Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reading on a Theme: Alternate Realities

Huge Jasper Fforde fans here. Today the newest book in his Last Dragonslayer series comes out in the United States. The Ununited Kingdoms is one crazy alternate reality, so to celebrate the release of the Eye of Zoltar we are posting about some of our favorite alternate worlds. Spoiler Alert: Two of them were created by Jasper Fforde. 

The Ununited Kingdoms:
Jennifer Strange, foundling and acting manager of the magic corporation Kazam, of the Kingdom of Hereford in the Ununited Kingdoms, has to head to the Cambrian Empire to seek a huge and powerful magical gem, in order to keep the occasionally unpretified Might Shandar from killing the two remaining dragons in Eye of ZoltarAs usual, the details of Jasper Fforde's book are what make this series so much fun. Jennifer's search (it's not a quest) takes her to the most dangerous of the Ununited Kingdoms where the economy is supported mainly by jeopardy tourism. Fforde fills this quest with unexpected perils and some fun new characters. The Eye of Zoltar is out on October 7th in the U.S. Review copy from NetGalley.

Magical Mobsters:
Holly Black created an awesome world with White Cat. This is a world where magic is illegal, so the magical families (known as workers) become mobsters. The fear of being worked is so pervasive that everyone wears gloves (magic occurs through touch). It's a dark world with the curse workers forced into the underbelly of society. Cassel is the only non-worker in his family. He's trying to fit in to the non-magical world, but he loves the con too much to stop. He's also having weird dreams about a white cat. He wakes to find he has sleep walked to strange places, and the conversations he overhears just don't add up. Like all good crime novels, the Curse Workers series has some totally unexpected twists and complications.

Swindon and the Book World:
The first four Thursday Next books would most properly be considered alternate histories because they take place in the 1980s, but, with the second set, we jump forward fifteen years to Thursday's life in the 2000s. Thursday lives in a world where the Crimean War didn't end for hundreds of years, people are worried about been smitten by an all-powerful Deity, time travel is possible and necessary, the Goliath corporation owns everything, and literature is taken very seriously. I absolutely love Thursday, and Jasper Fforde is astoundingly creative and funny. He takes all these seemingly unrelated plot points and by the end of the book they all come together. 

The United States of Asgard:
I fell hard for Tessa Gratton's The Lost Sun.  It's is an alternate reality where the Norse gods are real, and the present-day culture of the United States is embedded with Norse myth and legend. In this setting, Soren Bearskin and Astrid Glyn embark on a quest to find the lost sun god, Baldur. Soren has inherited his father's berserking fever, and he tries to fight it, so as not to lose himself (literally) to the rage and frenzy of the battle. Astrid, as a devotee of Freya, the goddess of magic and hell, can see the future and is devoted to fate. Fate in this novel is an almost tangible thing that you could pick up in your hands and devour. Soren narrates the novel, and he has a really strong voice. The tone of the book is a bit gritty with overtones of melancholy and lots of atmosphere. 

Gladiators in America:
Lise Haines' Girl in the Arena is set in an America very close to our own, expect that gladiator fighting is a national sport. The gladiator lifestyle has spawned a sub-culture full of rules and rituals not to mention clothing styles. Basically being a family member of a gladiator means following the gladiator code of conduct. Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators, meaning her mother, Allison, has been married to seven gladiators. When Allison's seventh husband is killed in the arena and the victor picks up Lyn's dowry bracelet from the wreckage, Lyn is required by the gladiator bylaws to marry her father's killer. Lyn, however, is not one to play by the rules.

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