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Books read, early January

Max Adams, The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria. Seventh century Northumbria is not something I’ve gotten a lot of outside of Hild (which is fiction), so it was a lovely gap to have filled in. I really like the interesting interplay between various ethnicities and religions/religious subtypes. Fascinating stuff, lots of maps, lots of discussions of how we know various things about this period.

Alan Bradley, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. I squeed when I saw this existed. It’s the seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, and the sixth put a pretty firm period to the series, [redacting] Flavia off to [redacted]. Well, it turns out that [redacted] has murders and opportunities for intrepid girl chemist-detectives to poke their noses into things, too! So Bradley is ending plot arcs, not the series, HURRAH MORE FLAVIA HURRAH HURRAH.

Nancy Marie Brown, Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths. Interesting take on the saga writer, effects on his life and his effects on further sagas. Sometimes good to argue with.

Greer Gilman, Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Kindle. One of Greer’s Jacobean noir novellas. Language just a perfect romp. Not long enough to get tired of any particular playwrights, fey, etc. even if you have low tolerance for any particular among them.

Barbara Hambly, Crimson Angel. Latest in the Benjamin January series. I think it would work all right as an entry point, although I recommend reading the whole series. This dovetailed nicely with my reading the last few months, because it’s partially set in the Caribbean and deals with the effects of the Haitian Revolution, among other things. Slavery, family, and more. I probably shouldn’t have read the latest installations of two of my favorite mystery series in one fortnight, but I am weak.

Florian Illies, 1913: The Year Before the Storm. What a strange little book. It’s a very narrative style, telling the story of that year in retrospect–the things that we think of as important harbingers of future things now rather than what the people of 1913 would have thought of as important. It’s translated from the German, and that’s remarkably clear: the focus is Germanophone (? is this the equivalent of Anglophone or Francophone? what I mean is not just citizens of Germany but also throughout the Habsburg lands of the time), and the focus is very much avant garde, to the point where someone who has not thought much about the continental avant garde of the early 20th century would end up saying, “Who?” repeatedly. There is nothing of Asia, Africa, or South America in this book, and apparently the main notable thing that happened in 1913 in North America was that Louis Armstrong first picked up the trumpet. (Which, hey: notable. I just think that once you’re reporting on when in 1913 Picasso had a cold, you might notice a few other things in the world.) Funny in spots, interesting in spots. Very weird.

Tove Jansson, Comet in Moominland. Reread, but not since approximately grade school. This says “1” on the spine, but I don’t recommend starting here. Jansson is clearly still getting her feet under her. It has some funny bits (OH THE HEMULEN), and I think it’s worth reading, but you’ll get the wrong impression of how good the series is if you start here, and there’s no reason to read them in publication order, really none–on the first page there’s mention of the flood that’s in a later book, so. May as well start later, with something where she’s got it on all cylinders.

Matsu Kannari, Kutune Shirka, the Ainu Epic. This is very short but filled with otters. It is not a complete epic, it’s a fragment of an epic. Still, there’s not that much in English about the Ainu–Japan is mostly presented as a monolith, culturally/mythically–so this is a good thing to have.

Frank L. Klemen, Dark Lanterns: Secret Political Societies, Conspiracies, and Treason Trials in the Civil War. (US Civil War, just for the record.) This was not what I hoped it would be. It’s not really the book’s fault: it did a perfectly cromulent job of covering mostly pro-Confederate conspiracies and secret societies in the North during the US Civil War itself. But I was hoping for a broader scope than that–leading up to the war and after the war would have been nice, and more of the pro-Union secret societies as well. (MORE WIDE AWAKES.) So I will have to find another source for that stuff.

Pascu Stefan, A History of Transylvania. This is an old book, from the Soviet era, so there are weird things about it. Particularly there is a firm and abiding hatred for Pan-Slavism that takes its form in insisting that Romanians are true Dacian Romans dammit. And you can see why, living under the Soviet influence, that might be a direction of subtle rebellion–Russia has often used Pan-Slavism to mean Russian domination. But Pascu didn’t really seem to see how similar the situation he was describing was to, say, Gaul. Ah well. Still some interesting gaps filled in, mostly in the “kings and crowns” direction.

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, A Circus of Brass and Bone. Kindle. Discussed elsewhere.

Brian Staveley, The Providence of Fire. Discussed elsewhere.

1 thought on “Books read, early January

  1. In the original Swedish, the book translated as The Moomins and the Great Flood was published before the book translated as Comet in Moominland.

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