What’s Good This Month: October 2016

October was a really good month for me, in terms of reading–a new book came out in not just one but two of my favorite series. And, in anticipation of Goldenhand, I decided to re-read the entire Old Kingdom series. I can’t believe I’d forgotten how good they are.

Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series

The two new books I read this month are:

Goldenhand by Garth Nix (2016)
I don’t even know where to start with this. I tried telling my mom about it a while ago, and wound up giving her totally the wrong impression. Anyway, Goldenhand, like the rest of the Old Kingdom series, is set in an alternate world, where there’s a lot of magic and necromancy (that actually works) and society seems to be somewhere around the Earth equivalent time of the late Middle Ages or maybe the early Renaissance. (But the Old Kingdom also borders on a country where magic generally doesn’t work and the year is around 1930. That’s where one of Goldenhand‘s main, or at least supporting, characters is from.) Basically it’s a fantasy novel, though.
One of the things that really impresses me about Garth Nix is that I think he makes everything up from scratch. Most fantasy novels (at least those I’m familiar with) borrow at least a little bit of their world or magic system or characters or something, often from mythology. (Even Tolkien did it.) But, aside from the fact that necromancy is a thing (and no more than that–the way it’s practiced is unique) there’s nothing in this series that I recognize. Which I think must be really, really hard to do.
I can’t really talk about Goldenhand separately from the series it belongs to. One thing I will say is that it feels sort of less urgent than the previous books, particularly the first three (which, for a long time, stood on their own as a complete trilogy). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you like, but I think I would have liked a bit more. That said, I think Goldenhand mostly suffers because I’m comparing it to books I think are really, really awesome (remember how I said favorite series?), so a book that is just really good doesn’t quite measure up. On the whole, though, I’m happy with it–it’s still definitely among the best books I’ve read in a while.

Immediately after finishing Goldenhand, I read:

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud (2016)
This is the fourth Lockwood and Co. book, and as good as I hoped. (My least favorite remains the second; I can’t decide which of the other three I like best.) This is less of a straight-up fantasy and more of a supernatural horror thing, and I don’t normally read anything like that at all, but these books work really well for me. (Possibly because they’re written for children. I’ve seen some places call them YA, but my library shelves them with the middle readers. Personally I think they’d fit best in the nebulous region somewhere in between.)
I was very, very scared during the first part of the book, and later, I almost figured out parts of what was going to happen, but it didn’t all come together until the very end. I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t disappointed, and I wasn’t shocked or in disbelief or even very surprised–it all made sense, but without being too obvious–and I think that’s very hard to do, too.

Have you read anything good this month? Or–now that I’ve probably got another year, at least, before I can reasonably expect another book from either of these, anyone have a good series to recommend?

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