TSS (March 28): Black Jack & Skin Hunger

The Sunday Salon.com I have two exams next week but I’m not particularly worried about them, so I spent today reading books instead of studying. I hope THAT doesn’t come back to bite me in the butt.

Specifically, I read two books I had gotten through inter-library loan and needed to return soon: Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey and Black Jack by Leon Garfield. I thought instead of doing separate reviews posts for them I’d jsut talk about them a bit here.

I came across Skin Hunger through a Tor.com post, I think, though I neglected to note down the exact post in my Rec’d by Others thing, so I can’t say for sure. Anyway, I wasn’t entirely disappointed by it, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected it to be.

I really liked the writing; it was very atmospheric and conveyed creepiness excellently, but nothing happens. It’s like the whole book was a prologue for something else, and while it was a nice prologue, it didn’t really lead anywhere. I had no idea wtf was happening, honestly, until I read the summary (which I obviously hadn’t done before). THEN it made sense. A lot more sense! And I liked the book much better after it made more sense.

But why didn’t the book itself, y’know, tell me wtf was going on? Did I just skip something entirely in the narrative, or was I supposed to make a connection and never did? I think it might have been that last thing- I could see an obvious connection between Sadima and Hahp, but I couldn’t figure out what that connection was. Maybe I’m…stupid? I don’t know. I don’t think I am, but I can’t help but feel I should have picked up on stuff. Going back over it after reading the summary I can obviously see the clues that should have told me what was going on, but I just never made the connections.

Anyway, if you make sure to read the summary before you read the book, I’m sure you’ll have a better time of it than I did. It’s a really good book! It’s dark and borders on depressing, and ain’t no-one happy in it, but it was enthralling. I definitely want to read the next one and see what happens.

Here is the summary, by the way:

Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A “magician” stole her family’s few valuables and left Sadima’s mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima’s joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin’s irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.

Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.

Sadima’s and Hahp’s worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of Kathleen Duey’s dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.

Black Jack was much along the same lines as Skin Hunger, at least in tone. It’s sort of a gothic romance thing with bits of adventure, a madwoman, a kind of circus, and a massive pirate named Black Jack. I don’t really go for gothic romances so I didn’t appreciate Black Jack as much as I would have is I was a GR fan, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. It moved really quickly, and while it’s gothic it’s not melodramatic and I don’t think anyone faints, so I’d recommend giving it a try if you think you’re inclined to a more modern version of GR. Yes?

Books read this week:
72. Theodosia & the Serpents of Chaos – R.L. LaFever [rating: 3.5/5]
73. Searching for Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede (full cast audiobook) [rating: 3.5/5]
74. Orlando – Virginia Woolf [rating: 5/5] %
75. Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton [rating: 3/5] &
76. The Fourth Side of the Triangle – Ellery Queen [rating: 3/5] &
77. Skin Hunger – Kathleen Duey [rating: 3.5/5]
78. Black Jack – Leon Garfield [rating: 3.5/5]

Books reviewed this week:
56. The Moving Finger – Agatha Christie [rating: 4/5]
60. Dragonfly – Frederic S. Durbin [rating: 3.5/5]
63. Soulless – Gail Carriger [rating: 4/5]
69. Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls – Bennett Madison [rating: 3.5/5]

Mount TBR Stats
3 books conquered
14 books conquered total
3 additions
5 subtractions
338 books remaining

Birdbrain(ed) Boxes sold: 0 (lol)

Currently reading:
I haven’t started anything new yet, but I think I’m going to read a mystery. Maybe a Sherlock Holmes pastiche? Or this collection of short stories I have– Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Some classical sort of mystery, at any rate.

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