Kindle is having a huge book sale, with many tempting items at $1.99 - $2.99. This includes multiple books by specific authors, like Barbara Hambly, Elizabeth Wein, Octavia Butler, Virginia Hamilton, Kate Elliott, Jonathan Carroll, and Mary Renault.

A few obscure books I wanted to mention are...

The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth Wein, one of my two favorite King Arthur novels. (The other is The Once and Future King.) Wein's is short and intense, narrated by Medraut (Mordred). In this version, there is no Lancelot and Arthur has two legitimate children, a son and a daughter; this makes it read very differently from other versions.

Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. Beautiful fantasy novel about a middle-aged woman who once slew a dragon, who gets called out of retirement. Great concept, great characterization. This is a stand-alone novel with a terrific ending. Many years later, Hambly wrote some sequels. DO NOT READ THEM.

The Darwath Series: The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, and The Armies of Daylight, by Barbara Hambly. Portal fantasy! Very good portal fantasy, with vivid characters, excellent martial arts sequences, and a heroine whose research skills, learned while she was getting a degree in medieval history, come surprisingly in handy. This trilogy is complete in itself. There are sequels but I don't really recommend them.

A number of Hambly's books are on sale today, and I rec them all with the caveat to avoid belated sequels to stand-alones and trilogies. I especially adore The Ladies of Mandrigyn (the sequels are OK but not as good) and The Silent Tower/The Silicon Mage (ditto).

The Velvet Room, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. A children's book in the "secret garden" mold, about a lonely girl who finds a secret room in a big house. Not fantasy, but definitely has a numinous feel. A number of her books are on sale today. I snapped up one I never even heard of before, Season of Ponies
, in which a girl gets a magical amulet which summons a herd of rainbow-colored ponies. All I can say is, my inner eleven-year-old is still alive and well and wants a herd of rainbow-colored ponies. Also a fire lizard.

Several good and obscure Jane Yolen books are on sale for $1.99. Cards of Grief is a poetic science fantasy novel about a planet whose art and culture revolves around grieving, seen partly through the perspective of its inhabitants and partly through the eyes of a perplexed space explorer. It's strange in a good way. Also Dragonfield: and Other Stories, short stories, mostly excellent.

Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (The Cecelia and Kate Novels) and sequels, charming epistolatory Regency romance with magic.

Wild Seed , by Octavia Butler. Stand-alone fantasy/sf set in Africa, my favorite (and least depressing) of her novels. Two immortal mutants match wits through the years, a woman shapeshifter and a man who jumps into a new body when his old one dies, killing his host whether he wants to or not.

A Passage of Stars (The Highroad Trilogy). Space opera by Kate Elliott, whose existence I somehow failed to know of before.

I have never read anything by Mary Renault, though I keep meaning to. If you could rec one or two of her books to me, which should it be and why?
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musesfool: achilles, with text over his cheek saying "godlike achilles" (ever to be the best)

From: [personal profile] musesfool

I have never read anything by Mary Renault, though I keep meaning to. If you could rec one or two of her books to me, which should it be and why?

Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy. Because ALEXANDER AND HEPHAISTION. As long as you can deal with the purple prose (which to me works with the subject at hand) and the idealization of Alexander, they really are good reads.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)

From: [personal profile] mme_hardy

I very very much liked The Bull from The Sea as a child-teenager; it's the tale of Theseus, where what happens in Crete and with the Minotaur is based on what was known of Minoa in 1950s archaeology -- it centers around bull-dancing. I love this too much to be unprejudiced.

For pure thought and pathos, read The Last of the Wine, which is about the fall of Athens, told through the eyes of an aristocrat who doesn't know he's living through the fall of Athens.
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)

From: [personal profile] oursin

I loved The King Must Die (preferred it to The Bull from the Sea, which takes place after his return to Athens from Crete) when I was a teenager, but I think the one I might recommend is The Mask of Apollo, though deponent is far from sure whether her depiction of life of ancient Athenian actor is in accordance with accepted scholarship in the area

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From: [personal profile] kore - Date: 2013-12-02 09:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

The one everyone will rec to you is The Persian Boy, which was a big hit in gay fiction in the seventies -- it's one of the first gay novels I can remember reading, actually. It's very well-written. -- Wait, I thought you had read the Charioteer? If not, get it IMMEDIATELY, it will be just your jam (heh), as the kids say these days. WWI, lots of unrequited longing, beautiful writing, extreme emotional suspense.

Fire from Heaven, the first Alexander book which someone already rec'd, is good too, altho I didn't like it as much. Do not read Funeral Games, there's no Alexander in it and a lot of misogyny. I wasn't as crazy about the Theseus novels myself (Bull from the Sea, &c), but I think you'd really love Mask of Apollo, which is about a Greek actor and extremely accurate, as far as I can tell. Bonus appearances by Plato and hot courtesans. Its descriptions of Delphi are some of my favourite passages of hers.

A lot of people at St John's liked Last of the Wine but it wasn't my cup of tea for some reason. I should try reading it again. Her writing style really is excellent.

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starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

From: [personal profile] starlady

Really I liked everything I read by her, and everyone has already recced everything I read by her. I should hit up the sale for the rest of them…

From: [personal profile] torrilin

Tossing this out for non-kindle users... It works on Barnes and Noble too. Haven't checked Apple yet.
cofax7: Andre Norton ruining SF since 1934 (Andre Norton)

From: [personal profile] cofax7

Space opera by Kate Elliott, whose existence I somehow failed to know of before.

... I have been recommending Elliott for years now. She's my go-to example in the perpetual discussion about how women writing epic fantasy get ignored in favor of Martin, Sanderson, Rothfuss, & Jordan. (My other examples are usually Sherwood Smith, Rosemary Kirstein, & Mary Gentle.) I highly recommend Elliott's Crossroads series, which starts with The Spirit Gate: it's a tightly-plotted trilogy with great magic, complex world-building, a bunch of different cultural contexts, and tons of interesting characters, male and female, with their own sympathetic and often-conflicting agendas.

The Highroad trilogy is her novice work: she only gets better from there.

Seconding Mme_Hardy's recommendations for The King Must Die and Bull from the Sea: I imprinted hard on Renault's vision of ancient Greece. It's powerful, archetypal, and yet still vivid and well-characterized.
coffeeandink: (unread books)

From: [personal profile] coffeeandink

The Highroad trilogy is in the same universe as the Jaran books, about a hundred years later (which means there are a couple of overlapping characters, given life-extension techniques). I re-read them in order of internal chronology, instead of publication, this year, and liked the way that worked.

My favorite Renaults vary between Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, The Charioteer, and The Last of the Wine. The only one of the historical novels I dislike is Funeral Games, which, seriously, you'd hate it, avoid like Dragonsbane sequels. Some of the contemporary novels are worse, but the only two anyone ever reprints are The Charioteer and The Friendly Young Ladies, both of which are good despite frustrating me massively in some respects.
coffeeandink: (Default)

From: [personal profile] coffeeandink

P.S. Ankaret Wells' The Maker's Mask is on sale for $1.99. This is a self-published sf novel with cool world-building, cool women, cool gender stuff, and witty prose. I think you'd really like it. This is a specific personal recommendation based on your tastes, rather than a general rec for anybody, although I am also happy to rec them to anybody. :)

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skygiants: Honey from Ouran with his hands to his HORRIFIED CHEEKS (ZOMG!)

From: [personal profile] skygiants

I don't know how to react to the existence of Season of Ponies!
vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)

From: [personal profile] vass

Emphatic disrec: Mary Renault's The Friendly Young Ladies. Speaking as a lesbian, I prefer my lesbians to stay lesbian, not to grow up and get over it.

I didn't like The Charioteer either, which is another one a lot of people would recommend. In that one my issues were less with her treatment of the gay relationship and more with her treatment of the Quaker conscientious objector.

In the author's notes to one of those books (I forget which) she said some really mean and annoying things about Pride parades and coming out as gay, to the effect that it's wrong because it's tacky. Gee, Mary Renault, I'm sorry most same sex attracted people don't have the resources to MOVE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY to escape homophobia and live with our life partners, THE WAY YOU DID, and thus have to descend to taking political action.
oursin: Photograph of James Miranda Barry, c. 1850 (James Miranda Barry)

From: [personal profile] oursin

A historian friend who has written on pre-1967 homosexual lives was frothing at the mouth over a recent column - might have been TLS, or possibly the Guardian - on The Charioteer, in connection with its recent reissue, as buying into a particular myth of what it was like. He sees The Charioteer as enmeshed in a certain discourse about discretion and respectability which was pretty much all about class and economic privilege. (Renault's class attitudes can make me fume.)

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badgerbag: (Default)

From: [personal profile] badgerbag

I would go for Mask of Apollo first. I'm also fond of The Praise Singer. "Bold plunderers of Demeter's hoarded store"! I believe Mask of Apollo is the forbidden book Nicola is reading in one of the Autumn Term series. A boarding school teacher catches her and they have a somewhat subtle but interesting conversation about homosexuality.

From: [identity profile]

I have never read anything by Mary Renault, though I keep meaning to. If you could rec one or two of her books to me, which should it be and why?

The Persian Boy is the best novel I know about Alexander. You should probably read the whole trilogy, and probably in order - starting with Fire from Heaven - but it's not actually crucial.

Also, everything else she ever wrote. Her scholarship is deeply suspect, as she was enough of a Hellenophile to romanticise & distort at will; her portraits of women are frequently unattractive; and yet, and yet. She wrote about gay men in a way I had never read before, both in historical and contemporary contexts; her passion for the ancient world is unrivalled; her literary gifts were tremendous, her voice unique, and her influence continues. [Full disclosure: we were penpals of a sort, in regular correspondence at the time of her death; I am enough of a Renaultophile to romanticise & distort in my turn.]

From: [identity profile]

I was just going to recommend exactly these as starters (you'll want to read them all), though I wouldn't have done it in as erudite or passionate a manner.

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From: [personal profile] sovay - Date: 2013-12-03 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile]

Have you read Mordred: Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg? It's also a Mordred POV, as you can guess from the title, and it consequently takes the side of the magic practitioners. Plus, there is some m/m.

From: [identity profile]

I never really got on with her Classical novels, though I had friends who disappeared into the Alexander novels for months.

The Charioteer, however, was very important to me when I was a teenager. I wrote her a fan letter telling her how important it had been to my coming-out process, and she wrote me a very gracious reply all the way from South Africa. [Also, she worked as a nurse at my boarding school, long before my time.] Her modern-day novels are a fascinating and uncomfortable mixture of the acute and the bafflingly opaque (and resolutely non-political), and I think that The Charioteer is easily the most accessible. I think it's also a very good novel about life in Britain during WW2.

From: [identity profile]

Oh I remember really loving Season of Ponies when I read it--though now all I remember from it is the gorgeous horses in strange colors, and the girl who could balance on them. Nothing else. Nothing! Maybe I should look at it again…

And I so wanted a fire lizard or nine.

From: [identity profile]

The Mask of Apollo is my favourite Renault. The theatre talk/ action is both bitchy and convincing, and the protagonist is probably her most balanced narrator. (The others tend to have Father Issues. Hate to disagree with desperance up there, but I'd avoid Fire from Heaven, the first Alexander book, like the plague.)

The Last of the Wine is actually a fantasy of Periclean Athens but I love it because it's exactly what the 19th century classicists thought Athens *was.*

The King Must Die, the first book about Theseus, feels different from anything anyone's ever written; but that's probably because I read it when I was 13. Maybe back then it was, but someone's doubtless done it again (and again and again) since.

From: [identity profile]

Oh my God, Wild Seed sounds awesome! And it's part of a series that sounds really awesome. I just bought the Patternist series, the Xenogenesis trilogy, and Bloodchild for under $10. Thanks for the heads-up! Now to find time to read it all...

I've never read anything by Octavia Butler, but it all sounds FUCKING AMAZING.

From: [identity profile]

I have to enthusiastically recommend all of Butler's canon (she is too often overlooked) with the caveat that Wild Seed is the first thing I read by her and it remains my favorite... I fell deeply in love with those characters and I think it plays on the Eros and Psyche myth a little bit.

I am not surprised AT ALL that Rachel likes it, too!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] - Date: 2013-12-03 12:18 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile]

Ah, they have Zilpha Keatley Snyder's entire Greensky trilogy available for two dollars a piece! Resistance is futile.

Dragonsbane sounds pretty excellent too. And I've been meaning to read more of Elizabeth Wein's books, so maybe The Winter Prince too...

I should probably step away from the computer before I spend all my money.

From: [identity profile]

May I just second this recommendation - and I would also strongly rec. "The Last of the Wine".

(Incidentally, she has a knack of making readers feel as though events were quite recent/they knew the people involved - and that led to impassioned arguments about Plato, Socrates, Xenophon et al between a small group of Renault fans at uni summer school in the 1970s.

It seemed to greatly impress our lecturers [but this was decades before we could have been classified as a fandom searching a library for anything related to it...] I also loved, "Mask of Apollo", but YMMD)

I started reading Mary Renault with, "The King Must Die" and "The Bull from the Sea" - basically myths retold (most excellently) but since then I have greedily read and re-read everything she ever wrote.

From: [identity profile]

I really enjoyed The King Must Die and its followup Bull From the Sea. If you're a fan of Athens history, the Last of the Wine is quite good, too, whereas if you like theater, the Mask of Apollo is best.

If you actually want female characters, you'll have to head for the modern one's like Friendly Young Ladies or even Charioteers.

From: [identity profile]

My gosh, I read that Hambly series, and all I can remember of it is the triumphant research scene.

From: [identity profile]

The Charioteer by Mary Renault is such a gorgeous and heart-wrenching book. Highly recommended.

From: [identity profile]

The Charioteer and The Persian Boy, but those are exactly the two I've read. She's so amazing. I'm rereading The Charioteer now (on Kindle, aptly, bought before this sale boo) and one highlight I have is: "He saw how it is possible to idealize people for one's own delight, while treading on their human weaknesses like dirt." There are lots of sentences/insights like that.

From: [identity profile]

I'm sorry, the recommendation that I meant to second was, "The Persian Boy", but lj won't let me reply to comments at present.

From: [identity profile]

Thank you. I loved Code Name Verity, and heard good things about her other series, but couldn't find it in my library or at good price. It will probably lead me to buying the whole series.

As for the highroad trilogy, it was originally published years before she started writing under the Kate Elliott name. It is set in the same universe as her Jaran books (which are on sale at all four for under $6) with a different cast. I love that it exists because you find how the rebellion that is in the background of Jaran fares.
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