Friday, July 30, 2021

Weekend Reads: My 'Must Read Before Summer Ends' List (Desiree)

Happy Almost August! :-)

It’s crazy to think just how quickly summer flies by! We only have a couple more weeks left of summer freedom. 

Before long, school will be back in session and all of us work-from-home-while-homeschooling parents will rotate our schedules around classes, lunch times, and trying to figure out math while reminding ourselves what a protractor is used for. LOL. 

Which then brings to mind the importance of downtime and genuine rest. I haven’t had much reading time this summer. Although not because of crazy work schedules. More so because of the real life adventuring with my family—which has been awesome, by the way! 

But when school resumes, the mad rush returns. *dramatic sigh* And I have several books I’d love to journey through before that begins! 

So here is my must reads list! 

Side note: if these books aren’t on your radar, they need to be!!!!!! (<—yes, I am being that dramatic. LOL) 

[books listed in random order]

Desiree's Read-These-Right-Now-Before-Summer-Freedom-Ends List

*wink* Feel free to throw something at me, I'm feeling fabulous in my drama queen crown today. :-)

Secrets of the Mist by Morgan Busse

Morgan is an auto-buy author for me. I absolutely adored her Ravenwood Saga, and my husband and I fought over her Soul Chronicles duology (that's a story for another day!). 

So I've been eager for her next book to release in a couple weeks. It still "lands" before homeschool starts for us, which means I have just enough time to savor this book before the madness begins. ;-)

More about Secrets in the Mist:

In a world where humanity lives in the sky to escape a deadly mist below, Cass’s only goal is survival. That is, until she finds a job on the airship Daedalus as a diver. Now she explores ruined cities, looking for treasure and people’s lost heirlooms until a young man hires her to find the impossible: a way to eradicate the Mist.

Theodore Winchester is a member of one of the Five Families that rule the skies. Following in his father’s footsteps, he searches for the source of the Mist and hopes to stop the purges used to control overpopulation. But what he finds are horrifying secrets and lethal ambition. If he continues his quest, it could mean his own death.

The Mist is rising and soon the world will be enveloped in its deadly embrace, turning what's left of humanity into the undead.

Forsaken Island by Sharon Hinck 

If you missed all my gushing over Hidden Current, then you can check that out here. But since finishing up book one, I've been super interested in exploring book 2! Bonus for me, book 3 is already out, so I might be able to squeeze in a book marathon one weekend and knock out the rest of the series. Woohoo!

Do you usually wait until a series is completely finished before starting on book one? I've heard about a lot of readers who do that and was curious if you did?

More about Forsaken Island

On an uncharted world, happiness is effortless and constant … but can true joy exist without sacrifice?

The people of Meriel have long believed their island world floats alone in the vast ocean universe, so they are astonished when another island drifts into view. With resources becoming scarce, Carya and Brantley quickly volunteer to search the new land for supplies.

After navigating a barrier of menacing trees, the pair encounter a culture of perpetually happy people who readily share their talents and their possessions. But all is not what it seems. At the core of the island is a horror that threatens everyone, including Brantley and Carya.

Freeing the villagers of the bondage they’ve chosen may cost Carya and Brantley more than they could have imagined. Even if the two succeed, they’ll have to find a way to return to Meriel quickly … or be cut off from their home forever.

Azriel by Lee James

*happy sigh* Look at this book! Everything about it sounds epic, and I'm ready to dive in right now. Well ... maybe after I feed the fam first. ;-)

Laurie wrote a fabulous review on it last month! Seriously, you all need to read this book with me so we can gush all about it. Ahh, why must adults have responsibilities! *head-desk* 

I really need to carve out more reading time for myself. [insert more overly dramatic sighing here] ;-)

More about Azriel

Bree Faro learns early in life that she can only depend on herself. Due to her feisty nature and unusual ability with a sword, she is educated in every fighting style imaginable and excels at them all. When she's sent to infiltrate the city of Azriel, Bree does not expect to find her place among the Watchmen of the Keep, but they welcome her as one of their own.

Little does Bree know that her new companions are in danger.

An immortal creature lies in wait for any Keeper of the Flame, the city's water source has dried up, and they are under constant attack from the Yirtzi-former Watchmen reduced to vengeful spirits, who sold their souls for power only to realize the enemy of Yahweh does not translate to the friend of mankind. Not only that, but the Watchmen are fraying. Hostilities come to a head when a Watchman is murdered.

Only a Watchman can kill another Watchman, and all eyes shift to Bree.

Bree finds herself faced with a choice. Does she engineer the betrayal of the powerful city, or does she embrace her destiny as a true Watchman of Yahweh and find the killer before it's too late?

Traitor by Laurie Lucking

I’ve been so eager to dive into Traitor by our very own Laurie Lucking! 

Laurie has such an enormous heart, and I know her love for people shines through in her books. Ideally, I'd like to reread Common first, to get reacquainted with the characters and story world. Either way, this book baby and I are going to become friends this weekend! 

More about Traitor

Princess Penelope has finally found a way to redeem her past mistakes-if only it didn't require betraying her new fiancé.

Princess Penelope has been the object of gossip and ridicule ever since she returned home in disgrace following her failed engagement to the Crown Prince of Imperia. When her father offers a new start in a country far across the sea, she has no choice but to accept.

Even if it means another betrothal, this time to a total stranger.

Penelope arrives in Delunia determined to avoid bringing further shame upon her family. But her devoted, caring fiancé makes it harder to guard her heart than she anticipated, and rumors of dark magic haunt her with memories she'd rather keep buried far beneath her pristine exterior.

When a poverty-stricken village outside the palace gates looks to her as their hope for a brighter future, Penelope embraces the opportunity to make amends for her transgressions. But in order to help, she must manipulate her new fiancé, putting her reputation on the line once more. And her heart.

Can Penelope rise above the failures of her past, or will she forever be branded a traitor?

Waking Beauty by Sarah E Morin

This beauty has been on my TBR list f o r e v er. And enough is enough ... this is the season for this Sleeping Beauty retelling to be read! 

I'm actually fond of retellings, so I have no idea why I keep dragging my feet on this one. I'm worried I'll be let down. But more than likely, I'll find it to be a hidden gem that I'll kick myself over for not reading it sooner. LOL. 

Have you read it?! Was it a gem for you?

More about Waking Beauty:

What if the Sleeping Beauty Refused to Wake Up?

The rescue wasn't going at all how he planned. Prince Arpien intends to gain a throne and the sleeping beauty's heart with a single kiss that wakes her from the evil fairy's curse. But kissing the princess is only the beginning of a series of unforeseen obstacles: man-eating bugs, deadly spindles, talking lapdogs, and fiery pickles. The sleeping beauty is the biggest complication of all.

Princess Brierly is beautiful and Fairy-Gifted, but also...daft. After one hundred years of sleep imprisonment, Brierly refuses to believe this rescue is anything more than a tantalizing but doomed dream.

Arpien is drawn to the vibrancy beneath Brierly's indifferent exterior. Can they reclaim her kingdom? Do they dare trust in the Prince of the old tales to help them battle the evil fairy who cursed Brierly? What is the price of waking beauty?

What's on your 'Must Read' list?

All right, friends. That’s my list! I should be able to tackle these books in two weeks. Right? Right! :-)

Wish me luck! 

And I hope you're having a fabulous summer. Enjoy every moment of it.

Until next time …

Happy Reading! 

What books have you been loving this summer? 

Any that you’d recommend? I’d love to add them to my list next!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Writing Life: Are Conferences Really Worth It? (Lauricia)

One of my favorite things to do as a writing professional is to attend writing conferences. I am a true nerd by definition—I love learning or the sake of learning, so much so that I actually cried with sorrow, not joy, when I graduated from college. I love to dip my toe back into the pool of focused learning, and I do it whenever I get the chance. Writing conferences are so much fun for me that I would go just for the atmosphere, if nothing else.

Unfortunately, when it comes to deciding if I should attend a conference or not, there are a few cold, hard facts about life that I can’t escape. Conferences can be expensive, and my budget (like most of yours) is terribly limited. I have a lot of responsibilities—even when I’m not teaching because of school holidays, I still do a lot of planning and preparing; I also have children to feed and raise, a small menagerie of pets to care for, and a house to clean and keep in running order. To top it all off, I am an ambivert with strong introvert tendencies, so it can be painful to place myself in a room full of strangers.

When these reasons are piled all together, I can very easily talk myself out of attending a conference. I can justify just about anything and, if left to my own devices, I can use any of the above factors to prove to myself that attending a writer’s conference is a selfish indulgence on my part—a frivolous extra that I don’t really need, especially since I have to be responsible with my time and money. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Image courtesy of Nikolay Georgiev from Pixabay.

If you are a writer at any level, writing conferences are essential to your career. Here’s why:

Continued learning about the craft of writingIf you are a new writer, it seems abundantly clear why you need to attend a conference: the classes you can take to learn how to master a skill, or to learn about an aspect of the industry, make the cost worthwhile many times over. However, even multi-published authors can benefit. As a teacher I am required to obtain a certain amount of continuing education each year, in order to improve my skills and to ensure I continue to provide my students with a quality education. Many other professions require the same thing. It is no different for a writer; there is always something new to learn. Even if you’ve mastered a given technique, listening to someone else teach that technique may lead to fresh insight, which could breathe new life into your next work.

The chance to meet with agents and editorsMost conferences offer the opportunity for writers to meet face-to-face with, and pitch their work to, agents and editors. More and more of these industry professionals only obtain new clients through appointments at conferences, so attending a conference can be crucial for the advancement of your career. These one-on-one meetings also come with a bonus: feedback. Instead of receiving a bland standard manuscript rejection, most agents and editors will not only tell you why your project is not right for them but will also provide insight into how you can improve.

What if you’re independently published? Instead of conferencing with agents and editors, you can connect with other authors who are independently published and learn what works and what not to do from their experiences.

The opportunity to build a tribeAnother extremely valuable aspect of writing conferences is networking—getting to know people in the industry as individuals. I love the experience of sitting next to someone in a session, striking up a conversation, and really connecting on an individual level only to find out later that he is an agent from such-and-such literary agency, or she is an editor with some major publishing house, or they are both New York Times bestselling authors. These personal connections, where I am not asking anything of anyone but am rather focused on building honest relationships, are my favorite aspect of writing conferences, especially when they deepen into friendships. This is what networking is all about, and it is not something you can do very well in the comfort of your own home.

While summer seems to be the height of conference season, there are a variety of writer’s conferences happening at all times of the year, and all around the world. If you are at a spot in your writing where you don’t know how to move forward, I recommend you find a conference that fits your needs and budget and sign up. (If you're looking for a conference to start with, I'm a huge fan of Realm Makers). For those of you who are at a good spot in your writing right now, attending a conference can still be a significant investment in your career.

What do you guys think? Are there any conferences you just can’t live without? Or are there any other reasons you can think of why attending conferences is an essential rather than a luxury? I’d love to hear your observations and remarks in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on on 28 July 2017.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Weekend Reads: Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams

Do you ever see a book around and wonder about it, then finally get around to reading it, and are delighted? That has happened to me a few times this summer, with The Faceless Mage by Kenley Davidson (reviewed here) and, most recently, with Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams. Interestingly, both involved imprisoned elves and orphaned young ladies, but where the former is more of a romantic fantasy, Moonscript goes deeper into themes of despair and redemption in a world and manner reminding me of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's beloved Tales of Goldstone Wood.

MoonScript by H.S.J. Williams

(Book 1 of the Kings of Aselvia series)

"It is said that Darkness is empty and whatever vanishes into its depths is lost forever. I know this better than anyone. For I have suffered here in the shadows, and there are none who might find me.”

Seventy years. Seventy years the elven prince has been lost to the darkness, assumed dead by his people and endlessly broken for a book that connects to the hidden realm of his ancestors, a land untouched by evil.

And now a light in the shadows. A chance for freedom. But those willing to help him come from the unlikeliest of worlds.

The orphan girl, yearning for a loving family, and the boy who won’t leave her side. A healer maiden given an unexpected chance for a life beyond narrowed expectations. A grieving creature flown far from home.

They all search for something and now their fates are tied to his. If their quest for life can pull him from the dark mire in which his soul drowns, then perhaps he can be saved.

Or else he will drag them all down to a fate worse than death.

The beginning of an epic saga, MOONSCRIPT is a journey of innocence, despair, and redemption.

Moonscript begins as elven prince Errance is finally allowed to visit the human lands, when disaster strikes and he is kidnapped by a great evil. Seventy years later, a young orphan girl, Tellie, finds his lost moon medallion and overhears a plot to kill an elven king, the father of the missing prince. After warning the elves, she is given the task of find the king's heir--which really means rescuing the prince once thought dead. This seems an impossible task, for some prisons are not stone and bars that can be left. Errance has been tortured and tried for seventy years; freedom isn't easy.

I enjoyed the heart of the story--the themes of innocence, despair, and Christian redemption--as well as the memorable, lovable characters, the different races (including the dragon-like creature who only responds to The Daisha). Moonscript is a complete story that has built a world and characters fit for more stories. I look forward to reading more of them.

Have you read Moonscript? Are you a fan of stories of elves and lost princes?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Story Snippets: Fairy Lights in Deep Magic, Winter 2019 (Laurie)

I hope everyone's having a fabulous summer so far! I'm just sitting here staring at the calendar, wondering how July could possibly be more than halfway done already...

Anyway, is anyone familiar with Deep Magic? It's an awesome e-zine of clean fantasy and science fiction, featuring many short stories and some excerpts from longer works. I was so sad to hear that their Summer, 2021 issue will be their last! *sniff* But it also makes me more grateful than ever that my steampunk Cinderella retelling, "Fairy Lights," was chosen for their Winter issue back in 2019! Definitely one of the highlights of my writing journey thus far :) 

So today, I thought I'd share an excerpt of that story with you! In this scene, Raella's stepmother and stepsisters have just finished getting ready for a ball at the palace, and Raella is eager to show them her latest invention. Enjoy! (You can find the Winter, 2019 issue of Deep Magic HERE and a list of all the issues HERE.)

I rubbed my sweaty palms against my cropped pants. Time for the big reveal. “Of course. The carriage is all ready for you out front.” The moment they’d sequestered themselves to get ready for the ball, I’d given Dagen a quick lesson, then driven the carriage out just beyond the porch and polished off the layers of dust.

I led the way out the door, pressing my lips together to hide my grin.

“But where’s the horse?” Mother placed her hands on her hips. “Dagen, what is the meaning of this?”

He winked at me from his perch on the driver’s seat. “It seems we don’t need Dolly anymore.” The top of his balding head almost disappeared beneath the layer of fringe dangling from the front canopy.

Mother huffed. “Of all the idiotic—”

“It’s true.” I rushed ahead of them to Dagen’s side. “You asked me to fix the carriage and I added...well, an enhancement. The carriage drives itself now.” My grin finally escaped my attempts to subdue it. “I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“And a surprise it is. Quite an accomplishment, Raella.” Mother’s expression was more sour than ever.

“You mean it has an engine?” Dianthe squinted into the dim light cast by the nearest street lamp.

“Yes, precisely. Once I pull this lever, the heating element will—”

“But think of all that horrid steam.” Dianthe wrinkled her nose. “Mother, we cannot attend the ball in such a contraption. No one will want to come within miles of us.”

“Perhaps they’ll think it’s interesting.” Herra gave me a half-smile.

“It will be the only one, at least for this ball.” I placed my hand on the twisted metal of the tall front wheel. “But after everyone’s seen it, by the next event I’m sure dozens will—”

“That’s enough, Raella.” Mother had walked to the far side of the carriage, now she rounded it to face us. “Of course you’re proud of your invention, but we can’t possibly consider driving it to Prince Hendrick’s ball. What if it breaks down on the way, or starts a fire that ruins other carriages? No, Dagen will hitch up Dolly this instant, and we’ll be on our way. I presume it still functions as a horse-drawn carriage?”

I dragged the toe of my boot across the dirt. “Not exactly. I’m still trying to sort out...”

Dianthe whimpered.

Mother’s exaggerated sigh could have emanated from a steamship. “Then we’ll go on the cart. Dagen, I want it ready in five minutes.”

“Y-yes, Ma’am.” He shot me a sympathetic glance as he scurried to the barn.

“Girls, let’s return to the house before our dresses get covered in dirt.” Mother stalked past me up the porch stairs.

Herra lifted her skirt, the buckles of her knee-high boots glinting in the moonlight. “I thought it was a neat idea.” Her voice barely reached me as she shuffled by.

Dianthe’s stiff posture mimicked Mother’s. “When will you learn your tinkering is a useless, unladylike waste of time?”


I glanced up from where I’d crumpled onto the front porch. The cart was no longer in sight, only a trail of dust left in its wake. My hands returned to my face. How had I fooled myself into thinking they’d understand this time? That they might even appreciate my efforts? A stream of tears escaped between my fingers, and I didn’t bother to stop them. No one was here to see.

A point of pink light flickered, followed by a buzz. I swiped my sleeve across my eyes. Farther in the distance, a green twinkle of light hovered in the air. I might have guessed the fairies would be out the night of a ball, but why so far from the palace? The tiny creatures attended to the queen and other noblewomen, but no one of such rank lived this far from the center of town.

I pushed off from the porch’s splintering wood and stretched my legs. Might as well return the carriage to the barn for the night. A yellow light blinked to my right, then pale blue to my left. How many fairies were here? Maybe they weren’t allowed in the palace during events as grand as Prince Hendrick’s ball. Shaking my head, I started for the carriage.

A woman clad in shimmering white materialized before me.

I lurched back with a screech. “Who are you? And how—?”

“My apologies; I suppose that was a bit startling.” Her voice had the resonance of a bell, vibrant and commanding. “They told me you were on the porch, but, well, I guess now you’re not.”

“I was just...” Wait. I didn’t owe any explanations to this bizarre apparition. “What is your purpose here?”

“Ah, a practical girl. Well, I might as well share the good news right at the start. You’ve been chosen to attend the ball.”

“Excuse me?”

More tiny lights glimmered around her shoulders, appearing and disappearing so quickly I couldn’t keep track of them all. The buzzing in the air grew to a hum. “I am Louvaine, mistress of fairies, and if you must know, I have come under a bit of criticism lately. Something about magic misuse. It’s all nonsense, of course, but I thought Prince Hendrick’s ball was the ideal opportunity to clear my name with a good deed. So, I sent out my fairies. ‘Ladies,’ I told them, ‘Find a girl who’s miserable about not going to the ball. One with the potential to be a true belle.’ And of all the crying girls in town, they chose you. We’ll get you looking like a princess, and to the ball you shall go!”

This cannot be happening. “That is very kind of you, but I have no desire to go to the ball. My crying was about something else.”

“Nonsense. You’re a young, pretty girl”—she stepped back to appraise my attire—“who only needs some assistance with her wardrobe to be presentable. The perfect recipient of our help.”

“No, I mean it. I’m sure another one of the crying girls would be much more appreciative of such an opportunity.”

She released a weary sigh. “I know your kind, dear girl. The martyrs who never want anything for themselves, who claim they don’t mind slaving their lives away without any frivolity, then cry about it in secret. You will go to the ball, and you will look spectacular. Ladies.” She snapped her fingers, and every light blinked on in a dizzying assortment of colors. “Escort Miss—”

Her brows raised expectantly.


“Escort Miss Raella inside, get her bathed, if necessary, and into one of your finest gowns.” She pointed toward the house, and the fairies swarmed like a colony of tunnel bees. “And do something about that hair!”

My feet rooted to the ground as I squinted against the roiling lights. Had I fallen asleep while sitting on the porch? Or had my loneliness since Daddy’s death finally driven me mad?

Gentle pressure on my back inched me forward. Whether dream or reality, apparently it was time for me to get dressed.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Weekend Reads: The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones (Rachel)

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“It does seem that a fantasy, working out in its own terms, stretching you beyond the normal concerns of your own life, gains you a peculiar charge of energy which inexplicably enriches you. At least, this is my ideal of a fantasy, and I am always trying to write it.”

– Diana Wynne Jones

There are times in every author’s life when nothing goes well. Writing projects have stalled. Characters refuse to talk. Words dry up in the journey from the brain to the keyboard. There they shrivel into dead and dull sentences on the screen. Editing makes you hate your work. You worry you are cutting the life out with each change and fear you will only have drivel when you finish.

Since childhood, I have had one remedy that has always helped me when things get so desperate. I pick up a Diana Wynne Jones novel. Her writing style is similar to J. K. Rowling’s but better. Her works range from whimsical and silly to dark and heavy. One can always count on humor and strangeness, quirky characters, and winding plots. I always find something new to admire when I reread them, and without fail, they always inspire me to write. This brings me to my recommendation for this Friday: The Chrestomanci Series.

Based on the concept that there are multiple related worlds fractured at various points in history into alternative courses of events, the childrens to YA series focuses on the influence of one government official, Chrestomanci. While everyone else in the multiverse has alternative versions of themselves, he does not, giving him the unique attribute of having nine lives and gobs of magic.

The series begins with The Lives of Christopher Chant. Christopher grows up with estranged parents, a long parade of governesses, and the ability to dream vividly. Strangely, though, when he dies in his dreams, he dies again when he wakes up.

Conrad’s Fate is set after Christopher has been adopted by the current Chrestomanci. Conrad, who has been manipulated into thinking he has a terrible fate due to his past lives, indentures himself into service in a grand manor house. There he encounters Christopher, searching for a friend despite Chrestomanci’s objections. All kinds of shenanigans ensue.

Charmed Life is the first of the books set when Christopher has become the Chrestomanci. Eric Chant and his sister have been orphaned. Eric appears to have no magic, but his sister has gobs. She is determined to get the attention of Chrestomanci and succeeds. But the result isn’t quite what any of them expected.

The Magicians of Caporna is a different kind of book. I have only read it once (unlike the probably 10 to 20 times I have read all the others). Even as a child, when I read this book, I didn’t like this one. It lacked everything that I loved about Diana Wynne Jones’ writing. All I recall is that it is basically a variation on Romeo and Juliet.

Witch Week is the first of the series I read. It is set in a world where magic is prevalent and also very prejudiced against. All kinds of events bring about silly situations and crazy interactions at a school as children deal with rumors, bullying, and teachers. I vividly remember laughing my way through the whole raining shoe scene. Now I want to reread it again.

The Pinhoe Egg was the last book in the series, both in chronology and publication order. This might be why it, along with Conrad’s Fate, is one of my favorites of the series. In this book, many favorite characters (Christopher, Cat, and others) return. We get to see the castle residents from the perspective of Cat and an outsider. The world is opened up, leaving so much possibility. Best of all, it still has all of Diana Wynne Jones’ fun sense of humor, quirky characters, stupendous world-building, and tightly worked plots.

For a fun, light, entertaining adventure full of inspiration and amusement, do pick up any of the above books (except for The Magicians of Caporna) for an escape this weekend. 

I know what I will be rereading.

What are your favorite books to reread?

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Writer's Life: Dreamers of Dreams (Sarah)

For as long as I can remember, dreams have played a role in my writing life. I’m not talking about daydreams, though certainly those are vital, but actual dreams that come by night. In my current manuscript, a gaslamp mystery novel, the first glimpse of the protagonist came to me in a dream. Jessa has evolved a great deal, but those initial glimmers of appearance and personality sprang into being in the night, as did the core concept of the murder mystery (in another dream, years apart). These glimpses and glimmers take daydreaming, brainstorming, and creative work to become an actual story, but I love discovering story seeds in dreams.

And apparently, I’m not alone. CS Lewis talks about having many dreams of lions, before Aslan sprang into his mind, and from there, the entire Narnia series took flesh. Tolkien speaks of recurring dreams of a tremendous wave consuming a city which gave rise to his tale of the Downfall of Numenor. There’s even a book on writers dreaming (which I have yet to read, though the subject is certainly intriguing) including authors such as Stephen King and Anne Rice.

Our thoughts and creativity run unfiltered by logic as we dream, so it makes sense that we would find in them unusual ideas and inspiration. When I find story seeds in dreams, they’re often dreams carrying emotion that bleeds over into waking, which in turn makes me eager to dig deeper, furthering creativity and story-telling. Certainly, I can’t make these inventive dreams happen, and I have my share of the peculiar or nonsense dreams (and nightmares, unfortunately) alongside those that provide a creative spark, but I appreciate the way God designed us to dream and create even in our sleep!

Are you a dreamer? And if so, do dreams ever fuel your stories? I’d love to hear your experiences. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Weekend Reads: Seventh City by Emily Hayse



Today my daughter and I are en route to Indiana to spend a few days with my family before heading to Realm Makers! It will be my seventh Realm Makers and my daughter's second but first in-person conference. I am so excited to bring her into my world and introduce her to my people.

What better way to kick off Realm Makers than to feature last year's Realm Award winner Seventh City by Emily Hayse. A well-deserved honor!

It's easy for a book that's a light steampunk novel with a bit of romance thrown in (cough The Electrical Menagerie or anything steampunk/gas lamp by H.L. Burke), but it's a true feat of writing ability to engage me in a book that is so-not-my-tastes. Seventh City is a Western set in an Alaska-like Arctic setting. I don't really like Westerns or cold settings. The irony that I live in a Western mountain town and love it is not lost on me.

So, wait, what? You're featuring a book that you didn't like?

Au contraire. I loved Seventh City and couldn't put it down despite it not being my kind of book. Maki is an engaging heroine. There are so many interesting secondary characters. The setting is familiar yet imaginative.

Maki is from a remote village and an invading army has destroyed her village and threatening her people. Maki takes along her wolf pup and a collects a group of people and a team of sled dogs to embark on an epic quest to the seventh city, a place of legend that has to be a myth. But is it? The plot speeds through like a sled team on the Iditarod. And yes, there is a sled team. I found myself staying up late for "one more chapter" (famous last words). I had to know what was going to happen and ultimately, I needed to know if the seventh city was real. And of course, there's no way I'm telling you.

How many of you will I see at Realm Makers 2021? Meet me in St. Louis!