Fun fact: every book this month was part of a series!
In Cave Danger, Kate Dyer-Seeley
And the series comes to end with a surprising twist! And the best, if most obvious, baddie of the series. I’m never going to like this series as much as the author’s other two, but I’m pleased Meg’s adventures went out with a bang.
Genre: mystery. Setting: realism. Format: novel. Rating: 2/3
Persepolis, Vol 1 and 2, Marjane Satrapi *
It’s a classic of the genre for a reason. If you’re interested in coming-of-age stories (traces the author’s life from from age ~8-25), Iran and Iranian history (highly recommended to me by a friend from Iran), striking and unusual art (all black and white, no shading or gray), and/or a massively influential pillar of graphic arts storytelling, read this book. I happened to have the two volume version, which is how it was originally released, but it’s more often found as a single volume these days.
Genre: character study. Setting: realism. Format: graphica. Rating: 3/3
Backstagers, Vol 1, James Tynio IV and Rian Sygh.
I got this one off a list of the best graphica of the year because it promised me weird magical adventures by the stage crew kids at a high school, and boy did it deliver. If you liked Lumberjanes, were a theater kid, or want to frantically escape malevolent paint creatures, this is the book for you. It’s not actually a graphic novel – it’s a collection of I think 6 comic book issues re-bound as a book . (Many comic books are republished as normal books, called trades, containing anywhere from 4-8 issues making up a story arc. Unfortunately, the fossils in the sales departments at comic companies don’t consider trades to be “real” sales and only renew titles based on individual issue sales, so even though the books are so much easier, I might suck it up and get some individual issues. I didn’t even buy this trade edition either! It came from the library.)
There’s a larger arc looming here and I am so excited for volume 2 (coming soon).
Genre: adventure, ensemble cast. Setting: magical realism, weird. Format: graphica. Rating: 3/3
The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky, NK Jemisin * (Broken Earth trilogy)
Wow! I’m struggling with what I can say that doesn’t blow the plot, since the unfolding of what the quest actually will be is a major part of the story. But this is the most innovative, visceral, driving fantasy novel I have read in a long time. Fantasy is not usually a genre where authors play with experimental/unusual storytelling techniques, but not only did she pull off second-person narration without it being weird (and that’s an accomplishment, lemme tell you – the only other instance where second person has worked for me has been in murder mysteries where I, the author, am narrating the player’s life to them), she did so while also building a vast, thoughtful magical world with a deep bench of fully fleshed-out secondary characters. Those characters are also a masterclass in diversity in fiction without it being forced or trying too hard. It’s a challenge to effectively convey and gain sympathy for the internal struggle of multiple characters, especially for non-viewpoint characters where we don’t get their internal monologues, and especially especially for characters who are morally gray at best and lack the literal concept of morality at worst. Also, any story where the magic system includes both brainstem anatomy and geophysics is all right by me.
The first two novels both won the Hugo for best novel, making Jemisin the first author to win twice in a row, and the third is up this year and I sure hope it wins. She earned it.
Genre: speculative, character study, mystery. Setting: magical realism, fantasy. Format: novel. Rating: 3/3
* books suitable for age 14+