This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher, Angry Robot Books. This does not in any way affect my review.
This novel is slated for release on July 3, 2018.
Lately, something very wonderful has been happening in genre fiction: the rise of authors from marginalised backgrounds. Whether they are women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQIA community, or all of those at once (and so many are), it is becoming easier to find such authors on both bookstore shelves and awards lists. To be sure, both those things are still heavily dominated by white cis male heterosexual authors, but increasingly the genre fiction community (especially the science fiction, fantasy, and romance communities) are doing what they can and diversifying their respective fields as much as possible (in spite of pushback in the opposite direction from insufficiently housebroken Puppies of various persuasions). As a brown Southeast Asian woman who is both an avid reader and an aspiring writer, this can only be a good thing.
Still, it does take some work to actually find such authors, given the sheer volume of books that are released every year, but fortunately my friends are quite good at filtering stuff they think I might like, and of course there is the Internet. In fact, it was the latter that led me to Lost Gods by Micah Yongo.
I come across writers at various stage of their career. Sometimes I get lucky, and come in at the ground floor, as it were, picking up an author’s debut novel and then following them as their career (hopefully) grows and flourishes. Sometimes I come to it at the end, when the author has either not written anything in a very long time or (as is more often the case) already passed away. And then there are those times when I start reading an author’s works in the middle of their careers, when they already have a few (or several, if they are prolific) books under their belt and are still capable of producing many more.
That was the case with Brandon Sanderson. The first book of his that I ever read was The Final Empire, which is the first novel in the Mistborn series. To say that I was blown away is something of an understatement; after reading that novel I practically inhaled the two other books in the first trilogy, and while I haven’t gotten around to reading the sequel trilogy, it’s because I got sucked into the even more epic (and even more delightful) Stormlight Archive.
I first read the Odyssey when I was around nine or ten. Lest anyone think I was far more precocious than I actually was at the time, it was a prose illustrated version of the epic poem. The book was intended for twelve-year-olds and older, but my mother was well aware that my reading level was far in advance of my peers’, and so had no qualms about handing me the book.
That book would become one of the cornerstone books of my childhood: a book that would guide my future reading in various ways, and which still continues to guide my reading today. Thanks to it I have an abiding love for clever characters who think their way out of their problems – even as they think their way into them, sometimes. I had been told for a majority of my life that I was a smart girl, but never that I was strong. So to read about Odysseus, whose prowess and success was defined not by his strength but by his cleverness, his smarts, was to find an archetype to whom I could finally relate.
Since around 2017 I have actively tried to make forays back into young adult literature after many long years not reading in the genre. I abandoned YA not long after The Hunger Games movies reached the peak of their popularity, and it began to seem like every new YA release was merely a poor, cliche-laden copycat of Suzanne Collins’ (exceptional) series. When almost every other book looked like a badly-done cash grab for a slice of The Hunger Games’ popularity, I decided to cut my losses and move on.
Lately, though, I have been trying to get back into YA, mostly because it looks as though the genre’s attempts to ride on The Hunger Games’ coattails is over. There is a trend away from the cliched “White People’s Love Triangle at the End of the World” types of stories that have been popular for a while now, and more towards stories about more important political issues both in the past and in the present. Even better, people of colour are becoming more visible in YA, telling their own stories and, through those stories, tackling vital issues about what it means to live and grow in the 21st century.
It’s not often that I write a review this early, in the first raw, blistering moments immediately after a really, really good book. That’s not how I was taught to do it. My professors always taught that these kinds of things require separation. I’ve been told that it’s always best to put some gap between the self and the experience, some breathing room, the better to see things clearly.
Except I cannot do that right now. I feel it would be almost a disservice to put that distance, to let these new-formed wounds scab over for later contemplation.
So I shall let it be. I shall write while the wounds are still open, and see what to make of it.