14 May 2011

What I'm Reading

So the disappeared post confusingly reappeared the next day, causing me to suspect it is in fact a phantom post. I have tried to exorcise it and I think I've been successful. I certainly don't want a haunted blog.

Sword of Albion - Mark Chadbourn
This is a swashbuckling, supernatural Elizabethan spy story. Will Swyfte is England's greatest spy. He and his fellows work for Walsingham, supposedly fighting the Spanish, but in fact set against the shadowy Enemy. A malevolent force that has been terrorising the country for centuries.
The story is full of danger and intrigue, there's plenty of excitement and decent twists and turns along the way. Initially I thought it was a straightforward historical adventure with a sinisiter supernatural element - which I'm all for, historical fantasy is a favourite subgenre of mine. Towards the end I felt as though the story was going deeper, exploring the morality of what initially seemed to be a black and white conflict, and also examining how even monsters can be useful allies.
As well as the usual period touchstones (Dee the magician, the Spanish Armada, Christopher Marlowe, and of course Elizabeth herself) the story travels outside England to neighbouring Scotland and antagonistic Spain. I was pleased to see that we meet James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) before Elizabeth I ever appears - but I'm a sucker for Stuart history.
The alternative title is 'The Silver Skull', which makes sense as that's the central mcguffin. Then again if you are going to use 'Sword of Albion' - the rarely-used name for Walsingham's spies- you would use it for the British version.

Everything Beautiful - Simmone Howell
This teenage book is set in Australia (something that seems to confuse me as they use both US and UK slang) and is told from the point of view of Riley Rose. Riley is an overweight teenager who has been sent to the Spirit Ranch, a Christian holiday camp for kids. Riley has every intention of leaving before the week is over, and treats the place with suspicion and disdain. At the camp she meets Dylan, a paraplegic who feels similarly out of place. Together they raise a little hell and steal a dune buggy.
I like the character of Riley, she knows she's fat and doesn't take any crap about it. There's not even any suggestion of her losing weight, which I think is excellent. I can't be doing with people being all weight-obsessed, it's great to see a young woman with a healthy body image. She's smart-mouthed and prickly and you can understand why. She's initially an outsider, because she acts like one, but soon discovers that the Spirit Ranch is not just full of the socially awkward and the holier-than-thou.

I'm currently reading The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, very much enjoying it.

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