It’s finally here! Wyrd and Wonder has arrived!
What’s more, this celebration of all things fantastical is five years old this year – hip hip hooray! HAPPY BIRTHDAY WYRD & WONDER!
There are so many wonderful things going on this month for Wyrd and Wonder that I can barely keep up. And thanks to work commitments and my own lack of preparation (where did April go?), it’s sod’s law that I’m not going to be able to take part as much as I’d like this month. The two read-alongs will definitely be keeping me busy (The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay and The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – reading schedules for both can be found here), and in addition I’ve got a handful of tags lined up. And then there are these Fantastic Fives lists, which people will be posting every Sunday, and which I just have to do because … well … lists.
So without further ado, I present to you, in no particular order, my five favourite fantasy reads since last year’s Wyrd and Wonder:
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
The House of Shattered Wings is the kind of book that makes me wish swooning was still fashionable. Aliette de Bodard’s world of fallen angels in a tired and broken Paris is bewitching in itself; the mystery of the killing shadow haunting the House of Silverspires, the cast of morally grey characters, each dragging with them their own bag of secrets, and the exquisite prose in which the tale is told all add to the glamour this book casts. The House of Shattered Wings remains with me like a cloudy, dark perfume and I get a delicious thrill every time I anticipate continuing this series.
Saint Death’s Daughter by C S E Cooney
Having started talking about luscious prose, I can’t move on until I’ve waved my flag for the gorgeous Saint Death’s Daughter. If Aliette de Bodard’s writing makes me want to swoon, C S E Cooney’s makes me want to floomp and froof, to dress up in festival finery and dance just for the joy of moving. For a book concerned with death and the art of necromancy, this was the most inviting, playful, life-affirming read. A warm, rainbow-soaked embrace of a book.
Sometimes, when I get sad, just knowing that particular books exist in the world, that certain thoughts have been expressed, certain characters imagined, helps. This is one of those books. It matters so much to me that it exists. (*dabs eyes with red-spotted handkerchief*).
You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
I loved so much about this gothic tale, told via a confessional document after the disappearance of the narrator. It’s an ambiguous story, as dark and fractured as the narrator Cassie’s life. On the one hand, Cassie has been haunted by the disconcerting, occasionally malevolent fairy creature called Pepper-Man since she was a little girl. On the other, she has been sexually abused by her father. Or possibly, both are true. Bruce leads the reader along the knife-edge of Cassie’s story and the experience is breathlessly intense. We may never know the truth, but whether Pepper-Man is real or imaginary he exists in my head now and I’ll never shake him.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
This fabulous slab of a book satisfied all my fantasy adventure needs in one swoop. Dragons and other magical creatures both terrifying and friendly? Check. Creative word-building involving fascinating histories and mythologies and intriguing cultures? Check. At least one kickass character who makes me want to dress up and run around like a kid re-enacting their adventures? *ahem* … Check. An end of the world scenario that can only be averted using lost magical artifacts? Check. A dash of romance without the blah-blah-blah? Check.
Did I mention all the dragons? Check.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
This was a tough call to make. The Library at Mount Char is one of the strangest books I read recently, but also one that has left a lasting impression. I can’t say that I loved any particular character, or that the world is one in which I’d like to live, but both aspects of Hawkins lightning-fast story are … fascinating. The way watching a car crash in slow motion is fascinating. This book elicited that same hungry-wincing-don’t-wanna-look-can’t-look-away feeling. I’ve not read anything else like it. And maybe, at the end of the day, that’s enough for it to go on this list. And the fact that it’s got a library in it, even if it’s like no library I’ve ever seen.