Just like last year, I attempted my annual reading challenge inspired by “The 12 Days of Christmas” in which I wanted to read 12 books between December 25th and January 5th. I got even closer than last year, reading 10. Here are my thoughts.
First, let’s start off with the list. I did a better job balancing long works and shorter selections. The only problem is that is all fantasy. There was one science fiction and one speculative fiction, so I can definitely work on some genre variety for next year.
- Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
- Horizon (Bone Universe #3) by Fran Wilde
- Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
- Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire
- Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire
- The Dazzling Heights (The Thousandth Floor #2) by Katharine McGee
- Tarnished City (Dark Gifts #2) by Vic James
- The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1) by J.Y. Yang
- The Red Threads of Fortune (Tensorate #2) by J.Y. Yang
- An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
- The Tiger’s Daughter (Their Bright Ascendancy #1) by K. Arsenault Rivera
- The Wake of Vultures (The Shadow #1) by Lila Bowen
Now I am going to do a quick overview of all these fantastic works and I learned from them during this marathon of reading.
The Things I Learned
What I Learned: Immersive world-building
What really disappointed me about this read was the fact that there were really cool ideas in the character department. The promise, however, of an addictive virtual reality landscape fell short because nothing about the prose in the description pulled me in. There were a few avenues that the authors could have taken, but those were mostly ignored and executed better in other works.
What I Learned: How to tie together a series
The finale to the Bone Universe followed such a clear road map for where the story was going. Each character had been gorgeously fleshed out during the previous entries. Their decisions and reactions made sense, allowing the reader to be fully swept away by an urgent, but well-paced tale about community and dealing with secrets.
What I Learned: Character introductions
The opener to the Wayward Children series does so much in such a small span of time. Every character had been brought to life so deftly that it blew my mind. Without info-dumping or other flourishes, Kade, Nancy, and the other children at the school were given proper time to develop, setting the stage and expectations for the rest of the series.
What I Learned: How to do an homage
This second installment was clearly inspired by classic horror movies. Without leaning to much on established tropes, McGuire expertly used the settings and creatures as a backdrop to the heart of the story of twins Jack and Jill. While the horror aspects were important to the atmosphere, it didn’t entirely make up the story. It made for smooth sailing and brought the twins to the focus of a tale that was truly simply about them and their development as individuals.
What I Learned: Managing your settings
Read as an ARC provided by Tor.com (Release: 1/9/2018). Some adventure stories fall into the trap where the setting dictates the action as opposed to the characters going from location to location in a logical sequence. The destinations here are expertly laid out in a “but…therefore…however” sequence that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. In addition, each was realized so uniquely that there was no mistaking one location for another. An all-around immersive read.
What I Learned: Secrets, secrets are very fun
The sequel to The Thousandth Floor introduced new characters with new secrets, in addition to the balance of what the character knew and didn’t know from the previous book. The new character, Calliope, had not carried over, but was instead introduced as new. There was a lot of mystery surrounding her and as the reader learned more about her from her perspective, it was exciting to see how the other characters reacted when learning about her from their perspectives. They say there’s many versions of the same story and this was executed very well.
What I Learned: The molding and breaking of trust
Coming out of the first book, there were very clear definitions of who the good Equals and bad Equals were. The sequel manages to flip all those expectations on their head. Even within the POV chapters of the Equals, the reader is not quite sure who can be trusted, whose decisions could be hoped to be brought to fruition. Or who snaps because of other reveals. It made for a dynamic read, especially during the segments when people’s memories could not be trusted in the slightest.
What I Learned: Writing a story across several years
In addition to being the start of a new favorite series, this book didn’t scrimp on breadth. We start with Akeha and Mokoya’s childhood and follow them into adulthood. That being said, the story focused on their character development, world-building, and setting the stage for the rest of the Tensorate series. It was well-paced and no vignette seemed superfluous all the way into the finale, but still leaving room for more stories within and beyond.
What I Learned: Concentrating a story
The twin book to the previous entry, it really zoomed in to tell one specific story. There was an attention to detail that would have been superfluous to its companion. The characters and creatures really leaped off the page for me and I loved how elegant the hunt for the naga and its rider was. The reveals came about seamlessly and I think it was due in part to how delightfully concentrated this tale was.
What I Learned: Painting with words
I love when form matches function. Isobel, the main character and narrator is a painter. She views the world the way a paper does and that really stuck out in the pages of this novel. The attention to detail, the unique ways to describe color that felt very true to the setting were very masterful. The settings came together so vividly in with ethereality, as if the reader, too, was swept off to the land of the fair ones with the heroine.
The last two books will be part of the regularly scheduled round up, so be on the look for that.