Today begins the A to Z series that I’ll be posting on Wednesdays for the rest of this year. Each post will discuss 3 to 4 women authors of science fiction and fantasy; there are many whom I’m leaving out because of constraints on time and space (okay, space isn’t really constrained here, but I’m sure there’s a limit to how much you want to read in one go). If you have a favorite, please feel free to leave a recommendation in the comments, and if anyone I’ve mentioned catches your attention, let me — and her! — know.
Today’s authors: C. L. Anderson, Eleanor Arnason, Catherine Asaro, and Sarah Ash
Bitter Angels by C. L. Anderson
C. L. Anderson is the same person as Sarah Zettel, which means I’ll be both starting and ending this A to Z tour with her.
When I started reading Bitter Angels, I posted to Facebook that it was a mistake to do so right before bed. I found this to be a quintessential page-turner with politics, espionage, broken promises, and friendships. Every time I started reading, I had to tear myself away.
The contrast between Terese (a former Guardian for Pax Solaris) and Amerand (a Secops Captain in the Erasmus system) as they both struggle to figure out what’s happening and whether there will be war — or if it can be prevented — is very engaging. Terese leaves her family behind to investigate; Amerand has been trying to reunite his for years. Although virtually everything about these characters differs, each is completely compelling.
The world-building in this book is marvelous, from a history of water wars fought over the Great Lakes to the heads of Erasmus system being given the title Saeo as a corruption of CEO, a reflection of the corporate roots in the system, from the Clerks (bureaucratic spies whom everyone knows about) to the Companions (programmed friends for the Guardians who live inside the head and record everything that goes on). (And the fact that Terese is graying and has the expanded waist and hips that come with age is pretty cool, too.)
I love this book, strongly recommend it, and eagerly await the next one.
Here’s what she has to say on her writing:
Why do I write the kind of books I do? My answer I’m afraid is an old one. I have no choice. I have to write, and I can only write the stories that are given to me. So, I write a combination of what I enjoy, what I can sell, and what won’t leave me alone.
As for where to start with my work, I think that Bitter Angels and A Taste of the Nightlife are not only some of my best work to date, but the most easily available, so I’d recommend people start there.
Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason
I did not have time to read this book. I’ve got it loaded up on my Kindle app, however, and am looking forward to reading it.
Find Eleanor Arnason on her blog, eleanorarnason.blogspot.com.
Ascendant Sun by Catherine Asaro
It was hard to figure out where to start reading Asaro’s work. There are a lot of books, and chronological order isn’t the same as publication order. Her site recommended Ascendant Sun as one starting point, and the books that follow it are described as “mathematical” on Wikipedia, which piqued my interest — my husband is a mathematician, which doesn’t give me any special insight into deep math concepts, but does mean that I can recognize when someone is explaining them so that I think I understand them!
There were problems with starting in the middle chronologically — although I had empathy with the main character for losing his family, it lacked the emotional resonance it would have had if I had read the books involved. Other, little, things such as Jay Rockworth whom he thought looked familiar, I was certain would mean more if I knew more history in the series.
I haven’t actually finished reading this book yet (This is a very ambitious reading program!), but I am enjoying it and will read more — I’ve already bought Quantum Rose, although I’ve no idea when I’ll get to it.
Visit Catherine Asaro on the Web at catherineasaro.net.
Tracing the Shadow by Sarah Ash
The beginning of a fantasy series (The Alchymist’s Legacy), this book has several really cool bits, including aethyr crystals, Emissaries (shadow hawks!), and elementals (a type of magus). The world is highly European in flavor — the archipelago is called Francia — and it is gritty and realistic in its portrayal of society.
Tracing the Shadow follows a variety of characters — Karl Linnaius, a magus and college professor who sets events into motion; Rieuk Mordiern, his apprentice; and little Klervie (who becomes Celestine), daughter of one of his colleagues, given the gift of song. Inquisitors, angels, a convent, death, love, and revenge all play a role in this tale.
I find Ash’s writing delightful to read — yes, even when reading about a girl lost on the streets and those who would prey on her. Not only will I finish reading the Alchymist’s Legacy, but I fully intend to read her other fantasy books as well.
Here’s what she has to say about her writing:
Why write fantasy? For me it was the natural way to combine my passion for storytelling with my interest in delving into the roots of myths and legends. But I trained as a musician and music underpins many of my stories, from Songspinners (1996) to the Tears of Artamon sequence in which Kiukiu discovers that she is a spirit singer, a shamaness whose inherited gift enables her to travel to the world of the dead. Celestine, the heroine of Tracing the Shadow (2007) and Flight into Darkness (2008) is also a singer – but she is also a secret agent who uses her musical gift as a passport into the courts and embassies of rival countries.
Visit Sarah Ash on the Web at sarah-ash.com.