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Reading wrap-up - September 2023

September went by like a high-speed train, especially because I had two amazing but quite stressful events involving travelling. And contrary to what I usually do, I almost did not open a book for those two journeys, which counted for some ten days in total. That's why there are a few books less than usual, but that's actually close to the amount I read a few years ago. Not to forget there are two big ones here.

The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss · 2011

Synopsis-free, spoiler-free review.

Can I admit that towards the end of this book I wondered what had happened in the first 90% to justify making it so long? I mean… I'm all for slow-paced books. I don't need action in my books, I can live on prose and vibes basically. And Rothfuss absolutely delivers both of these, which is why I reached the end of this book. But did I care for the main character along the 1100 pages of his adventures? Nope. Did I believe he had been dictating those 1100 pages in a day, as he is supposed to have done? Certainly not. The audiobook is over 42 HOURS, come on. Did the fact that the number of women went from 1 in book 1 to a handful in book 2 make it less cringy? I'm not entirely sure.

Readers, I am confused. I don't know what to think except that this was *very* long. And while I still enjoy book 1 upon re-reading it, I don't feel like re-reading this one. One thing I'm happy about is having read the book that had been sitting on my TBR for the longest time (we're talking at least 6 years, probably more).

The book sits on a wooden table next to a bunch of dried flowers, with a patterned cloth in the background.

Emblèmes, Ina Siel · 2023

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this one ahead of release date!

Érèbe and Cécilie, born on each side of the tenuous line separating aristocracy from the rest of society, had no reason to meet. Except that Cécilie is looking for a privileged husband to share his status with her, providing her with an opportunity to flee her sexist world, and that Érèbe sees Cécilie as a way to make room for himself in a society where he is also left out. His fascination for skeletons, and the nightmares plaguing him have made him a pariah, so that he cannot believe in Cécilie’s good intentions. As for the young woman, is she ready to pay the price of an arranged marriage to flee to the nearby islands where she hopes to enter the university and sate her thirst for knowledge?

I had an excellent time with these two nuanced and endearing characters, far from perfection. Their dynamics was well done and free from many clichés that could have arisen from their relationship. I enjoyed discovering all that this three-part world had to offer, from Naturalia, a continent riddled with prejudice but with a steampunk charm of its own, to the modern horizons of the Scientifica islands, to the hostile wilderness of Exotica. The representation of disability felt very thoughtful and wove seamlessly with the narrative.

On the whole, I felt that this book was a labour of love from a thoughtful author who uses classic themes (like sexism) but takes unexpected directions and leaves the reader on such a cliffhanger that time will feel long before volume 2.

CW: death of animals, panic attacks, sexism, classism, ableism.

The book rests on the extra-large root of a vine, against an old wall.

L'Énergie du désespoir, Adrien Tomas · 2023

Along the Gaste Cordillère and its snow flurries, the improbable trio formed by Kimba the huntress, Vezzere the aristocrat and Pygonus the android, are on the hunt for pixies. Their magical energy maintains a fragile balance in the City since it was shaken by a series of terrorist attacks. As a consequence, the price for wild pixies would ensure Kimba a life of leisure. But if the hunt was so easy, there would be more candidates…

In this short story loosely related to the Vaisseau d’Arcane series by Adrien Tomas, there is no time to breathe, whether because of explosive dialogue or just as explosive obstacles waiting for the characters on their journey. It took me a couple of page to find my bearings in the universe, but the narration was focused enough on the small group and their mission that the story felt well wrapped-up at the end. This is a thunderous start for the Chronopages campaign by Editions 1115 who are sending one short story a month to their contributors.

Rep: Black MC.

CW: racism, slavery, genocide.

the booklet is leaning against a pile of books turned towards the back of the picture.

Julia and the Shark, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston · 2021

It’s summertime, and Julia and her parents are on their way to a scattering of islands barely visible on the map, north of Scotland. Her father is to repair the lighthouse and automate it, while her mother plans to chase a shark that could hold answers to many questions. That leaves Julia with a lot of free time, and a lot of questions of her own. It will be a summer of finding, of losing, of depths and of heights.

Here is another gorgeous example of middle-grade literature done to perfection. This book is light and deep, it deals with profound topics in the most accessible ways, it incorporates poetry and blends the narrative with stunning, almost abstract illustrations. It never belittles children, while welcoming adults too and I don’t know how authors such as Kiran Millwood Hargrave manage that but I have the deepest admiration for their work and creativity. To be fair, I would have much more to say if I’d found faults in this book but I thought it was perfect and I’m always at a loss for words when talking about such accomplished books. The words are in the books. Please read them.

CW: bullying, mention of a suicide attempt, mental illness.

The book is open at the title page in a ray of sunlight. Its title is written in yellow and surrounded with drawings of a girl, a shark and birds.

The Corset and the Jellyfish, Nick Bantock · 2023

Book sent by the publisher for review via NetGalley.

This curious little collection brings together 100 pieces of microfiction alongside 100 doodles by the author. Most of them range toward the absurd and the fantastical in bite-size morsels of literature.

The foreword invites the reader to select one word from each story and create a 101st piece, which I find delightful but would be more inclined to do with a physical copy than an ebook. This is a nice volume to browse and cherry-pick from, and it can no doubt inspire writers to try their hands at their own drabble, or even to expand on a situation that tickles their fancy!

An e-reader showing the cover of the book next to a bunch of fresh flowers in bloom & bud.

Le Silmarillion, J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien, translated by Daniel Lauzon · 1977-2021

The Silmarillion, a compendium of Middle-earth legends published thanks to Christopher Tolkien’s work after his father’s passing, had been translated in French quite shortly after it first came out. This first version, by Pierre Alien (knowledgeable translator of English classics) had suffered from the translator’s interest and the small amount of information he had regarding the whole legendarium. The existence of the text in French was precious, but it was time The Silmarillion was offered to French readers in a new form, more respectful of the original. That was when Daniel Lauzon entered, with his deep knowledge of Tolkien’s Secondary World, and his poetic prose. His translation, published in 2021 with Ted Nasmith’s illustrations, transposes the majesty of the original and the depth of this literary endeavour started in the 1910s by J.R.R. Tolkien. French is not as flexible as English, so that Lauzon’s vocabulary doesn’t always have, to me, the dignified simplicity of the source material, but it certainly makes the readers feel the epicness and subtlety blowing through this narrative.

The book, in a ray of sunlight, stands at the edge of a bookshelf.


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What did you read in September ?

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