by Eoin Colfer
Deep in the swamps lives a dragon who goes by the name of Vern. Oh, he used to be something grander, a Lord Highfire, but nowadays with the wyverns all but gone, Vern just wants to live alone, enjoy his days in the bayou with his cable and armchair and vodka.
The second lead character in this novel is a fifteen-year old who goes by Squib and who has just the right amount of luck to watch his boss murdered by the local constable, who, just so happens, also is attempting to woo Squib’s mother. Life is complicated. Made more so when he ends up getting tapped to fill some shoes and begin delivering for a real-life dragon who can’t exactly get his alcohol himself. At least not without terrorizing the locals and having to relocate afterwards.
But the local constable wants Squib out of the way and doesn’t mind that way being deep in the depths of the swamp where no one will ever find him. And if a dragon happens to get in the way, well, the constable can work with that too.
Vern might just have to break a few of his own rules and gives his armchair and vodka a break in order to help the first human he’s actually come to care about for a long, long time.
This fantasy novel is a fun, easy read, perfect for a wide variety of ages. It leaves you satisfied without much emotional upheaval other than a happy-minded contentment for having read.
by Nnedi Okorafor
Sankofa, the Adopted Daughter of Death, is a young girl protected by a green glow from within that can kill all it encompasses. Everyone knows of her, everyone fears her, and the tales told of her are many and varied.
Remote Control takes you through Sankofa’s life, from her youthful bouts of malaria and her conversations with a mysterious seed, through her attempts to live undisturbed in a world that insists on her evilness. This is a tale about perseverance, prejudice, and home.
There’s a lovely metaphor here for all those who have at some point in their lives felt they ruined everything they touched, who have struggled to find a place where they belong, people who could understand them. For those who feel they hurt those closest to them, and try as they might, always seem to destroy good things around them, this tale can be cathartic.
Yet, this story is also for those who have grown stronger because of the thorns on their path. Sankofa might not be who we are, but there’s a piece of her in all of us.
These two are different in tone, yet are similar in character, with both stories revolving around a character with a power that others come seeking.
A GIFT, A WITCH AND A WAKENING OF HONEY by Elou Carroll is a warm, homey story about bees who come seeking help from a witch in order to heal a gray cast that has overwhelmed their colony. Quick and fun, this story could be a pick-me-up and give you a smile, what with the main character’s attitude and the bees’ penchant for gift-giving. Published in Hexagon.
DEAD AT THE FEET OF A GOD by Izzy Wasserstein is far more maudlin in tone, a story told by skipping backward in time to reveal the terrible path that has led the main character to the feet of a god. Yet, the main character also possesses a power, one of foreknowledge that resounds within the style chosen, as you, the reader, have foreknowledge of where the story will end. Published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
SORCERY OF THORNS
Books about books are always fun, particularly when those books sing and bite and tell on little girls who aren’t where they should be.
This is a tale about Elisabeth, a young woman who grew up in one of the Great Libraries and was taught how to care for the books within. When a visit from a sorcerer and a subsequent attack leaves a dangerous grimoire stolen, Elizabeth finds herself being dragged to the capital and put on a path to solve the mystery of the sabotage and thievery before the Great Libraries fall to a power beyond imagining.
The cast is rounded out by a somewhat-friendly demon, who likes to turn into a cat, and a young sorcerer, who is somehow even less friendly. The story is engaging and quick, adventurous and fun, perfect for anyone looking for a light romp that takes them through magical libraries we all wish we had grown up within ourselves.
Both stories this week are related to the past returning. The characters are wildly different: one a very young girl, reaching for a past she’s never had, and the other a woman who has tried to leave her past behind her.
GRAY SKIES, RED WINGS, BLUE LIPS, BLACK HEARTS by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor is a tale set in a society where souls can be eaten or lost, becoming unattached to the person who once owned them, creating soulless. The lead character, Redcap Kestrel, takes up a request to find a missing girl’s soul, but that request leads her through her own history and the people within. Published in Apex.
THE TASTE OF CENTURIES, THE TASTE OF HOME by Jennifer Hudak is a tale about a young girl living in a quiet world where the only humans are her mother and grandmother. Until one day, she sees someone else come through a portal. This leads her to question her grandmother while the two of them bake the bread of her family, wanting to discover all about the world left behind, a world she’s never been to, yet to which she feels connected. Published in khōréō.