2009 in books, part two

Graceling by Kristin Cashore: (Original review {HERE}.) I read this one very late and with high expectations given the reviews and reactions I had seen around the internet. It didn’t disappoint. The story made me think without feeling preached at and, as I said in my original thoughts, although there are a number of fantasy conventions here, they never felt old or cliched.

The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliff: (Original review {HERE}.) This really was a year of Rosemary Sutcliff. What can I say? She’s the best at historical fiction. As with so many of her books, the joy and sorrow of life are woven together here, with an end product that is tragic beyond words and hopeful at the same time. Her description of landscape and place are superb, as always.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander: Probably my favorite mystery discovery for the year. Lady Emily Ashton’s development made much more sense to me than most of the “Victorian woman struggling against her times” books (if you want a list, I’d be happy to oblige). Moreover, the minor characters are interesting in their own right.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: Packed full of violence, this is certainly not a book for everyone. But it’s amazingly written. While it is young adult and follows two young protagonists, I think that the emotional journey they go on is one that adults could relate to as well (enjoy is another matter). The premise is darkly fascinating and the book ends on a terrible cliff-hanger which left me impatient to read the second book.

Bonnie Dundee by Rosemary Sutcliff: Last of the Rosemary Sutcliffs. I hadn’t ever read this one before and unfortunately I made the mistake of looking up the title character on Wikipedia. I read the last thirty pages or so with tears streaming down my face. Set in the 1670’s-80’s, it follows the life of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, a Scottish general who supported James II/VII after the Glorious Revolution. But Hugh, the narrator, emerges from the background to become just as important as Graham. Beautifully written.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve: I was never wowed by the writing of this one, but the premise and characterisation were so interesting that I was willing to give that a pass. Tom Natsworthy, third class apprentice to the Guild of Historians in the great Traction City of London, believes everything is as usual: London is pursuing the smaller cities it preys on, the Historians are boring. But there are more things going on under the surface than he is aware of and eventually they begin to come to light.

A Sorrowful Joy by Dr. Albert Raboteau: The spiritual autobiography of an African-American professor, detailing his life from his birth after his father was murdered, through his baptism into Catholicism, his spiritual falling away, and then his chrismation into Orthodoxy. Beautifully written and very touching.

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein: (Original reaction {HERE}.) Several people mentioned this book, particularly for fans of the Queen’s Thief series, so I eventually picked it up. It blew me away. The amazing characterization, especially of Medraut, Artos, and Lleu, the tangled and twisted plot, and the themes of the story would have hooked me anyway, but Wein’s prose is gorgeous. I’m going back and reading it again right now, just to catch the writing that I skipped over in my hurry to know the end.

Fire by Kristin Cashore: As I noted above, Graceling is wonderful. So I was admittedly nervous about this prequel. Sometimes books manage to have sequels/prequels which are just as good, but I have to admit that I find this the exception rather than the rule. I should have trusted Cashore, because she delivered a wonderful book which I enjoyed every bit as much as (and maybe even a bit more than) Graceling. As with Graceling, note that there are some slightly disturbing backgrounds for several of the characters.

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2 responses to “2009 in books, part two

  1. What a lovely collection of books! I love Rosemary Sutcliff in particular– I discovered her when I was ten or so, and re-read my favorites (Eagle of the Ninth, Mark of the Horselord, and Warrior Scarlet) over and over…

    • Maureen E

      Thank you! I didn’t discover Sutcliff until probably high school and there are big chunks of her books I haven’t read yet, but she is so wonderful! I studied in the UK last spring and saw the gravestone of one of the few survivors from the Ninth Legion in the British Museum…that was quite an experience!

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