So while volume 2 of my own series is in the hands of my editor, I decided to take time off to read some books. See, there’s a novel I wrote – the very the first one, in fact – waaaaaay back in 2003. It was absolutely awful, but since I loved the plot so much, I tried to rework it. I’ve rewritten that sucker 4 times from start to finish since 2003, and I mean literally rewrote it. The first three iterations were first person and the last was third with two POV characters. But at no time did I get the story right.
However, over the past 6 months or so, a nugget of an idea has taken hold, and I’m excited to see if I can finally bring the island of Arylyn to life.
Thus, the books I’ve been reading are young adult. I don’t know the sensibilities of that genre anymore, so I thought I’d re-familiarize myself with the type of books that made me fall in love with reading in the first place. The first series I picked up was The Seven Realms quadrology by Cinda Williams Chima.
The setting is the northern city of Fellsmarch, a place always ruled by queens and never a king. Enter the thief, Han Alister, who has done many bad things in his life but wants to do good. Early on, he and his friend Dancer end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and Han gains an amulet that leads to tragedy. Then there’s always the witty, but at times witless Raisa, heir to the Queendom. She’s just trying to find her place in the world. You know, save her mother, save the Queendom, and figure out how to marry the boy she’s always loved. The first book plods along and finally becomes interesting when Han meets Raisa. After that, the next three volumes go by quickly. Some of the characters are cliched, like Raisa’s bratty sister who reminded me of Dawn from Buffy. Shudder. Otherwise, the characters were likable, and I was especially happy to see the thought the author put into the plot. Trouble loomed in unexpected ways, pain followed, and the characters had to grow. I liked it.
The other series was The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas, the first book of which was The Burning Sky. This was an intimate novel. What I mean is that it’s really about just two people, Titus VII, Master of the Domain, and Iolanthe Seabourne, the elemental mage that Titus has waited to find his entire life. That’s it. Sure, there’s other characters, but they’re secondary at best. All the focus is on the relationship between Titus and Iolanthe. They don’t like each other or trust each other, but circumstances cast them into an uneasy alliance. As expected given that it’s proudly labelled a romance, love blossoms between them, but by the second book, the equally well done The Perilous Sea, that simple attraction and affection is put to the test by amnesia of all things, and the prophetic visions of Titus’ mother. The setting is a fantasy world that is separate from, but overlaps our own and filled with high level magic that is indistinguishable from science and Eton College in 1883 England. Odd, right? But it works because of the intimate nature of the writing and the fact that Iolanthe is instantly attractive as a character, and Titus, who some might find detestable at first, I found sympathetic. I liked these books a lot and am looking forward to the finale.