Book Challenge, February 2016: Exquisite Joy and Despair.

February was a great month for my reading goals, not just because of the number of books I managed to get through, but also thanks to the absurdly high quality of the books. What I appreciate most in story-telling is beautifully fleshed out characters, and this month’s selection offered an abundance of them without skimping on world-building and plot. They are all very different, yet bizarrely similar in the way they focus on duty, agency, personal choice in the face of tradition and systematic oppression, all with a big ol’ helping of political intrigue. All seven handle the less then pleasant subjects of slavery, rape, and child abuse, though oddly enough it’s the book about the prince forced into becoming a pleasure slave that is the least harrowing to read.

This past month I’ve read:

The Dreamblood Series by N. K. Jemisin (The Killing Moon: 1st-5th of February, The Shadowed Sun: 5th-9th of February): I am in love with this world and these characters. The blurb for the first book in the series promised an intriguing world and set up a predictable heterosexual romance. Thankfully, while I got my extremely original fantasy setting, predictability was nowhere to be found. I have already waxed poetic about the series on my person blog, so let me just reiterate that if you like fantasy, you owe it to yourself to read these book.

The Captive Prince Trilogy by C. S. Pascat (Captive Prince: 10th of February, Prince’s Gambit: 11th-12th of February, Princes Rising: 13th-14th of February – yes, I tore through the series like a woman possessed): Another pleasant surprise this month was finding out that this wasn’t the Draco in Leather Pants romance novel I had assumed it would be. What makes this surprise even more pleasant is that it isn’t the Draco in Leather Pants novel the protagonist thought it would be either. While the writing is occasionally too flowery for my tastes (nothing too egregious), the crowning glory of the books are the dialogues (You thought I was going to say the sex, didn’t you? …It’s good too). The main characters jump off the page, complimenting each other beautifully, and while their relationship is obviously the main focus of the books, the political intrigue that drives the plot should hook even readers who don’t ordinarily go for romance. There are battles and chase scenes and scheming amidst all the glorious pining. It’s funny, tragic, thought-provoking, and silly in a way that reminds me of Shakespeare. Enjoy the ride and be careful of oblivious, unreliable narrators (so frustrating!).

The Sparrow Series by Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow: 15th-18th of February, Children of God: 19th-29th of February): I could focus on the religious and philosophical questions raised by this book, or the vibrant and diverse characters and deceptively idyllic alien worlds. Instead I’m going to warn you all that the first book in particular is devastatingly depressing and the second one isn’t exactly sunshine and happiness. I’m serious. I haven’t been traumatized like this by a book since Catch-22 and a least with Catch-22 I wasn’t so attached to the characters.

Challenge Status: 12/50 books read

Tune in next month for my scathing review of Ready Player One (I finished it in March so that’s where it’s going) and my impression of the Imperial Radch series which I’ve just started.

If you’re an avid book reader you might want to check out Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial.

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