Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Evolution of a Secondary Character (Part II)

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To experience The Original Marcus Iteration -- Klikk Klikk for Part I! But if you haven't read Beyond Fate, BEWARE SPOILERS! ALL THE SPOILERS!

(Also blogfriends, 2008/9 me was just not as good of a writer, I apologize. Thank goodness for my editor and the rewrite that came after this draft!!!)

Marcus's second incarnation was a little bit more fleshed out -- if not much more sympathetic. He had graduated from background guy to jealous background guy, for the most part, so it wasn't much of a step up. But he definitely took up a lot more physical space in both Eve's life and the first third/half of the book as a whole, and that gave him a little bit more room for personality. Even if it was the kind of personality you wanted to roll you eyes at more than root for!

So in this installment, I've got three scenes for you -- Marcus's most significant, I think, in his second coming. Two with Eve, and one with Thor, and between them, they kind of map the majority of his arc. (I use the term "arc" loosely here, because mostly he's just jealous friend-zoned guy who then gets the girl because she settles, but ultimately he doesn't get to keep her, and we never really find out how he resolves any of that heartbreak.)

This scene from Draft One (as opposed to Source Material Draft Zero) ended up getting significantly reworked, but the gist of the conversation still made it into the final cut -- meet Marcus round two, in a very special performance of Jealous Shoe:

Marcus met her in the dining hall as she breezed through to pick up some fruit. All these lives later and strawberries were still her favorite thing to eat in the mornings. The first fruit she had ever tasted, in the cave, in the Garden, that first morning after she had been made.

They didn’t taste quite the same anymore. Were never the same if they weren’t found growing wild and fresh. But they were still strawberries.

“So who is this Thor guy?” Marcus asked, leaning against the counter next to her.

She recognized that he was trying to be casual, and wondered if it would be better, or worse, if she pointed out to him that he was failing. She shook her head and picked a dozen or so of the reddest, ripest berries from where they sat on top of a cooler, tossing them into a bag to eat during her class.

“He told you. We met overseas. We must have had the same plans, because we ended up at all the same spots. We traveled together for a little while.” And that was one way to describe their marriage, so long ago.

He frowned at her and picked up an apple, tossing it back and forth between his hands. “What do you mean you traveled together?”

“I mean we got on the same train, and shared cabs in Hong Kong.”

Was she being too specific? Maybe it didn’t matter. If Thor was half as talented as she was starting to think he was, he’d pick the details from Marcus’s mind the minute he started asking questions. For all she knew he was listening in on her right now. She paused in the act of dropping the last strawberry into her bag to listen to that part of her mind where she had felt him last night, but she had no real way of knowing if that meant he was listening or just open to her. She shook her head again, annoyed with herself and her preoccupation.

“Why?” she asked.

“He just seems awfully interested for someone you barely know, that’s all.”

She crossed to the beverage dispenser and Marcus followed. She was going to need coffee to get through today with only one hour of sleep. Especially for this first class. American history had never exactly thrilled her. Maybe because she had spent a good portion of it in a mental ward.

“I think he got to know me pretty well.”

“How well is pretty well?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” She watched her mug fill and tried not to be irritated by his jealousy. This would have been an easier conversation to have if she’d gotten enough sleep. “Well enough that we’re friends. That we’re planning on getting to know one another better.”

“He sounded like you had been more than friends, Anna.”

She felt her face flush, and pressed her lips together, concentrating a little bit too intently on getting the lid on her mug and trying not to remember when he had kissed her, two hundred years ago.

“Hey, I’ve gotta run to class. I’m going to be late.” She grabbed the mug and her berries and forced herself to smile. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Sure. Lunch?” he called after her.

She was far enough away that she thought she could get away with pretending she hadn’t heard. The last thing she wanted was to endure the second half of this conversation over a meal.
And of course it doesn't help the reader sympathize when our leading lady finds him kind of obnoxious. But I don't particularly blame Eve for that. Especially not in this draft. (If I recall correctly, my editor didn't really love Marcus at this point either.) The dynamics in this draft were a little bit different all around though (Fate Forgotten had a slightly different ending, too). Eve was still in love with Adam, waiting for him to find her again, and taking any excuse she could find to travel, looking for him. So not only was she not interested in what Marcus might have been offering, but Thor was an unwanted distraction as well -- bringing confusion to her otherwise well-ordered world.

Naturally Thor doesn't particularly care for Marcus either, as we see in this not particularly well-written scene, after Eve and Thor return from a trip to Asgard:

“Anna?”

Ah. The boy. Thor stroked her cheek, and wondered if kissing her would be too bold. It would get the point across to her friend though. Quite effectively.

She looked away. “Hi, Marc.”

 “What are you wearing?” Marcus asked, taking in her appearance, and the oversized cloak. Then Thor, belatedly. “Oh, it’s you.”

Thor resisted the urge to growl and straightened, dropping his hand from Eve’s face. He cleared his throat and nodded. He couldn’t bring himself to express any kind of joy at seeing Marcus again. It wasn’t that he had any malice for the boy, just that he didn’t understand how he could be so oblivious to Eve’s discomfort. To her disinterest. He almost frowned. Maybe he understood too well, after all. Knowing her, loving her, it was difficult to give up hope that she would return that love. But he hoped she did not see him as she saw Marcus, all the same.

Eve tugged the cloak into place again. “I was cold.”

“I couldn’t find you for lunch,” Marcus said.

“She was with me.” Thor smiled. “Sorry about that. We were just catching up.”

“Oh,” Marcus said again, glancing in his direction. He seemed to think better of glaring, and looked back at Eve. “Well, I’m about to go get some dinner, if you’re interested.” He didn’t look at Thor as he spoke, and it was clear that the invitation was for Eve alone.

“We were just thinking of going, too,” she said, raising her eyes to Thor. Please?

When Marcus glanced at him, he nodded. “I’m afraid I didn’t feed her this afternoon.”

“You got her to miss lunch?” Marcus sounded surprised. Then frowned. “You skipped lunch with this guy?”

She turned pink and dropped her eyes. “I’ve just got to run back up to my room quickly and grab something. Do you mind waiting?”

“Not at all,” Thor said. Truthfully he wasn’t sure he wanted to be left alone with Marcus, but he smiled at her anyway. Go ahead.

She didn’t wait for Marcus to agree before ducking into the building. He could see her as she sprinted up the stairs, narrowly managing to avoid tripping on the cloak.

Marcus was watching her too, and he shook his head. “What is that, a blanket?”

“Something like that. It was all I could find to keep her warm at the time.” He followed her aura as she slipped out of sight, moving up another staircase, slower now.

“Where were you guys?”

He looked away from the building and studied the boy. Marcus reminded him slightly of Garrit when he had been younger. Before he had met and married Eve. But he was fairer, with blue eyes, and lacked the character of the DeLeon line. And the maturity.

“I brought her home with me. To show her where I lived.”

“And you didn’t feed her?” But then the skin around his eyes tightened and his lips thinned.

Thor hid a smile by rubbing his face. Marcus had already jumped to his own conclusion about how they had spent the afternoon. And exactly how she had been distracted from her lunch.

Marcus sighed and looked back at the building, shaking his head again. “You’d just better treat her right, Thor. Whatever it is you think you’re doing. She deserves to be treated right.”

“Yes.” He was glad that they could agree at least on that point. Maybe Marcus wasn’t as ridiculous as he had thought. “She absolutely does.”

“Well, whatever. I’d threaten to beat you up if you don’t, but you’re kind of big, and I don’t think you’ll take me seriously. But I promise you, man, I will find a way to do you injury, even if I have to round up four other guys to make it happen. And you will regret it.”

Thor clapped him on the shoulder, perhaps a little bit harder than he needed to, because Marcus stumbled under the weight of it. He heard Marcus revise his estimate of four other men to six, mentally. Thor could respect him for making the threat, even if it would be suicide to carry out.

“If I have it my way, Marcus, you’ll never have to go through the trouble.”

Marcus frowned. “I’m not sure I like that any better.”

Eve came out then. Cloakless, and her hair pulled into an unruly pile on the top of her head. She looked lovely with curls. Even if they seemed to frustrate her. She blushed again when she saw him looking at her, and smiled at Marcus. “Are you ready?”

The boy shook his head. “You two go ahead. I actually think I should eat in my room and get a start on my reading. You know how it is. Skip one night and it all spirals out of control.”

“You’re sure?”

Thor almost laughed. For a moment she was just as anxious not to be alone with him as she had been about dinner alone with Marcus. Poor Marcus. She really didn’t know what she wanted, did she? Or maybe she just knew too well.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go on. Have fun. But you owe me a lunch tomorrow, all right?”

“Lunch tomorrow. Absolutely.” She leaned up to kiss Marcus’s cheek, and then took Thor’s hand and started pulling him in the direction of the dining center. “Good night, Marc.”

Marcus touched his cheek where she had kissed him, almost absently. “Good night, Anna.”
Poor Marcus the Jealous Shoe. Even when he got more page time he still wasn't going to win any hearts. But in this draft of his (and Eve's) story, Thor still is forced to leave and Marcus is still sent by Elah to comfort Eve -- if less explicitly set to the task -- and ultimately, Eve and Marcus live together until Adam's arrival, which prompts Thor's return as well. Marcus is pretty peeved about that, too. But who can blame him? (It isn't really a good look for Eve, either.)

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on? What all of this is about? Your so-called brother? Thor showing up out of nowhere?”

She sat down at the table and served him a slice of pizza. “It’s a little bit complicated, Marc. All of this. And I’m not sure if I can explain it all.”

He was still staring at her. Watching her. And he hadn’t sat down. “When did you marry him?”

“The night before he left.” That much at least she didn’t have to lie about. “You have to understand that he didn’t want to go. He never would have left at all if he had known about Lars.”

“Lars.” Marcus pulled out a chair and dropped into it. “Of course. Lars is his son. That’s why you wouldn’t let me offer you a paternity contract.” His eyes didn’t seem focused on her anymore. “Did you know he was coming back? All this time?”

“No.” She reached for his hand, covering it on the table. “No, Marc. I swear I didn’t know. If I had thought it was at all possible, I never would’ve done this. I wouldn’t have ever put you in this position.”

“So, he wants Lars then? Is he moving into town?”

She bit her lip, and he blinked, then looked at her again. She didn’t want to say the words. Didn’t want to tell him he was going to lose them both. He must have seen something in her face though, because he pulled his hand free from hers.

“You’re still in love with him.” It wasn’t a question, but she felt his hope that she would deny it. “He means to have you both.”

“I want Lars to have his father,” she said slowly. Trying to find a way around rejecting him utterly. Trying to find a way to keep from hurting him as deeply. “To have a proper family. I think he deserves that opportunity. That chance.”

“What happens if he disappears again, Anna? For another four years? How can you think this is a good idea?”

“He won’t leave Lars.”

He stared at her in silence. Just stared. “So. That’s it?”

“I’m so sorry, Marcus.”

He looked away, his face empty. “I guess I’ll go stay with my parents for the weekend. You can do what you need to do.” He pushed his plate away and stood up. “I’m not hungry after all.”

But he stopped and looked back at her, and for the first time she saw his pain clearly in his face, in his eyes. Guilt tightened in a fist around her heart. But she hadn’t made Marcus any promises. And lying to him now – she couldn’t do it. Not to Lars. Not to herself. Adam had been so right, and she’d been denying it for so long, now, trying to force herself back into a life that no longer fit. She couldn’t live this way. She couldn’t spend the rest of her life, her lives, living a lie, pretending to be something she wasn’t.

“You know, I never would have thought this was the reason you didn’t want to get married,” he said. “I always figured you were just trying to spare me the responsibility. Never in a million years would I have thought it was so you could pick up and go whenever he showed back up again.”

It made her feel sick. That he would think her so disloyal. And it hadn’t been her motivation. Not then. She had wanted to love him, really love him. “Marc—”

“Don’t, Anna.” He shook his head again. “Don’t explain. I’ve heard enough.” He stared out the window for a moment, and she felt a shaft of his anger, his hurt, cut through her. The window which looked out on Lars, playing with his father.

Marcus left the kitchen, heading toward the front of the house.
So that's Marcus Mark II -- we've got one more round to go with some BEYOND FATE scenes to illustrate a little of his growth. But you can see for yourself that just giving a character more lines/screen time does not actually mean his characterization is improved. In this Draft, Marc is clearly still a one note wonder. (Sorry, buddy!) BUT. I was starting to definitely get more of a feel for the threads that tied things all together, as far as his relationship to Eve went. And I was still figuring out where to show instead of tell -- and how to show what I wanted to show, too. 

Part III should arrive May 2!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
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Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Evolution of a Secondary Character (Part I)

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No character in my Fate of the Gods series grew and evolved from one draft to the next as much as Marcus* did in BEYOND FATE. Eve and Thor and Adam and Lars (who kind of de-evolved, actually), Elah, Garrit, Reu, Mia, Athena, Ra, they all had strong developed characters pretty much from the moment of their creation (whatever draft that took place in**). But Marcus -- he was a different animal. So I thought I'd give you a glimpse behind the curtain so you could see where he began, and a little bit of his journey to where he ultimately ended up.***

WARNING: Spoilers for BEYOND FATE may abound, so if you haven't read book three yet... well, don't say I didn't warn you!

So let's start with Marcus's genesis -- in my original-original 2002/2003/2004/2005 source material, these are the only real significant elements of Marcus's involvement of what would become the first third of BEYOND FATE (and I am truly sorry, this is not well-written because 2002-2005 author me had not mastered her craft at all):
Her contemporary friends would ask about him, some out of romantic interest which she was swift to dissuade them from, some out of interest in her- the two of them could behave as if they read each other’s thoughts. Some saw in him a new boyfriend for their good friend, or competition for their attention, others just saw him. None suspected the truth.

“Just admit it, Anna, he’s perfect for you,” her friend Marcus teased her one night. He was laying on her bed, trying to read the assigned text for the classes he had the next day. She was trying her best to ignore the homework she hadn’t done yet.

Eve shook her head, smiling ruefully. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, believe me. He’s a great friend, Marc. He’s… indescribable, really, but I’m just not interested. I’m not ready for a relationship, least of all with him.”

He looked up from his book, quirking a brow, a very odd expression on his face “So you agree that he’s perfect for you?”

“I’m not having this discussion with you right now,” she said firmly, unable to bring herself to deny what was an exact truth. Of course he was perfect. He was a god.

“Of course not,” Marc replied mildly before dropping it and putting his nose back into his book.

She shook her head. They would never understand how hard it was for her to love anyone else. And how pointless it was to pretend otherwise.
And one more small scene:
She revealed little of what had transpired when Marcus found her still in bed, her cheeks puffy and flushed, her eyes red and swollen from her tears, he reached for her, and she went willingly into his arms. She crawled into his lap, as he was no small man himself, feeling herself to be much more fragile than she ever had before. Marcus wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips against her temple. He sighed, heavily.

“Thor left, didn’t he?”

She said nothing, but silent tears renewed their course down her cheeks. With one hand, he wiped them away with his thumb, peering at her face.

“Dear Anna, no man can wait for you forever.”

She sniffed. “No,” she said. “I suppose no man can.”

He was silent for a moment. She could feel the conflict in him. “Did you love him, then?”

What was the answer? Certainly he had given her hope for love. “My heart was in too many pieces to love any man,” she answered slowly. “But he helped me put the pieces back together. He has made it possible for me to love men once more.”

He stroked her hair back, and she felt he understood the gist of it, if not the entirety. Poor Marcus had waited so long for her, she knew. He had stuck by her from the time when she had still told stories of her past lives. Then Thor arrived.

She stared up at him, her eyes searched his, and following his thoughts as he worked up the nerve to finally act. He placed a finger under her chin, and tilted his head to bring his lips to hers. It was not the most confident of kisses, but she kissed him back, gently reassuring him that he had made the right decision.

When, a month later, she went to him, confessing that she was pregnant, he didn’t seem to doubt for a moment the parentage of the baby. It was he, not she, who insisted upon a paternity contract, which would bind him to both her, as the mother, and the child, in legal guardianship. And when she looked at him thoughtfully for a very long moment before agreeing, she knew he believed it to be her evaluation of him as a parent, not her resolving to hide the true parentage of the unborn child. 

When the boy was born, he had a shock of thick blonde-red hair on the top of his head. She felt no resistance from him when she named the child Lars, she knew he thought his size unique, but considered it only to be some genetic throwback. When Anna agreed to become his wife, she knew he had forgotten Thor almost completely.

He couldn’t have known, though perhaps he suspected during her more difficult moments, that she had not.
The Source Material has a lot of big differences from the final version of the book (one of which being that all of this takes place on Jupiter's colonized moon, Ganymede, because I don't really know. I was obsessed with Jupiter's moons at the time I guess?) but ultimately, just like in Beyond Fate, Eve leaves Marcus for her son's sake.

There are a couple more awkward scenes between them post-marriage and pre-abandonment, when Adam arrives unexpectedly four years later, and then Thor does, and Eve is forced to explain herself and her existence to Marcus, at which point he takes some time away to sort things out, and Eve leaves Adam behind to explain her departure to him (off-page) upon his return. It's all terrible, to be completely honest, which is why events got reshuffled and reorganized in the final version, but the important thing to know is that Marcus really had no defining characteristics. He was just filler. A stand in. As my friend Sarah might say -- he was kind of just a shoe. Boring but a necessary placeholder, I guess.

It wasn't until Draft Two that he started to really take on a true shape of his own and become his own kind of character, but even then... well. You'll see for yourself in the next installment of EVOLUTION OF A SECONDARY CHARACTER!!! (I mean, presuming you care enough about any of this to read on.)

*Disclaimer: I know, I know. Marcus was probably not your favorite character. To be honest, he isn't really supposed to be, so in that respect, I guess I did my job pretty well :) That said, I think he's fairly easily redeemable -- mostly I think it's his context as the friend-zoned "nice guy" who won't be brushed off that makes him unpalatable, but the role he plays is perhaps not entirely one of his own choosing (there is a Certain Goddess pulling his strings, after all), so I guess I kind of feel for him, when I otherwise would be 100% team GTFO with all of you. I hope, whether you tolerated him or hated him, you'll hang in there with me for the behind the scenes, regardless.

**FORGED BY FATE and FATE FORGOTTEN didn't get redrafted the same way BEYOND FATE did -- FORGED had a lot of false starts before I figured out the sequencing, but the book that was published was fairly close to the book that I submitted to WWP. I just reshuffled in some of the Thor chapters from FATE FORGOTTEN, which of course then meant that I wrote some additional Thor chapters for FF before its submission -- but BEYOND FATE's submitted draft was... problematic, and ultimately I rewrote the entire thing from the ground up as the most effective way to approach the revision requests from my editor. And I'm not even a little bit sorry, because it's a million times stronger than it was. But that also means I have a lot of lost scenes and stuff that never made it into BF because of the ways the story changed in the redrafting. Like all of Lars's development beyond toddler, and some interesting Adam and Eve moments that I still love, and a seriously adorable Thor and Eve and Lars at the dinner table scene. "No telepathy at the table, please!" omg all the hearts. 

***This series is one I've been wanting to do for a while, in part just because I *can* do it, since BF had so many distinct drafts. But also because I think it's important to show that books don't always come out perfect the first try. Or even the second or the third or the fourth or or or. When I started writing Fate of the Gods, I was still learning my craft -- and it shows in my earliest drafts! Revisions and Edits are part of that learning process.


Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
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Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Musing on: Penelope's Suitors

Who *are* these men?
Mnesterophonia Louvre CA7124
Slaughter of the Suitors via Wiki Commons (public domain)

We know some of their names, of course, and even who their fathers are. We know that they seem to have some pretty poor manners, and as guests and suitors they have overstayed their welcome to an extreme degree (though it seems Penelope is in part to blame for not sending them away, herself, perhaps, too.) But. Who are they in the greater scheme of Ithaca's kingdom and community, post Trojan War?

Presumably, Odysseus took a majority of able-bodied men with him to Troy to fight. We know these suitors are the sons of now-old men, noble houses of Ithaca who were part of Odysseus's assembly. The sons of men who are now too old and weak to rule them -- much like Laertes is too old and weak with grief and sorrow to guard Penelope and Telemachus from the suitors, or even to engage in Ithaca's assembly to any degree. Had they been younger men, the fathers of these suitors would have left 20 years earlier with Odysseus to fight, right? And if the suitors had been older men themselves, they also would have left, for the most part, 20 years ago to fight with Odysseus.

So are these Suitors second or third or fourth sons (of second wives, perhaps)? Not quite so young as Telemachus, clearly, who was an infant when Odysseus left, but old enough to see their brothers sail off in his company, and just a shade too young to follow? Old enough to grieve for their brothers who never returned home? Are they acting out, taking back what they lost in some way, by pillaging Odysseus's stores in his absense and courting his wife?

During Telemachus's assembly in book two, Mentor says:
"Think: not one of the people whom he ruled
remembers Odysseus now, that godlike man,
and kindly as a father to his children!" (Fagles, p 100)
Is he accusing the Suitors themselves of not knowing or remembering Odysseus, suggesting that perhaps they were too young to have really engaged with him in any meaningful way? Accusing the old men of the Assembly of forgetting the kindness of their king, or betraying the kindness that Odysseus showed them by not standing against the abuses of the suitors?

It seems likely that reinforcements came to support the Greeks (generic national identity used loosely, here), so why didn't these suitors travel to Troy to fight at some later point in the war? Or had they not yet quite come of age, even then? Say they were only 5 or 6, and hadn't quite reached manhood before Troy was sacked? But that would make them only 26 to Penelope's mid thirties, at the youngest, assuming she was in her early/mid-teens when she married Odysseus and bore him Telemachus, now nearing 20.

Odysseus mustered 12 ships when he initially sailed to Troy with the army, according to Homer's Catalogue of Ships, and in the Odyssey, Odysseus claims to have begun his journey from Troy with a dozen ships, still. twenty to thirty oars per ship would mean a minimum of 240 to 360 men -- none of which returned home, save Odysseus himself. Could resentment for the loss of so many have fueled the blind eye that these old men turned to their youngest/younger sons who lived? Or simply the desire to spoil them, because they had not been lost when so many others had been?

Honestly, I'm kind of shocked that upon his return Odysseus is allowed to keep his crown, after losing so many men -- hero-kings have been thrown out of power for less, after all -- but perhaps it is the slaughter of the suitors that secures his power in the end. The old men, after all, clearly don't have the strength to stand against him when they cannot stand against their own sons. And with the suitors' deaths, an entire generation of Ithacans, ultimately, is wiped out -- leaving Odysseus with no one to challenge him at all.


Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
Amazon | Barnes&Noble 

Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 5 Reads of 2016!

I do a lot of reading and rereading -- this year I'm at 97 books read, and a very solid portion of those are rereads from years past (I'm in the middle of a huge Animorphs reread sooo.) But for THIS post, I'm going to just focus on the books that were new to me this year. If I have time, I'll put together another with my Top Five ReReads but -- that will wait for another day, or maybe even the new year! I'm also going to be assembling a top Hist Fic reads list for that other Amalia, so I'm excluding those from this particular list as well.

Top five NEW reads of 2016


Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (Vorkosigan Saga, #16)
1) Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Cordelia is one of my most favorite literary characters -- and as far as sci fi characters go, she's right up there with Princess Leia, so of course I was beyond stoked when I heard that at long last, Cordelia was going to be center stage again in this Vorkosigan Saga installment. And my friends, I was not disappointed. Cordelia is presented in all her Betan glory and I absolutely adored every page. (I think I'll always love Cordelia more than Miles, though, so if you're in it for Miles and not Cordelia, you might not enjoy this one quite so much. Also if you have strong feelings about the nature of Aral and Cordelia's relationship across all those years... well. Prepare yourself. You might be in for a shock.)


Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2) 2) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Look, I'll be honest with you -- I think this duology is better than the Grisha Trilogy. By like, a lot. I mean I enjoyed the Grisha Trilogy but, I LOVED these two books, and that was even going into book one as a skeptic. I also think this book could just as easily have been adult fantasy rather than YA. For sure it's upper YA/Crossover YA/New Adult, at the least. And this second book? It was everything I wanted it to be, with one small storytelling-decision exception. It was a super fitting end to what was a super thrilling adventure and even if, like me, Fantasy Heist Novel isn't something you'd normally be into, you should still give this a shot!


Keeping Time (Servants of Fate, #3) 3) Keeping Time by Wendy Sparrow

I am a HUGE fan of Stealing Time, the first in this series, so when the opportunity to advance read and blurb came to me for the sequels, I jumped on it. This third installment with Ruin and Phoebe was my favorite of the two new novellas released this year, and the way Sparrow captures that awkward and uncomfortable (but also TOO comfortable) space of intimacy between best friends who are afraid to take the next step and make it into something more is perfection. Even better -- this series takes place basically for the full length of the winter holiday season, ending on New Year's Eve, so you can still make it your holiday romance of the season!! (I believe there's even a box set, which I would totally recommend -- personally, I picked all three of them up in paperback to have and hold forever.)


A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2) 4) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I thought I knew what this book was going to be. I was anticipating a certain amount of annoyance with that direction. And then I started reading, and the deeper I got, the more wrong I was about everything I'd thought. This was one of those could-not-put-it-down reads, and I think it's even better than the first book in the series. But I'm not sure it could be as good as it is WITHOUT the foundation of that first book, either, even though for some people I can see how the first book might be unsatisfying. If you read book one and gave it the side-eye -- I think book two will be a different experience for you, for sure. First couple of chapters excluded. Trust me -- just keep reading.


New Pompeii5) New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey

First: choosing my 5th book for this list was tough, but after scrolling up and down and up and down my list of books read, I think this one has to be it. I picked this up on a whim at the bookstore and I don't know what I had really high hopes for it at the time -- I always worry about books that present ancient peoples alongside modern characters. But. Godfrey definitely did not shy away from giving the Ancient Romans their due. They scheme and plot and manipulate as skillfully as one could hope, and although I would've liked a little more grounding of the world we begin in to make the alternate timeline glimpses more meaningful, that's not going to stop me from getting my hands on book two, and it didn't stop me from enjoying the read!


Honorable Mentions:

Hunter and Elite by Mercedes Lackey
Age of Heroes by James Lovegrove (Almost entirely because Theseus!)
Hercules: Still Going Strong by Dan Abnett (graphic novel -- but it is SO GOOD.)
and Sabriel by Garth Nix

If you want to see the complete list of all the books I've read this year -- klikk klikk!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
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Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
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