Wait, where did April go? I didn’t intend to go on hiatus, but I’m not really surprised it happened – it’s been drama on several fronts, leaving me with no mental energy for blogging. That’s not likely to change in the short term, although I shall make an effort not to disappear in May as it’s Wyrd & Wonder!
Angie Spoto’s debut novel The Grief Nurse has great bones, but not enough lift to help it take flight. It’s a personal narrative of a young woman learning to question her beliefs about her healing gift with the trappings of an almost Gosford Park murder mystery. Unfortunately, the final act unravels in a rush, the plot ultimately showing it has as many gaps as the characters and worldbuilding. That said, it’s an easy, atmospheric read – and I think it suffered a great deal for being read alongside Babel – Lynx is a little too like Letty, and the overlapping themes less clearly articulated here.
I persevered with Babel as I took long walks in the forest and while I admire it, I finished it as lukewarm on it as I’d been all along. It’s well-executed, it has an intriguing magic system, it has strong themes, it’s relentless in forcing its characters to confront colonial injustice, and… I wasn’t hooked. I don’t love naive MCs or academic settings; Babel features both, and is told at a stately pace that required me to be rather more invested than I ever was. I appreciated the bleak ending though (and while I enjoyed them about the same, Babel is objectively a much stronger book than The Grief Nurse in terms of structure, characters and clarity of themes).
I found Stewart Hotston’s The Entropy of Loss even less successful. I don’t love Hotston’s turn of phrase, so I never entirely settled into this novella of grief, guilt, terrifying first contact and invasive bureaucratic nightmare. It had all the ingredients to absolutely destroy me, so my star rating reflects the entirely subjective response of ‘how didn’t this reduce me to floods of tears?’ – but it didn’t.
Highlight of the month was The Queen Of The High Fields, Rhiannon A Grist’s modern-day portal fantasy in which two working class girls from a dying seaside town confound everyone’s low expectations of them to lay claim to the otherworld of Annwn. I loved the disaster MCs and the magical toxicity of their fantasy kingdom. A love story and a cautionary tale, steeped in ancient myth.
- The Grief Nurse – Angie Spoto ★★★
- Audio Reads: Babel – R F Kuang ★★★(★)
- Bite-size Reads:
- The Queen Of The High Fields – Rhiannon A Grist ★★★★
- The Entropy Of Loss – Stewart Hotston ★★☆
Stacking the shelves
No book buying this month, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a couple of ARCs recently. The Pomegranate Gate is next up on my reading list as a perfect Wyrd & Wonder read, and if I resist picking Inanna up before the end of May you should probably check whether I’ve been replaced by a pod person. The Hawkling and A Portrait In Shadow hopped on my radar as I compiled this month’s Make Some Room and tempted me to break my NetGalley ban (I’ve dived straight into A Portrait In Shadow, and am loving it).
What’s coming up?
I’m no longer expecting to be travelling in May, so I shall be (a little) more active than originally expected for Wyrd & Wonder although perhaps focused more on signal boosting than generating content if work continues to be as draining as it has been. As WordPress posts won’t automatically generate a promo post on Twitter effective tomorrow, if you’re planning to join the party, please sign up or join us on Discord (comment with your Discord handle and I’ll send you an invite) – and please remember to pop links to your posts on the Schedule. In previous years, we found a lot of posts and additional adventurers through Twitter, but the changes means that’s less likely this year.
On a closely-related note, I’m becoming more active on Mastodon – say hi if you hang out there!
How was your April?