Books Read in September, 2020
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
Knight's Dawn by Kim Hunter (r)
Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason (r)
Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #6-8 (Comics)
Lady Zorro Vol 1 #1 (Comic)
Amethyst Vol 4 #3-5 (Comics)
Zorro: Timeless Tales #1-2 (Comics)
Dejah Thoris Vol 3 #5-7 (Comics)
DC Cybernetic Summer #1 (Comic)
Action Comics #1024 (Comic)
Robert Asprin's Myth-Fits by Jody Lynne Nye
September, 2020 Reader's Digest
Zorro: The Complete Pulp Adventures, Vol. 2 by Johnston McCulley
S.P.Q.R. XII: Oracle of the Dead by John Maddox Roberts
Pompeii: A Tale of Murder in Ancient Rome by Robert Colton
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (r)
And that was reading that I did in September of this year. This was a pretty good month of reading on my part, both in terms of the quality and quantity (just a touch above my monthly average) of the books read, and there were three re-reads in September. The variety of reading this past month was pretty good, but needless to say, my bookcases are still stacked with a pretty large To Read Queue (TRQ). The books I enjoyed the most were:
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad - Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There, the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population - except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar. But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield. This first novel by the author has a cover that is as beautiful as the content, and I have to admit that I enjoyed reading the detailed descriptions of the city of Noor as the novel went on. It is an incredibly marvellous, beautifully crafted story of magic, religion, food, adventure, strong women, and mythology. The world building by the author in the book is truly sublime, and I must admit tht I got very hungry reading the descriptions of food and the smells of the market. I'm not going to spoil the plot of the story for anyone, but will say that Fatima is a very neat, very strong female character who holds her own throughout the tale, even when she doesn't seem to be doing so. The romance in this novel is a very nicely handled one, that has some interesting twists as well, and that also held my interest. My only criticism of the novel is that the timeline seems a bit confusing. A week has passed for one of the characters and only a night for another. Perhaps the scene that I'm talking about here is out of order in the book, as it would make more sense if the latter had occurred before the former. Other than that, this novel is a superb book, an excellent read, and I highly recommend it. Arabian fantasy at its best.
Robert Asprin's Myth-Fits by Jody Lynne Nye - This is the 21st novel in the Myth series about wizard Skeeve and his mentor Aazh, begun by Robert Asprin, continued by him and Jody Lynne Nye, and the second book by Nye on her own. Business is slow for M.Y.T.H., Inc., and its president, Bunny, is getting nervous that the company might not meet its quarterly goal. So when a job comes in that's worth an absurd amount of gold - and also happens to take them to Winslow, the most luxurious vacation resort in any dimension - the team jumps at the opportunity to recoup some cash and maybe catch some R&R. Only, magician Skeeve has an unsettling feeling that this mission might be trickier than it seems. Someone in Winslow is messing with the magic lines and working hard to ensure that the M.Y.T.H. crew gets nowhere near the powerful relic that they've been hired to find. And as the mysterious manipulation turns deadly, Skeeve, Bunny, Aahz, and the rest of their partners find themselves in a race not only to finish the job but also to escape paradise alive. The first book by Jody Lynne Nye, Myth-Quoted, made me hope that she would continue the series with the same humour and vigour that Bob Asprin and later she and Asprin had brought to the earlier novels, and this second book by the author has certainly cemented this hope. Like its predecessor, Robert Asprin's Myth-Fits is more focused, shows a good deal of character progression and feels more like the books published during the series' heyday in the 1980s, rather than the books co-written by the two authors. What helps here is that the entire gang of characters is together again, and that the book is written from Skeeve's perspective. The M.Y.T.H. Inc. crew is hired to help find the Loving Cup, a magical cup that makes people agree and come to accord with each other. Aahz is hired by an ambassador who needs it for peace talks in his dimension, and their quest takes them to a resort dimension where, for only three gold pieces a day, they can have anything they want. Early on, they realize they can just ask customer assistance for the Loving Cup, but of course it can't be that easy. That said, I have to say that the book is an improvement, but it's still not perfect. There's a lengthy dimensional aside near the beginning of the book that's significant, but not revisited except in passing near the end of the book. Perhaps this dimension will be significant in future books (hints dropped in Myth-Quoted are realized in Myth-Fits, so there's a precedent), but it felt a little out of place. It fits the part of the story at first, but given how important it felt to the characters and story, I kept expecting it to play into the larger plot. These last two books in the series have felt rather good, and Myth-Fits doesn't feel like a final book in a series. So I will await another Myth book when it comes. In the meantime, I recommend this one if you want to have a smile on your face for the whole read of a book. :)
Zorro: The Complete Pulp Adventures, Vol. 2 by Johnston McCulley - What can I say about this one? I've been a fan of Zorro since...well, to be honest, I can't remember when, but with the release of the new Zorro: The Roleplaying Game from Gallant Knight Games, I figured it was time to re-read the stories. So I have been doing so gradually, and this is the second volume in the series from the folks at Bold Ventures. This lovely volume from Bold Venture Press contains three tales about the masked hero. The first is "The Further Adventures of Zorro," a full-length story that takes the Fox to the high seas when pirates arrive on the shores of Alta California, and decide to claim the pueblo of Los Angeles as their spoils. The second story, the 30-page "Zorro Deals With Treason," has Zorro having to deal with a masked imposter! Finally, "The Mysterious Don Miguel" is a 70-page tale where the title character creates much confusion in Reina de Los Angeles. Is he Zorro's enemy - or Don Diego Vega's friend? The book is led off by an essay on Johnston McCulley and what led him to write the Zorro stories, and reveals a few things I didn't really know. The stories here are very good, featuring swordplay with some humour thrown in. What is notable in these three stories is the sheer amount of violence, notably in the tale with the pirates, but there is also the constant dedication of the hero to his cause, even if sometimes it seems that all is lost for Zorro. Each story has very nice illustrations that are really marvellous, and bring across who and what Zorro is. Highly recommended for folks who have an interest in such swashbuckling genres.
S.P.Q.R. XII: Oracle of the Dead by John Maddox Roberts - The twelfth book in the S.P.Q.R. series by the author. Decius Caecilius Metellus, this year's magistrate for cases involving foreigners, is living the good life in southern Italy, happy to be away from Rome, a city suffering war jitters over Caesar's impending actions. He thinks he is merely visiting one of the local sights when he takes a party to visit the Oracle of the Dead, a pre-Roman cult site located at the end of a tunnel dug beneath a temple of Apollo. He quickly learns that there is a bitter rivalry between the priests of Apollo and those of Hecate, who guard the oracle. When the priests of Apollo are all killed, the countryside looks to explode in violence as Greeks, Romans and native Italians of several conquered nations bring out old enmities. Decius is caught squarely in the middle, desperate to find a way out that will pacify the district and, incidentally, save his own skin. I love Roman historical Fiction. When it involves a mystery, I like it even more. In this tale, Decius Caecilius Metellus is now middle-aged and serving as Rome's praetor peregrinus, the magistrate who administers justice for foreigners. The story is told from his point of view (as all of the series' tales have been) as he is now retired and writing his memoirs having lived through the momentous years that resulted in the end of the Roman Republic. He has known all of the major players including Julius Caesar, his wife's cousin, and Pompey Maximus, Caesar's main opponent. He does his writing with both a sense of irony and humour, which makes for excellent reading. Decius is staying in Campania where he is hearing cases and dispensing justice. On his day off, he visits the shrine of the goddess Hecate and consults her Oracle. Unfortunately, the predictions are interrupted when a dead body shows up. It is that of the Head Priest of the next-door temple to Apollo. When he visits that temple the dead bodies of all the priests are found. Other murders keep happening and there is an attempt on Decius's life also, upping the stakes. After his recovery from his wounds, Decius works hard to find out what is going on. He eventually, of course, figures it out and brings the miscreants to justice. One of the things I love about the series is that author Roberts is so meticulous in describing both the characters, but also the culture of the late Roman Republic. His extensive research is evident in this book. Decius is a flawed hero but that fact makes him all the more real. I have really enjoyed the series to this point, and am quite saddened that the next volume is the end of the series (or so it would seem). Roberts has created a lovely character in the flawed hero of this series, and I will sorely miss him after the next book. Highly recommended.
I pretty much enjoyed all the books that I read in September, but these are the ones that stuck out in my mind.
Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 0 RPG and RPG products, 1 magazine, 14 comics, and 0 graphic novels in September. This brings the year total for 2020 to a set of numbers that look like this: 73 books, 16 RPGs and RPG products, 16 magazines, 95 comics, and 2 graphic novels.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)