Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey: I picked this up a while back in a second hand bookshop as a big fan of Carey’s first two Kushiel series. I had a decent idea of what I was getting into – a riffing of LotR from the evil side – but what told me was that Carey was aiming for a similar place with the prose too. She’s not quite as natural at that thick, archaic-esque prose as Tolkien, and it works a lot better on descriptions of the natural world than long conversations. A lot better. There was really no getting past that for me. I think trying to layer personality and sympathetic motivation onto Tolkien’s force of nature objective evil that looms over the struggles of the protagonists was a decision that, in hindsight, I’d have avoided as trying to put a house on a weak foundation. The mix of evil vibes and “but we’re misunderstood” felt like I was reading a propaganda video, or at a time meeting for Dr Evil. Pretty emphatically not my cup of tea.
Changa’s Safari by Milton J. Davis: A sword and soul tale of a merchant off of the east coast of medieval-ish Africa who gets into a lot of shit. I very much wanted to love this for its high adventure take to fantasy and might actually revisit now I’m typing this, but I found the prose just a bit too blocky. There’s a certain “X happened so I felt Y then did Z” gallop to it that doesn’t let up enough for me to feel a sense of awe at surroundings, or to sew some mystery as to what was coming next, or dig deep into the characters. Davis wants to carry you along with big adventure and snappy lines, and that just wasn’t quite enough for me. But perhaps in a different mood I’d feel different.
The Councillor by EJ Beaton: When I picked this up and put it down after a couple of chapters last year or so on the grounds of it requiring more attention than I had, I fully planned to come back. The premise of a councillor working out who should be the next ruler was interesting, and the lushly lyrical prose intrigued. It was the prose that made me realise I’d need to give it my full attention, but I think in doing so it’s missed the window of my interest for a long time. Court fantasies, intrigue fantasies, political fantasies, medieval urban fantasies, fantasies without much fantasy, they’re very much in and I’m finding out that when they’re not an occasional treat I get picky. Will I return? Maybe. But probably not for a decade or so at the very least.