What I’ve been Reading, July 2020 Edition
Lately, I've been reading fantasy with a side dish of YA dystopia. Two of the books are quite good but not great. The third book, on the other hand, an adult fantasy, was truly spectacular. I have to admit it has been a while since I've been so pleasantly surprised by an author I've never previously read.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
I don't know what inspired me to read this book. The cover, maybe? It's graphic and bold, almost monochromatic. It's just a damn cool cover. Or, perhaps it's because I had become tangentially aware of the author via Twitter? Regardless, I love this book and can hardly wait to read the rest of the series. Everything about the book is solid from the world-building to the characters, but it's the sense of mystery V.E. Schwab instills in her writing that really stands out to me. For that alone, A Darker Shade of Magic is worth reading for any aspiring writer. Throw solid world-building, an intriguing magical system, great characters into the mix, and you have a fantastic read.
Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
This is a puzzling book, at least, to me. Not much seems to happen. The pacing might even be called glacial, but there is something about it that keeps me interested. Of course, the Witcher is a great fantasy character. I suppose that's the lesson of the Witcher books; if you can create a truly great character, people will read your books.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
More hunger games! For this prequel to the seminal Hunger Games Trilogy, we are taken back to President Snow's youth when the hunger games were still being perfected. This is a good book, interesting enough even though most readers will know the protagonist is destined to become President of Panem. Suzanne Collins does an excellent job with Snow, making him sympathetic at times, never wholly likable, and always interesting. I think that's tough to do, and it's a good idea to study how she does it. Having said that, I didn't enjoy this book as much as its predecessors. In the end, I think there's too much focus on the games, and the games lack the shock value that made the original books so compelling.