sabriel. The Old Kingdom books (Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen) are my go-to, rainy-day, nothing-has gone-right books. In a fantastically detailed fantasy world, where an ancient wall separates the magical Old Kingdom from Ancelstierre, Sabriel takes up her father’s necromantic bells and sword to defeat an undead terror. This story has it all–adventure, romance, magic, and a talking cat–and has probably influenced Grey Magic more than any other series. I encourage you to check out Tim Curry’s delicious audiobook narration, too.
What about y’all? Read anything good lately?
P.S. I just stumbled across this (now sadly defunct) project called “Picture Book Report,” where indie artists illustrated some of their favorite books. Definitely worth browsing the archives!