Other Genres – August 2008
August 23, 2008
Like most fans, I read a lot of books that aren’t urban fantasies. So how about a monthly post of other recommendations?
Fantasy has always been one of my favorite genres, so that’s a natural place to start. Here are a few fantasies that I think many UF readers would enjoy:
- Poison Study, by Maria Snyder
When Yelena is taken from her prison cell, she’s offered a surprising choice. She can either be executed for the crime she committed, or she can become the newest poison taster for the ruler of her country. Trying new poisons isn’t the only danger that she faces during her training, there are powerful people who want her dead. Above all, Yelena can’t let anyone know about the strange things that sometimes happen around her, because she lives in a country where magic is outlawed. Those with abilities are hunted down by the Commander’s spymaster, the very man who is teaching her to identify poisons.
Yelena is the best type of heroine. She’s strong-willed, tough, and loyal, but still has realistic weaknesses and blind spots. The setting of this book is fascinating – imagine a typical fantasy kingdom that was overthrown in a military coup. The plot has a good mix of action, mystery, and drama, and the characterization is top-notch. Best of all, it’s the start of a trilogy. The second and third books get a little darker but are also very good. If you only check out one of the books in this list, make it this one.
- The Decoy Princess, by Dawn Cook
The title character is Tess, a young woman who suddenly learns that she was adopted by a king and queen after the real crown princess was hidden away from assassins. In addition to learning the duties of a young royal, Tess was trained to protect herself by the chancellor of the kingdom. Her skills turn out to be useful when the true princess comes under threat from an unexpected direction, and Tess chooses to take on a new role that she’s uniquely prepared for.
The setup of this book sounds like a typical light fantasy, but then it takes an interesting, political twist. There is one follow-up, which I also enjoyed. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting more Dawn Cook books any time soon, she’s moved on from straight fantasy and now writes as Kim Harrison. That was a strange thing to discover. Usually when I find out about a pseudonym, I haven’t already read and enjoyed books under both names!
- Archangel, by Sharon Shinn
In order to claim his place as the next Archangel of Samaria, the angel Gabriel needs a wife to sing beside him at the Gloria, an annual worship service attended by people from all of the country’s various groups. He is surprised to learn that the God has chosen Rachel, a slave girl from a marginalized tribe, to become his wife and partner. The only thing that the pair has in common is a desire to change some of the more degenerate practices of their society, but there are some humans and angels that are willing to risk disaster to keep that from happening.
This is a nicely-written love story with interesting characters. I haven’t finished the whole series yet, but later books have an extremely cool sci-fi twist.
- Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith
The story begins with Meliara and her brother leading a seemingly-impossible rebellion against a corrupt king from their remote, country home. She faces difficult decisions during the war, but when it ends Meliara learns that she’s even less prepared for the shifting alliances and intrigues of court life.
This was originally published as two separate books, so the first and second halves are very distinct. The first half has its moments, but it’s in the second that this story really shines. I love a good intrigue-based fantasy story, and they’re not always easy to find.