In my defense, it is still December. Barely.
You’ll notice I’ve added a setting tag for fiction – I’m finding it very helpful to separate the plot of the book (genre) from its world-building (setting), which are often conflated. Are Harry Potter and Annihilation both teeeeeechnically in fantasy settings? Yes, but that misses the fundamental differences in plot. Similarly, Jane Austen’s realism-driven works would be shelved far away from fantasy riff on Austen Shades of Milk and Honey (and its sequels), though both are fundamentally etiquette comedies. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, both of the fiction books this month were the same genre (fantasy), so this feature will really become clearer next month.
The Mislaid Magician, Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
A satisfying conclusion, though it does open more questions about the mechanics of magic than it answers. (How do ley lines come into this? What feats are theoretically possible to learned magicians? Why doesn’t everyone have magic, or what controls how powerful a magician is?) I was delighted that Thomas and James contribute letters for the first time – but only after we’d already thoroughly established Kate and Cecy as the main characters with the most development!
Genre: adventure, mystery. Setting: magical realism/fantasy. Rating: 3/3 and a solid contender for series of the year
The Book of Dust, Philip Pullman
Pullman has the rare ability to capture his children protagonists as how children really are. His new protagonists, in a prequel trilogy to His Dark Materials (Golden Compass/Subtle Knife/Amber Spyglass), start an adventure that thematically complements (but doesn’t replicate) the original. Yes, this is a prequel, but read the original trilogy first (and in the correct order, clueless 4th grader me accidentally read Amber Spyglass first and was very confused), and then jump back in here and suffer with me while I wait for #2 and 3.
Genre: allegory, relationship/character study. Setting: magical realism/fantasy. Rating: 3.5/3 with the bonus half point for making me cry a few times (BUT IT’S JUST ALLEGORICALLY RAINING ON MY FACE)