Archive for the ‘Historical Fantasy’ Category

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

June 3, 2021


I’ve been on a bit of a historical fantasy kick lately, which is a genre I love because you get the wonderful time and place perspective of historical fiction, plus magic! Add a touch of police procedural to the mix and you get this extremely enjoyable new novel, which takes us to Cairo, Egypt in 1912. In this alternate history, the world is still reeling from the fact that the gates to the magical realm were suddenly thrown open by the mysterious al-Jahiz about 50 years earlier, and now Djinn and other magical creatures live among humans. Tensions start running high when someone claiming to be al-Jahiz returns to Cairo, causing chaos in the city. When murders begin to occur, Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, is called in to investigate. Fatma is a wonderful character, brilliant, a little battle-weary, and a spiffy dresser in fancy suits and bowler hats. She teams up with her new partner, Agent Hadia, who is fresh out of the academy and eager to impress, and Fatma’s girlfriend Siti, to tackle the mystery. The book weaves themes of colonialism, racism, sexism, class struggle and sexuality into this extremely engaging, enjoyable novel. It’s the first in a series and I will definitely be reading more from this author!

You can find A Master of Djinn at the Library.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

December 29, 2020


With elements of historical fiction and fantasy, and a strong and compelling female protagonist — this book was right up my alley. It tells the story of Addie LaRue, who lives in a small town in France in the early 1700s. She yearns for a life of adventure and independence, but as she has no say in her own life decisions, she is set to be married. In desperation she runs off to escape the life she doesn’t want, and begs the ancient gods for freedom. As it turns dark, one of the dark gods answers her plea and she ends up trading her soul for freedom and immortality. However, she soon realizes that this freedom comes with the devastating price that no one will ever remember her. As someone who loved to draw, she is no longer able to make so much as a mark with chalk, and is unable to speak her own name or tell her own story. The ways in which she manages to survive and navigate the parameters of her curse, are really compelling. It’s gritty and hard, but she continually chooses to go on and create a life for herself rather than surrendering her soul. There are elements of romance, both with Luc, the demon who has cursed her, and with Henry, the first one who remembers her after 300 years, but the story remains Addie’s, with the focus on her need to tell her story and make a mark in whatever way she can. If you enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, or Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, you might give this one a try. I really enjoyed it.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is available at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

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The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

September 21, 2020


This book has been on my to-be-read list for so long — seven years, it turns out, since it was published in 2013! I remember intending to read it when it first came out, and then every once in a while I’d see it sitting on the shelf and almost grab it, but it was only this week when I saw that Hoopla has the audiobook that I finally took the time to read it. I’m so glad I did! I am a sucker for historical fantasy books to begin with. Give me a book set in turn of the century New York City, add in a blend of Jewish and Arab folklore, and I’m a happy reader. This is a slow-paced, lyrical story that draws you into the strange situation that these two mystical creatures suddenly find themselves in – the golem, a woman made of clay created to be the perfect wife, who suddenly finds herself widowed and alone in a new city, and the jinni who is accidentally released from the flask he has been trapped in for a thousand years. The way that these two characters try to find a place for themselves in this new, unfamiliar human world is quite moving, and their friendship is unexpected and endearing. This is a strange and lovely book, perfect to read on a cold day. You can find the book at the library, and the audiobook on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.