BooksOfTheMoon

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

By Alix E. Harrow

Rating: 3 stars

I’m sort of struggling to write a review for this one, because it doesn’t seem to have made me feel as much as I think it should. It had so much that I enjoy in a book: a feisty heroine, a book-within-a-book, it’s a book about books and storytelling, but somehow, it hasn’t left as much of an impression as I thought it would.

January Scaller is the ward of the wealthy Mr Locke, whose father is his employee, scouring the world for rare and beautiful objects for Locke’s collection. When January finds a strange book, her world changes entirely.

There’s a lot to this book, with race and racism being pretty high up the list. January is the “Coloured” ward of a rich white man in early 20th century America, and we see early on how his influence protects her, and what happens when that protection is withdrawn. Race is very much on our minds now, in mid-2020, with the Black Lives Matter movement still strong after the death of George Floyd, and this book has a strong treatment of the various characters who are treated badly because of their race, and also their class. In particular the power disparity of those who have money and those who don’t. Locke’s New England Archaeological Society is full of the rich and powerful and they take pride in making it clear just how wide that gap is.

This is also a book about change, and travel. In the book, the Doors are a means of change, of new ideas travelling between worlds, and there are attempts to close the Doors, to prevent change and impose a strict order on the world. On my less good days, I feel that those forces are winning. While I wouldn’t describe the early 21st century as “orderly”, it does feel like moneyed interests (such as those in the book) are very much on top. But as the book reminds us, it isn’t forever. Change is inevitable, and those who try to stop it are eventually washed away.

One final thing, something I discovered quite by accident: the book is Augmented Reality-enabled. If you point Google Lens at the front cover, you get a beautiful little animation, and if you point it at the back, you get a little talk from the author about the book. I really like that, and I hope more publishers start doing something similar.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356512464

Lumberjanes: To the Max Edition, Vol. 5

By Shannon Watters

Rating: 4 stars

The first story in this collection moves away from Roanoke cabin to Zodiac, as Barney settles in with their cabin-mates following their move to the Lumberjanes camp last volume (incidentally, there was a nice little introduction to the idea of people’s pronouns here, which wasn’t too thickly laid on, but a good way to show it handled well). Diane has been allowed to stay, and she takes them off on a treasure hunt for magic. After this, we’re back with Roanoke, as we move into a sports-based storyline involving roller ball. I’m not a huge sports fan, but there’s enough fun in this (especially given who the opposing team are) that it keeps my attention.

The second arc sees Parents’ Day, where the various parents come to visit. This revisits previous hints that Molly’s family life isn’t happy. Seeing her watching, smiling slightly sadly, as the others make happy reunions with their families is a little heartbreaking. This seems to be something that the authors are going to leave simmering and come back to in future.

The artists change between the arcs in the volume. While I enjoyed the Carolyn Nowak’s art on the first story, Ayme Sotuyo’s work on the second felt “more Lumberjanes” to me. Both are very good and fit the type of storytelling going on here, but the second just spoke to me more. As always, everything to do with art is subjective, and YMMV.

The themes of friendship to the max, and found families persist in this volume, as the girls grow ever-closer, and the camp becomes ever-weirder. Lovely stuff.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684153121
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2019

Travel Light

By Naomi Mitchison

Rating: 4 stars

Baby Halla’s stepmother, the new queen, wants her gotten rid of. Her nurse takes a bear’s form and escapes to the forest with her, where young Halla is first raised by bears and later by dragons. When she loses her dragon benefactor she must choose between dragon-ish hoarding and travelling light. She makes her choice and travels to human lands where she has many adventures.

I’ve not read much Naomi Mitchison, although I very much enjoyed her Memoirs of a Spacewoman. This is a very different book, but it has the same somewhat gentle, and slow-paced feel to it. I enjoyed it quite a lot reading it now, I think I would have enjoyed it more reading it in my youth, and I think I would enjoy it even more if I were a young woman.

Despite the suggested interference in her fate by the Norns and by the All-Father, Halla is still a spirited young woman who is active in controlling her own life. This is a lovely, if short, fantasy novel, with an active female protagonist that deserves to be better-known.

Book details

ISBN: 9781931520140
Publisher: Peapod Classics
Year of publication: 2005

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland, #3)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 3 stars

The third volume of September’s adventures sees her return to Fairyland, this time with the help, for want of a better word, of the Blue wind. She travels to the moon, finds her friends, A-Through-L and Saturday and has to try and save the moon from the terrible yeti, Ciderskin.

Although still enjoyable, I didn’t find this book as compelling as The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but I didn’t really find September’s adventures that interesting, and her feelings towards Saturday are starting to turn into quite dull teenage romantic angst. The new characters that we meet along the way didn’t seem as interesting as others that we’ve met before, although Abecedaria, the periwig librarian was fun.

I’m sure there are Metaphors here, about growing up, things that need to be cast aside or held on to, but neither they, nor the story, really grabbed me. I didn’t dislike them, I just wasn’t completely absorbed by them. I’ll still look out for the next couple of books though.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250050618
Publisher: Square Fish
Year of publication: 2013

Defy the Stars (Constellation, #1)

By Claudia Gray

Rating: 4 stars

While I’m a fan of space opera, I tend not to read much in the way of YA or romance novels, so this was a bit of a leap for me. I’m glad I took it though, as I enjoyed it a lot. Noemi is a young fighter pilot, fighting to protect her planet from invasion by Earth. Abel is the most advanced mech ever built by Earth. When the two of them find each other on an abandoned spacecraft, they realise they need each other as they embark on a voyage through the known universe to try and protect Noemi’s home.

As I say, I don’t read a lot of YA stories, and for the first few chapters of this book, the style and tone felt a little jarring, but once I adapted to the flow of the story, I got on fine with it. Both Noemi and Abel are engaging protagonists, and the alternating POV per chapter means we get inside both their heads and get to experience both sides of the war (although, of course, it’s no spoiler to say that their differing attitudes start to converge as they spend more time with each other).

There are interesting moral questions in the background too – does Genesis have the absolute right to secede from Earth, if it means trapping millions of people in squalor? What rights does a artificial creature have, even a sentient one?

So an interesting story and a fun one. I’ll probably end up picking up the sequel to see where it ends up going.

Book details

ISBN: 9781471406362
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Year of publication: 2017

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland, #2)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4 stars

September returns to Fairyland after a year away to find it changed. But it’s not just it that has changed, she too has changed. As part of growing up, she has gained a young heart, and is no longer the heartless girl who left Nebraska without a backwards glance, and she now has to face the joys that a heart can bring, and also learn that it can be broken.

This book takes us to Fairyland-Below, where September must try to fix something that broke because of her actions, even if it wasn’t her fault. There she has new adventures, meets new friends as well as old ones (sort of) and learns that even if you destroy the signs, rules can’t be broken that easily.

I liked this book a lot, moreso than The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I don’t know if that was because I was more familiar with the tone and rhythm and knew what to expect. I also liked September more this time round too, as she is starting to grow up and learn about consequences. We see different sides to both A-Through-L and Saturday, and, despite being named for one of the more deplorable vegetables, I adored Aubergine, the Night-Dodo, and would love to see more of her.

After finishing the first book I was tepid on picking up the next one. After this one, I’m very much more looking forward to reading more of September’s adventures.

Book details

ISBN: 9781472108104
Publisher: Constable & Robinson
Year of publication: 2012

Revenger (Revenger, #1)

By Alastair Reynolds

Rating: 3 stars

Two sisters run away from home and join the crew of a sunjammer – a solar sail ship that searches the remnants of the solar system looking for locked micro-worlds containing relics and money that can be sold. However, there’s more than treasure out there – not least pirates, including the infamous Bosa Sennen.

Blimey, this book was not what I expected at all. I was thinking I was in for a bit of light adventure in the Congregation that huddles around the Old Sun, which is more or less what I got for the first section, but then it suddenly changes, goes much darker in tone and becomes a revenge story. Fura Ness starts off as a likeable protagonist but she changes, becomes much harder and driven as the story goes on, making difficult choices and, to my mind, becoming much less likeable. I’m not really fan of that sort of revenge story either, so this ended up being a bit of a slog for me.

The worldbuilding in the book is fantastic. I really want to know more about the Congregation, and how they survive as billions of people hanging on in or on millions of tiny worldlets that emerged after the “sundering” of the worlds of the Solar System. The history stretches back ten million years or more, and this is the thirteenth time that the system has been populated (the 13th Occupation) in that time. Much of what is locked in the baubles comes from those older Occupations. That’s a huge amount of history and I’d really love to have seen more of that. But, I suppose there’s only so much that can be drip-fed without it seeming like infodumping.

Apparently this book is YA. That makes me think twice about today’s young adults. I thought it was very dark in places and so wouldn’t have called it that. I know the protagonist is young but beyond that, I couldn’t see anything differentiating this from an “adult” novel. I thought the language wasn’t toned down (apart from the made-up words: lungstuff, squawk etc) and it was very readable.

I think I figured out the whole Bosa Sennen being a really hideous Dread Pirate Roberts fairly early on – and who the current one was. The first encounter with her was really tough on me. We had this crew that I was starting to like and I was expecting to see much more of, and suddenly they’re all dead. In really horrible ways. That being quickly followed by the section back on Mazarile almost made me put down the book.

This would be two stars for me in terms of enjoyment, but I’m giving it the third star for how Reynolds made me feel throughout. That’s a skill and it deserves to be recognised.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575090552
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Year of publication: 2016

Lumberjanes: To the Max Edition, Vol. 2

By Noelle Stevenson

Rating: 4 stars

The second To The Max volume of Lumberjanes is just as pretty as the first, with a lovely hardback cover and gorgeous internal artwork. The story continues to be engaging and fun as well. The first issue within this volume is a standalone story of the various Lumberjanes telling each other ghost stories. After that, we move into a longer story of Molly and Mal getting trapped Somewhere Else (with dinosaurs!) after following the Bear Woman, and then something which fleshes out Rosie’s backstory, gives the Bear Woman a name and introduces a new character with a dangerous obsession.

It took me a wee bit to get back into this; the standalone and somewhat disjointed first story didn’t really help, but once it got going, I very much enjoyed it. The tension between Jo and Barney was interesting and had a lovely payoff at the end. It was also nice to see Rosie’s character fleshed out a bit more, and more beats between the Roanoke gang (especially Mal and Molly and also the friendship between Jo and April).

There’s obviously something going on at the Lumberjanes camp and I look forward to finding out more about what it is, not to mention spending more time with the Lumberjanes themselves.

Book details

ISBN: 9781608868896
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2015

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 3 stars

September is bored, so when the Green Wind turns up on his Leopard of Little Breezes and offers to take her to Fairyland, she doesn’t hesitate and goes away with him, without even a backward glance. But all isn’t well in Fairyland: wings are in iron chains, rules proliferate and the people fear to speak out. In short, Fairyland needs saving, and September rushes in, where angels fear to tread. But can she save herself, never mind Fairyland?

It took me a while to understand the rhythm of this book. In terms of writing, it’s very Fairy Tale and childlike, but as you continue to read, it deals with concepts and emotions more complex than would initially seem, but in such a subtle way that you almost don’t notice.

September is a likeable heroine who learns more about herself as she progresses through her adventures (as is right and proper for a fairy tale). We learn less of her companions, although I suspect that they may get more screen time in the sequels, especially the Marid, Saturday. The Marquess, when we finally meet her, is also more complex than first appearances suggest, and the final showdown between her and September is particularly satisfying.

There is a prequel short story, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While, about September’s predecessor Mallow available to read for free at Tor.com which I enjoyed a lot, and sheds more light on some of what takes place here (I’d wait until finishing this one before reading the prequel though, as it’ll make more of a emotional impact that way).

Book details

ISBN: 9781780339818
Publisher: Little, Brown
Year of publication: 2011

The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While (Fairyland, #0.5)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4 stars

Lovely little prequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I just finished earlier today. This tells the story of how Mallow became queen of Fairyland, and gives extra depth to The Girl Who Circumnavigated. It lends another dimension to the novel but also works perfectly well on its own, with a very similar feel to the novel: charming yet with a layer of darkness under the surface.

Book details

Publisher: Tor Book
Year of publication: 2011

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