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Circle of the Moon [Mar. 1st, 2011|10:47 pm]
Trip reading to New Orleans and back: Circle of the Moon, by Barbra Hambly.

Quite excellent. It turns out it's a sequel, and I haven't read the original yet, but it stood up just fine on its own. And now I really want to read the first book.

I had noted that Hambly is a pretty feminist author quite some time ago -- the Sun Wolf books made me first think it -- but I really noticed it in this one. Not only are the vast majority of major characters female (and that includes bad guys as well as protagonists and side characters), the thing that I thought was particularly neat is that it wasn't just about women using magic to save the day, it was also about their relationships with other characters. Plus the setting has gender issues for the characters to play against. So it felt like it was more than just flipping a coin to pick pronouns in an otherwise genderless story (I'm looking at you, Honor Harrington), it was an actively feminist fantasy adventure story. Which is cool.

I also am starting to read with more of an eye toward how stories are constructed, and I was really struck by the way the author kept ratcheting up the tension and the stakes. Like, every time you think they might be getting somewhere, let's make the situation just a little bit worse.

It's a very well-written book. I would definitely recommend it.

From: walrusjester
2011-03-02 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendation. My wife has a fair amount of Hambly around, but I've avoided reading it because she's a fan of Bad Genre Fiction (as opposed to the Good Genre Fiction that I like, of course). So I guess I'll have to swallow some pride and read her books.

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[User Picture]From: jforbess
2011-03-03 05:12 am (UTC)
Funny, it was my dad who always had some Hambly around, and I was never interested, and the day I finally read some, I got sucked into the next three books.

It was the set with the pre-Civil War free black detective around New Orleans. Very good.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2011-03-05 05:54 am (UTC)
I've only read the first, A Free Man of Color. I'm keeping my eye out for the next two.

Some of Hambly is fairly dated, FWIW. But when you're a female writer in a heavily male-dominated genre back in the early 80s, some of it is going to bleed through. Incidentally, it's really not hard to tell that she's Jewish; the idea of magic users as ghetto-ized Jews runs through a number of her worlds.
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