books

Marie Brennan

Books

Doppelganger (2006)

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2013), The Tropic of Serpents (2014), From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (2016)

Anthologies: Running with the Pack (2010)

 

 

Doppelganger (2006)

DoppelgangerDoppelganger. Doppelganger. Doppelganger!

Okay, now you know why I picked up the book. What a fun word: doppelganger! Luckily, I looked at the back cover first, and read the blurb and found the story interesting. Because if I'd seen the front cover first I might have put the book down without a second thought. What an awful cover--it's a sword & sorcery book. That means they don't have skin-tight leather and zippers. It's not that kind of fantasy.

But as I said, I read the back cover first, and was intrigued. When a witch is born, her mother creates a doppelganger, and then destroys that twin so that child may become a full witch. (Nice society, 'eh?) The book starts out following two characters: Mirage, the doppelganger, and a Hunter; and Miryo, the witch who is sent out to destroy her doppelganger, armed only with the knowledge that to become a true witch, her twin must be destroyed.

With that bit from the back cover in mind, I was really set not to like Miryo. I mean, anyone who sets out to kill their twin, can't really be a good person at heart, can they? And thus I was really cheering Mirage, who had no idea what was coming for her--even if she was the far more prepared of the two.

This is a very good debut novel. The story was fast-paced, and the writing was very good. It is also a stand alone story--everything told and resolved in a single book--which makes it all the better. Which is not to say that the story didn't have its weaknesses. Both Mirage and Miryo were able to accept very difficult ideas and circumstances very easily. I suppose it could have been because they were doppelgangers, but I just found it a little surprising. However, I also have to admit that I'd rather someone come to terms too quickly, than to wring their hands over a situations for weeks and months, with little or no resolution. So although I found it surprising, I also enjoyed the decisiveness.

I also thought that although Mirage was trying hard to be a rogue, she was simply too nice to really be as hard-assed as she came across from time-to-time. We learn she is not adverse to cheating at cards when we first meet her, yet she seems to lack the qualities that would make her a pure rogue--the delight in trouble for it's own sake. This isn't a bad thing, but I am fond of scoundrels, and was hoping that Mirage would have been a bit more of one than she turned out to be.

And I would have liked a little more about Eclipse. He starts out strong, but kind of falls off the map toward the end of the book. I wanted to know a little bit more about him, why he got alog with Mirage so well (the story he gave sounded hokey) and the males place in what seemd to be a more female dominated society. Not that I found him submissive, but considering that one of the major power centers is not just a matriarcy, but is entierly female, I just think it would make things slightly different.

But really, I'm making these things out ot be far bigger than they were, because I really enjoyed reading this book. In addition to being a fast read, I also found the story to be one that grabbed me from the first page and made the book hard to put down. It was light and fun, and despite the few flaws I found, I thoroughly recommend it. Though I really do wish it had a better cover.
Rating: 7/10

P.S. Doppelganger!

 

Memoirs of Lady Trent

 

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2013)

After publishing many scientific papers upon the natural history of dragons, Lady Trent has finally decided to write her memoirs.

This is a fantasy set in a world somewhat like ours, only with dragons, and at a time and place comparable to Regency England.

This has been on my to-read pile for, approximately, forever. As I’ve noted before, I’ve become reticent to read a lot of straight up fantasy, mostly because the books tend to be long and full of cliff hangers. But after finishing a lovely urban fantasy, I couldn’t settle on what I wanted to read next (as sometimes happens) so I decided to at least start something completely different.

The story goes briefly through her youth and how she developed her fascination for dragons and natural history, but most of the story takes place when Isabella is nineteen and goes on her first expedition. I quite like Isabella.

“On the condition,” he continued when I released him enough to breathe, “that you promise me, no mad antics. No putting yourself in the path of a hungry wolf-drake. Nothing that will make me regret saying this today.”

“I promise to try and keep myself safe.”

“That isn’t quite the same thing, you know,” he said.

I love this bit because it is very much how a very young woman would think. Lots of teenagers too.

I vowed on the spot to show no behaviour that might possibly be construed as birdbrained, from then until the end of time.

I also love the little bits that remind us how past societies placed limitations upon women, both overertly and in subtle ways.

Crawling in a dress, for those gentlemen who have never had occasion to try it, is an exercise in frustration, all but guaranteed to produce feelings of homicidal annoyance in the crawler.

I love historical, but I have no illusions about the past. It’s a nice place to visit but I woudln’t want to live there for certain. So it’s nice when authors remind us of the more difficult things that go with the past.

I also enjoyed the natural history parts of the story, from the dissections to the considerations of ecology and geography.

I often wonder what it is about dragons that makes them prefer extreme climates— or is it just that we’ve pushed them back as we’ve spread out?

It’s a fun story, and looks to be a series that will go on for quite awhile, but there were no cliffhangers, so I look forward to the next book (which is on my wish list, waiting for a price drop or a holiday).
Rating: 8.5/10

Publisher: Tor Books

The Tropic of Serpents (2014)

The second novel in the Lady Trent series finds Isabella preparing to go on another scientific journey–this one to Eriga, where they hope to document other types of dragons.

The warnings delivered in my first foreword continue to apply: if you are likely to be deterred by descriptions of violence, disease, foods alien to the Scirling palate, strange religions, public nakedness, or pinheaded diplomatic blunders, then close the covers of this book and proceed to something more congenial.

This is a very fun series.

Being a recluse is not good for one’s conversational agility. I was accustomed to thinking over my words, revising them, and writing fair copy before sending the final draft of my letter to its recipient.

But the best part of course is the scientific geekery.

Mrs. Kemble was no resentful housewife; she worked alongside her husband, handling the practical matters of ordering and measuring chemicals, while he spent hours staring at the wall and chewing on the battered tail of his pen, mind lost in theoretical matters.

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE that she addresses the Elephant in the room in every single adventure book with female characters.

I must warn you that this inconvenient fact of our sex is one of the most vexatious aspects of being a lady adventurer. Unless you contrive to suppress your courses through pregnancy— which, of course, imposes its own limitations— or through strenuous exercise and privation, you will have to handle this necessity in many circumstances that are far from ideal. Including some, I fear, where the smell of fresh blood is a positive danger.

I very much enjoyed this book as much as the first. I just wish the library had the ebooks available for me to borrow (they only have audio books) so I don’t have to wait for the next holiday when someone gives it to me as a gift.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Tor Books

From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (2016)

This short story is a series of scientific letters between Isabella Camherst and Benjamin Talbot in “The Falchester Weekly Review” about a supposed discovery made by Talbot.

It’s a brief story, and silly, since it’s all the politeness of scientists accusing each other of malfeasance.

I thank Mr. Talbot for his solicitous attention to the well-being of both cockatrices and my feminine heart, but I had hoped for rather more specific an answer.

It’s quite enjoyable for what it is, and although I’m not sure I’d recommend it for those who haven’t read the Natural History of Dragons books, it’s a fun and I quite liked it.

I’m just frustrated that my library doesn’t have the rest of the ebooks to borrow.
Rating: 7.5/10

Published by Tor.com

 

Anthologies

 

Running with the Pack (2010) edited by Ekaterina Sedia

When I saw there was a new werewolf anthology edited by Ekatrerina Sedia with a story by Carrie Vaughn I automatically ordered it. Then of course, once it arrived, it sat around like anthologies tend to do, waiting for the “right” time to read it. But eventually read it I did, and it was excellent, with a few caveats, the biggest being, the anthology should not have ended on the story it did. On the plus side (and this is huge plus in my opinion) these are stories that deal with werewolves without all the hawt supernatural sex. A couple stories acknowledge sex, but the focus of these stories is upon the other aspects of being a werewolf, which I very much enjoyed, because there is a lot to explore in this mythos and this anthology does a very good job of moving beyond the paranormal romance aspect of werewolves.

Comparison Of Efficacy Rates For Seven Antipathetics As Employed Against Lycanthropes - Marie Brennan

All in all, this is an excellent anthology, and one I can highly recommend.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Prime