It’s funny; it never feels like that bad a week if it’s not awful minute to minute, but it occurs to me that in the past week I had the (finding out about the) death of a grandmother-in-law, a doctor’s appointment of the intrusive kinds, rowing practices that for some reason left me very tired for much of the weekend (they weren’t really all that strenuous but I was nearly whimpering by bedtime Sunday) and the closing of an investment account, not only without warning but also without notification. (I will certainly be writing a formal letter of complaint.) Really, not a good week.

On the plus side, I did finally get to order a bunch of books from Amazon UK, so there’s their arrival to look forward to. (Actually I have lots of things to look forward to, which may be why the past week hasn’t felt more depressing. But the books are the nearest ones.) And speakig of books, I do’nt believe I’ve talked about anything I’d read for a while, always a good way to cheer up. (Homer says, “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?” For me it’s books instead.)

I think, in Fictualitiesdiscussion of what Tolkien referred to as “the theme of the relation of ordinary life (breathing, eating, working begetting) and quests, sacrifice, causes, the longing for Elves, and sheer beauty” in Lord of the Rings she nailed something about fantasy in general, maybe stories in general. Fantasy without a good-sized dose of the ordinary grit of life tends to bring an empty beauty, like the airbrushed photo of a model that doesn’t let you see the person inside her. It’s the reason Mercedes Lackey appeals to 12-year-old girls in love with unicorns and quests, and the reason they outgorw her in a few years. (To my mind, the most successful or her Valdemar books are Oathbound and Oathbreakers,

I’ve written a little about Melusine by Sarah Monette, but never really in the form of a review. I quite liked it. First reaction: Now I see why Monette and Elizabeth Bear are writing partners: they both like to start with people who are already broken and beat on them some more 🙂 (I don’t read either of them for that – it hurts – but because out of the pain can come glory. Either the characters get to either do some real healing or else change the world so it fits them better.)

What worked for me was being able to instantly tell which character was speaking and to like and believe in both of them. I’m not sure whether I entirely believe that the different classes represented in the books use different systems of time-telling (one based on sevens – septads – and the other on tens) but it does help establish the huge gulf between the classes. I’m a little worried about whether I’ll like the Virtu as much; I’ve read that Mildmay spends most of the book being unreasonably devoted to Felix, and with Felix back to himself, if he doesn’t need Mildmay and there’s not the mutual dependence between the two of them, the book may lose something that was there in the first one. I guess I’ll just have to read it and see!

Over the weekend I finished Sherwood Smith’s Wren to the Rescue – actually, I read the whole thing Saturday afternoon. Quick read. It’s clearly aimed at a much younger audience than Melusine. (I think Smith teaches fifth-graders – that seems about the right age.) I liked it a lot. It’s quite a contrast to Monette’s work; no one is broken to start with. (Not actually true; at least one another peripheral character is, possibly more, and if the story had been told from that adult’s viewpoint you’d have something much more like a Monette or Bear book. But it’s not.) Even the main character who’s an orphan and the one who whas loving parents but raised away from them seem to bear their situations cheerfully, which is probably reasaonable enough if that’s all you’ve ever known. There’s a theme running through it that honor, fortitude, courage and loyalty are not the exclusive province of adult male Heroes; the author’s note at the end makes it clear that this is entirely deliberate. I also like the way that all the major questions from this book are cleared up at the end – but right in the last few pages Smith shows us how many other questions in the situation we hadn’t considered. It’s a nice way to open the door to the sequels.

After that, I was a little annoyed to realize that of the 4-5 volumes of Manly Wade Wellman anthologies I have, I brought along the wrong one. When I packed, I grabbed the first volume, which isn’t the one with the Silver John stories in it. However, this one’s got John Thunstone and I enjoy him too, if not quite as much or as viscerally as his Appalachian namesake. (Come to think of it, Melissa, if you’re reading this, you might like the Silver John stories. They were collected in paperback as “John the Balladeer” while ago and may not be in print but aren’t that hard to find used. They’re set in your mountains.)