What Am I Reading? Fall 2020 Edition

It is a season of finishing series for me, or carrying on with ongoing series, or starting series…you get the idea.

Usually, I prefer a good stand-alone, since a series is a big commitment for someone with limited time to read. Or I start a series that I never pick up again. But if you’re in the mood for an ongoing relationship with a bunch of fabulous characters, I have some suggestions.

The Daevabad Trilogy – S. A. Chakraborty

I can’t say enough good things about this series. It has everything that appeals to me: an exotic and fully realized setting, compellingly complex characters with a tantalizing possibility of romance, action that accelerates over the series to truly dizzying scale, leaving you wondering how our intrepid heroes and heroines could ever possibly succeed. Here’s a little tidbit of a description of the series from the author’s website:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks; both the means to the delightful end of swindling unwitting Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.”

The Craft Sequence – Max Gladstone

He’s one of my favorite authors – an insanely gifted master craftsman of language. Here’s what Max Gladstone says about the series:

“I write the Craft Sequence series of books and games, set in a postindustrial (and post-war) fantasyland, where black magic is big business, wizards wear pinstriped suits and conduct necromantic procedures on dead gods, and day-to-day commerce rests on people trading pieces of their souls for goods and services.  The Craft Sequence books are legal thrillers about faith, or religious thrillers about law and finance.  Plus there are hive-mind police forces, poet gargoyles, brainwashing golems, nightmare telegraphs, surprisingly pleasant demons, worldshattering magic, environmental devastation, and that deepest and darkest evil: student loans.

So, they’re pretty much like real life!”

They’re complex and dark, with machinations both political and personal, but always with a streak of hope running through each story. The stories quickly begin to overlap, familiar characters dipping in and out as we explore different cultures of a world both eerily recognizable and laced with magic and gods both great and small.

I was hooked from the first book, and have enjoyed following the series through. I’m almost done with the sixth book, unsure if he’s going to write any more of these. But I’ve just discovered there are games set in the world as well! So always more to explore.

Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

I have been a fan of this series since the books first began to come out in trade paperback, and several of my books are signed. I attended readings at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver every time a new book came out. I have read all 9 books in this series at least twice, and with the state the world is in these days, it seemed right to revisit old friends with a comforting re-read. 

Here’s a blurb from Armistead Maupin’s website about the series:

“For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.”

Set in a real, yet mythically rose-tinted, San Francisco, these books grabbed me from word 1 with a simple yet riveting writing style. Armistead Maupin is an absolute master of character voice, able to pull off pages of dialog without dialog tags, yet you never lose track of who is speaking. The time period, beginning in the 70’s and carrying through nearly to the present day, is perfectly captured in the trends, the styles, the fashions the characters observe or fall into themselves. Famous events in history are interwoven to profound effect. My favorite aspect of his fiction is one I intend to borrow for a book of my own that I’m working on. Serendipity—characters overlap one anothers’ stories  in delightfully surprising ways, and events from the past collide with the present like bumper cars, knocking characters into unexpected new courses.

I love these books and will return to them over and over. They’re a permanent part of my personal library. 

What about you? What series can you not get enough of? I’ve got more, but I’ll save them for another post. Until next time!

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