I didn’t get a whole lot of reading in this month but I had the BEST excuse.
A Darker Shade of Magic, VE Schwab
I read a heck of a lot of novels in fantasy settings, so I don’t often have the pleasure of encountering a plot/world element that’s genuinely new to me. The structure of the four parallel worlds through which Kel can travel (and bring passenger Lila along) both as a sort of stack (which must be traveled through sequentially) and as a gradient of magic (from no magic at all – our world – to so dangerously magical it was sealed off) is utterly original. And not only that, but the consequences of moving through those worlds are immediate and serious. Sometimes fantasy stories are saddled with elaborate world building elements or magic systems that are just plopped on top of an otherwise very typical plot. Now, there’s nothing wrong with mundane novels, but a story really shines when its world or magic has thoughtful logic to it, and that logic has specific consequences that could only happen because of the nature of the world (or magic). I guess I’ll hold off on my gushing recommendation until I finish the series… but I’m feeling confident.
Genre: mystery, thriller. Setting: fantasy. Format: novel. Rating: 3/3
Ask A Manager, Alison Green
I am an enthusiastic devotee of askamanager.org, the website this book is a companion to. Where on the website version she tackles questions from readers (90% of which elicit relatable and applicable workplace advice and an excellent commentariat, and 10% of which are absolutely bonkers situations that result in extremely specific but fascinating advice and comments), the book is framed more as a hit parade of dos and don’ts of the workplace. It would make a fantastic graduation gift for a new grad starting their first professional job. The website is better, but not because the book is anything less than great – it’s just that the advice column format is just thoroughly established as a means of illustrating generalizable advice through specifics, and the site archives are massive.
Genre: advice. Format: essays/Q&A. Rating 3/3
Once Upon A Time in the North, Philip Pullman
Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison become besties in a heist/Lee is a meddler/Iorek smashes things for justice adventure. Do you know what makes a tense shootout even more tense? A pissed polar bear. I have personally met pissed polar bears and happy polar bears (and happy BABY polar bears), and let me tell you, even the happy ones can ruin your day with one swat of the paw. There’s a reason that municipalities with polar bears have curfews and bear traps and bear-proof trash cans (and entire indoor dumps!). And then add not only human intelligence, but above-average human intelligence? Iorek is my absolute fave for a reason.
Fun fact: one of the best theories behind the famous “exit, pursued by a bear” bear in Winter’s Tale was probably a baby polar bear on loan to the Globe from King James I!
Genre: adventure, mystery. Setting: fantasy, polar bears. Format: novella. Rating: 3/3 and I’m a little in love with Lee Scoresby