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Book Review: The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie

As a fan of Joe Abercrombie’s other work and someone who enjoyed the previous installment in the series, I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Trouble With Peace all summer, and it was definitely worth the wait. 

A direct sequel to last years A Little Hatred, The Trouble With Peace picks up right where Abercrombie left readers. The newly crowned High King Orso must navigate ruling a country where both the nobles and the commoners despise him, while Sabine dan Glotka slowly recovers her shattered business and shaken confidence all while grappling with the secrets that she has discovered. In the north Leo dan Brock discovers that ruling suits him much less than being a warrior, and is pulled into intrigues he may not be suited for. Meanwhile, Rikke, her mind unstuck in time and paralyzed by visions of the future must find a way to close her “long eye”. All of them are caught in the middle of a changing world where rising tensions, dueling conspiracies, and conflicted loyalties could spell the doom for them all.

The Trouble With Peace has almost anything that you could ask for in a fantasy novel, action, intrigue, humor, even a little magic. All of this with some of the best realized characters I’ve ever seen. Abercrombie has never written typical fantasy and this is no exception. Filled with twists, turns, and double crosses, as well as the gritty action that Abercrombie is known for, all building to an explosive climax that defies the conventions of typical fantasy fiction, I was on the edge of my seat every second of the way. It comes highly recommended for those who enjoyed Game of Thrones or The White Queen, and anyone else who loves stories driven by drama and intrigue.

Book Review: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

When Susan Arkshaw moves to London shortly after her 18th birthday in the spring of 1983, she expects to find work in a pub, cheap lodgings, get acclimated before her art program begins in the fall, and begin looking into the mystery of who her father is. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of what seems to be a supernatural sting operation when a young man bursts into her uncle Frank’s apartment, sticks a silver hatpin into him, and he dissolves into a pile of sand. This admittedly odd series of events is quickly followed by the young man, who calls himself Merlin, pulling out a large revolver and dispatching an enormous louse making its way up the stairs before leading Susan through the window on a mad rooftop escape dash. Followed out of the apartment by a mysterious, super-creepy fog, she finds herself in Highgate Wood in the middle of the night, treading back and forth on the Old Road with Merlin, trying not to look at the creature in the fog, and trying to get some answers.

In this case, though, answers lead to more questions. Merlin is a bookseller, of the left-handed variety (there are also right- and even-handed booksellers, in case you were wondering!), part of an ancient group that keeps the New World separate, safe, and happily oblivious to the Old World lying just beneath. Unfortunately, Susan seems to be the focus of a great deal of Old World interest – which Merlin believes is probably related to her unknown father. Together with his sister, Vivien, the three set out to solve the mystery of Susan’s parentage. With only a faded library reading room ticket, a silver cigarette case, and a small list of possible names mentioned by her mother over the years, they don’t have a lot to go on – but as the supernatural stakes grow ever higher, Susan, Merlin, and Vivien find themselves in a race for their lives.

Garth Nix is a fantasy powerhouse all on his own, but the best way I can think of to describe this clever, laugh-out-loud, fast-paced novel is Terry Pratchett meets Susan Cooper, with a little Neil Gaiman and Dr. Who thrown in for fun. Chock full of old legends, bookshops, incredible magic, chase scenes, weird British food (Google stargazy pie!), and all things London, this is exactly the book I needed to get me out of a serious pandemic reading stall-out. I also have it on good authority that the audio book is amazing, so it would also be a good companion on a fall color weekend drive to the pumpkin patch, as well as reading well into the night curled up under cozy blanket with a cup of hot tea. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is sure to make your October a little lighter!

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Book jacket cover of The Book of DustThose of us who read and loved Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy have been waiting and hoping that he would return to that world for another story. Now that he has, I find myself in agreement with a Washington Post book reviewer: “Too few things in our world are worth a seventeen year wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.” He was one of many critics raving about this book. It was selected as an Amazon Best Book of October 2017; the reviewer wrote “Philip Pullman is that rare breed of author whose books are written for young people but are read and adored equally by adults. It’s been nearly two decades since Pullman wrote The Amber Spyglass, so it was both thrilling and terrifying (please be amazing, please be amazing…) when I first cracked open The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage and began to read. I need not have worried–The Book of Dust is Pullman at his best. Neither prequel nor sequel to His Dark Materials trilogy—Pullman calls this an “equel” and La Belle Sauvage is the first volume of a companion trio that can stand on its own. There are some familiar faces—most notably an infant Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon–and a particularly delightful new one: a boy named Malcolm whose kind heart, curious mind, and unerring sense of good, are the reason baby Lyra makes it to the safety of Jordan College. As in his earlier books, Pullman explores themes of religious and political freedom, the nature of good and evil, science and philosophy. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage is a glorious adventure that delivers heart-in-your-throat moments and much to think about as we wait (not so patiently) to see what will happen next…–Seira Wilson.