This Week’s Reads

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows
Secondary World Fantasy, In Progress
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone.

It is fairly inevitable, in my opinion, to compare this book to Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series. Both are centered around an impossible heist and are extremely clever, both in the obstacles the characters have to face and the character’s themselves. Though Six of Crows is more invested in group dynamics and a variety of perspectives, jumping between character POVs throughout the book, while Locke is unarguably the shining star of Gentleman Bastards.

Six of Crows is well-written, face-paced, and has a variety of great characters. While I wouldn’t say the opening is unengaging, it took me some time to really feel the story. I started getting invested when some of the character’s more problematic flaws came to light – like what exactly is up with Kaz’s obsession with gloves and Nina and Matthias’s shared history. Bardugo is also brilliant at group conversations, which are often incredibly difficult, and the first time all six members of the group are together does so much work in establishing character dynamics and tension. I can only hope it will get more clever and emotional as we get closer to the heist itself.

The Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing edited by Janet Walker and Paul Gordon Schalow
Non-fiction, Finished
In this collection of essays, a variety of writers analyze writing by women and about women, consider who female authors have been situated in the main market, and how they have navigated a society often unfriendly to ambitious women.

I absolutely loved this collection. The arguments were carefully thought out and stated and covered a wide range of texts. My three favorite essays were Oba Minako’s “Special Address: Without Beginning, Without End,” Lynne Miyake’s “The Tosa Diary: In Interstices of Gender and Criticism,” and Sharalyn Orbaugh’s “The Body in Contemporary Japanese Women’s Fiction.” Oba Minako is a wonderful, wonderful author, whose writing is beautiful and fluid. Her text doesn’t so much give answers as it does asks questions and ask you to look beyond any basic assumption you might have. An excerpt from her novel Long Ago, There was a Woman, which is a surreal, perfectly stated, semi-autobiographical work of art. Lynne Miyake’s essay considers the tricky issue of The Tosa Diary, which is written by a man in a format that is generally reserved for women. Miyake does a great job of carefully balancing how the gender dichotomy is used, not as a gimmick or simply a way to be more emotive, but to serve each other and question the standards by which we measure works written by men vs. women. Sharalyn Orbaugh summarizes several short texts and then provides analysis, focusing on how body is used to criticize a patriarchal society. The pain Orbaugh manages to convey in her analysis is amazing. No detail is too small to comment on, allowing Orbaugh to create fully realized and painfully deep deconstructions of the works of fiction she is considering.

Short story of the week: Story Boyle’s The Herb Wife’s Apprentice
Fairy tale/modern Fantasy, Finished
Read it here.
The Herb Wife’s Apprentice is a retelling of sorts, pulling on ideas from a variety of folk tales, like Bluebeard’s forbidden room and the idea of a veil between worlds. Kerria is drawn in by a handsome stranger, only to realize as she literally gets deeper into his world, that is just the sort of dangerous character she’d been warned of in fairy tales. Kerria’s tenacity and persistence in the face of this stranger’s increasingly horrifying actions is phenomenal. The writing was lovely and I especially loved the interaction between Kerria and the herb wife, since it seems that this idea that you can only watch people get hurt for so long before you have to step in is at the heart of the story.

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