‘ “Are you Asterion?” “You flatter me, child, if you think me that malevolent” ‘ April 29, 2008Posted by dolorosa12 in books, fangirl.
Tags: alt-history, are you asterion, dark fantasy, fangirl, philip pullman, sara douglass, urban fantasy
That quote, from Hades Daughter by Sara Douglass is a fairly representative sample of Douglass’s favourite themes and plotlines. Basically, her books are about frankly despicable, almost pathologically violent men learning how to love, and brutalised women learning how to be brave. (Stern-man-meets-damaged-girl, essentially.) Of course there’s always some kind of Grave Threat To All Humanity lurking in the background; in some of her books, such threats can linger menacingly in the background for thousands of years while her mentally screwed up characters work through their various psychoses over the course of several reincarnations.
In her best series, such as the Troy Game books (from one of which the above quote is taken) and the Crucible books, Douglass works within recognisable history (she’s a former early English history lecturer, and it shows), so that her characters are people like Henry Bolingbroke, Dick Wittington, Harold Godwinson, Edith Swanneck and William the Conquerer. (Of course, they’re also the children of angels and mortal women, or the reincarnation of refugees fleeing the Trojan War or whatever.)
You might’ve noticed that I’m a fantasy-reading tragic, and I have been for some time. However, over the years, I’ve narrowed down my fantasy-reading tastes to more specific sub-genres. Philip Pullman aside, I prefer my fantasy tall, dark and immortal…er, make that dark (such as stuff by Jacqueline Carey), urban (such as China Miéville) or alt-historical (Jo Walton and Sophia McDougall are good examples of this sub-genre). Otherwise, anything with vampires.
Well, I’m not sure about the vampires, but Sara Douglass usually comes through with the goods in relation to my other three fantasy sub-genres. Her books are historically rich, set in the seedy underbellies of an urban landscape (usually London) and dark dark dark. Everything I could wish for in a book. I’ve been nervous to stray from her alt-history series, though, since I was worried my respect for her would wane if I read anything of hers approaching epic fantasy.
But today I decided to bite the bullet and try her Axis trilogy. I’m only about 200 pages into the first book, and I’m pleased to report that I’m loving it. It might be high fantasy, swords-and-sorcery stuff, but it’s got the Sara Douglass touch. I think I shall enjoy reading the next two books, and then the follow-up trilogy (and then the first book in the follow-up, follow-up trilogy). So that’s me set for the next…four or five days.
In other news, I’ve finally bought Once Upon A Time In The North and will endeavour to get a review up here at some point.
And in case you’re wondering, Asterion was another name for the Minotaur. Here’s the Wiki entry if you’re interested.