I set out this year to read more books, and—with the extra leisure time I have taking the train to work—I’ve been pretty successful. I’m on my 23rd book of 2010. With two months left, I figure I should finish 25 or 26 by the end of the year.
A little early, I thought I’d share my favorite literary discoveries of 2010. These aren’t all necessarily the very favorite books I’ve read this year, but they are each recommendable and—I found—unique in some terrific way. None of them are 2010 releases since more often than not, I’m playing catch up on books that are somewhat comparable to my own writing.
I can’t say enough good things about Clegg’s retelling of the King Arthur legend. In fact, I’m repeating myself from an August 18th post on retold fairy tales and legends. In brief, this fantastic novel takes place in the richly imagined Medieval world of Broceliande, a bit reminiscent of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, and tells the story of young Mordred’s coming of age under the tutelage of the magickal Merlin. If you enjoy stories that subvert villains and heroes (Arthur gets quite a send-up), you couldn’t do much better.
I liked Mordred so much, I wrote to Douglas Clegg to tell him, and I received a nice reply with the sad news that his planned trilogy was thwarted due to issues with the publisher Alyson, despite the fact that the book sold well and got great reviews. I’m crossing my fingers that the other books get bought fast by a big publishing house.
Switching genres completely, I loved this quiet, friends-gathering-for-a-summer-weekend drama. Sort of Love, Valour, Compassion meets Ordinary People, it’s a study of the inner world of four people managing loss and damaged relationships. The Weekend was my introduction to Cameron and left me mightily impressed.
The Ranger’s Apprentice hardly needs my testimonial. The franchise has been wildly successful across the globe and still fills up book displays at all the bookstore chains. But as a reader who is a trifle timid about high fantasy, it was an unusual pick for me and highly satisfying.
The Ranger’s Apprentice–dare I say–surpasses the Harry Potter series in its portrayal of a teen hero. I was surprised by the degree of character development actually since it is a “boy’s book” with swords, dark magic and fantasy creatures with impossible to pronounce names. In the midst of it, there are great plot lines about how boys succeed when they’re not the physical ideal and the frightening world of bullying victims.
Little did I know, there’s a mystery series set in Ancient Rome. Saylor’s Gordianus–The Finder–is the Ellery Queen of the ancient world. Historical authenticity is a big selling point for his Roma Sub Rosa series with The Finder navigating the real life dramas of such figures as Cicero, Marcus Crassus and Catilina. The Venus Throw is about the murder of an Egyptian diplomat amidst the Republic’s designs on the Egyptian kingdom and the demise of the wealthy Claudia family. A fun diversion.
This retelling of the ancient Greek Atalanta myth provides a nice portrayal of a non-gender conforming girl and moves along briskly with well written action. I would have liked a little something more unexpected in the “retelling,” and it’s hard to reconcile the fiercely independent Atalanta getting married in the end. But as one of very few Young Adult novels tackling Greek mythology—hmmm, not a bad idea—it’s fresh and worth the read.