Wicked by Gregory Maguire
read by John McDonough
I’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz. Yes, that particular piece of Western pop culture and I have never crossed paths; I mean, I know most of it through cultural osmosis, but I never saw it as a child and, as an adult, I’m frankly not that interested. But the magical thing about L. Frank Baum’s creation is that it’s in the public domain, meaning that publishing The Wizard of Oz fanfiction is kosher. Which brings us to Wicked, one of my favorite books from high school, as well as one of my favorite examples of how fanfiction can deepen and correct a text. It’s a terrible shame that Gregory Maguire can never quite live up to his 1995 adult fiction debut—Son of a Witch is decent, but A Lion Among Men is just a frustrating detour from The Wicked Years’ main story. I’m still totally going to read Out of Oz when it comes out in November, though—I’ll just rent it instead of buying it.
The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller
The Magician’s Book came to me through Ana’s brilliant review over at things mean a lot; accessible literary criticism concerning a fantasy series? Be still, my heart! I was all ready to snap it up until I hit the obvious stumbling block—I’d never read The Chronicles of Narnia. (Yes, this is why we had Narnia Week back in November.) As soon as I came back to school after the holidays, I picked it up—even before I moved in. That’s quite some hype! Wonderfully, The Magician’s Book lived up to my expectations.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Normally, I don’t presume to claim a character for Team Ace, but I really must insist here—textually, Holmes is into no one, to the point that Watson notices it and mildly disapproves of it. I say this because the Irene Adler/Sherlock Holmes ship is a difficult one to sink. I’m not talking about subtext here, but just the text; there are some people out there who theorize that Holmes actually married her during “A Scandal in Bohemia”, which is one of those things that makes me realize fandom is much, much older than we think it is. I’m all for rioting in the subtext (I certainly do!), but when my mother thinks it actually happens in the books, I need to remind everyone that Holmes is playing on my team in the text. And we sit out games. Everybody clear? Alright, then let’s dig into The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
It feels a little odd, I have to be honest, to be getting into Martin this late in the game—while I’m getting excited for the HBO adaptation and forcing myself to space out the books, I’ve encountered people who, quite rationally, want to wait until the entire series is finished (or in a position to be finished) and other people who are quite openly hostile about it, such as a gentleman I encountered in a book store who warned me off the books. (I ignored him.) However, I also think I came in at just the right time—I’ve a sneaking suspicion that A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the series, will be released as a tie-in with the show. (Supporting my theory is Martin claiming he can see the light at the end of the tunnel in this podcast last month. But I’d take that well-salted.) But however it works out, I’m glad I’ve gotten into this series. Spoilers for A Game of Thrones abound, so beware!
The Lost City of Z by David Grann
During the first year of The Literary Omnivore (oh, how weird is that to say?), I picked up a lot of recommendations from Paperback Row, a feature in The New York Times Book Review—The Lost City of Z is such a recommendation. Those recommendations tend to fall to the bottom of my reading list, picked up later, when I barely recall what the book is about (which is an adventure all on its own!). But I heard good things about The Lost City of Z and ended up finding a copy at a local thrift store over the summer—the one with the poorer book selection, which is a miracle all on its own. I took it to college with me, but never really got around to reading it until fantasy burnout struck after Narnia Week; then, I desperately needed some nonfiction to act as aloe for my brain, so I picked up The Lost City of Z. There’s something to be said for timing in a read; perhaps because it was just what I needed, it blew me away.
Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
Words cannot describe how much I love Deryn Sharp. (Not like that, she’s underage.) The female lead of Leviathan is a smart and, well, sharp, Scottish soldier with plenty of swagger–and did I mention she’s undercover as a boy to serve her country? As much as I enjoyed the alternate history steampunk stylings of Leviathan, including the remixing of political struggles, Deryn has fast become one of my favorite fictional characters. Once I finished Leviathan, I immediately put down Behemoth on my reading list. And now it looks like Goliath is going directly on my reading list, too.
based on the Sherlock Holmes canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Fandom, thou cruel mistress. Over the summer, everyone in the Doctor Who fandom turned their attention to Steven Moffat’s newest project, Sherlock. To a woman, they loved it–and thus began my desperate attempts to plug my ears until it came Stateside, no matter how tempting or lovely the outpouring of fanworks looked. (Sometimes the old Anglophilia is a curse.) But finally, I got a chance to see it; during the end of October and beginning of November, PBS aired all three episodes of Sherlock’s first season. (American television seasons are, naturally, foreign to British television; a season or series of Sherlock is composed of three ninety-minute stories.)
based on “Rapunzel” by the Brothers Grimm
As you may have gathered, I am a Disney freak. I was reared on the darker Disney films–The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Pocahontas. So believe me when I say I’ve been waiting a long time for Tangled; roughly four years, through two wildly different scripts (Rapunzel Unbraided!), different voice casts (Cheno!), and different designs (Regency!). I was even concerned that I’d overhyped myself, which I’ve certainly done before. But I was the over the moon to discover that I hadn’t. Now, let’s see if I can’t walk that fine line between fannish glee and analytical thinking…
Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh
I have to be totally honest–Polly and the Pirates appealed to me because of a story missing from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. You see, the titular Zelda is a girl pirate with a crew she probably inherited from her mother, but we don’t know. Her mother is mentioned once and appears in a painting in the captain’s quarters. That’s it. Being the geek I am, I often wonder about the two. So when I heard about Polly and the Pirates during a fandom celebration of female characters, I put it down on my list, but it proved elusive–until I walked into my local library and found it on the very small graphic novel bookshelf. Oh, I love this library.
Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey
After reading Banewreaker, I did something that I rarely do–I immediately picked up the next installment. (Well, immediately for me. I read Remarkable Creatures between both parts to cleanse the palate.) I think I picked up Banewreaker at exactly the right time; I just want to gorge myself on fantasy deconstructions. While I was very pleased with the structure of Banewreaker, which avoided an infuriating cliffhanger in favor of a story with a natural lull in the action, I just had to finish the story. I’ll do my best to keep this review fairly spoiler-free, but I can make no promises. Enter at your own risk, you strange, wondrous people who don’t like spoilers.