Here we are at the penultimate post in this series. I looked, but I couldn’t find any speculative fiction writers whose names started with X, and very few writers at all. So X clearly doesn’t mark the spot here. Perhaps another good choice for a pseudonym? Instead of X authors today, I’m skipping along to Y, with books by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Jane Yolen and a short story by Kathryn Yelinek. As always, if there are other books by these authors you’ve enjoyed — or other authors you think I should check out — please leave a comment.
A Flame in Byzantium by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Yarbro writes historical fiction. Oh, yes, she has vampires — venerable creatures who have existed for centuries, and who are involved in major historical events — but they are the characters whom Yarbro chooses to showcase the stories. In Flame in Byzantium, we have a tale of a Roman woman forced to flee from Rome when it is sacked. She travels to Byzantium (Constantinople), but her rights there are not as the rights of women in Rome, even noble women.
Yarbro’s research and attention to detail make this a gripping read as we encounter such historical figures as General Belisarius and Empress Theodora. The people feel real, and — aside from the existence of vampires — the world itself is very much our own. Definitely a recommended read — this or any of Yarbro’s books.
Find Chelsea Quinn Yarbro online at www.chelseaquinnyarbro.net.
“Not a Prince” by Kathryn Yelinek
This very cute short story was another offering from Daily Science Fiction. Annabel is a girl, hanging out with her friends at home. The interactions are all very believable, and the back story is worked in quite skillfully, elucidating both what has happened and what will happen. Definitely enjoyable; I’ll keep my eyes open for more work by Yelinek.
Kathryn Yelinek can be found at her Website, www.kathrynyelinek.com.
The Pit Dragon Trilogy by Jane Yolen
There was never a question about whether I would include Jane Yolen in this blog series, only about which of her works to talk about. She’s a family favorite — my daughter loves the “How Do Dinosaurs” series that Yolen does with Mark Teague, my son met her at a kaffeeklatsch with Bruce Coville at Boskone, and I adore her book on writing, Take Joy. I chose this trilogy primarily because my son and I just finished reading it.
Of the three books in the trilogy, I enjoyed the first (Dragon’s Blood) the most. It had a clear goal and a clear endpoint: Jakkin wants to raise a dragon and become a master rather than a bonder. I found both Heart’s Blood and A Sending of Dragons to be murkier. In Heart’s Blood, Jakkin is recruited to infiltrate a group of rebels, but then is blamed for their act of violence and runs for his life along with his friend Akki. In Sending, they’re still on the run from both rebels and wardens when they run into a group of people living alone in the mountains, defying what everyone knows to be true about conditions on the planet.
The world-building is well done in this series, both for the world itself (Austar IV) and the broader Federation, although we don’t see much of what the off-world politics are like, only how they impact decisions on the planet. Austar began as a prison planet — based on Britain’s use of Australia, as Yolen notes on her site when discussing the book. I think as an adult reading this series, many of the things I wanted to see happened off-screen or were never even mentioned, such as dealing with the rebel’s acts of violence, as well as what happened to the planet moving forward. The characters are well-drawn, especially the dragons, and it is no doubt my failing rather than the books’ that I think they don’t go far enough. Recommended, of course.
Jane Yolen’s Website is janeyolen.com.