2015 Completed Reading Challenges

Once Upon a Time IX Reading Challenge: 3/21/15 – 6/21/15 – finished 6/14/15

I actually only finished one challenge this year.    I’d pretty much gone down to just doing two challenges from Stainless Steel Droppings, and when he decided not to do the RIP challenge himself this year, I decided to drop it.    (I was also going to California in the middle of that, so it worked out better that way.)      It is funny, because part of the reason I started this blog was to have a place to put reading reviews for challenges.    But that is a wave that seems to have crested, and I’m ok with not defining my reading by category so much anymore.


Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge – 3/21/15 to 6/21/15


This year, I read:

There was one scholarly book on myths, and two books that were much more fairy tale than fantasy themed (An Earthly Knight and The Perilous Gard).    All in all, a good Spring run.

Spirits in the Wires – Charles de Lint

Read for the Once Upon a Time IX Reading Challenge.

If you’ve read any of de Lint’s Newford books, you know he’s created an urban fantasy setting that incorporates parts of many world mythos (mythi?    What is the plural for that word?).       If a human mind has conceived it, it exists, and someone is able to see into those extra layers of reality.

So what about the internet?     It’s probably our frontier of created thought in this modern day.     In this story, a group of friends created a site called wordwood.com, where you could share stories and poetry with other people.      Somewhere along the way, they realized that no one was updating the site anymore – it had taken on a life of its own, and was administering itself.     Until the day that a man who had been jilted by a woman that frequently used wordwood, decided to target it with a virus, to spite her.      And suddenly hundreds of users of the site disappeared.

What follows from here is a variation of a Newford otherworld story – several characters that you would recognize if you follow these books are among the disappeared, and other friends use all the resources at their disposal to find and rescue them.      Which is fun.     But for me, there was another unexpected aspect of reading this book  – it was published in 2003 – so written right around 2000.     I had forgotten (or maybe taken for granted) how much the internet has changed.    I suppose that even ties back to the themes of this story – as rich as what de Lint had imagined at that point (when most of the characters were still using dial up modems) – it’s an even more vast ecosystem out there today.     I think I enjoyed this book almost as much for how much it made me appreciate how technology is evolving these days – I’m almost in awe of the thought of it.

Shadow Magic – Patricia C. Wrede

Read for the Once Upon a Time IX Reading Challenge.

Lady Altheia is kidnapped on the night of her birthday celebration.      While her family frantically searches for her, she wakes up in the forest, and realizes her captors are the Lithmern- ancient enemies of Alkyra.     What’s worse is that they’ve brought back the shadow magic that nearly brought down the kingdom many years ago.

Alkyra has grown complacent since that last shadow war.    The line of the kings has died out, and the Gifts that were granted to the first of that line, that helped them win the last shadow war, have disappeared.     With the Gifts gone, the other three races of Alkyra have retreated to their ancient lands, leaving the humans alone.

It’s the Wyrds (cat creatures) that first find Altheia, and with the knowledge of the Lirthmern return, they realize it’s time to reestablish old alliances.    If Altheia and her family can find the Gifts, they may have a chance a defeating the Lithmern.

This is an enjoyable book.    I have it in an omnibus with four other books in the series.    In reading the reviews, I did notice that people had the most issues with this first book (one of the author’s first).     There’s some needed editing, but knowing that the other books get better helped me ignore that.

Dust Girl – Sarah Zettel

Read for the Once Upon a Time IX Reading Challenge.

Callie lives with her mother in Kansas.       It’s the 1930s, and nearly everyone else has left their town, due to the choking dust.    But Callie’s mother won’t leave – Callie’s father had promised to come back to them, and Callie’s mother is holding onto the idea of his return with all her might.

On a particularly bad night, Callie hears voices in the roiling dust storm outside, and as it tries to beat its way into the family’s hotel, Callie’s mother disappears, and Callie learns that she’s not quite human.

There’s actually a lot going into the revelation of her fairy heritage, because Callie’s father was black, and her mother has spent all her life concealing that from their neighbors.     The thought that some fairy folk are dark, and that Callie could find a place with them is an important driver of the journey she embarks on, perhaps even more than trying to find her mother.

I really liked that this story was set in the Dust Bowl.     I would have never thought to bring the Seelie and Unseelie Courts there, but the clever way the author works within that time period had me instantly sold.

An Earthly Knight – Janet McNaughton

Here’s another great entry in the list of books that are mostly historical fiction, with just a touch of a fairy tale thrown in.    In this case, it’s a combination of the stories “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight” and “Tam Lin”.

Lady Jeanette is the younger daughter of a Norman Lord living in the Borders of Scotland.    Her older sister, Isabel, had been the hope of the family for marrying well and increasing their father’s influence in Scotland, but she has been disgraced.     So Jenny finds herself the new focus of her father’s need to expand his influence.      At the same time, she meets Tam Lin, the grandson of the Duke of Roxburgh, who had disappeared for a time, before resurfacing at the old family hall, now in ruins.      He lives there alone, and most think him mad.    Jenny is immediately drawn to him.

When Jenny catches the eye of Earl William, younger brother to King Malcolm, heir presumptive to the throne, Jenny’s father is thrilled.     Jenny is not so sure.    Torn between Tam and her duty to her family, she must figure out a way to make her own life.

The author mentioned in the end notes that she went to Scotland to poke around in the area where she wanted Jenny to live, and you can tell she’s put a lot of thought into this story – trying to her best to capture an accurate flavor of the twelfth century in the Borders.     I really enjoyed this book – Jenny is a worthy protagonist, and it was exciting to see where her story would go next.

Parallel Myths – J. F. Bierlein

Read for the Once Upon a Time IX Reading Challenge.

I started a tradition a few year back to try and read a more scholarly book in one of the Once Upon a Time challenge categories.     Here’s this year’s selection – a collection and comparison of similar mythological themes across world cultures.

If you’ve studied mythology at all, the obvious story to be included in this list is Flood myths – turns out they have them in both the Middle East, and American Indian cultures.    But there are others, stories of Love, and Heroes, and how we all universally struggle to explain death and what happens after that.

There’s also a section about more modern interpretation of myth – that’s the driest reading in the book, but still interesting, if you’re into this kind of thing.   That is really what this book comes down to – if you’re really interested in this subject matter, it’s a good overview.   If you’re not so interested in thinking about why mythology stories are the way they are, you’re probably best off skipping this book.