Sirens veterans know that each year, we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books related to our annual theme—and we invite attendees to bring their breakfast on Friday and Saturday mornings during Sirens to discuss them. Last month, we announced our 2017 Books and Breakfast books on women who work magic, and you can check them all here.
Every month, we’ll be highlighting a few titles chosen, in the hopes that you pick up these great books in time for Books and Breakfast! For July, our spotlight is on Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky, Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch, and Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road. Questions or thoughts? Comment below or sound off on Twitter at @sirens_con and the hashtag #Sirens17.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.
But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca of San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
All the Birds in the Sky asks hard questions: about magic and morality, about technology and the ethical use thereof, about people and life. Its near-future setting, and its almost magic vs. technology structure, allows Anders to explore these questions and more about our societal mores and ambitions. Notably, even as the book careens toward the end of the world as we know it, humanity remains center stage.
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.
Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.
If you like ambitious girls, this one’s for you. Because while Tea starts the novel quite young and understandably afraid, by the end of the novel, she’s a woman who makes choices—and you’ll be waiting breathlessly to see what she does in the second installment. Further, the novel’s bifurcated timeline structure allows the reader to compare Tea in her childhood with Tea today: a luxury for readers who love character-driven novels.
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
A heroic fantasy about a young woman who is trained in the art of the sinister hand of magic, but at what price?
On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel makes the choice to work for the Devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you think you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and makes sure they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel the circuitous road through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is power and chaos…and death.
Silver on the Road is a slow burn of a book. Izzy’s choice to become the Devil’s Left Hand happens quickly at the beginning, and you spend the rest of the book traveling the Wild West with her as she learns what it really means to have made a deal with the Devil. But it doesn’t mean what you expect: There’s both good and bad for Izzy, great power and, yes, great responsibility, and all of it much more subtly wielded than your usual deal-with-the-devil fare.