As far as the weather is concerned, February is, often, an unpleasant sort of month. If it isn’t raining, it’s probably gearing up to snow, and the days are short on light and prone to being inhospitably freezing.
But, as far as reading is concerned, February is the perfect month. The poor, unreliable weather means that outdoor pursuits are usually non-existent, and, when they do take place, they are uninviting and frequently postponed. On the other hand, indoor pursuits, such as reading, are both infinitely more preferable, and strongly recommended during particularly bad weather, for safety’s sake.
A strong advocate of safety, I enjoyed February very much.
The first book I read was A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab. This book came to my attention through the wonderful world of Instagram, and I am so very glad that it did. It’s brilliantly written, with wonderfully descriptive prose, interesting characters, and superb, detail-oriented world-building. Every part of A Darker Shade of Magic is expertly composed, and the richness of the setting engages the reader from the very first sentence. Books like this – dynamic, exciting, unpredictable and innovative – are the very reason that I love the fantasy genre so much. I gave A Darker Shade of Magic 5 stars.
Second was Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I first read Poison Study years ago, and this year, wanted to experience that world again. While the reader is presented with more than sufficient detail to comprehend the particulars of the novel, Snyder’s prose is sparse, with little emphasis on descriptive imagery. The factual aspects of the setting, and in regards to world-building, are not lacking, but more could have been done to flesh it out, and imbue it with greater vibrancy. That said, the plot and characters are engaging, the dialogue is consistently realistic, and the merging of fantasy elements with Synder’s detailed, thorough world-building, works well. The narrative is given depth and nuance by those very details, compensating for the arguably sparse, almost simplistic, prose. I gave Poison Study 4 stars.
I then read The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare (translated by John Hodgson). I still don’t really know what to think of it. It’s a very peculiar book, incredibly morbid, and uncompromisingly dark. Reading it isn’t exactly an comfortable experience. But it is intriguing, with a considerable amount of philosophy held within its pages. Despite its subject, it doesn’t verge upon horror; instead, it provides a sophisticated exploration of human nature, bolstered both by an attention to detail, and a sincere willingness to delve, unflinchingly, into the darkest, deepest depths of the human condition. The Traitor’s Niche brings into sharp, discomfiting, and often shocking relief, the relationship between the mind and the body, and, even, the relationship between the head and the rest of the body, and ventures into a variety of topics including the importance of language in regards to culture. I gave The Traitor’s Niche 5 stars.
After The Traitor’s Niche, I turned to Stolen by Kelley Armstrong, which belongs to my favourite genre (urban fantasy). I have always enjoyed the way in which Armstrong weaves the supernatural into the unfailingly ordinary in regards both to her plot and to her characters, and this is equally the case in Stolen. Given voice by dynamic, first person prose, which lends it a considerable sense of personality, its detailed imagery, intriguing characters and engaging world-building all contribute to the presentation of an assured, well-paced narrative. Two long-standing themes from Armstrong’s work – that is, the treatment of women and found families – also appear, establishing the nuanced humanity of the characters and an extra dimension to the plot. I gave Stolen 5 stars.
Finally, no bookish round-up could ever be complete without a nod to my ever-expanding TBR shelf.
In February, I added:
- Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. I want to read more books written by women, and, in particular, by women with difficult cultural experiences to my own. The reviews that I have read of Freshwater are overwhelmingly positive; most suggest that the reader was overwhelmed in entirety.
- A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2). I added it to the list as soon as I finished A Darker Shade of Magic, which, given everything I said above, shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Newly introduced to Schwab’s work, I now can’t wait to delve into the rest of the series.
- All the Names they Used for God: Stories by Anjali Sachdeva. Again, I want to read more books written by women of varying experiences, and this has been given glowing reviews. It seems likely to be an exceptional read, and a journey that I’m very much looking forward to embarking on.
- Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck. I like my books dark and atmospheric, preferably with an outpouring of strange strong to overwhelm the unwary trespasser. This collection of stories seems likely to deliver on all fronts. As far as I’m concerned, “here there by monsters” is an invitation to settle in for my favourite kind of reading experience.
- The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. For similar reasons to the above, I’m interested in reading The Toymakers – that is, for magic, for mystery, and for the unexplained sparkle partially hidden behind half-locked doors. At the very least the chance to explore a world that isn’t my own, and to step into a text in which imagination flows free.
My most recent book review was of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Read it here.