Four Months of Books: January, February, March, and April

Oof, I’m slacking with this, aren’t I? We’re almost back to grad school delays for updating this series. I also missed the first of May, so, er, I’ll say I’m posting in honor of Star Wars Day? May the 4th be with you?

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland: Oh, this was a delight. Chant’s voice is just so bracingly irreverent and makes for such an interesting viewpoint for this world. I’m writing this a few weeks after having finished the book, so it’s a little fuzzy, but I love when there’s a fun narrative conceit for the format and presentation, and this one is a good example of it (Chant is speaking to someone in his first person narration, and he 100% lies through omission and understatement, particularly about the things he doesn’t want to talk about…like feelings). It’s also unexpectedly hilarious, especially once Chant and Ylfing are in a room together. Much like A Taste of Gold and Iron, A Conspiracy of Truths are quietly but refreshingly queer normative (as the two books are set in the same world, if very distantly related), and I just found the whole reasoning behind society-wide polyamory fascinating. There’s hints in here of an almost Pratchettarian approach to societal commentary and the snapshots of fully realized secondary characters who basically just walk onstage and exit stage left, who are both very real and very ridiculous. Also, bonus points for having a viewpoint character who is older! Like, grandparent-age and fully embracing the role of “curmudgeonly old geezer who doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks and will be rude because he’s in a bad situation and it’s his only outlet.” Excellent!

Stargazy Pie by Victoria Goddard: I may have eaten these. Like, the whole series, in a week. I am also biased, because I love the other companion series (serieses?), so it was likely I was going to enjoy these. Stargazy Pie does fill in so many of the little gaps in the world building lore I just sort of skated over while reading the other books from the other series(es), and is both very much like the other books but also…a bit different. This one does feel a bit like a first book, as the lore is a little amorphous and the connections between revelations and mystery are a little convoluted, but it’s very much set up in that mode of small English village murder-mystery cozy, where bizarre things occur and you just roll with the weird. And the final reveal for the mystery feels like a homage to those very complicated cozy mystery novels, where if you don’t note that one little detail, you probably aren’t going to figure it out, but that’s also fine? Because it’s super entertaining anyway? Also, there forbidden magic and cults and secret drug farms and mermaids and mysterious pies that is made, in fact, of red herrings–it’s entirely one giant literary homage and easter egg, and quite a fun romp. The series are quick reads, which is why I, er, read so many, so quickly.

Bee Sting Cake by Victoria Goddard: Greenwing and Dart hits its stride and this was the point where I got what these books are doing. Also, poor Jemis. He’s just not catching a break here… Though I love his recognition that no only is his life a melodrama, it’s now a gothic melodrama, complete with curses, spooky forests, ancestral homes that are covered in three inches of dust and decay. And a dragon. Admittedly, yes, the dragon makes sense in context. Just roll with it. Also, cake. Also, Hal. I love Hal.

Whiskey Jack by Victoria Goddard: Though technically Stone Speaks to Stone comes in between book 2 and 3, I do recommend NOT reading it before reading Whiskey Jack, but after, because there is ONE major reveal that if you know a certain character’s name, you will TOTALLY figure out everyone’s secret identity and be stuck with Jemis pottering about in complete ignorance. Which…depending on you, I guess, might be entertaining, but it might also be infuriating, since he blithely waltzes past certain clues that, even NOT having read Stone Speaks to Stone, you might start putting two and two together. Anyway, the melodrama continues! Along with narrative coincidences! Which do get explained later (spoiler: it’s wild magic. There’s a wild mage in this, and wild mages always attract the most extraordinary coincidences. If there’s a wild mage, and that one thing would have a .0001% chance of actually happening, but would be narratively dramatic, it’s a guarantee it’s happening–I love this conceit).

Stone Speaks to Stone by Victoria Goddard: Short, but fills in the blanks of what actually happened to Jemis’ father. Saying much about this one might end up too far into spoiler territory. Quick read!

Black Currant Fool by Victoria Goddard: This one is the point where what appears to be, on the surface, fairly cozy (if a bit strange) literary homages stumble straight into the epic, and the whole tone shifts. Which isn’t bad! There’s been plenty of setup for this throughout the other books, but once you get to the prison, suddenly, things start snowballing. And then the twist near the end happens, and things take a sharp left turn. But as usual, there’s a lot of literary homage, some cracking codes and finding hidden messages in seemingly boring poetry (it’s a little Da Vinci Code, though I vastly prefer this over that). And then the walloper of an end. Also, I really am wondering if we’ll get to witness that certain second play…

Love-in-a-Mist by Victoria Goddard: Is it a spoiler to say this one is a Clue-style closed-room mystery? *checks back cover blurb* Nope! Not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb! Though it takes a bit for the murder to happen, and when it does, you might be able to work out the culprit rather quickly, the mystery itself isn’t the driving impetus of the story. Rather, it’s the fallout from Black Currant Fool, Jemis’ character growth/change, and the unfolding complications/revelations of what role Mr. Dart (and Jemis) are going to play and what kind of story, overall, these books are telling. I did, however, appreciate the how of how the final reveal of the murderer went down. Very classically closed-room mystery! Very Agatha Christie! Also, there’s a surprise unicorn.

Plum Duff by Victoria Goddard: The food-titles are starting to get a little stretched in this one. The Plum Duff pudding doesn’t show up until, like, the last 10%. This book in general is a bit slower paced than the others, more of a rest-and-recoup book for what feels like setup for the grand finale in the not-yet-released book 7. But! Readers of the other series(es), especially the Red Company ones, might recognize certain enchanted diamonds, bags, and poetry. There’s also an interesting framework with the Twelve Days of Christmas (Wintertide) which…fits but also leaves me with so many questions. Especially regarding Sayu Fox. However! Certain small details make me realize that this series is very closely tied with both the Red Company books and The Tales of the Hearthfire, which…shall be intriguing to watch collide. Also, spoilers, but Jemis’ character arch between all these is, honestly, staggering, and I do wonder where he’s going to go next. Because sainthood is an interesting character twist, and there’s one other series of books with a certain sainted character that is dear to my heart, and I’m really starting to wonder if there will be parallels. Anyway. The series as a whole is taking a rather sharp sideways turn, but as always, everything is a literary homage to something. And is quite enjoyable.

The Saint of the Book Store by Victoria Goddard: Blurbing this one would be very spoiler heavy, though it’s fun to see all the characters from an outside perspective! Read these books! Join me in loving these books! *foists Nine Worlds at you*