Firstly, I'd like you to know that you have fellow Supernatural Undergrounder, Merrie Destefano, to thank for this post. "Hmm," I mused on Twitter, "today is my Supernatural Underground day. But what shall I post?"
"The best book you've read recently that surprised you, and why?" Merrie replied -- and the ideas were promptly flowing!
I couldn't think of a book that outright surprised me (because I am a pretty hard sell in that respect), but delight is a form of surprise, so I'm going to tell you what delighted me about some of my recent reads. Do feel free to chip in with some of your own "surprised" or "surprised by delights" in the comments, too. :)
And just so you know I'm not playing favorites, this list is in alphabetical order, yo! ;-)
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
I love the main character of Lauren Olamina: her youth, determination, courage, cussedness, and devotion to her family and friends. I love that in the midst of surviving her post climate change world, Lauren is also founding her own religion, Earthseed. To find out all the ins and outs of that, though, you’ll have to read the book—I’m not even going to attempt to explain it to you beyond the central tenet: "God is Change."
A Turn Of Light by Julie Czerneda
I was delighted by A Turn Of Light's historically informed worldbuilding, with the settlement of Marrowdell capturing a real flavor of pioneering Canada, complete to the technological realities of mills -- but also by the way the author weaves that together with a fantastical folklore that, while drawing on real-life sources, manages to be unique to the fantastic world of not only Marrowdell, but also the Verge...
The Blood In the Beginning by Kim Falconer*
I believe I've made no secret about what I love most about The Blood In The Beginning -- it's the feisty, take-no-prisoners, and literally kickass heroine, Ava Sykes.
Ava has what we writers refer to as a great "voice", which instantly drew me in through her authenticity and realism. From the get-go, Ava and I connected, always a delight when you open up a new book.
The Los Nefilim Trilogy by Teresa Frohock*
Urban, because this cycle of linked novellas is set in Barcelona; historical because it's the Barcelona of the immediately pre-Spanish Civil war period -- with angels and demons at war, and the nefilim as their foot soldiers.
So if you like urban fantasy’s juxtaposition of the real and the supernatural,
or the interweaving of real history with a parallel fantastic story,
then I suspect you will share my delight in Los Nefilim.
Hild by Nicola Griffiths
When I finished reading Hild, I decided just about everything about it is fabulous: a great historical sense of seventh century, Anglo-Saxon Britain, excellent characterization—especially of Hild herself; another awesome "voice."
But there’s a whole raft of other great characters, and just a wonderful richness of storytelling overall. 'nuff said?
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
For me, Station Eleven was another exceptional read—but I loved most about the book was its exploration of a variety of different people, what makes us tick as human beings, and how we respond to life and circumstances (often very differently, obviously), at a range of different levels, from the personal to the societal.
I also really liked that this was, despite the post-apocalyptic premise, a hopeful book.
The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer
I have just finished The Labyrinth of Flame, the third and final novel in The Shattered Sigil series -- but the reason I'm citing The Whitefire Crossing, the opening book in the trilogy, is because it encapsulates what delights me most about the series: this is adventurous fantasy par excellence, with the author's love of mountain climbing integral to the story.
If worldbuilding infused with American West landscapes, juxtaposed with a very well thought out magic system, appeals -- I rest my case.
* a fellow Supernatural Undergound author
Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) was published on January 26, 2016.
Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we