Also Reading…

In July we wrapped up our Time Travel theme with Charlotte Sometimes and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and our Space Travel theme with The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and Twin-Bred. We also featured some incredible heroines: an anthology of girls saving the world(s) with science, a young woman learning to become a superhero, and a girl determined to follow a path of magical scholarship. Here’s the best of the rest:

The Beast of Callaire (Legend Magic #1) by Saruuh Kelsey
An enjoyable YA fantasy with an interesting premise, where Majick-wielding Legendaries are the descendants of gods and mythical beasts, trying to keep their powers hidden from the mainstream human world. Yasmin is one such, the daughter of Venus and a Manticore, who changes into her beast form once a month. Major credit for diversity: there’s a central lesbian romance, ethnic diversity, and a transgender secondary character. The only thing that lets it down is the abruptness of the ending: this feels more like half a book.

Sophia (Stone Magic #1) by J. New
Sophia is a witch, but she avoids most of her heritage by working only with animals in a dog grooming salon. When a man runs in with an injured dog, begging her help, she can’t resist using her powers to heal, but it turns out that’s only the beginning of their problems. A light and easy read, which introduced some interesting characters and concepts, but I felt this book could have afforded to run quite a lot longer: much of the detail is skimmed over, and the relationship between Sophia and Fritz develops too quickly, especially considering how much else they both have to worry about.

The Bees by Laline Paull
This is an unusual, extremely clever and well-researched piece. Paull’s bees are not humanoid, bee-inspired creatures: they’re actual bees. (Although they do talk, as well as communicating through dance and pheromones.) Bee society, however, is portrayed as a sinister, cult-like place. Flora 717 is born into a low caste, expected to spend her whole life in silence, cleaning the hive for her sisters, but her determination and talent see her destined to play a larger role. There’s a lot of fascinating detail, and the bee’s eye view of the world is a revelation, but I’ll confess I found it slow going in places.

The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly #2) by Jo Walton
I wasn’t sure I wanted The Just City to have a sequel. It was an excellent book, and it ended well, and good endings (particularly the kind that sparkle with unresolved possibilities) can often be undermined by a second volume. Thankfully, this is set twenty years after the end of The Just City, giving enough distance for the characters to have grown, and new issues arisen. From the first chapter, The Philosopher Kings sets out it’s stall: if The Just City was about consent, this time the focus is on death (and life, and posterity). Apollo incarnate was one of my favourite characters in the first book, and he continues to learn and grow here; his daughter, Arete, is also a highlight. Worth a read.

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