Ah, summer! Most notably recognized for vacations, summer is a time when school is out of session and a vast number of people experience long spans of down-time (at least in America). Since I am a teacher as well as an author, I have a few months to spend schedule-free, which means more opportunities to write and read.
Which is exactly what I’ve been doing. From fiction to non-fiction (because I am still working a bit), from traditionally published to indie, from classic to new, I’ve been a book-devouring monster since Memorial Day, which is my first official day off. So far, the top three novels that stick out are:
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Maya is the favored daughter of Raja Ramchandra of Bharta, but she is cursed with a horoscope predicting a marriage wedded to death and destruction. This makes her a target of malice and suspicion within her harem family and marks her as undesirable for a prospective bride. Maya has no desire to be a harem wife, however, and looks forward to a future as an unmarried scholar. The last thing she ever anticipated was being commanded by her father to marry and sacrifice her ideal future in order to save the kingdom of Bharata and everything she loves.
I love, Love, LOVE this story. Rich in Indian mythology and folklore, The Star-Touched Queen transported me to a fascinating world of mystery and magic, love and betrayal, danger and sacrifice. Superbly written, the artistry of the author allowed me to slip fully into the story and gave me no desire to ever leave until long after I read the last words. Fair warning: Don’t start this story until you have time to finish it because you won’t be able to put it down.
Raven Thrall by J. Elizabeth Vincent
Mariah is Ceo San, touched by the gods and gifted with the ability to shape-shift into a hawk. It’s supposed to be a blessing, but for Mariah, it feels more like a curse. Stuck somewhere between Human and animal form, Mariah must hide the wings that betray her identity or else she will be conscripted into the king’s army, enslaved to live as nothing more than a weapon.
Betrayed by someone she thought she could trust, Mariah is forced to flee her home. She manages to create a life of safety, even if it does mean being alone, until she meets Xae, a raven shifter whose family has been captured. Mariah is forced to choose between her life of relative safety or helping Xae rescue his family. In the process she learns more about herself than she ever thought possible and receives a calling on her life that could change the fate of the Ceo San forever.
Raven Thrall is an epic fantasy novel that examines the impact one person can make. Mariah’s conflicts do not influence her world on a grand scale, but they represent the common battles each of us face on a regular basis. Mariah’s growth throughout the story is organic and realistic and speaks to the way each person’s life can make a difference. This book will be especially appealing to readers who like strong female characters with strengths that lie outside the realm of mastery in weapons.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Okay, bear with me. Dune is not a fantasy novel. It is a science-fiction classic that I have been wanting to read for AGES, but it is foundational to the speculative fiction canon, which is why I’m including it here.
Set on the desert planet of Arakis, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, the son of a scapegoated Duke exiled to a hostile planet. Instead of dying like he’s supposed to, Paul adapts to the rough demands of the desert and its people, even becoming a messiah of sorts to the planet’s native race.
This is an intriguing story. It would be easy to read it and think of it as cliché, but remember that it was written forty years ago. Although it is often criticized as a book filled with genre stereotypes, this is actually the work those stereotypes were born from. If you are a fan of speculative fiction, Dune is a must-read.
As I said in my last post, I hope you are enjoying a summer filled with rest, recuperation, and good books. I’m always looking for good books, so I’d love to know your top three reads so far. Please list them in the comments below.