This Friday I’m escaping into the realms of fantasy with the help of some of the strongest voices around.
I’m starting with ‘A Dead Djinn In Cairo’ short story by P. Djèlí Clark (2016), set in an alternative Cairo where the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine.
After a five year gap (how did I let .that happen?) I’m returning to the sword and sorcery of ‘The Shattered Sea Trilogy’ with ‘Half The World’ by Joe Abercrombie (2015).
‘Gilded Cage’ by Vic James (2014) kicks off her ‘Dark Gifts’ series about a modern Britain enslaved to a magic-using elite. That’s something that becomes easier and easier to imagine as we ride the COViD-19 waterslide off the edge of the Brexit cliff so, after sitting on my shelf for more than two years, this book’s time has come.
Finally, I’m reading ‘City Of Bones’ by Martha Wells (2007) published a decade before Murderbot came along and tell a story of magic, ancient technology and a humanoid race created to help mankind survive.
‘A Dead Djinn In Cairo’ by P. Djèlí Clark (2016)
I think P. Djèlí Clark is a fantasy writer to watch. He has a distinctive voice, a different way of looking at the world, proudly pushes aside anglo-centric views of fantasy and gives us something fresh and compelling. Best of all, his books are fun to read. His novella, ‘The Black God’s Drums’ was one of my favourite reads last year. I’m catching up on his back catalogue while I wait for ‘Ring Shout’ to come out in September.
‘A Dead Djinn In Cairo‘ is only forty-six pages long but I know Clark can pack a lot into a few pages so I’m looking forward to spending time in an alternative Cairo in 1912 and following Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities as she investigates an odd suicide and finds all kinds of trouble.
‘A Dead Djinn In Cairo’ was longlisted for a Hugo. You can find it and the rest of the nominees in ‘The Long List Anthology Volume 3: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List’.
‘Half The World‘ by Joe Abercrombie (2015)
Joe Abercrombie is one of the leading British fantasy writers, with three successful trilogies ‘The First Law’, ‘The Shattered Sea’ and ‘The Age Of Madness’, two standalone novels and a collection of short stories to his name.
I read ‘Half A King’ (2014), the first book of his ‘Shattered Seas’ trilogy, in March 2015. This was my response:
‘I just finished this today and I’m sitting here slightly stunned. It’s been a long, long time since I read something so packed with betrayal, violence, and dramatic plot twists which is also written by someone who draws vivid characters, creates a whole new mythology and has an ear for language and rhythm that lifts his prose almost into a song at times.’
I should have bought ‘ Half The World’ when it came out later that year but I got distracted, didn’t buy it until 2018 and haven’t gotten around to reading it until now. I’m hoping this is going to be one of those ‘Why did I wait so long?’ experiences that will prompt me to roll straight on to the third book, ‘Half A War’.
‘Gilded Cage‘ by Vic James (2014)
Vic James is another British fantasy writer dealing in magic and power, except her fantasies are set in an alternative version of modern Britain where all power sits with the magic-using elite. She has an academic background in history and experience in making current affairs documentaries so I’m hoping that ‘The Gilded Cage’ will owe more to British politics than Dungeon and Dragons.
‘Gilded Cage’ is the first book in the ‘Dark Gifts’ series, which has three books so far, so I’m hoping I’m going to want to get to the rest of them as soon as possible.
‘City Of Bones‘ by Martha Wells (2007)
Martha Wells published her science fiction novel in 1993 and has been writing novels and winning prizes ever since. Until recently, she was probably best known for her fantasy series, the ‘Books Of The Raskura’, starting with ‘The Cloud Roads.’
Then, in 2017, she published ‘All Systems Red‘, the first novella in ‘The Murderbot Diaries’ and became a must-read science fiction writer for a much wider audience.
I’ve picked up ‘City Of Bones’ to see what Martha Wells’ was like before the ‘Books of the Raskura’ or ‘The Murderbot Diaries’. It’s a story of a post-apocalyptic world, struggling for resources and control of ancient technologies in a desert world where humanity only survives with the help of a sentient humanoid race created to service them.