In this editon of Monthly Reading: An early novel from fantasy superstar Glen Cook, the rereading of a classic, a modern and monster-filled retelling of said classic, and a detective steampunk debut novel. Here we go!
Glen Cook has had a prolific career in writing fantasy books, and my husband and I are both fans of his Black Company series. So it was interesting to read The Swordbearer, one of his earliest books. Interesting because it was so far removed from the skill shown in his later books. I mean, how cool is it as an aspiring author down here in the trenches to see such a respected author’s growth, to see this reminder that the more you write–even after you’re published–the better you get? Although the story itself was a disappointment, it was just amazing to see how greatly Cook’s writing improved in time, with dedication and study, with the diligence to keep writing new books–to keep looking forward rather than reworking the same book over and over again (a common mistake, and one I’ve been guilty of in the past myself). In a weird sort of way, it was inspiring. (My full review of The Swordbearer is here.)
There’s not a lot I can say about Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen that hasn’t been said already. It’s a classic. And it has always been my favorite of Austen’s books. What is it that makes a book a favorite? A character you can relate to, people who seem real. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor and Marianne remind me so much of my sister and I (except that my sister has none of Marianne’s fondness for books). That’s why I love it so much.
And my inspiration for rereading Sense and Sensibility this month was my desire to read…Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters. I could just go on and on about this book. Suffice it to say that far from ruining Austen’s clever prose, the startling contrast of manners and monsters makes her social commentary even more biting. It sticks with the original plot–the Dashwood sisters’ trials in love–but inserts hammerhead shark attacks, oversized jellyfish, and an enchanting undersea city encased in a dome of glass. Winters’ writing masterfully captures Austen’s own style so that his additions fit into the text almost seamlessly. (My full review of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is here. Also, be sure to check out the article link provided in the review. It’s pretty fascinating, says me.)
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry is a noir-style steampunk mystery in which reality and its mirrors and shadows blend–where the truth is cast in reflections as distorted as those ina carnival funhouse, and where a clerk who has mysteriously been made a detective must sort it all out. This is such a well-plotted and well-written novel. I just could not put it down! It’s a debut novel, but Jedediah Berry is already a master of suspense. (I didn’t review this one myself, but this review prompted me to buy The Manual of Detection.
I’m never completely sure of all the books I’ll be reading in any given month (who is?), but I’ll be reading the debut fantasy novel Spellwright in March for sure. So stick around for next month’s Monthly Reading, or look for the review at Debuts and Reviews. See you soon!