Reading the Backlist, part 2 – Elizabeth Wein

This week, I’ve been digging deeper into Elizabeth Wein’s backlist.

I first fell in love with this author’s work when I read Code Name Verity. Rose Under Fire was just as good, and I have her latest release, Black Dove White Raven, on my TBR (here’s a really positive review from In Bed With Books, and a less enthusiastic one from Bookshelf Fantasies). All are excellent character-driven YA novels with unusual historical settings, and a moderately strong feminist perspective. lionhunter

Last year, I dipped into her backlist when I read the Mark of Solomon series which wins my award for diversity in setting: Aksum (modern-day Ethiopia) in the sixth century A.D. While I loved being introduced to a new world, and there was nothing really wrong with the books, I wasn’t in love with them either. I blogged more about this series last August – we’ll call that Reading the Backlist, part 1.

This spring, I picked up her very first novel, The Winter Prince, as well as its sequel, A Coalition of Lions. winprince First novels are tricky beasts – but The Winter Prince satisfied in every way. It was wildly imaginative with an interesting structure, and I zoomed through it in a single day. It focuses on the story of Mordred in the Arthurian legend. If you’re not familiar, Mordred is the incestuous son of King Arthur and his sister, and he can play a very dark role in the Arthurian saga. In this case, the story focuses on Mordred’s perspective on the later part of Arthur’s story as he is explaining it to his highly dramatic and influential mother. It’s also the story of Mordred’s relationship with his half-sister and half-brother, and his eventual ability for self-determination. In strength and scope, if not in subject matter, The Winter Prince is the equal of Wein’s later novels such as Code Name Verity.

coallionsI can’t say as much for A Coalition of Lions. This story picks up where The Winter Prince left off, but follows the story of Mordred’s half sister as she flees Arthur’s crumbling kingdom after a series of disasters that have occurred between the two books. Her flight takes her to Aksum in Ethiopia (sound familiar?) where she is involved in court intrigue to ensure the future stability of Arthur’s empire. It may be my own distaste for court intrigue related plots, or it could be related to my lack of enthusiasm for this author’s Aksum books, but I’d recommend skipping A Coalition of Lions.

However, if you are a fan of Wein’s recent novels, definitely give The Winter Prince a try.

Readers, what’s your favorite Wein novel?
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Reading the Backlist

lionhunterElizabeth Wein. You know, the author of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, two amazing WWII-era historicals featuring strong teenage girls as heroines?

Well, she also wrote a series of books connected to the Arthurian legend (haven’t read those yet) and two more loosely connected books about a half-Ethiopian, half-British boy with an amputated arm.

In her series The Mark of Solomon, which includes The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom, I especially enjoyed the unusual setting: Aksum, Ethiopia in the sixth century A.D. Ms. Wein has the same voice and the same courage in unique plot lines that made Code Name Verity so great. And even though it’s fantasy, The Mark of Solomon maintains a strong connection to actual history.

If you’re interested in these two books, I only have two cautions. First, The Lion Hunter refers incessantly to the previous book, The Sunbird, which features the same main character. I didn’t have any trouble following The Lion Hunter as a result, but if you’re a read-everything-in-its-proper-order type of person, I think it would bother you. Second, the series has less action and more political intrigue than Code Name Verity, almost reminding me of a Tudor era book. Depending on your tastes, you might find these two books a little slower.

Other than that, enjoy your trip through Wein’s backlist. I plan to continue mine…

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