In April we rounded off our themes of translated speculative fiction, and magical mysteries, as well as highlighting fantasy inspired by Russian folklore, a near future meditaton on dream and experience, and an innovative urban fantasy. We also had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Bach. Here are a few more of my April reads.
Tikkipala by Sara Banerji
In an Indian mountain village, the Raja’s young son rides out from the palace and goes missing. Decades later, his great-niece Devi comes to the hills, drawn by the area’s unique geology… and drawn in by a strange kind of magic. I really loved the Indian setting, rich with historical detail, not only of the Raja’s palace but the thag villagers who are dedicated to the goddess Kali, and the inhabitants of the high forest whose goddess Tikki is slowly fading. However, I found the pacing difficult, to the extent that I almost put the book down: the first quarter or so is devoted to one set of characters, who then fade into the background as a new generation takes over. For me, I think it would have been a more engaging read had this earlier part been woven into the backstory. Once Devi’s story really takes off, though, it becomes quite compelling.
An Accidental Murder by J. New
When Ella moves into the Yellow Cottage it feels like coming home, but she wasn’t expecting to inherit a cat from the now-deceased previous owner… and a cat that walks straight through solid walls is quite the surprise. However, it soon transpires that Phantom isn’t the only ghost Ella can see, and her talents lead her to investigate a murder. This is a nice little novella that introduces Ella, along with her extended family and the local police. A quick and satisfying read.
Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope
Jasminda is one of very few earthsingers in Elsira, a nation generally devoid of magic. Over the border, the magic-users of Lagrimar are being oppressed and abused by a tyrannical ruler. I loved Jasminda, who remains kind-hearted despite the suspicion with which she’s grown up, and I really enjoyed her romance with Jack, which was complicated by their differing racial backgrounds and social positions. I did find the world a little under-described: technologies appeared half way through in a way that surprised me as I’d originally assumed I was reading a “traditional” low-technology fantasy. Overall, though, I found this a very enjoyable novel, introducing some wonderful characters — I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Numbers Game by Rebecca Rode
The star couple at their school, Treena and Dresden expect to get matching, high numbers at their first adult rating ceremony, so the actual outcome is something of a shock that upsets their perfect lives. In many ways, the premise of this book reminded me of Sarah Negovetich’s Rite of Rejection, featuring a heroine given a low score by a supposedly infallible system, and then going on to become the face of the revolution. I have to confess I wasn’t a massive fan of Treena, who has dedicated her life to getting a perfect score, and who thinks mostly of boys even in the face of death (the number of times she has to be rescued is also a bit worrying). However she does wise up and start fighting eventually, and overall this was a quick and diverting read.