Sunday, May 5, 2013

2013 reading, books 43-45

43) Masterless Mistresses, by Emily Clark.

A history of the Ursuline convent established in New Orleans in the early 18th century from its founding through the early 19th century. An academic work, though not as dry as many of its ilk--if you're interested in early New Orleans or women religious, you'll probably enjoy it. Clark focuses on how the Ursulines as women operating autonomously, without a father or a husband as their patriarchal head, challenged the social order of the time.

44) Sweet Awakening, by Marjorie Farrell.

For the 2013 TBR Challenge. Detailed post to come on May 15.

45) River of Stars, by Guy Gavriel Kay.

A sweeping, epic historical fantasy (light on the fantastical elements--there's really only one sequence that's undeniably otherworldly) set in what is obviously an alternate-world version of China. I was caught up in it, staying up till almost 1 AM last night to finish it even though I usually prefer even my doorstopper fantasy sagas to concentrate more intently on one or two characters. (E.g. I love Jacqueline Carey's first-person Kushiel epics.)

That said, I hated the ending. HATED it. I raced through the last 100 pages waiting for the moment everything turned around--and it never did. It's not a wholly depressing ending by any means, and Kay doesn't kill off characters with the abandon of a George RR Martin or even a Joss Whedon. But I was still hoping for something, shall we say, more traditionally satisfying and cathartic. I can be old-school like that. But this morning I looked up the historical events Kay based the story on, and now his choices make a lot more sense. So if you're like me in that you A) are fond of traditionally happy endings and B) know very little about Chinese history, I recommend giving the "History" section of the Wikipedia article on the Song Dynasty a quick read.

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