Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Digging into the Nebula Book Haul

One fun thing about the Nebula Awards conference is that when you arrive, you get a big bag full of books. The publishers give out books and advance reading copies, probably assuming that authors not only are big readers, but are likely to talk about the books they've read, and they may have a bigger audience than your average reader when they do talk about books, so it's a good way to spread word of mouth. I suppose it's mostly true, though there are average readers and book bloggers who have bigger Twitter followings than I have. (There are inanimate objects who have bigger Twitter followings than I have.)

At any rate, I ended up with enough books that I picked up a Priority Mail flat rate box at the post office down the street and stuffed it with as many books as would fit, along with some dirty clothes for cushioning, to ship back to myself, and I still ended up with my duffle bag packed full.

Now, I suppose I need to carry out my end of the bargain and talk about the books I've read. I've already read one, The Queen's Poisoner, by Jeff Wheeler, and I liked it well enough that I'll probably pick up the sequels.

Clever readers may figure out somewhere during the book that it's kind of an alt-history fantasy retelling of Shakespeare's Richard III, with some other bits of history woven in, but from the perspective of a young boy taken to court as a hostage when his father betrays the king. He's befriended by a mysterious woman who lives secretly in a remote tower of the castle and who seems to be manipulating events. There's also the spirited granddaughter of one of the lords, brought to court to get her away from trouble at home, and the two kids become close friends. This is rather pleasant fantasy reading. There's plenty of tension because the fates of our young hero and his family are always teetering on the brink of disaster, and he's up to activities that could lead to dire consequences if he's discovered, but it's not as dire or grim as has become the vogue in fantasy lately. There are good people who don't suffer terrible fates and there are bad people who get what's coming to them, and that's satisfying to read. I found the book engrossing enough that I almost finished it on the airplane and then stood reading it at the train station while waiting for my bus on the way home. In this book, the protagonists are kids, but apparently in the sequel they'll be in their late teens. This book has its own arc but is also about setting up the characters for more major roles in events.

So, if you're looking for people you want to cheer for, an intriguing fantasy world based on water, bits of real history, and a lot less darkness, this might be a good choice. It's a book published by one of Amazon's imprints, so you'll probably have to get it from Amazon, as most other outlets are refusing to carry Amazon books.

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