Archive for the Books Category

Red Unicorn

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Young adult with tags on February 20, 2014 by Cara Marie

Just reread Tanith Lee’s Red Unicorn, which is the third and last of her books about the sorceress’s daughter Tanaquil, and for some reason the only one that I reread.

At the end of the second book, Tanaquil and her beloved mutually agreed to break up, because Tanaquil’s sister also loved him, and really, needed him more than Tanaquil did, so it was for the best.

Tanaquil then returns home to her mother, miserable because of the break-up, because of having put herself in a situation where she has nothing to distract her from the break-up, and because her mother and even her familiar are finding themselves in love.

That’s the first segment of the book. In the second segment, Tanaquil finds herself in another world, curiously disjointed from her own, where there is a Tanakil, who also has a sister, and who is also in love … Read more »

Reading The Summer Prince

Posted in Books, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on August 10, 2013 by Cara Marie

Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince was, to me, as good as all the good reviews said it was. Looking on Goodreads after the fact, it seems like it has been pretty divisive. I find a kind of sick fascination in reading some of the negative reviews, just because what they got out of it was so different from what I got out of it.

The most bizarre being the idea that June was in a ‘love triangle’. One of the reviews says June was ‘toggling in her mind whether she should be with Enki or Gil’ [source], and I just don’t know where the idea that June’s love for Gil was romantic came from. (Actually, I know where. It’s because strong friendships between genders must be romantic; and also because June mentions that they lost their virginity together and sex cancels out platonicness for always and ever.)

It makes me sad, because the fact that June and Gil had this really intense, loving relationship, without it being romantic, was one of the things I loved about the book. It reminded me a bit of the Flora Segunda books, except that those did end up putting Flora and her BFF together romantically.

The other thing I found odd was the people who thought this was a dystopia novel. Am I a bad person because I don’t think that having a sacrificial king necessarily makes a society dystopic? It was a society with good aspects and bad aspects (you know, like the real world). I never felt like we were meant to be condemning it. But apparently some people did: ‘There is no destruction of the system that I had hoped would occur, no revolution to completely change the way things are in Palmares Tres.’ [source] Because a society that has bad elements, like any society does, needs to be destroyed altogether?

Or on the other end of the scale, ‘[I wanted] a more oppressive regime that was actually worth rebelling against.’ [source] Note that in this context, rebellion equals scandalous political art projects.

June faces a conflict in the book because she can’t put her name to these projects without threatening her future prospects (though her future prospects are better than many people’s regardless). So she has to decide whether or not the point of her art is more important than those prospects. Even if Palmares Tres is not that ‘more oppressive regime’. Even if June gets on pretty well in her society; even if she’s not the one suffering.

You hardly have to be living under a despotic regime to want to change the society you live in. And wanting to change your society doesn’t necessarily entail revolution or anarchism.

I found The Summer Prince to be refreshing in how un-dystopic it was, actually. It was nice to read a YA sci-fi novel with big themes and intricate worldbuilding that wasn’t dystopian. The worldbuilding in particular I thought was really well done; Johnson didn’t over-explain things, just gave you enough to go on, as much as the story needed.

I also appreciated that Johnson managed to portray June as being stuck in teenaged self-centredness (at least to start) without it becoming annoying. I found it easy to empathise with the intensity of June’s feelings, even when I could see her anger wasn’t always necessary.

Basically, I thought The Summer Prince was fabulous. Even if not everyone feels the same way.

When the story doesn’t end

Posted in Books, Comics, TV with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2013 by Cara Marie

The article Better Bite-sized appeared on Stuff today, inspired by the author David Haglund’s recent viewing of the TV mini-series The Top of the Lake. Noting that the series was imported, he asks ‘Why aren’t there more great American mini-series?’ (This confused me momentarily, until I remembered reading a New Zealand news site is no assurance of reading local content.)

I can understand his frustration with series that go on to long, or end up padded so that they can reach the requisite 22 episodes. I am all for series being allowed to reach their natural conclusions. I don’t agree that ‘the mini-series is probably the ideal form for creating great television art.’

It’s the ‘ideal form’ part that I take issue with. Just because longer series often outstay their welcome doesn’t mean that they have less potential for greatness. Haglund compares TV series to novels:

[Cable shows like The Sopranos] are often called novelistic, but even the serial novels of the Victorian era generally traced one central story from beginning to end in a way that The Sopranos and Mad Men don’t quite do.

He forgets that not all novels stand alone – he’d get a better equivalency with series than with serialised novels. Consider JD Robb’s In Death series, which is basically a procedural in novel form. Each book is its own arc and, with only a few exceptions, you could happily read them all as stand-alones. If you’re going to read them all though, it’s more satisfying to do it in order, just like it’s more satisfying to watch a TV show like Castle in order. The relationships and characters develop over the course of the series (Robb lets her characters get together more quickly though), but the basic structure is episodic.

This is not an uncommon structure for a novel series, especially in genres like crime and urban fantasy. But then, maybe Haglund would argue that genre series are never ‘great art’ …

Novels wouldn’t be my go-to comparison for TV narrative structures though. I’d go for another medium which is primarily delivered serially, and which is happy to embrace that. I’d go for comics.

You can have a fantastic, single-volume-narrative comic book. You can bundle that up as a ‘graphic novel’ and then the literati may even accept that a comic can be ‘great art’, because the structure is more like something they recognise, a novel or a mini-series.

You can just as easily have a fantastic comic book that runs past twenty volumes. Those twenty volumes may tell a complete, self-contained story. Or they may not!

Haglund seems to think this is a problem.

Characters interesting enough to serve as engaging companions week after week for years are wonderful creations, but their stories lack the meaningful shape found in the best novels and movies and plays. We may get glorious moments, and terrific episodes, and occasionally excellent multi-episode arcs. But the need to leave the door open, to keep the story going a little bit longer, and then a little bit longer, is an artistic impediment.

Sure, it’s frustrating when something that has a natural ending gets stretched out and padded and maybe never gets to end at all. But that’s when people are forcing their story into a different shape. It’s not because the shape of a long-form serial is less ‘meaningful’. It’s different, sure; it’s not less valuable.

Incidentally, this relates to why I don’t like ‘graphic novel’ as a synonym for ‘comic’ (asides from the cultural cringe). I don’t like the implication that a comic should be structured like a novel. It can be, but it’s not the only option, just like the novel isn’t the only option for telling a story in prose.

Call Blankets a graphic novel, fine. But something like Sandman doesn’t resemble a graphic novel just because it has an overall arc and an ending. It’s not trying to; it uses all the opportunities for side-stories, for multiple self-contained arcs that initially seem unconnected, that being a serial gives you (and that something like Blankets doesn’t.

(Which isn’t to say novels can’t use those things too. They just generally don’t. Or if you want to read the side-stories, you have to hunt down a bunch of random anthologies – you don’t get them as part of the core experience.)

And am I forbidden from calling Hellblazer a great comic, just because it doesn’t have an overriding arc? (I say, assuming Milligan didn’t pull one out his hat at the last minute.) Even though I’ve been attached to it for the last ten years? Even though it has great ‘mini-series’ arcs, and great single issue-length arcs, and great runs where several self-contained arcs build upon each other to a conclusion that is thrilling and inevitable? And then keeps on going?

Am I allowed to even though parts of it aren’t great, because hey, it’s a series, Azzarello’s arc doesn’t negate the brilliance of Delano’s? Am I allowed to even though it doesn’t stick with a single genre, and some parts are horror while others are only dark fantasy?

Is the serial aspect an ‘artistic impediment’? Or is it an opportunity for hundreds of issues of storytelling, by a variety of storytellers, that never would have happened if John Constantine had never been let out the pages of Swamp Thing?

Up till very recently, the Hellblazer door had been left open. That’s not an impediment, that’s opportunity.

John Ney Rieber ended his run on The Books of Magic after 50 issues. Because he’d reached the end of the stories he could tell there. And that’s valid. And maybe more TV series would be better if their show-runners could say, right, that’s it, we’ve reached the end of this story and that’s it.

But they don’t have to. Maybe one story isn’t all the stories they want to tell. Or maybe they can pass the batton on to someone else, like Rieber did – someone who does still have stories to tell.

A sequel isn’t always a cash-grab. Nor is an open-ended serial. And great art doesn’t have to be short and self-contained.

Just finished When We Wake

Posted in Books, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on February 5, 2013 by Cara Marie

I hadn’t thought Karen Healey’s latest was out till later this month, but I found it in Whitcoulls yesterday and pounced. I couldn’t read it last night on account of book club but I read it this evening. And I aren’t I glad now I flaked on going to the movies? Because it is extremely good.

As I finished it, my flatmate asked me if it was sad. ‘It’s a book about a girl who’s died and is brought back to life after a hundred years,’ I said. ‘What do you think?’ That scenario gives you the grief of someone who’s lost their whole world, their whole family, and thus also encompasses the grief of a parent who’s lost their child. You really cannot get a lot sadder.

Although possibly it was a little disingeneous of me to give that answer, because I was at the end, and at that point my tears were more just an expression of a lot of emotion than of any particular sadness. It’s not an especially sad book … except for the premise.

More than sadness, I am struck by the sincere sense of outrage, and of a desire for change. It is a book that wears its heart on its sleeve, you know? And that is not a bad thing.

Anyway, this isn’t a proper review, this is just me saying I really liked this book. (Also, that even though it is going to have a sequel, it is completely satisfying on its own, thank god.) Although I might have some thoughts later about how it does/does not fit into the dystopia model of YA fiction. (I don’t think it’s a dystopia – the world Tegan wakes up isn’t really any better or worse than our own. But the shape of the story is not dissimilar.)

End-of-year book meme

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2013 by Cara Marie

How many books read in 2012?

76 books. This includes novellas, so they were not all very long books. It doesn’t include comic books.

Fiction/non-fiction ratio?

I read eight non-fiction books … that’s one for every 8.5 fiction books.

In other genre distinctions, 60% of the books I read were sci-fi/fantasy (not including JD Robb, as they’re primarily crime and the SF element is usually just the setting). I read four adult fiction books that weren’t SFF or crime stories! Which is … the same number I read every year.

Male/female authors?

I read 18 books by male authors (including half-marks for cowritten books or anthologies) and 58 by female authors.

I always find it weird when people challenge themselves to read more books by female authors, because my bias is so far the other way! Clearly it is my inner misandry showing through.

Favourite book read?

Michelle Sagara wins this year, because I would be hard-pressed to choose between her YA standalone novel, Silence, and the eighth book in ‘The Chronicles of Elantra’, Cast in Peril.

Silence is a book that, when described, sounds like your typical paranormal YA, complete with antagonistic love interest. But it’s not typical at all.

I really loved that the teenaged characters in it were so sensible and kind to one another. That no-one made stupid decisions to generate tension. There’s a lot of YA that goes the other way, and it always annoys me, because that’s not what my experience of being a teenager was like. I don’t mean to say that there’s no conflict between the characters – but it’s not showy, and it rings true.

This isn’t a complete summary of why I liked the book; just one of the things that made it for me.

Cast in Peril I wrote about at the time, in contrast to one of the books covered in the next question. I went through a period of avoiding series fiction; this book serves as an example of how well fantasy series can work. How you can really dig into the world-building, and discover new things. How a book can be the opposite of standalone and still be completely satisfying.

The part of me that still wants to avoid series fiction is freaking out a little – how on earth did I end up reading an 8+ book series? There weren’t that many when I started!

Cast in Peril was also the book that made me realise me and this e-books thing was going to work out, and that I didn’t need everything I loved in hardcopy.

Least favourite?

Not sure whether to go with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken (as discussed in ‘Where (not) to end a book‘) or Tanith Lee’s Piratica III: The Family Sea. The former I probably enjoyed more for the first two-thirds, so it was a greater disappointment when I turned out to hate it. But I might say Piratica III anyway – I think I’m quite glad I didn’t read it when it first came out, when I was more invested in the characters, because I would have been hugely disappointed. (skip) I think I can see what Tanith Lee was trying to do, having Art’s marriage fail, and her ending up alone and free. But I didn’t feel that freedom in the end – it just felt bleak to me.

Oldest book read?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also the first book I read last year. I was quite bewildered afterwards – not about the stories, but about the Sherlock interpretation of Holmes being kind of an asshole. (I’ve never actually watched Sherlock; this is just the impression I’ve received.) Book!Holmes is not an asshole at all! He might not be that interested in people, but he’s still considerate to them.

Also, I was proud of myself because there were a couple of mysteries I figured out before they were revealed. I like to pretend that’s an achievement.


The Silvered, by Tanya Huff. Came out in November and I read it in December. I wrote a not-very-deep review at the time.

Longest book title?

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress. Long title, short book. This is such a pointless question I feel like I have to talk about the book, now. The three parts of the title refer to the three POVs the book switches between. ‘The fall’ refers to an apocalypse. I enjoyed this quite a bit at the start, but I think overall the pay-off wasn’t there. It had the sort of conclusion that could work for me in a short story, but doesn’t work for me in a longer work.

Shortest title?

Silence or Mastiff. I’ve talked about Silence already, so … Mastiff was the third and final book in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog series. It was also the least memorable of the three. Enough so that I don’t know if I really have anything to say about it. The first book was my favourite, because it was the one that was most a ‘school story’, with a supporting cast I really enjoyed. And that doesn’t really get carried through into the later books. Which make sense re: the ‘school story’ aspect, but I miss Rosto and Kora and Aniki. (You will note I remember their names, but not the names of the supporting cast in Mastiff.)

I guess Pierce was more interested in the crime novel aspect for this series, but that’s not what I read her for, and it was at the expense of the elements I really love.

How many re-reads?

Only three, which seems low. But then, I guess this is the first year I’ve had a full-time job the whole time, so I’m more inclined to read new things.

Most books read by one author this year?

I read ten JD Robb books – I guess I used these as my comfort fiction, rather than re-reading things. Her ‘In Death’ books are basically a procedural in book form. Except the main couple got together in the first couple of books so there’s no ridiculous ‘will they, won’t they?’ (This shouldn’t necessarily be a procedural trope, but it seems to be.) Also, they’re set in the future! My favourite mysteries are probably the ones that have the most to do with technology – although I think Witness in Death has been my favourite overall, and that one does not, so.

They’re standalone books, and I’ve read them completely out of order. They do benefit from being read chronologically, because of the way the characters and relationships develop over the long-term. On the other hand, there’s more than forty of them. So I think picking the ones with the most interesting-sounding mysteries is probably the best route to reading them.

Any in translation?

Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake was the only translated book I read this year.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library?

About six. For which I accrued some ridiculous fines, so I’m avoiding the library at the moment.

The Silvered – Tanya Huff

Posted in Books, Fantasy with tags , on December 9, 2012 by Cara Marie

So I got to read The Silvered in the end, which is Tanya Huff’s latest book. This is a return to secondary world fantasy. I choose to believe, based off very little evidence, that this is the world that Crystal created at the end of The Last Wizard. My reasoning for this is that:

  • the religion of Aydori, where two of our protagonists are from, involves a Lady and Lord
  • it mentions Lady’s Groves, and I can see Crystal going in the footsteps of her own creator
  • I can see Crystal wanting to create werewolves, after what happens in The Last Wizard.

All that, of course, has pretty much nothing to do with this book!

The main plot of The Silvered starts with the kidnap of five mages, who are part of the aristocracy of Aydori, by an invading empire. Not for any political control, but because of a prophecy (of course). But the prophecy implies there are six mages whom the empire needs to control: the sixth mage being Mirian Maylin, banker’s daughter.

I love Mirian a lot. Witnessing the kidnap of the other mages, Mirian immediately focuses on what needs to be done. She’s the person who steps up. She’s very practical, and I love how that plays into the way she thinks about her magic.

The novel is structured around Mirian’s rescue attempt – which is made more difficult by the fact that soldiers of the empire are trying to capture her as well, and that her sole help is Pack – and the emperor has declared the Pack to be abominations.

I suppose you could call this an ‘evil empire’, but it’s not, in the traditional fantasy sense. (Although the emperor is certainly a piece of work). An aspect of The Silvered I really enjoyed was how it dealt with people who are ‘just following orders’, and the ways in which we define people as not-people.

The worldbuilding was really done too – the attention paid to class (the importance of shoes!); the relationship of the Pack to others in Aydori; the development of technology in the empire and the still-novel nature of it.

It was an extremely satisfying book. Also, not a series! Although I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing more in this world.

2007: different but not that different

Posted in Books, Non-fiction with tags , , , on November 17, 2012 by Cara Marie

I’m reading a book of Cory Doctorow’s essays, which includes an article, published in Locus in 2007, called ‘You DO Like Reading Off a Computer Screen’.

The premise of which is that when people say they don’t like reading on a screen, they mean they don’t like reading long-form work on a screen. Which is fair enough. But Doctorow then says, ‘A super-sharp, super-portable screen would be used to read all day long, but most of us won’t spend most of our time reading anything recognizable as a book on them.’ To which I go, oh, 2007. My Kindle ain’t that sharp, but it sure as hell gets books read on it.

(Although I guess you could say ‘most of us won’t’ because ‘most of us’ don’t read that many novels or books anyway. But this article was published in Locus: the ‘us’ is readers.)

That statement is funny in a ‘oh, hindsight’ way.

This one is just preposterous:

There’s a generation of web writers who produce ‘pleasure reading’ on the web. Some are funny. Some are touching. Some are enraging. Most dwell in Sturgeon’s 90th percentile and below. They’re not writing novels. If they were, they wouldn’t be web writers.

Fun fact: bloggers aren’t the only people writing things over the internet!

I’ve had the internet since I was eight. For almost that long, I’ve been aware of (and reading) novels people have posted on the internet. Even if Cory Doctorow has never read fanfiction, surely he’s aware of it?

But I guess none of those 100,000 word fanfics are actually novels. If they were, people wouldn’t distribute them over the web!

Doctorow then finishes (finished – this was 2007) with the idea that people will only read free e-books ‘enough … to decide whether to buy it in hardcopy – but not enough to substitute the e-book for the hardcopy’.

Oh, hindsight.

Penguin hates my money

Posted in Books with tags on November 8, 2012 by Cara Marie

Last night I went to the Open Source Awards NZ. It was pretty fun. Ate some yum food. Laughed bitterly to myself when they talked about the Arts award winner. Who’s never going to get an award in that category? BOOK PUBLISHERS.

Yes, really I just want to complain about trying to buy an ebook of Tanya Huff’s new book. It wasn’t on Amazon. Well, I thought, I’ll see if anyone else sells it.

Barnes and Nobles does. I’ll sign up with them. … wait, you only take US credit cards? I guess I won’t be using that account again.

Looked on the Penguin USA website. Checked the fine print before I signed up. ‘LOL, we don’t want money from you dirty foreigners.

Ranted to my flatmate bitterly. Read Tanya Huff’s blog the next day. Hang on, there is a Kindle edition? But I don’t see one …

Do a search from outside Amazon and realise, yes, there is a Kindle edition. They’ve just hidden it from me.


If only I hadn’t looked past the Kindle store in the first place. Then I could’ve just thought they were behind the times. Nope. They just hate my money. Which doesn’t make me happy that I’ll pay an exorbitant sum for the hardcover and wait three weeks for it to arrive anyway.

Because I can always find an open source software alternative. I can’t find an alternative for my favourite author.

Where (not) to end a book

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy with tags , , on October 16, 2012 by Cara Marie

I read Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Peril last week. It’s the eighth book in her Chronicles of Elantra. As of the last book, the Hawks have agreed to send our heroine Kaylin on a journey to the West Marches – perhaps it is more a pilgrimage – to observe a Barrani ceremony that takes place there. This book, for the most part, follows that journey.

The Elantra books all have mystery/crime novel elements, but in this book they’re not at the forefront. It’s not quite as eventful as some of the others, but that’s not a bad thing – it’s actually quite relaxing, and for the characters too I think. We learn a lot about the world, about the history of the Barrani, about Kaylin’s friend, colleague and mentor Teela. Also Kaylin gets an awesome dragon familiar. I enjoyed it a lot.

And, as the book drew to a close, I realised – hang on, they’re not actually going to get to the West Marches in this book, are they?

So, in some ways, it’s half a book: because the end of the journey, and its goal, have yet to come. On the other hand, it does resolve the mystery from the beginning, and connects it to what’s been going on in the background of the earlier novels. And because it concludes that element – we get a confrontation, and see Kaylin survive it – the book is still satisfying on its own.

Also, once you’re eight books in, I think you’ve earned the right to cut a major narrative arc in half!

The reason I point this out is because the feeling I had at the end was so different from that I had at the end of another book I read recently. With Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, I had that same feeling of: hang on, this isn’t actually going to finish, is it?

(Non-specific spoilers ahead.)

I hadn’t realised Unspoken was the first book in a series; I was expecting a stand-alone. For the most part, it’s the story of a teenage wannabe-journalist, Kami Glass, who sets about uncovering a mystery in her town. But towards the end, the whole scope of that mystery widens. The novel doesn’t end with our heroine winning, for today: she and her friends survive, but they haven’t defeated anything, and the conspiracy is bigger than they had realised.

So that’s a downer. But on top of that, the person who is closest to Kami in the world basically dumps her. Sarah Rees Brennan could not have picked a lower point to end on.

This didn’t make me excited for the next book to come out. Instead, it spoiled the whole thing for me. And I had been enjoying the book. But it’s not a complete story, and it ends in such a dark place that I cannot accept it as the first novel in a series.

It’s half a novel instead. You can chop a book in pieces if you’re Tad Williams and your novel is several thousand pages long. But it didn’t work for me in Unspoken.

And with the story split in half like that, I feel like the second book is going to be quite different from the first one. Which is a natural part of changing the scope like that, and which I wouldn’t mind if I were reading straight on. But it’s not what I signed up for when I started Unspoken, and the ending of that soured me enough that I don’t really want to read on.

I haven’t been this annoyed at the ending of a book since The Knife of Never Letting Go, which tagged on a cliffhanger in the last scene. It would have ended quite satisfyingly without, and I would have looked forward to the follow up. I don’t need to be tricked into reading a sequel with a cliffhanger, or a false ending. If I enjoy a book, I’ll naturally want to read the next one. But if you end at a place where the story is unfinished (and if you’re not an ongoing series with enough going on that you’ve earnt that) … well, that just feels like a cheat.

Bloodtide and the Volsunga Saga

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on October 7, 2012 by Cara Marie

I first read Melvin Burgess’ Bloodtide as a teenager, and it’s been a few years since my last reread. Bloodtide is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. The post-apocalyptic part is the London that’s been cut off from the rest of the world after the gangs got too big. (Maybe not a proper apocalypse, but it it’s treated as one). The sci-fi part is the genetically engineered ‘half men’, who the humans think are monsters … but they’re no more monstrous than any of the human characters.

And then there’s the gods.

Bloodtide is a retelling of a small part of the Volsunga Saga, the family history before the better known tale of Sigurd and Brunhilde. (Burgess treated that in a sequel some years later.) The Volsons are one of two big-shot families in the city. The youngest Volson children are twins, Siggy (Sigmund) and Signy, and the story starts with Signy being married off, to create an alliance. Hopefully to create peace.

But Odin shows up the night of her wedding. And as always when Odin gets involved with humans, things get fucked.

Because it’s retelling a legend, because it’s a story of revenge that doesn’t get enacted for many years, the novel is weirdly paced. It’s disturbing event after disturbing event, some of which drives the story, some of which just seems random if you don’t know it’s there because it was there in the saga.

I’ve read the saga, or this part of it, since I read Bloodtide last, and it’s funny the way they combined in my head. The way Signy’s fate in the saga supplanted her fate in the novel in my memory. I was struck, rereading this, just how screwed over Signy is by the story she lives in – and also by the way Burgess draws attention to how screwed over Signy is.

The first time Odin shows up, he leaves a knife, embedded in glass like Excalibur in the stone; and none can remove the knife except the youngest Volson, Siggy. This pisses Signy’s new husband off no end (and he never ceases in coveting the knife). So we have this scene:

In a little fit of resentment, Signy made a movement towards the knife, then stopped herself. It wasn’t just that she wanted it for Conor. The fact was, she was scared she might have been able to remove it herself. Of them all, only she had not been given the chance to take the knife from the lift shaft. The boys were all put first. Maybe the knife could have been hers instead of Siggy’s. Odin had touched Siggy, but he had embraced her. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that.

Of course, no-one touched by Odin has a good life. And Signy’s is bitterest of all.

It’s a strange book. And it’s a strange choice of story, to retell as a YA novel. More because of that bitterness than because of all the violence and other disturbing themes. And it’s odd that I like it, because usually I hate stories where all the characters are awful people. Maybe because it’s obvious here how events have shaped that in them. But certainly Bloodtide transfixed me as a teenager. And I wasn’t disappointed rereading it as an adult.