Brigdh (wordsofastory) wrote,

Reading Wednesday

What did you just finish?
The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells. WHY THAT CLIFFHANGER, THO? Okay, I lie – it's not quite a cliffhanger, in that many of the plots are tied up by the end, but there are several characters' fates left hanging and I desperately need to know what happens next. Of course the sequel's not due out until July 2017. :(

So, what actually happens in this book before the dramatic ending? Moon and the rest of the court of Indigo Cloud share a vivid nightmare – something more than a dream but less than a vision – of the entire land of the Raksura being overrun by huge numbers of unusually powerful Fell, their evil, cannibalistic nemeses. This potential future seems to be linked to the exploration of a newly discovered ancient city, though what that means for the Raksura is confusing: should they force a halt to the exploration entirely? Or get inside the city before the Fell do and claim whatever's there for themselves? They decide that it's always best to gather as much information as possible, and so Moon, Jade, Stone, Chime, and several other Raksura tag along with the multi-species crew of explorers and scholars without actually making the decision of what to do when they get there. This leads to several intense fights, bonds between unexpected characters (I now ship Stone/Rorra you guys), and a dramatic betrayal.

And, of course, there's always time to pause and have some lovely character interactions. This one made me laugh out loud:
Moon crouched on the branch, his foot claws caught in the rough bark. “If you let me go down there and be the bait, we could get this over with.” [...]
Chime, perched on the branch collar a little further down, said, “Uh, the hunt would be over with, all right. We’d have to spend the rest of the day recovering your body.”
[...] Moon hissed in frustration. He had been hunting for survival since he was a fledgling, while most of these warriors had still been playing in the nurseries. It had taken them three days to follow the signs and traces from the platform where the Arbora hunters had been attacked to here, and now they weren’t even sure where the thing had gone to ground. He told Chime, “I’ve been bait before—”
Chime nodded. “I know, and I find that terrifying.”
“—and I wasn’t talking to you.” He looked up at the smaller branch arching above them.
Jade perched up there, partially concealed from this angle by the drooping fronds of a fern tree that had taken root on the broad branch. She said, “Not every problem can be solved by you trying to get yourself killed.”

Delin is also along for the trip, and I was so excited to see him. Back when he appeared in the first book, I assumed he would be a one-off character, and so each one of his subsequent appearances has been unexpected and delightful. He is a Golden Islander, a human-like species that, unlike most of the non-shapeshifter non-flying species on this world, does not hold the Raksura in absolute terror but instead treats them as equals. Delin himself in an elderly scholar particularly interested in natural and cultural diversity, who considers adventuring with the Raksura a wonderful opportunity to see more of the world he's spent so long studying. His frustrated grandchildren, on the other hand, are constantly running after him to make sure he doesn't get himself killed in the pursuit of knowledge.

This book, like all of the books in the Raksura series, has some fantastic bits of worldbuilding and scene-setting. I was particularly struck by the long sequence where the Raksura and explorers are trapped in a city carved within a mountain: no windows, no doors, just absolute darkness and shifting shadows outside the range of the lights they carry; a complex maze of chambers and hallways and staircases that might lead anywhere; everything silent except for the distant drip of water and what might be the echo of movement. It's excellently creepy and so well-written, capturing every bit of dread and anticipation and paranoia. There's also a few more clues as to what's up with the Fell, why they're so evil, but I'll need to read the next book to see how it all plays out. Why isn't it out yet again?

The Living by Anjali Joseph. A novel consisting of two parallel but unconnected stories: Claire, a single mother living in England and working in a shoe factory, and Arun, a grandfather in India who makes traditional, handcrafted sandals. There's a great deal of attention to the craft and meaning of shoes from both of them, but other than that, no obvious similarities between their stories.

Claire is lonely and emotionally closed off, struck in an antagonistic relationship with both her teenage son and her elderly parents, who threw her out of their home when she became pregnant as a teenager. Over the course of the story she slowly begins to reconnect with life, building bridges with her son and engaging in several romantic relationships (though one of these was incredibly ill-conceived and I found it quite off-putting). She seems to be severely clinically depressed – at multiple points in the book she reacts to a stressful situation by literally lying down on the floor and zoning out for hours – and as sympathetic as I am to that, it unfortunately doesn't make for compelling reading. By its nature, depression seems to be extremely hard to turn into narrative; I always think of Season Six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which suffered from the same problem.

For that reason I preferred Arun's sections of the book, though I can't say they had much more plot – he was simply a more engaging character. Arun is a sixty year old man dealing with mild illnesses, negotiating daily life with his (presumably arranged) wife, regretting his past as an alcoholic with a mistress, meeting up with his grown sons and grandchildren. His pet cat disappears and reappears, he dreams of places he explored as a child, he refuses and then agrees to see a doctor. It's all mild, banal stuff, but the writing is lovely. I liked this passage, when Arun sees a childhood friend for the first time after years apart:
I would have looked at another man his age, crumpled, his remaining hair wispy and mad, and his little face wrinkled, and found him absurd, pathetic, and he was, but nothing had changed. Certain loves slip into us before we are able to weigh things up.

Overall nothing really happens and it will probably slip from my memory very soon, but it's a surprisingly quick, easy read, despite the poetic style of the writing. Even if it has nothing more to offer than this, the writing is excellent.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

What are you currently reading?
Nothing yet! I just finished The Living a few minutes ago.

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