Game of Queens, India Edghill

Note: I received a review copy of Game of Queens from the publisher for review consideration. This has no bearing upon my super-intense vengeful emotions about Haman and their contribution to my enjoyment of the book; about which, see further remarks below.

In my 2014 book preview, my expressed wish for Game of Queens, a retelling of the story of Esther, was that it not use the word sex as a euphemism for genitalia. And it did not. It also turned out to feature Daniel, of lions-not-eating-him fame, being gay without his close friends fretting too much about it, and it managed the neat trick of vilifying not Esther nor Vashti nor Ahasuerus. Which, if you remember the Book of Esther in any detail, you will notice is really quite some trick.

Haman is vilified, as is right and just. When I was a wee tot, I had this amazing book called Behold Your Queen which was also a retelling of the Esther story (it did vilify poor old Vashti), and so the moment where Haman gets hanged upon his own gallows was one of the formative Revenge moments of my childhood.

Fun fact: Thinking about revenge activates the reward centers in your brain!

Although Game of Queens is subtitled A Novel of Vashti and Esther, it’s really Vashti’s book. In part this is because Esther’s story is already so familiar, and by the nature of her story, she’s a less dynamic character. Vashti’s the one who gets to change and grow, to realize that she can’t be Marie Antoinette all the time, and to learn to become a player in the politics of her country, instead of a pawn. She’s a fun character, and it’s surprisingly rare to have a book in which a ditzy girl gets to get to make shit happen.

Greatest book ever, Pulitzer Prize material? Okay, probably not. But I cherish the story of Esther, and what Edghill has produced here is a monumentally satisfying version of that story. Not only do we get a Vashti who finds a way to control her own destiny even after she’s set aside as Queen of All Persia, but there’s this whole subsidiary plot about getting REVENGE on Haman even before Haman comes up with the idea of killing all the Jews.

Final note: Apparently Martin Luther was ruhlly ruhlly not into the Book of Esther. It was probably too fun for him. He probably wanted to put the Book of Job in there twice, just to make everyone miserable. Cranky old jerk. (I’m glad the Reformation happened. Super important, historically. Major step forward for Europe. I’m just not such a fan of Martin Luther as a person.)

My most anticipated books of 2015 (so far)

I love publisher catalogs, y’all. I can’t describe how much I love them. It’s because I judge books by their covers, and publishers’ catalogs offer me the opportunity to do that on a grand scale. So here are a few of the books from 2015 for which I am excited, in no particular order.

Flood of Fire

Flood of Fire, the last in Amitav Ghosh’s wonderful Ibis trilogy, appears in August, and then I can at last set about getting matching copies of all three. Sea of Poppies was one of my favorite books of its year, and while River of Smoke was not what I expected the second book in the trilogy to be, it was still a really excellent read. I’ve revised my expectations that the trilogy will be classically trilogyish, and I think it will maximize my enjoyment of Flood of Fire.

Re Jane

I choose to be optimistic about Re Jane, by Patricia Park, a modern-day retelling of Jane Eyre that comes out in May. I’m choosing optimism because so far there are no good retellings of Jane Eyre, and that situation needs to end. Let’s see if Patricia Park can pull it off. The whole world’s counting on you, Patricia Park! No pressure!

A God in Ruins

If you liked Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life but felt it would have been improved by the addition of more Teddy, you are in glorious good luck. A God in Ruins, due out in May of next year, will be a companion story to Life after Life, starring Teddy Todd. Huzzah! As far as I can tell, nobody has said whether or not this book will take place in a world where Ursula shot Hitler (it’s not a spoiler, she does it on the first page).

Harrison Squared

As I may have mentioned one or two times, Daryl Gregory is my favorite author discovery of 2014. Harrison Squared tells the backstory of the protagonist of We Are All Completely Fine, which is to say, the story of a boy hero in a world of monsters. This one’s out in March from Tor.

Game of Queens

When I was a kid, I had this wonderful book about Esther (as in the Book of) called Behold Your Queen. I therefore offer no apologies for being childishly excited about Game of Queens, by India Edghill, a novel about Vashti and Esther that’s slated to be released in August. Do I expect it to be awesome? Like, no. Not really. I expect it to be overwrought and to use the word “sex” as a euphemism for genitals, as many overwrought stories do. But if it did happen to turn out to be good, I would be elated.

Lovelace and Babbage

By contrast, I have only the highest hopes for The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, a comic by Sydney Padua in which Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage fight crime together. Apparently this has been a webcomic for ages, a fact that demonstrates a parlous lack of internet awareness by me. Anyway, in April I’ll be able to read the whole thing for myself.

The Fifth Season

N. K. Jemisin, master worldbuilder and ferocious advocate for diversity in publishing, has a new book out in August from Orbit, called The Fifth Season. I need to do an NK Jemisin binge in early 2015. She has got several books out that I haven’t read yet, because I’ve been saving them slash I have to be really in the mood before I’ll read high fantasy. But her worldbuilding is just top-notch. Gotta get on that.

The Just City

The Just City and The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton, are both coming out in 2015 (one in January, one in June), which feels like an embarrassment of riches. The premise of the world in which these two books are set is almost too bonkers to explain here, but suffice it to say that they feature Greek gods living among humans in an experimentally utopian city. Sounds great. Sounds like exactly what I never knew I was missing in my life.

I’m not mentioning the fourth Raven Cycle book because in my heart of hearts, I think it’s going to get kicked back to 2016. Likewise I am not mentioning Zachary Mason’s follow-up to the matchless The Lost Books of the Odyssey, because in my heart of hearts, I think it’s going to be 2017 at the earliest. And the people on Goodreads who put 2015 as an expected publication date for Robin McKinley’s Ebon are living on a prayer.