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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Which do you prefer: Science fiction, or fantasy?

Which do you prefer: Science fiction, or fantasy?
What if you didn’t have to choose?
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In Enchantress from the Stars, first published in 1970, Sylvia Engdahl gives us both: a fantasy story of three brothers who try to slay a dragon with the help of an enchantress and a sorcerer, and science fiction about three anthropologists from an advanced race of humans that travel to a less developed planet to help the locals resist colonization.

It’s clear from the beginning that these two stories are actually the same story, but told from such wildly different perspectives that they share very few recognizable details in common. Even the language and tone of the two stories is wildly different. Most beautiful is that as the lead characters of each storyline come to understand each other better – and as their storylines merge – the tone of the two stories begins to merge, too, almost imperceptibly, until at the end we are reading only one story.

Enchantress from the Stars is YA, it’s fantasy, it’s science fiction, it’s romance. It’s strong on character growth, and it has a classic quest plot.  But in her preface to the 2001 edition, Lois Lowry noticed something about this book that I missed:

…spirituality remains a topic largely unaddressed in fiction for young adults. But in essence, Enchantress from the Stars is a story about sacrifice and compassion, two of the main ingredients of religious faith, and about the power of believing in that which one cannot understand.

I think in the end, like most excellent books, Enchantress from the Stars is a book that can work on many levels for many different people. It even translates well to audio. It’s definitely my favorite read from the past couple of months, and I would recommend it to almost anyone.

Library Loot: Waistcoats and Weaponry

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Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

 

I only picked up one book this week, but it’s a really exciting one: Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger. I’m saving it for a really bad day, because Carriger has a great sense of humor and always cheers me up.

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I’ve already seen several good reviews, such as this one by In Bed With Books. I couldn’t find the other reviews to include here, so feel free to link yours below.

What did you pick up this week?