This year, I’m going to try doing at least a weekly round up of the Cybils books I’ve read, if not a full blog post for one or more of them (last year I was terrible at reviewing, so sorry Charlotte!). Up first: three books I had been interested in reading already. They’re all books that don’t hold back much in terms of the subjects they’re willing to look at.
A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz: In the aftermath of a war between the tightropers and the fairies, ostensibly on behalf of the gnomes who life under the city, the only fairies left in Ferrum are Beckan and her friends. They do what they have to to survive. This one is memorable for a couple of reasons: it doesn’t shy away from what happens in wars, even fictional ones, and how that has forced Beckan and her friends to grow up very quickly. At the same time, there are things that they don’t understand, or don’t fully understand at first.
It also has a marvelously inventive & original world and society that still somehow has bits of fairy tale echoes. I found the details of the different places, as well as the interaction between fairies, gnomes, and tightropers, to be both original and convincing. Finally, the voice here is fantastic–I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a time that unreliable narration really worked for me. And there’s a sense of hard won hope that I really bought and appreciated. I’m still thinking about this book, weeks later.
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott: I really liked a lot of things about this one, from the setting to the complexities of the family and politics. There are a few Little Women echoes, but they’re mostly at the beginning and I personally didn’t find the comparison hugely helpful. At any rate, Elliott does a nice job of writing a character who is athletic and good at it, but who’s also smart and thoughtful. This is the first in a series (trilogy?) and I’m curious to see how the story will play out. There’s quite a bit here about the effects of colonialism and empire, which I don’t feel qualified to really comment on, but which seemed thoughtful and complex as far as I can tell. Jessamy is a compelling main character and I found that the politics of the world, and the effects it has on her and her family, worked really well for me. I do think that the book is maybe a little longer than it needs to be, although I appreciated that Elliott really shows how much training is involved in running the Fives.
Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier: Historical fantasy set in Sydney in 1932. This one focuses on two main characters, Dymphna and Kelpie. Much of the city is ruled by rival gangs, and it’s a pretty brutal time. The book opens with the murder of Dymphna’s boyfriend, Jimmy Palmer, and continues as Dymphna and Kelpie try to stay alive and evade the clutches of the gangs. I liked parts of this–Larbalestier has a vivid sense of description and dialogue–but for me the way the book was set up, with short spurts of narration from different characters, kept me from really connecting with either Dymphna or Kelpie. There was also a tragic moment at the end that I didn’t really feel was earned within the narrative, although I think the point is that pointless things happen. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in the time period or place, or if you want a book that really focuses on the friendship between two girls, this might be one to pick up.