Fantasy novels I recently left unfinished

When I put a book review up here, it’s always of a book I finished reading. That’s a fairly obvious statement, but it means that due to my more recent policy of abandoning books if I’m not enjoying them (life is short, but the bookshelf is long), if I’m reviewing it it’s a fairly safe bet that I enjoyed it. There are the odd exceptions, where I’ve had high hopes so I’ve given the book as much of a chance as I could, and read the final page with a sense of disappointment, but in general if it’s not grabbing me, I stop reading (I do still give each book more of a chance than OneMonkey does – he has been known to fling it aside after page 1, but it depends what mood he’s in).

I took my own advice for a change and got 10 books out of the local library in the past couple of weeks, largely at random from the sci-fi/fantasy and graphic novel shelves. With barely a scan of the back-cover blurb I chose a selection that either OneMonkey or I (or both) might enjoy, some by authors I’d heard of, some not. There were some triumphs (Finch, for instance) and some I didn’t choose so well. So I thought I’d tell you about a couple of those – not to pull them to pieces, but because someone else may well enjoy them.

Jasmyn (by Alex Bell) had an interesting premise and enticing artwork on the cover but ultimately left me unsatisfied after a few chapters and I’ve still got most of those Doctor Who novels to read. Jasmyn’s a young woman whose husband has died suddenly, very sad, one of those things, life goes on. Except Jasmyn’s finding it very hard to let life go on and is instead moping around in her pyjamas (quite understandably in my view) and has arranged to take a term off work (she is a music teacher, as I recall); her husband’s family, who never seemed to approve of the marriage, are being less than supportive, and she starts to feel isolated. Then she discovers strange things are happening (or appear to be happening, but she does consider that she might literally be mad with grief) and her husband may have had a whole other side to his life that she never knew about.

Jasmyn’s husband wrote books on mythology and folklore, and the whole set-up and cover-art had a dark fairytale feel to it, despite the contemporary suburban setting. However, the style also seemed quite fairytale in the sense that the language, construction, and elements of repetition gave it a simplistic feel which wasn’t really for me. Or perhaps I wasn’t gripped enough by the story to overlook it.

Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson: I wish I’d been able to read this to the end, OneMonkey enjoyed it, but there was just too much death (I know, what do you expect from a title like that). To give a quick overview, reaping souls (‘pomping’ them into the afterlife) is sort of a franchise but it tends to run in families, so Steve is a young man who has drifted into the family business but gives the impression that he’d have been fired by now if he wasn’t related. This book is the first in a series, and is set in contemporary Brisbane (what a refreshing change from American SF – not that I don’t like American settings but it’s good to get a different perspective sometimes); it’s first-person, in a light conversational style with plenty of references to rock music, films and SF, even in the few chapters I read. The premise is that someone’s making a play to be the next regional manager for all of Australia, and to do it they need to eliminate the competition. Which is pretty much anyone capable of doing the job, including Steve, his family, and most people he knows. From what OneMonkey tells me it does sound like it got quite tense and exciting, and even had a bit of romance in there, but the scale of death (and some of the detail) was harrowing and I couldn’t plough through it. My loss, I think.

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