Top 5: Weird Literary Fantasy

As every reader, I definitely have a type. Or rather, a few types, and weird literary fantasy is one of them. It could be best described as the “I have no idea what the fuck did I just read, but whoa 😮” subgenre of fantasy – weird, experimental, often trippy, gorgeously written, and in a way also fun.

The books below have five things in common, aside from genre:

  • They’re all pure 5-star reads as far as I’m concerned.
  • If you read and liked one, it’s highly possible you’ll like the others (same for dislike!).
  • The prose in all of them is firmly on the stained glass rather than windowpane side, but modern – there’s little I dislike as much as flowery ultraviolet archaic prose.
  • They all do something strange and new and experimental – whether in content, structure, or both – and are lighter on plot and less approachable than most SFF.
  • All work as standalones!

So, let’s go!

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Review: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Tess of the Road #1)

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There are many, many stories about roads and journeys in fantasy, and just as many sayings. Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker? Journey before destination. The Road goes ever on and on. So in a way, Tess of the Road is a story in the oldest of fantasy traditions.

The road was possibility, the kind she’d thought her life would never hold again, and Tess herself was motion. Motion had no past, only future. Any direction you walked was forward, and that was as must be.

Walk on became her credo; she repeated it to herself every morning upon deciding to get up and exist for one more day.

At the same time, it’s also a fresh take. There’s no grand objective to work towards. And instead of the world, Tess saves herself.

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DNF: Unsouled by Will Wight (Cradle #1)

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DNF 44%

Tried it cause it was free, I wanted something light and fun, I still need a self-pubished book for the r/Fantasy Bingo square, and I know a lot of people who love it. I went into it with an open mind – from the positive reception, there was a chance of it winning me over – but it just confirmed that nope, that stuff’s not for me. And that I should trust my gut, no matter how enthusiastic friends are.

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June 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

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Finally summer! Mostly done with uni, plenty of time…you’d think that I’d finally catch up on my reading challenges and review backlog, revive my blog, and basically fix the mess that the hell semester wrecked. My blog also turned one year old in the meanwhile and it’s been a wonderful one.

And for most of June, I was doing pretty well, without a single DNF:

  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (ARC): Wonderful worldbuiling (1920s Mexico! The cover is very on point), incredible ending. Will appeal to fans of “uptight god + mortal girl who takes no shit” dynamic. Review scheduled for closer to the publication date.
  • Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones: Read it for a romance-focused bookclub. It was…not romance and I was pissed off, especially since I was enjoying it right up to the bullshit ending.
  • The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes (ARC): Holding onto the review until much later, but it’s a sweet, wholesome, whimsical, lovable book about trauma and healing. I mean, come on, the protagonist is a triceratops plushy detective solving murders in a land where beloved ideas that had to be abruptly abandoned (usually because of trauma) go.
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (ARC): A breathtaking trip of a novella with gorgeous prose. One of the candidates for the “best of 2019” list.
  • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman: Loved that one too. It’s about mental health and a (literal!) journey towards personal growth. Flawed characters and a setting detailed to the point of including a nod to medieval marginalia (look it up). Review to come soon.
  • A reread of The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar: One of my all-time favourites. Even better than it was the first time around…plus I actually got around to writing a review this time! (my longest and wordiest one ever)

Unfortunately, I’m an erratic, unpredictable mood reader prone to wild whims. Which means that for July, 1) I have set the Bingo challenge aside, 2) started way too many books, 3) ordered another half a fuckload, and 4) in the end decided that what I really want is romance and (weird) westerns. Not together, mind.

Because fuck everything, that’s why.

I honestly don’t quite understand my sudden thirst for westerns, I’ve never been interested in them in the slighest, not to mention the rather large issues baked into the genre by default, but a click on a random song link (isn’t even my type, lol) plus the awful heatwave currently baking Europe and a switch flipped.

  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, still. It is good, but since I own it in unwieldy paperbrick format, progress is glacial.
  • Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord (ARC): Very good, but not drawing me in. Unsure if I’ll continue.
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty: Had it on my kindle as long as I had a kindle. Thought I’d read a classic before moving on to heaps upon heaps of fantasy westerns (that hopefully handle the inherent problems of the genre). So far, it’s a lot funnier than you’d expect…but at the same time, the racism of the era is ever-present too.
  • A reread of Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. Have I mentioned I want westerns? And this is pretty much perfect. Queer, trans, PoC protagonist, excellent style.
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins. Has a lot of things I like in the first few chapters already. Can’t wait to see where it goes.

Books read this year: 29 (+ 8 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 9/25 (36%)


Reread: The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar (Olondria #2)

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Note: I have not read A Stranger in Olondria before The Winged Histories. It works perfectly fine as a standalone.

This is one of my favourite novels of all time along with The Gray House and more recently The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I first read it in the summer of 2017 and have been thinking it was a shame I never wrote up anything on it ever since. A book that means so much to me – that deserves words. Praise. Anything. So allow me to write something a little…extra ✨

I have breathed on shadows, as one breathes into a soap bubble, to give it breadth and life. I did it because I had to, because human beings cannot live without history, and I have no history or tradition that is not located in a pale, aggressive body lying in the dirt, or hanging from a tree. […] What is the difference between a genius and a monster?

It’s so hard to set expectations correctly. Anything, anything you knew about fantasy and the paths stories take, their structure – it goes right out the window. Forget it. As much of literary fantasy, it avoids the beaten path.

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Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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ARC received from the publisher (Saga Press) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Whoa. Just…whoa. Another candidate for “best of 2019” for me. It’s like someone distilled almost everything I like into one book – exquisite prose, a high dose of weirdness, a queer relationship, a more literary feel, experimental structure – and the end result is breathtaking. Brilliant in a way I’m not sure a review can illustrate. It has to be read to be believed.

I feel almost invincible in our battles’ wake: a kind of Achilles, fleet footed and light of touch. Only in this nonexistent place our letters weave do I feel weak. How I love to have no armor here.

Footnote for fans of the romance genre: for the sake of proper expectations, this is a love story but is not romance genre-wise – if anyone rec’d it as such…🤦

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Anniversary Post: The Secret Life Of A Book Blogger Tag 🎂

So, today is one year since I made a blog and started posting. Time sure flies – I never thought I’d be able to keep it up for more than a couple months, but here we are. I was a bit at a loss regarding what to post – top 5? Discussion? Giveaway? What does one do? But this seemed perfect.

Thanks to Sam @ Fictionally Sam for tagging me!

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