This book has a companion post, which will go up soon, called “three awesome books you should read tomorrow,” in which I will gloat about having read early copies of some of the most-anticipated releases.
But today, I’m going to talk about three truly incredible–and I mean utterly mind-blowing–books that I read in the last month. These books utterly blew me away. And because none of these books is a romance, I don’t know any of the authors. The closest you get is Sarah Rees Brennan, who I (a) met once at a booksigning, and (b) shares an agent with me.
Here you go: incredible books you should read, today.
1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin.
Okay, I did meet N.K. Jemisin at the Romantic Times booksigning–I went up to her just before the doors opened to babble freakishly and demand a signed copy. This book utterly blew me away. I have read a lot of fantasy–a lot. I’ve been reading fantasy since before I started reading romance. And I have never read anything like this. It winks at the fantasy tropes, and then it turns them around.
This book is about a really awesome woman who is summoned by her grandfather, who happens to be the most powerful man in existence, and told that in a few weeks she will either be the ruler of the not-so-free world, or her cousins will have killed her.
It’s got plot. It’s got characterizations. It’s got romance. And the romance it has–between the main character, who describes herself as someone who is sometimes mistaken for a boy, and the oldest god in the universe, who might actually kill the heroine, just because–is phenomenal. Normally I do not like the “he is so powerful, and he might kill her!” thing because extreme power imbalances between hero and heroine get my skeeves up. But this book is not one where I ever, ever feel that Yeine, the heroine is powerless. Not because she is so almighty and grand and imbued with special snowflake skills and sweet-smelling blood. No; it is because Yeine is empowered, even when she feels most helpless. Love, love, love and adore this book a million times over.
I’m not sure which books to compare this to, because it is like none of them. All I will say is that I put it in the category of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, and Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. It is nothing like either of those books, though, except that it is utterly brilliant. If this is the future of fantasy, I am giddy.
Which is why I have now purchased 4 copies of this book: one in e-format, another in print, so Mr. Milan could read it (he says that it gets 4 1/2 stars, but 3 1/2 Sherman Tanks, it having girly stuff)–and that copy has since been given to my sister–then the signed copy at RT, which no, you can’t have, and then another copy at the bookstore the other day because it looked pretty on the shelf–that copy is the copy I am giving away at the end of this post.
2. The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan.
Okay, so I blogged briefly about the first book in this series. And that first book pretty much kicked ass. It was full of awesome. It made me weep. For reasons that I will not disclose, because they are spoilery, and reasons that I will disclose: because Sarah Rees Brennan is a genius.
The Demon’s Covenant, the sequel, is even better. I did not think it was possible. But it is. The book is so, so brilliant. It is about a girl, named Mae, whose mother is a lawyer and works long, long hours, and whose father ignores them. Naturally, she and her brother get into trouble. You might think that Mae’s pink hair and sassy T-shirts would indicate the sort of trouble she gets into. But no, it’s not that kind of trouble. Jamie’s peer pressure is from magicians: “See, Jamie, you could be cool like us! All you’d have to do to get unlimited power is to kill a few people.”
Needless to say, Mae is more than a little unsettled by this–especially since she’s already sacrificed a great deal to keep Jamie magician-free. And so naturally, she calls the quiet, unassuming fellow at the bookstore, who might also be a bit of a psychopathic killer, to come help.
I started reading this book over dinner. I had a deadline and stuff. I did not stop, and then I had to stay up until 2 AM. Curse you, Sarah Rees Brennan. Curse you, and your incredible skills. Everything I can say about this book is a spoiler, and so all I will say is: Mmmmfffff!!
Mae is the protagonist of this book. And I wasn’t sure about that at first, because I loved Nick–creepy, odd, weird Nick–so much in that first book that I was really frightened to leave his completely unsettling point of view.
Also, I am shipping Alan so hard it is not even funny. I am not even sure what that says about me, but he is such an earnest, geeky little Slytherin, and that so hits every button I have. I am not sure who I am shipping Alan with, but it has to be someone awesome. Like maybe Sin. Why, oh why, do I have to wait for that book?
I bought this book in e-copy. Then I went to the store and I bought another two. One of those I will force upon Mr. Milan. (One of the reasons I married Mr. Milan is the ease of forcing books upon him.) The other, I will give away. Again at the end of this post!
3. The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness.
I don’t know how I heard of this book, but the title intrigued me and so I picked it up. The first three pages–written in this colloquial almost stream-of-consciousness style–kind of annoyed me. Then I started getting into the narrator’s head, and it all just kind of worked.
And oh, how it worked.
The narrator of this book is almost thirteen years old (or is he?). And he is looking forward to becoming a man in a month’s time. In the interim, he has chores to contend with and his very annoying, stupid puppy, named Manchee, who he said he did not want to get.
His dog talks. Manchee is not very smart for a dog–my dog is much, much smarter than Manchee, but Manchee is actually a ruddy good dog, as we come to discover. Todd lives in a place called Prentisstown, which is the only settlement on an entire planet. A little more than a decade ago, there was a bit of biological warfare. The germs that were spread made two things happen: animals all talk (although they’re not very smart), and men–and I do mean, men, not women, all began to broadcast their thoughts, all around them. There’s no privacy any longer. The germ didn’t affect women the same way, though–the women all died instead.
This book is completely, utterly brilliant. I reached the end, screamed, and immediately dashed for book #2, which is winging towards me as we speak. This book was absolutely ridiculously good.
Most of all, I have to say that there was a fair bit of violence in it. I’ve admitted before violence makes me queasy, but this worked for me, mostly because the violence had the real, emotional cost that I think this all takes. Books that don’t recognize that cost–where someone kills someone, however evil, and then blithely moves on–do not work for me. They work for some. But this book was laden with all the shades of emotional and moral complexity that I love.
I haven’t had time to get a second copy of this book, but I will before Friday.
So, here’s the deal: I’m giving away copies of each of these books, to three separate commenters. Post, tell me which one(s) you want, and on Friday I will pick winners. These books are all utterly mindblowingly amazing. I don’t really know any of the authors–something that is rarely true in romance. Edited to add: You can say you want more than one. It will not hurt your chances at the others.
These books are so awesome I cannot resist buying extra copies. You benefit!