It’s only the end of January and this year has already been exhausting. At least we still have books, though my reading this month was a little slow and lackluster – I’m hoping I’ll catch up next month, as I have a number of books lined up now that I’m excited about. (I’ve just started reading Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho and am very much enjoying it.)
Looking back on the last month, four books stand out as ones I recommend – two true crime, one continuation of a beloved series and one first novel in a new one.
Without further ado.
City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
The next in the series that began with City of Stairs and City of Swords, both of which I loved, this book isn’t technically out until May 2nd of this year, but I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy for Netgalley. I was a little apprehensive about whether this book could live up to the last two, especially since the narrating character (Sigrud) was not one of my favorites previously.
I cried, dear reader.
A lot of this book is about the broken world we leave for our children, and the way injustice gets perpetuated through the generations. Especially in these tumultuous times, it resonated. Tightly plotted as ever, woven through with the richness of its thematic material, and drawing to a deeply satisfying but heart-wrenching conclusion, City of Miracles feels a little like a finale – but I dearly hope it isn’t.
Less a standalone than either of the previous books, City of Miracles requires reading City of Stairs at least – and City of Swords is recommended reading as well. Seeing as both are excellent books, though, I wouldn’t see this as a hardship.
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
Switching gears to something considerably less fictional: I’m a true crime buff, and have been for years, for almost all of which people have told me to read this classic in the genre. After putting it off for a long while, I finally got around to it during my hellish ordeal of a flight home from Seattle on New Year’s, and read the whole thing in about eight hours. Not only is the story of the Manson murders a horrifying and gripping story in and of itself, this book provides a compelling narrative, detailed and in-depth, with a rare personal perspective (Bugliosi was the main prosecutor on the case).
Helter Skelter digs deep into the background of the Manson family, the Tate-LaBianca murders, and the investigation and trial that followed, with a level of detail that’s unparalleled in other true crime reporting I’ve read. Fascinating, intense, and compelling, I recommend this book even for those who don’t think they’re interested in this case, or for those who are just getting started in true crime – though it might spoil you for what the genre can be.
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
A confession: I did glaze over a bit during some of the mathematical portions of this book, and it took me a fair bit to begin following the world that Yoon Ha Lee was building, but once I did I was thoroughly hooked and couldn’t put this one down. Fans of Ann Leckie will undoubtedly enjoy this book, which is not really comparable to the Ancillary series except in some of its themes and styles.
A military woman joins forces with a general known primarily for slaughtering his own troops in a massacre centuries before, in order to prevent the spread of a “calendrical heresy” that threatens to undo the structure of her world. However, all is not necessarily as it seems, and the deeper in the reader gets, the more tangled things become.
The next book in the series, Raven Stratagem, is coming out this year, and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt
Almost a full-180 from Helter Skelter, this second true crime book follows the case of the West Memphis Three, a trio of boys who were convicted of killing three 8-year-olds and imprisoned for 20 years, only to be released quietly in 2011. This book made me legitimately angry – Leveritt lays out in painstaking detail the shortcomings of the case against the three boys, the leads that were discarded as the investigation focused (for no good reason) on occult motivation, and the railroading of three boys – one of whom was underage, and one of whom had intellectual disabilities.
This isn’t the book to read if you’re looking for reassurance of the effectiveness of our criminal justice system, or that the bad guys always get caught. Rather, this book shows how quickly assumptions can blind whole communities to the gaping holes in a case, and the failure of logic that led to the decades long imprisonment of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.
As I mentioned at the top of this post, I’m currently reading (and loving) Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. I’m also anticipating Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson, Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys, and Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly.
Until next month. Happy reading!