I managed to read this week! So exciting. Of course, it was because I was traveling, and then I was sick, so it was the silver lining in the cloud of waiting and misery. But I was really grateful for the paper books I’d managed to accumulate during the writer’s workshop, because I didn’t have the kindle, and couldn’t risk letting my phone run down with reading on it, and an uncertain arrival time. Then at home, I was under the weather (literally, it was the weather making me sick) yesterday, and finally read the book that has been on my nightstand for many months. I had started it before I moved, but had to begin at the beginning as I had forgotten the prelude.
After having indulged in these books, both of which I have been looking forward to, by authors I know and love, I contemplated how very different they are. Even though both books are nominally Fantasy, that is such a broad genre these days. In the beginning, Fantasy was elves, and dwarves, and hobbitses. Now, we would call Tolkein’s work High Fantasy, or Epic Fantasy. One of the books I read is Contemporary Fantasy, and the other is Noir Fantasy… I think. I’m really not sure what else to call them.
Sarah A. Hoyt’s Noah’s Boy, the third in the Shape Shifter series, is a grand romp through Goldport, CO, the fictional home of the diner where all shifters pass through at one point ar another (it seems). It opens with the arrival, however reluctantly, of a new Shifter, a young woman who changes into a dragon. She is being ordered to do something that offends her American-raised spirit of freedom, but which all the other dragons think will save them. Namely, she must somehow persuade the heir to the Great Sky Dragon to marry her. Never mind that he is not at all inclined to consider this, being happily engaged to a lovely woman who changes into a panther. This sub-plot quickly takes a backseat to the far greater threat looming over all shifters on Earth, however, as something is coming for them… There are alligators, lions, and a dire wolf in store for those who decide they want to venture into Goldport. Although Noah’s Boy is the third of a series that begins with Draw One in the Dark, and continues with Gentleman Takes a Chance, Sarah Hoyt’s skillful weaving of story, character, and setting will draw in even a new reader. You will want to go back and read the others to begin, I guarantee you! Also, Draw One in the Dark is free, which makes it easy to start there.
Larry Correia’s Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles, on the other hand, is a much darker work. Set in the grim years following the Great War, his world is bound to a different path than our history followed, one where magic is real, and Power can be a terrible thing. Robots, Buckminster Fuller, the Summoned, and a young woman who survived the Dust Bowl all meet, clash, and make difficult choices about how to handle the Power they were given in this Noir Fantasy. Spellbound is the sequel to Hard Magic, and the third in the Grimnoir series is Warbound, which I have on my nightstand to read next… His series is gritty, with dark emotions and an even darker world where it’s hard enough to survive, and heaven help those who fall into the hands of the ghastly Imperium. The underlying current in this series is the discrimination against those who fall outside the normal, both in all-to-familiar standards of skin color, and the weird ways of Actives, those who have magical powers.
Fantasy gives us a way to explore the boundaries of our imagination, but ultimately also to look at how human characters in fiction can be, even when they are verging on inhuman. Both books have strong characters who learn, grow, and ultimately triumph over that which is dark and evil. Plenty of action and great plots made them compelling reads even when I wasn’t feeling my best. But since both books were from Baen, even without knowing the authors, I could have been sure of that. I look forward to hearing if you enjoyed them, too!