Blessings on these authors whose books brightened my all-too-long convalescence from the flu!ICE by Sarah Beth Durst. This YA is billed as a modern retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” and it certainly has a fairy-tale overlay or maybe the word is “underpinning”; it also echoes the Cupid/Psyche myth and “the heroine’s journey.” Eighteen-year-old Cassie has grown up on an arctic research station, believing that the bedtime stories her grandmother told were a gentle way of explaining the mysterious disappearance of her mother. But this is not the rational world, and when Cassie meets a polar bear who speaks to her, myth and science weave together in unexpected ways. The polar bear is, of course, no ordinary animal but a supernatural creature entrusted with the care of polar bear souls. I loved how ferociously competent our heroine is. She has the knowledge and skill, not to mention courage, to survive the physical dangers of the ice, but the compassion–and brains–to persevere on her quest.
ELFLAND by Freda Warrington. Elves are neither pointy-eared pixies or jaded immortals, but a race split between those who remain in magic-drenched Otherworld and those who live on earth as mortals. The man charged with guarding–and opening–the Gates between the worlds has sealed them, for reasons no one can understand. The heart of the story is its characters, who grow and change, as did my first impressions of them. It’s lush and sensual, full of twists and changes and achingly beautiful dreams. Oh, and some wonderful love scenes. Warrington spins a whopping good yarn, but the graceful ease with which she handles complex relationships was the true joy of this story.
MAJESTRUM By Matthew Hughes. From the time I picked up Hughes’s BLACK BRILLION, I thought I was reading Jack Vance’s slightly twisted younger brother. This is part detective story, part adventure, all done up in a comedy of manners and delicious prose. I admit to having a special weakness for a character who is an artificial intelligence in the form of an irreverent cat-squirrel-monkey. The sequel, THE SPIRAL LABYRINTH, is on top of my To Be Read Pile.
FLEDGLING by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I’m a latecomer to Lee and Miller’s “Liaden Universe” books, but that was no handicap in diving in. Superficially, this is a coming-of-age adventure: teen Theo Waitley lives on a “Safe World” dominated by an immense academic institution. She seems set on a course for being declared a Danger to Society because of her late-developing physical coordination and unconventional upbringing, an upbringing that bestows unappreciated but crucial strengths. Like Durst’s ICE, FLEDGLING features a teen character who is resourceful and tenacious but open to growth, someone I would have loved to have as a friend when I was her age.