Friday, November 29, 2013

Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor wrote a novella called Night of Cake and Puppets. Best. Title. Ever. I am so stoked!

It's about Zuzana and Mik. I'm jumping up and down squealing. (For those of you not already Laini Taylor fans (and why aren't you? huh? really?), these are characters from her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. This novella takes place in the middle of the first book.)

I can download it right now. I love the internet. I'll be back.

"I am a rabid fairy. I am a carnivorous plant. I am Zuzana."

"I eat vengeance with a spoon like it's honey."

"Life doesn't need magic to be magical."

I can't quote anymore because I just want to quote the whole thing and that would be spoilery.

Aieeeeeeee! Okay. All love stories ever written are now lame and boring and passionless as blanc mange. No romance will ever, ever, ever measure up to Night of Cake and Puppets. And wow, does this woman know how to ki . . . nope, spoilers!

I think the long short story/short novella is Laini Taylor's best medium. Don't get me wrong: her novels are great. But there's all that plot and stuff to distract you from her sentences, and her sentences are exquisite. And epic action and adventure are fine, but what she's best at is moments. Pure, magical, intense, perfect moments of discovery, encounter, twist of heart. She distills the revelations we all long for into poetry of scene and dialog that leave you breathless with anticipation and delight. You didn't know the world could be like that but she creates it for you before your eyes.

I want to go to Prague, right now.

I'm going to reread the story.

"A small, whole Sacher torte, its chocolate so dark it looks black."


Friday, November 22, 2013

Shadows, by Robin McKinley

A new Robin McKinley! Break out the chocolate and get comfy!

If you're familiar with Robin McKinley from her earlier books, like Beauty, or The Blue Sword, and think of her as the queen of YA fairy-tale/high fantasy, you may not know what to make of her more recent work. There's Sunshine: awesomely scary vampires and an unusually talented coffeehouse baker (gives Death by Chocolate a whole other meaning), in a world that's sort of like ours but not. So, kind of urban fantasy/paranormal, but not really. Then there's Dragonhaven, with dragons, but real ones, in a reserve, where park rangers collect dragon poop and orphaned baby dragons are a bit of a problem to care for. So, not your typical dragon story at all. Pegasus is closer to vintage McKinley, with a princess and a flying horse and a world reminiscent of Damar. (Still waiting eagerly for Pegasus II, which is coming.)

The only thing you can definitively say about McKinley is that she's incredibly imaginative and original, and whatever world she creates she drags you into it and makes you never want to leave.

Which brings us to Shadows. I'm not sure this is a world I'd like to visit, because it's pretty scary. It's most similar to Sunshine (Sunshine's world is scary too: it's the coffeehouse I wish were real): it looks a lot like our modern world, but with weird stuff. Like cohesion breaks: rips in reality that pop up occasionally and if you get too close you disappear forever. But it's okay, the army has cobey units with all sorts of scientific devices to deal with them. Move along now, folks, nothing to see here. In Newworld science can deal with everything; it's not like Oldworld with all those suspicious, creepy magic-users; there's gene-splicing to make sure no one in Newworld has magic anymore.  And if anyone wants to immigrate, they'd better have left their magic behind. There are monitoring devices at the border to make sure.

So when Maggie's mom remarries a guy with an Oldworld accent, and there's something weird about Val (and it's not just his fashion sense), Maggie is seriously freaked out. Val's shadow has too many legs. In fact, he has too many shadows. With legs. Or possibly tentacles. "Have you ever thought about the darkness between a row of books and the top of the shelf? Of course not. You don't, until it goes all loopy, and little things like legs or tails or tongues hang down over the spines."

Shadows is the spookiest book McKinley has written, and she's just as good at creating spooky as she is at heroic and magical. The version of magic in Shadows is completely different from any other kind of magic I've ever read about--it's so interesting. I love that origami is magic. And algebra (or, at least, algebra books). And animals: more than anything else I think Shadows is a paeon of praise for dogs and other loyal animals who take care of their humans no matter the cost to themselves. The gruuaa are wonderful. (Not going to tell you what they are!)

There are also a couple of seriously hot guys and a great best friend with a Mammothmobile (the better to fit all the dogs). Quite a bit of humour, a lot of it dog-related (which you'll be familiar with if you read McKinley's blog). And a lot of possibilities for sequels, not that it will do any good to hint about it. (McKinley's quite insistent she can't write the stories she wants to write, only the ones she's given. And she hasn't yet been given any Damar sequels, despite all of our begging.)

If your reality could use a little warping, I highly recommend the particular warped version of it in Shadows.

This one has to be caterpillar rolls from your favourite sushi place (it's okay if you don't like raw fish: caterpillar rolls have cooked crabmeat. And avocado. But if you really don't like sushi, then you can have the beef teriyaki. So long as it's really good, and comes on one of those sizzling hot cast iron trays.)