It’s that time again, folks! Another month gone means more books read. In the month of March, I completed three books:
1) The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I adored this book. It is very strange, but so very, very good. And by strange, I mean it’s tonally strange. The novel is divided into four parts, spanning nearly the entire length of King Arthur’s life, and the feeling of the first half differs greatly from the second half. Perhaps the shift in tone is inherently due – at least in part – to the fact that Arthur moves from the optimism of youth into the cynicism and self-doubt of old age, when all he has worked to build appears to be crumbling down around him. I think my favorite parts were quieter moments when White took his time to dwell upon and explain the nature of these characters that are so well known in everyone’s collective consciousness. It lent the story a depth and a richness that I haven’t experienced in other tellings and retellings of the myth, and it made the tragedy of it all that much more poignant.
2) A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. This may be my new favorite book series. Oh my god did I love this book. For any of you who don’t know the premise, these novels take the form of a memoir by the world’s leading scholar of dragons, Lady Trent. The world presented in the novel is entirely fictional, complete with new geography, countries, even new names for months and days of the week. However, our protagonist Isabella hails from a country that is essentially analogous to 19th century England, and the story is as much her own struggle to escape the constraints of such a society to pursue the life she wants, as it is adventure story featuring a healthy dose of dragons of all shapes and sizes. It is quite excellent. I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend, with the one caveat that you lose access to the maps present in a physical copy of the novel. Brennan does not coddle her reader with detailed explanations of how this world differs from our own, but drops you straight into the middle of it and expects you to catch on as you go. Hence the usefulness of the maps.
3) The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan. Yes, I jumped straight into the second book in the Lady Trent series. And as of this writing, I am just about to start into the third volume (also via audiobook). This second novel thrusts Isabella even further towards her goal of becoming a natural historian of dragons, this time as a leader of an expedition rather than simply a companion or assistant. It also confronts the challenges and double standards she faces in a much more pointed manner, not simply in her own reflections upon them but in direct and open conversations she has with others. Conversations that, frankly, unfortunately hit very close to home here in the modern era of 2017. I know I’m not doing a very good job of explaining why I think these novels are so fabulous, but just trust me that they are. Go read them. Or listen to them. Either. Both. Just do it.
All in all I am quite satisfied with my literary adventures this month. It isn’t often that I read so many solid winners in a row.
Until next month, everybody!