Maledicte by Lane Robins
Miranda, a girl child of the goddess-devastated Relicts, is destined to be a whore, but she has the companionship of her street crew to fill her days. Until her beloved Janus, who has the misfortune of being the bastard son of a nobleman short on heirs, is torn from her.
Miranda leaves her mother, determined to find Janus, to kill Lord Last and reclaim her companion. She takes shelter beneath the altar of Black-winged Ani, the goddess of vengeance responsible for the devastation around her, and emerges as Maledicte, goddess-ridden avatar of vengeance, and is determined to successfully pass as a male. In this new guise, Maledicte is taken in by a deviant count and taught the ways of twisting men and women to do his will, while doing that of the count. All the while just waiting for the opportunity to strike, for Black-winged Ani is not a patient deity, and vengeance must be served.
Maledicte is decadent and beautiful- language and languorously dangerous characters distract readers from the violence hovering just beneath the surface so that even as the crisis point of the book is reached, the reader is no more used to the bloodshed than when the book started. It is far too easy to write a book in which a reader becomes jaded to the violence and deviance contained within. Maledicte deftly avoids that trap, and pulls every necessary wince and gasp out of the reader as a result.
It is a book about love, and most of all about trust. It is about the ways people change over time, and the desperate way in which we cling to the shades of the people they used to be. Robin’s does some wonderful things with language, skillfully writing a book that contains beautiful prose that does not distract the reader.
If you are looking for a different, dark sort of fantasy, give Maledicte a read. It is stunning.
Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede
Eff is a Thirteenth Child, and while she has more or less overcome the assumption she is an avatar of misfortune as a result, she is still working at smoothing out her magical talents. As she finishes up her schooling as a child her brother Lan, a fortuitous seventh son of a seventh son, urges her to consider higher schooling in the east. But Eff’s attention turns ever westward, to the wild lands beyond the barrier. She takes on a position as assistant to the menagerie attached to the school she just graduated from, and from there, is brought along on a survey expedition through the lands unprotected by the barrier. As the survey stumbles upon magical animals in places they should not be as well as a puzzling collection of what look to be petrified animals, Lan’s schooling comes to a stop in a horrifying tragedy.
Across the Great Barrier is the second book in the Frontier Magic series, and is a fascinating mix of Little House on the Prairie and Harry Potter. I am particularly fond of magic being used for mundane things, so the way Wrede has written magic being utilized by folks trying to make their way on the frontier pulled in my attention, and the edge of danger that life style and the world Wrede has built with its steam dragons, mirror bugs, and Columbian Sphinxes kept me frantically turning pages long past when I should have been sleeping. Beyond that, everything I can ever remember enjoying about being a child is represented, in some way, in these books. The little experiences and triumphs, even the flat failures and disappointments- things I can, as an adult look back at with a crooked grin. These are books shelved in the children’s section, but are by no means books just for kids.
Enjoyable, fun, highly recommended.