Even while furiously working on a manuscript, I have to find time to read. I can hear the grumbling from fans: “Why are you reading when you have a book to write?” Ah, but writers have to read, just as doctors have to keep up on the latest research. Otherwise, we’d be very poor practitioners of our profession. Reading recharges my batteries, even though I normally read books that are very different from the ones I write.
Case in point: Blood of Ambrose by James Enge. This is a straightforward fantasy novel for a grownup audience. It’s set in a well-imagined fictional world where young Lathmar, the nominal king of the Ontil Empire, is facing a coup d’etat from his own Lord Protector, who is in league with some truly creepy dark forces. To the rescue comes Morlock Ambrosius, Lathmar’s great uncle, who is a centuries-old knight and magician from the Wardlands, accompanied by his faithful apprentice Wyrth the dwarf. Morlock is a wonderful character – powerful and noble, tragic and comic -- with more than a small nod to Don Quixote. The plot weaves from gruesome episode to gruesome episode, but balances the somber and sometimes downright horrifying action with some fine black humor. The novel is worth reading just to meet Velox, the flying, flaming, screaming horse. ‘Nuff said.
Also recommended: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Again, more of an adult novel, set in an alternate Civil War America where a horrible accident has turned Seattle into a quarantined wasteland filled with zombies. Briar, the widow of the mad scientist who caused the disaster, must enter the city to find her son, who has gone there determined to find evidence that will clear his father’s name. This is a highly original pageturner and a must-read for steampunk fans.
My most recent read: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. This debut YA novel is getting a lot of well-deserved attention. Gidwitz manages to balance the grisly violence of the original Grimms’ fairy tales with a wonderful sense of humor and narrative voice, somewhat reminiscent of Lemony Snicket’s take on the penny dreadful, but also completely fresh and unique. Gidwitz weaves the fairy tales together into a single narrative featuring Hansel and Gretel, and does it so well you’ll be wondering if this was the way the stories were meant to be told back in the old days. Check it out!
And finally, a congratulatory shout-out to Helen Grant, whose novel The Vanishing of Katherine Linden just won the Alex Award. I will confess, I don’t keep up with the award announcements much. Last week, when Publishers Weekly tweeted, “All eyes in the publishing world are on San Diego,” my first thought was, “It’s time for Comic-con again?” Then my wife told me ALA was happening there. Oh, right, that too! She also let me know about Linden winning the Alex. At any rate, I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy of Grant’s novel and it still haunts me. Wonderful, creepy, atmospheric mystery that would fit perfectly in the darkest collection of Grimms' folktales.
As for my family, Becky just finished Bill Crider’s latest Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery (wonderful series) and is looking forward to starting the new Robert Crais book.
My sixteen-year-old son Haley recommends the latest titles from Neal Shusterman: Bruiser, Everwild, and Unwind. He read each of them in a day, and can’t get enough. My twelve-year-old son Patrick just finished and loved Havoc, the sequel to Malice by Chris Wooding, and is now reading Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton.
In other news, my own writing is going well on the Son of Neptune. Tomorrow, expect some news about the second Kane Chronicles book! Until then, happy reading.