Future Home of the Living God Kept Me Up at Night

I didn’t go into Louise Erdrich’s latest novel Future Home of the Living God with the expectation that it would leave me so anxious about The Future that I had to read half of Archer’s Goon just to get myself to sleep. But you can see that this is my own error.

Future Home of the Living God

Cedar Songmaker is pregnant at a time when evolution has begun to run backward. She visits her biological Ojibwe family to inquire about any potential medical issues, but has yet to tell her adoptive Minnesota liberal parents that she’s expecting. As she’s wrestling with all of this, the country has begun to change at an ever-increasing pace, with pregnant women being called in to give birth in government-controlled centers. This is compulsory. If anyone sees a pregnant woman out in public, they are required to inform on them, which means that Cedar’s movements are strictly curtailed.

Remember when I invented the term process dystopia like a damn genius? Well it has come in handy a fair few times, and every time I read a book that fits that definition, I am like:

What a great coinage by me. Process dystopia refers to the kind of dystopian story where the world is in the process of falling apart. So it is not yet fallen apart, a la The Hunger Games. That is the case with Future Home of the Living God, and one criticism I’ve read of it is that Erdrich doesn’t spend enough time on worldbuilding. Certainly the details we see of Cedar’s world are fragmented, but number one,  it’s literary so I didn’t come here for the worldbuilding SORRY LITERARY FICTION BUT SFF IS BETTER AT THIS THAN YOU, and B of all, the worldbuilding is fragmented because Cedar’s access to information is fragmented. It contributes to a claustrophobic uncertainty — with a limited notion of what kind of present Cedar’s living in, we’re even more terrified about the future these characters will face.

Okay, I know your next question is “How does this book compare to The Handmaid’s Tale?” Here are some answers, broken down by category.

Scary too-real-ness: Tough call. The Handmaid’s Tale is more thorough and explicit about what the end product world looks like, whereas Future Home of the Living God leaves a lot to the imagination. On the other hand, I read Handmaid’s Tale during the Bush presidency, and things are scarier and realer now. So, Future Home probably wins in this category for AT LEAST the duration of Trump’s term in office. We’ll reassess if American democracy survives thereafter.

Scary misogyny: Handmaid’s Tale contains way more focused and horrifying misogyny, which is why it’s unlikely I will ever have the fortitude to reread it. The villains in Future Home of the Living God are frequently women themselves, people who have failed in bravery and integrity when they faced the test. The specter of rape doesn’t hover over this book, and that was a relief to me. So, Future Home of the Living God wins this category too.

(“Jenny, you made the scarier book the winner in the first category, and you made the less scary book the winner in the second category, how does that make sense?” I AM THE BOSS OF THIS BLOG, SO SIT DOWN AND ACCEPT THE VERDICTS YOU’RE GIVEN.)

[SPOILERS] Hopefulness: Uh, Handmaid’s Tale wins this category. Future Home of the Living God ends in a dark, dark place. On the other hand, whereas Offred is (am I remembering this right?) deeply cynical throughout the book, Erdrich gives her heroine a perverse and persistent hope that things are going to be all right, despite all evidence to the contrary. It helps some. The ending of this book is still incredibly dark. Be prepared.

[SPOILERS] Babies dying on page in a lengthy and brutal birth scene: Look, I don’t know, it’s been a while since I read The Handmaid’s Tale. Do we see any babies dying in childbirth? Not that I remember! But the scene in Future Home of the Living God goes on for kind of a while (it’s not Cedar’s baby). So I’m calling The Handmaid’s Tale the winner in this category, and you can correct me if I’m wrong.

So, it’s a tie. I thought both books were really good, and they both upset me so much it’s unlikely I’ll ever reread them. But I’d reread Future Home of the Living God before I’d reread The Handmaid’s Tale because it turns out the only category that mattered is I’m goddamn tired of reading about rape. Thank you and good night.

A Skinful of Shadows Is Decidedly Unsettling

I bid farewell to 2017 by watching the Australian show Cleverman (all about an indigenous superhero fighting for an oppressed people) and reading Frances Hardinge’s latest book A Skinful of Shadows. It’s about a girl with the ability to carry ghosts inside her, and the aristocratic family that wants to use her as a storage facility for a whole passel of hostile ancestors. Every time Makepeace tries to escape, the Fellmotte family drags her back again — until their involvement in the English Civil War gives her the leverage that might gain her her freedom. She is also possessed by the ghost of an angry bear. Rawr.

Skinful of Shadows

I will freely admit that it has taken me some time (and the evangelism of numerous bloggers) to come around to Frances Hardinge. Like Diana Wynne Jones, Hardinge writes books that start slow and meander for a while before they come to what appears to be the main plot. Like Diana Wynne Jones, Hardinge writes books that are full of weirdness — though Hardinge’s weirdness has a creepy and ashen quality, whereas DWJ’s tended to feel more sunny.

Perhaps most DWJ-ish of all, Hardinge writes books full of protagonists who know themselves imperfectly. What they think they want and who they think they are change as the book goes on, and they come to a fuller understanding of their past and present selves. Makepeace is on a journey to find freedom for herself and her brother, but much of that journey takes place entirely within herself.

(Metaphorically. I mean, she’s also doing cross-country travel a lot of the time. Road trip with ghosts!)

Even more than in past books, Hardinge has packed A Skinful of Shadows with needle-sharp insights, some of which genuinely rocked me back as I was reading.

Children are little priests of their parents, watching their every gesture and expression for signs of their divine will.

and (said of Charles I)

It was as if History were walking at his heels like a vast, invisible hound. It followed him, but he did not command it. Perhaps he would tame it. Or perhaps it would eat him.

One of my favorite things is to witness an author developing her powers over the course of several successive books. If Hardinge’s recent work is anything to go by, she’s on a steep climb with no summit in sight.

Black Tudors Retrieves Forgotten History

One of the beloved talking points of people who are currently Nazis is that there was a time in Europe when everyone was white. Mostly, they think this because they are crap people in search of crap beliefs that will support their continued quest to be terrible. In part, though, historians and teachers have contributed to this belief by beginning the stories of black Britain with the advent of slavery. But as Miranda Kaufmann’s new book Black Tudors shows, the reality is that people of African descent did live in early modern Britain, plying their trades alongside white residents.

(For more, check out the wonderful medievalpoc tumblr account and David Olusoga’s 2016 book Black and British, which dammit I have not yet been able to get my hands on.)

Because records dealing with the lives of commoners are sparse for the Tudor period, and because most black Tudors came from the lower classes, Kaufmann structures her book around ten people with a slightly more robust archival presence. More robust is a relative term, of course: In some cases, she’s working from the actual words of the people in question, such as the diver, Jacques Frances, who gave testimony to an English court about the conduct of his ship’s master during a salvage operation. In others, she has even less to go on: baptismal records, brief mentions in royal dispatches, or even inventories of the person’s possessions after she had died.

To bulk out her portraits, Kaufmann has gone archive-diving. She digs out evidence of the lives of those like her chosen characters. Though we don’t know many specifics about the black prostitute Anne Cobbie, mentioned in a court case brought against the bawdy house that employed her, Kaufmann is able to tell us how bawdy houses typically worked, what kind of sums prostitutes of the time charged for their work, and what punishments they might face in a court of law. Kaufmann also suggests possible outcomes for these figures after they disappear from recorded history: A prostitute like Anne might have died died of venereal disease or in pregnancy; she might have run a bawdy house of her own; or she might even have married and left behind her life of crime. (Kaufmann finds a wedding record for an Anne Cobbie, but of course it’s impossible to know if it was the same one.)

A major thing that I learned is that Britain wasn’t involved in the slave trade until the mid-seventeenth century, having until then no means of profiting by it. Though Kaufmann’s ten black Tudors were often dependent on white people for their livelihood, none were slaves. Coming to England, in fact, may have confirmed their freedom, and converting to Christianity there almost certainly provided another bulwark against enslavement. But these were people who took jobs and worked alongside their white counterparts, and their appearance in the archives –though rare — implies that there are more such stories to be uncovered.

Note: I received Black Tudors from the publishers for review consideration. This has not impacted the contents of my review.

Angst and Ducklings: A Tiny Romance Round-Up

It’s Monday and we all probably all need some romance novels in our lives. Here are two new ones that you might want to pick up if you need something to get you through the holiday season. I received electronic copies of both of them from the publishers for review consideration, which did not influence my review because my good opinion is more costly than ebooks.

Wrong to Need You, Alisha Rai (Goodreads link!)

Wrong to Need You

Sadia Ahmad owns a cafe, tends a bar, and raises her son. When her dead husband’s brother comes back to town after years of radio silence, Sadia’s tidy world is thrown into disarray. Then they bang. A bunch. (Wrong to Need You is the second in Alisha Rai’s wonderfully angsty Forbidden Hearts series, but as with most romance serieses, you can read this one without reading the first one first.)

My favorite thing about Wrong to Need You is that Alisha Rai draws on tropes I love — a strong silent type for the hero, a stalwart single mom for the heroine, a resounding come-back-to-small-town-and-face-the-past plotline — and puts them in service of an emotionally satisfying story of two people trying to find their way. As in Hate to Want You, Rai gives her characters genuine flaws and struggles, which can’t be brushed aside by some good sex. The obstacles that stand in the way of Jackson and Sadia’s happily ever after are internal, but no less real: Each of the protagonists has to grapple with themselves and their past before they’re able to embrace the possibility of a real relationship.

Rai also includes an excellent cast of secondary characters. The Kane and Chandler families make their appearance again in this book, and Sadia has family of her own: Loving, if sometimes pushy, parents, and four sisters who adore and support her, even as they have their own ideas about the choices Sadia should be making. Watching Alisha Rai flesh out the town and residents that populate the pages of her Forbidden Hearts series has been a treat, and Wrong to Need You delivered an eminently satisfying romance that left me eager for Eve’s story.

PS I love it when romance novels set you up for what the next one’s going to be. It’s like the end of Nancy Drew mysteries. I love it. It’s the best. This has not been sarcasm.

It Takes Two to Tumble, Cat Sebastian

It Takes Two to Tumble

Much as I might like to try to summarize Cat Sebastian’s latest historical romance (Goodreads link!), she has already written what is perhaps the world’s most perfect summary of any romance novel ever. I give you:

It Takes Two to Tumble is the story of a free spirited vicar and a grumpy sea captain.  It’s basically a gay, regency Sound of Music, with far fewer children and no musical numbers.

Yep. The vicar, Ben Sedgewick, comes from free-spirited parents who lived without regard to the niceties and rituals of regency England. In some ways this was great — his father doesn’t much mind that Ben prefers men — and in other ways, it left Ben and his siblings adrift to manage for themselves. As an adult, Ben wants a life of comfort and predictability.

The sea captain, Phillip Dacre, plans to stop home just long enough to acquire a suitable tutor for his three children, now that their mother has passed away. But the children are running wild, and the vicar who’s minding them (by climbing trees with them and doing fractions about how to divide their evening pie) keeps making him see things in a new light.

It Takes Two to Tumble is — typically for Cat Sebastian — an immensely sweet romance novel in which the principal characters achieve happiness by having lots of honest conversations with each other. Phillip is mourning the loss of someone he never confessed his love to; Ben is engaged to his closest friend, Alice, who he fears will be alone in the world if Ben follows his heart and cries off from the marriage. Both of them are devoted to the Dacre children, but neither can see his way clear to making a life with them — in spite of the children’s obvious need for stability. There are also ducklings.

All in all, I tend to prefer a scootch more angst in my romance novels than It Takes Two to Tumble offered. But if you are on the hunt for something sweet and frank and open, hit up Cat Sebastian’s latest. It comes out on December 12th.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 91: Fictional Friendships and Laia Jufresa’s Umami

Happy very belated Wednesday, pals! After many travails and difficulties, Whiskey Jenny and I have walked ten miles in the snow uphill both ways to bring you a very overdue podcast. This time around, we’re updating you on professional boundaries in our Serial Box Book Club, chatting about fictional friendships we love, and reviewing Laia Jufresa’s wondrous and underappreciated book Umami.

Umami

You can listen using the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Here are the time signatures if you want to skip around!

1:03 – What We’re Reading
4:15 – Serial Box Book Club: Episodes 3 and 4 of Geek Actually
11:58 – Fictional friendships!
28:02 – Umami, Laia Jufresa, translated by Sophie Hughes
38:45 – What We’re Reading for Next Time!
39:26 – HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

Seriously, please get at us in the holiday gift guide submission form and help us help you buy gifts for your loved ones.

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

Review: The Girl with the Red Balloon, Katherine Locke

Does anyone else here have a habit of mentally constructing syllabuses to replace the syllabuses you had as a kid? Where you’ll be like, “Instead of A Separate Peace, I decree that all the youths will now read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” or whatever. I haven’t exactly decided what specific book on youthful summer reading lists The Girl with the Red Balloon should replace, but I’d love for it to be on those lists.

The Girl with the Red Balloon

Ellie Baum thinks her grandfather’s stories about being saved from the Holocaust by a magic red balloon are just that — stories. But when she sees a red balloon on her school trip to Berlin, she grabs at the string and is instantly transported back in time to East Berlin in 1988, with no way to get home. Though she meets a boy called Kai who helps people escape East Berlin with the help of magic red balloons, nobody in his circle seems to have any idea how Ellie got there, or how to get her back.

(To help you budget emotionally for this book, I will also mention that a minority number of chapters tell the story of Ellie’s grandfather living in a ghetto in Poland in 1941, and how he escaped to freedom. If you want more specific spoilers, get at me in the comments.)

Why I’d have loved to read this book as a kid: I didn’t know any damn thing about the Berlin Wall! This is partly my failing, because I was awful about Current Events as a tot, but I didn’t know until high school that there had been a Berlin Wall and that it had come down during my lifetime. Which is a pretty big thing not to know! And then in history classes, because the Berlin Wall was so recent, we didn’t really learn about it. Do youths learn about it now? They must, right? (But do they?)

But also: Locke is telling a story of hope and magic. The Runners who help connect escaping Berliners with magic balloons, and the Schopfers who make the balloon magic in the first place have an operation that spans the entire world. Wherever there are people who need to get out, there are balloons to help them. The Girl with the Red Balloon is in many ways a sad book, but its fundamental message is one of hope: That people want to help, and that even in the darkest of times, it is possible to help and to be helped.

This is a book about living in dark times and surviving them, drawing strength from moments of joy and from friends and from faith. If that sounds like something you need this year, I’d urge you to pick up The Girl with the Red Balloon.

Review: Lower Ed, Tressie McMillan Cottom

FINALLY. Not that anyone cares,1, but my struggles to get my hands on my library’s copy of Lower Ed have spanned almost six months. If I wanted to wait six months to read a book I put on hold at the library, I’d have stayed in New York and only had a NYPL library card because BPL actually processes holds at a reasonable speed but what I’m saying is that NYPL is terrible at processing holds. And six months was too long to wait for Lower Ed. I’d have lost interest if I hadn’t been so darn interested.

Lower Ed

Lower Ed is what Tressie McMillan Cottom helpfully defines in her epilogue as an autoethnographic study, which is to say that she herself is part of the story. Cottom worked as an admission counselor (i.e., a salesperson) for two different for-profit colleges before pursuing her PhD. While researching Lower Ed, she also went through the enrollment process for nine separate for-profit colleges, to investigate the similarities and differences in the way those colleges pursued new students. She also draws on the stories of people she personally interviewed about their for-profit higher ed experiences, some of whom she knew from real life and others of whom she met along the way. Lower Ed works to understand who attends for-profit colleges and why, in the words of the people who are making those choices.

Interspersed with those stories is a wealth of contextual information about how for-profit schools operate and what kind of benefits they offer the students they work so hard to enroll. Although there’s an argument to be made that for-profit colleges are predatory — and Cottom doesn’t shrink from making it, when called to — Lower Ed presents a measured and thoughtful view of the benefits of these institutions as well as their drawbacks. Yes, they spend more on marketing than on instruction. Yes, they target financially and socially vulnerable students and heavily pressure them to take on large amounts of loan debt in search of a future that may never materialize.

However, as Cottom points out, the more “legitimate” version of higher education — such as prestigious public and private universities — leave those very students behind. Poor students, older students, first-generation students, and others lack the experience and time to successfully navigate bureaucratic barriers to entering more traditional higher ed settings.

One of the main points that Cottom brings up over and over again is a thing I am constantly having to remind myself about: However impactful individual choices may be, they still count for very little when set against the institutional forces that guide and control so much of our lives. Cottom notes:

What is interesting to me is how much disdain is spread among students and schools and how little disdain there is for labor markets.

Cottom argues that companies invest less and less in workforce development while individuals are asked to invest more and more, spending money they don’t have in an attempt to meet an ever-shifting standard of employability.

Lower Ed is a short book that packs a big punch; it’s left me with a lot to chew on, both about higher education and about the many many FRANKLY INFINITY ways society finds to reproduce inequality. So, you know. Fun thoughts to think.

  1. Because it is very boring

Review: Hamilton’s Battalion

If you follow me on Twitter, you may already have seen me shrieking about Hamilton’s Battalion, a collection of novellas by three of my favorite romance authors. But I’d like now to review it in a more measured fashion, after some days with the text and a mature1 consideration of its merits.

Hamilton's Battalion

Ha! You thought I was going to put an all-capsy shrieky paragraph down here after the cover, didn’t you? You thought all that maTOOR business was setting up a joke, but it wasn’t. That’s just how I say mature, which shows that I am a sophisticate.

The first thing that struck me about Hamilton, the very first time I heard it on NPR First Listen,2, was its fundamental hopefulness about the American experiment. It used a story about America’s past to propose a version of America’s future that felt optimistic and worthwhile and attainable.3 Hamilton’s Battalion is a worthy successor to the musical that inspired it, espousing hope in the project of nation-building without ignoring the failures that inevitably accompany that project. It’s also a darn good on-ramp to the genre for Hamilton fans who are romance newbies.

Let’s get into the novellas!

Second Chance at Love: “Promised Land,” by Rose Lerner

Rachel fled her wifely duties years ago and now fights the British in the disguise of a man; but when her husband is captured as a spy and brought into her camp, she has to face the life she left behind.

Rose Lerner packs a ton into this short romance: Rachel and Nathan have much to blame each other for, and they spend a lot of the story properly talking about where they went wrong with each other, and why. When they eventually reunite, it’s with a new understanding and acceptance of their differences — which is what Rose Lerner excels at, and why she’s one of my faves.

“Promised Land” also talks about religion in this way that I rarely see in fiction. Rachel and Nathan are both Jewish, but Rachel has fallen away from some kinds of religious observance since she left home — by necessity and by desire. As the book goes on, she and Nathan talk about the different practices of faith, and why they matter, and what they want for themselves as Jewish Americans. I cried a lil bit. Don’t judge me.

Road Trip: “The Pursuit of…”, by Courtney Milan

This one’s about a free black soldier who stumbles upon a British officer just as the war is coming to an end. John and Henry wind up traveling together in part because Henry can’t think of anything else to do with himself — he’s deserted his post and would face only disgrace if he went back to his family.

Eh, this was my least favorite of the bunch. I loved the conversations John and Henry had about worth and freedom and espoused vs practiced American values. I just didn’t care for Henry. He’s that chatty nonsense-talking brand of Milan hero that’s never done it for me in her past books, and didn’t do it for me here. But I understand from other reviews that I am in a heavy minority. “The Pursuit of” has a road trip and much discussion of values, and if you like those things you’ll probably like it. I have failed this city.

Chaos Muppet & Order Muppet: “That Could Be Enough,” Alyssa Cole

After years as Eliza Hamilton’s servant, Mercy has seen enough of love to know that she doesn’t want anything to do with it. But she begins to reconsider when her household is visited by a confident, vivacious dressmaker determined to draw Mercy out from the limitations she’s imposed on herself.

I don’t know if unified Muppet theory is the best way to describe this story, actually! What I like about it is similar to what I like about the Jane Eyre / Rochester romance, i.e., the inherent funniness of someone friendly and verbal and external hooking onto someone who holds everything very close to their chest, and then being relentlessly nuts about them, no matter how confusing the unfriendly one finds this. That’s this novella. As a not-un-walls-having person myself, I found it really poignant to watch Mercy discover that all the acceptance she’s been too frightened to ask for was at her fingertips all along. And I loved how reluctantly drawn she is to Andromeda from the first minute they meet. It’s a lovely story with (of course!) a happy ending.

Hamilton’s Battalion is poignant and clear-sighted, but somehow joyous too; a wonderful collection of stories about the unquashed and unquashable potential of our country and its people. (And love, obviously.)

  1. Pronounced maTOOR, naturally
  2. This happened the same day we found out David Cameron fucked a pig, so a p. good day all told.
  3. I maintain that Hamilton, like many historical fictions, is about our time and not its. That doesn’t solve the problem of its ignoring the existence of indigenous peoples who were violently displaced in the name of the American experiment.

Review: An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon

Don’t you love a debut novel? Admittedly in this trashfire world I am prone to getting sentimental about things it is insane to get sentimental about, like tiny foods and sitcom episodes where people discover emotional truths about themselves; but I do feel sentimental about debut novels and the hope they represent. There’s something quite magical about an editor believing in a brand new author, and there’s something even magical-er about an author setting their first-ever book into the world like a message in a bottle, searching for their exactly-right community of readers.

Which is why I’m mightily grateful to Sarah of The Illustrated Page for putting me onto Rivers Solomon’s debut, An Unkindness of Ghosts. It’s a dystopian story about a generation ship, the Matilda, that sharply segregates its people by class. The (mostly darker-skinned) citizens of the lower decks are subject to forced labor, daily headcounts, floggings if they step out of line, and the whims of the guards who patrol their decks. In spite of this, our heroine Aster has managed to teach herself medicine and science from the gen ship’s archives and wangle a friendship with the ship’s revered priest/Surgeon, Theo. Poring through her late mother’s journals, Aster realizes that there may be a way to escape from the Matilda, but it will require all of her resources — and perhaps cost the lives of those she loves — to make it happen.

An Unkindness of Ghosts

Friends, An Unkindness of Ghosts is dark. The lives of the people on the lower decks are filled with brutalities perpetrated by those in power, including the second in line for the throne of the Matilda, a cruel Lieutenant who resents Aster’s friendship with Theo. Solomon isn’t as graphic with the sexual violence as I was fearing, but violence of every kind stands as a constant threat, and regular reality, of Aster’s world. So be braced for it.

The book’s light is Aster’s survival, and her insistence on finding (or, more often, making) pockets of beauty and joy in a world that tries to deny that she’s deserving of either. She’s angry and dogged, and she most wonderfully refuses to pretend to be anyone other than who she is. She’s black and autistic and intersex, and no matter how many people tell her that one or all of those things makes her worthless, she persists in knowing her own worth, valuing her own intelligence, and chasing after the things she wants. Here’s what author Rivers Solomon says about the book and the question that stands at its center.

An Unkindness of Ghosts is a brutal novel with hope at its core, and it should make you really excited for everything Rivers Solomon is going to write hereafter. It’s published by Akashic Books, an independent publisher I absolutely cherish.

Thanks to my lovely friend Alice for picking me up an ARC at BEA this year! If you want to read more by/about Rivers Solomon, you can check out their Patreon for regular content (poems, flash fiction, short essays, etc).

Review: Song of the Current, Sarah Tolcser

Either book covers have become more beautiful lately, or I have become more susceptible, but I find myself in a constant state of awe over book covers these days. Look at this one, for Sarah Tolcser’s YA novel of at-sea adventures, Song of the Current:

Song of the Current

With the moon? And the way it sparkles on the water? I’m into it.

Song of the Current is about a girl called Caro who comes from a family of wherrymen favored by the river god. At seventeen, she’s never heard the river god’s voice and fears she never will. When her father is arrested and her friends’ boats burned, she must agree to take on a dangerous smuggling job to secure her father’s freedom. Water- and land-based adventures ensue (but mostly water) (hooray).

This book is hard to talk about without spoiling at least one thing, so I’m going to spoil that thing now. It happens very early on and is quite guessable (I guessed it, QED). The crate that Caro is asked to smuggle turns out to contain a human boy. GASP. He’s snooty and bad at boats, and he wears fancy clothes, and he doesn’t want to be smuggled to the place where Caro has been ordered to smuggle him. But she has no intention of letting a snooty landlubber determine the fate of her wherry and her family. DOES a grudging respect build? You’ll have to read it to find out.

(But yes. I mean, of course. What blog do you even think you’re reading right now?)

Song of the Current is so fun, y’all. Caro is clever and resourceful, a smuggler and a talented sailor; she belongs to a number of overlapping communities, all of which are deeply important to her. Her growing relationship with Marko is important, but it’s not the only relationship that matters or changes in the book. We also get to see her coming to terms with her destiny, with her mother’s family, with her father, and none of these relationships are as simple as she wants them to be.

This is also my favorite thing, a road trip story!, which necessarily makes it a little episodic. If you are fine with this (I am), you will be delighted — not every obstacle is an antagonist, and not every antagonist fights with the same weapons. We got a chance to see each of the characters at their best, a series of competences that makes it easy to root for everyone. Song of the Current reads like a standalone but appears to be the first in a series, and I can’t wait to see more of these folks. Song of the Current is a fresh, exciting debut with all the watery adventures your heart could hope for.