Thursday, August 23, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Alternate Histories

I love a good alternate history. I think it's really fun to see how an author chooses to mix fact and fiction. Throw some zombies into history? Sure. People in the past had magic or could live on Mars? Why not.

1882 Brooklyn:
Avery Kohl is going insane. She is starting to see visions and she fears the men in crow masks will come and take her away just like her mother who now languishes in the asylum known as the Tombs. But do the visions make Avery crazy or something else entirely? I loved everything about the setting Deborah Schaumberg's debut novel. I loved that it was steeped in true American history with children working in factories and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. I also loved the fantastical elements and the sense of mystery. There were moments when I was confused, but the story pulled me in, and I didn't mind those moments. The Tombs was out February 20, 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Victorian England:
Felicity Cole lives in an alternate Victorian England where a small subset of the population has super powers. Those with powers, called the Tainted, are feared and persecuted. When the secret of her family's Tainted blood is revealed, Felicity is arrested, but a mysterious stranger breaks her out of prison and whisks her away to a school where Tainted young people train to become spies for Queen Victoria. Game of Secrets is a mix between Gail Carriger's Finishing School series and X-Men combined with cool Matrix-style fight scenes. Kim Foster's novel is pretty fun, and she had some twists up her sleeve that I did not expect. Game of Secrets is out May 15, 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss.  

World War I America:
The Philosopher's Flight is one of  my favorite reads of the year so far. In this alternate World War I era novel, magic has been part of society for generations. Women are naturally more gifted in empirical philosophy, flipping the gender dynamics in intriguing ways. Robert Weekes's mother is an empirical philosopher, and, though it's slightly unorthodox, she's taught her son. A daring rescue gives Robert the confidence to apply to college to study empirical philosophy, despite the fact that they seldom accept boys. Tom Miller's debut novel is such an entertaining work of feminist fiction. I'm thrilled that he's writing a sequel. Out February 13, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Post-Civil War:
Jane McKeene lives in a world where a zombie plague ended the Civil War. Slavery is outlawed but a new strict caste system places blacks and indigenous peoples on the front lines as zombie hunters while white folks get to pretend that everything is fine. Justina Ireland's new book is so good. It's both incredibly thought provoking and entertaining, which is, I think, exactly what you want from an alternate history scenario. I loved Jane. She is spunky and feisty, and I found her to be a fantastic narrator. Also, I loved this book just that much more because it is set in Baltimore (where I currently live) and Kansas (where I used to live). Dread Nation is out April 3, 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss. 

Regency Era:
Arabella Ashby is a tomboy with a talent for mechanics. Her happy life on Mars comes to an end when her mother takes her back to earth for a proper  education. A family misfortune has Arabella scrambling for a way to get back to Mars. Her solution is to stowaway aboard the trading ship Diana. Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine is a fun steampunk space adventure. The setting is a clever alternate version of the Regency era where the Napoleonic wars have spread to the skies. I really enjoyed the clever mechanics, the automata, and the Martians. Arabella is a plucky heroine who is smart and capable and not willing to sit idly by as duty dictates. The third book, Arabella the Traitor of Mars, is out July 31, 2018.

The Tombs reviewed by Paige.
Game of Secrets, The Philosopher's Flight, Dread Nation, and Arabella of Mars reviewed by JoLee.

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