The Drawing of the Three

The gunslinger came awake from a confused dream which seemed to consist of a single image: that of the Tarot deck from which the man in black had dealt (or purported to deal) the gunslinger’s own moaning future.

I really thought I had read more from these series, but I’m pretty sure I would have remembered this book if I would have. So here we are, the second book in the Dark Tower series. Now I definitely understand people’s confusion about trying to tell this story/these stories in just one movie.

As usual with series, it’s a bit of a challenge to not spoil previous books, especially because I can’t remember anything from the first novel. Luckily, in these editions is a handy ‘Here’s What You Missed’ part before the story picks up again.

What you probably should know, starting these series, is that this is eerie Stephen King, not straight shooter/thriller Stephen King. There’s fantastical elements but also some that veer quite close to horror territory, and there’s not many straight plot lines. If you don’t mind that and are looking for (the build up of) an epic, I’d definitely recommend trying this series.

The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King, Sphere 1990

Half the World

He hesitated just an instant, but long enough for Thorn to club him in the balls with the rim of her shield.

It’s like a bodice ripper with barbarians. Usually I’m fine with what Joe Abercrombie has on offer; brutish fantasy with some comedic relief. Nothing highbrow or what you have to put your brain to work for but still, entertaining. Not so much this time.

The unlikely hero is a young woman that wants to fight, but she’s a woman so she’s laughed off and despised for being better than most. It is also repeatedly mentioned that she’s ugly and not-feminine. Anyway, she ends up as part of a trip around the world and both she and the (male) people around her learn that there’s more to her anger, violence and unappealing face.

This time even the world building just seems to be filler between the fight scenes and insult filled dialogues. I know that sequels are always viewed as to be a bit more challenging, but this was just a slog. If you want barbarian fantasy, try some of his other series.

Half the World, Joe Abercrombie, HarperCollins 2015

The Gracekeepers

The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the grey sky.

Now this is what I call a fairy tale. Remember The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea? Like that, but a book. And maybe a bit more eerie on the side of gruesome, from time to time. And! It has a map that doesn’t just consist out of a large mass in the middle (fantasy pet peeve).

Maybe that’s because in this world, large parts of the planet are under water, only a few islands are left and parts of the human population just permanently live on ships, because there’s not enough land to go around. Some ships are churches, others are circuses, main character North was pretty much born in one, but things are threatening to chance her life on it.

Another character followed is a gracekeeper, some kind of undertaker with a bit of stranger habits than we’re used to. It all adds to the beautiful (and) strange atmosphere. Just wait until you meet the clowns.

The Gracekeepers is there for your mythological, pretty fantasy needs.

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan, Harvill Secker 2015

Son of a Trickster

His tiny, tightly permed maternal grandmother, Anita Moody, had never liked him.

This was such a much weirder story than I expected. I expected a YA novel about a dark and moody male teenager that throws in some (Norse) mythology to make it urban fantasy. Instead I got ..what did I precisely get?

Jared is a weed cookie maker, problem finder, care taker for his dad and stepsister, mother and senior neighbours. He almost can’t help himself, taking care while he should be getting some. For a long time this just seems to be it, a story of a screw up screwing up, surrounded by losers and failures. Until it isn’t, and there’s talking ravens and people-eating otters and things you can’t keep blaming on eating mushrooms. Mythology is added, but not in the cookie cutter Marvel way. No Norseman to be found either, because we’re in Canada, and their First Nation People have got some different stories to build on.

Even though the reader knows this isn’t just mushrooms any more, it’s tempting to blame them; the weirdness just builds up with left and right some violence thrown in. Where is this story going, why is main character Jared still at the unlikely part of the trope ‘unlikely hero’? Is this because it’s the first book in a trilogy? Either way, this might be the first YA that leaves you completely bewildered by what you’ve just been put through. And yet I don’t know how I should change anything if I could.

Son of a Trickster, Eden Robinson, Knopf 2017

Of Things Gone Astray

Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight.

For a few months, I’ve only read books from my To Read list. It’s satisfying to see the number go down, but now there’s mostly nonfiction and yet unavailable books, I gave myself the freedom of going to the library without a list. Yes, wild, I know (I still managed to find two books of my To Read list, but it’s not about that right now).

Of Things Gone Astray got my attention with its cover, and the description was appealing enough for me to ignore it being a collection of stories (pro: there have to be at least a few that are nice. con: the nice ones will never last long enough).

Even though it’s a collection of different characters, some of them slowly move into each other’s orbit, making it feel more like a world building from different angles than completely stand-alone stories. I feel like this made me like the story more, making it a bit more eerie than playing connect-the-dots.

Still, it’s not a novel that will stay with me forever, it was different and random enough to be something weird and quirky in my reading. A bit like a pause, maybe.

Of Things Gone Astray, Janina Matthewson, HarperCollins Publishers 2014

The Painted Boy

The boy had finally fallen asleep.

I’m pretty sure the last time I read a Charles de Lint novel was before I started this blog, but Widdershins impressed me so much that from time to time I’d still check if I could find more of his in my libraries. The Painted Boy is clearly for younger audiences, providing a more accessible but less eerie, dream like and wonderful story (if those aren’t nostalgia goggles).

The Painted Boy from the title is Jay Li, a teenager that has a large dragon on his back (not tattooed) and is sent off to unfamiliar territory to finish his studies. Jay is part dragon, and will have to do something he won’t know until he’ll experience/see/know it.

Good thing (“”) he ends up in a town held hostage by different kinds of gangs. Of course he has to learn to become one with the dragon and his surroundings, but hey, all this was part of the learning curve, after all.

The magical elements add the necessary spice, else it would have been an oatmeal kind of story: okay for everyone, but nobody’s first pick.

The Painted Boy, Charles De Lint, Viking 2010

The Bear and the Nightingale

It was late winter in Northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.

Just like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms an enthralling, easily accessible fantasy novel, with plenty of room for a cool (literally, in this case) female protagonist. Yay!

With my discovery of the CloudLibrary app (I’m not paid for this), I found a new way to more books. These are Express, so you can only borrow them for a week, meaning I just have to read faster. Alas.

As mentioned before, The Bear and the Nightingale is such an easy read, with only 300+ pages as well, that that time limit wasn’t an issue. It’s a (Russian) fairy tale about fairy tale elements being part of daily life. The young protagonist is too wild and strange for her family, and supports the ‘old’ gods and creatures besides Christianity. When the super religious join her house, things start rolling (into chaos).

I’m fond of reading stories set in Russia, and even though this is a romanticised version of history, it still gives an interesting look at early Moscow and its surroundings. But mostly it’s just a tasty morsel of a fairy tale that – even though it already got a sequel – can definitely stand on its own.

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden, Penguin Random Publishing 2017