If you’re a member of the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club you already know what wonderful book we’re going to send you this month because I sent you a bizarre email about it, but in case you missed it or are an honorary member, it’s Sister Song by Lucy Holland and it gave me strong Circe and The Witch’s Heart vibes. (And if you have not joined yet this is totally your sign to come be a Fantastic Strangeling.)
I don’t know what the actual cover looks like because there are two and my copy was digital but both covers are amazing so let’s just bask in the glory of both of them:
This is a reworking of the Twa Sisters, a old murder ballad (Did you know there were such things as murder ballads? Because I did not and now I want to listen to all of them). Set in the dark ages of Britain, it blends historical fiction with magical realism/fantasy in an amazing way and explores feminism and identity and belief and betrayal and family with a fast-paced story and wonderful characters.
Here’s a quick summary:
535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans. Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter. And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance. All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, magic, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.
It’s one of those books that you see as a movie in your mind as you read it. And if you have a fear of reading historical fiction because you are history illiterate please know that I am as well and other than looking up a paragraph in Wikipedia (“Siri, what is a Saxxon?”) the book gives you everything you need. I think you’ll love it.
And if you are like me and need more than one book to get you through the month then you are in luck because October has a shitload of great new books. Here are all the October books I read and loved: Under the Whispering Door (gorgeous tale about love and grief and death that is also somehow uplifting and lovely), Slewfoot (supernatural horror revenge tale you need to read immediately), Light from Uncommon Stars (weird as hell), Reprieve (a full-contact haunted house tale that dissects race, class, politics), The Last Graduate (this is the 2nd scholomance book to read after Deadly Education and it’s very good and now I want the next in the series), Cackle (a sweet sort of halloween read about friendship), The Death of Jane Lawrence (gothic horror ala Jane Eyre but with more math? I’m not describing it right.), Shelf Life (a memoir about the woman who opened the first modern bookstore in Cairo), A Spindle Splintered (a small fairy tale where the villains are not who you remember), When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky (death defying Cherokee horse diver uncovers a mystery that spans centuries. #ownvoices), Lore Olympus (graphic novel about Persephone that will SUCK. YOU. IN), Hyde (a reimagining of Jekyll and Hyde. Very Scottish) and Death at Greenway (a mystery set in the holiday home of Agatha Christie.)
Now no worries if you haven’t read last month’s book yet (The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraido Córdova) because there are no deadlines in book club but I know a lot of you have so I’m opening up the discussion thread on the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club facebook page in case you want to talk, and if you don’t do facebook you can always leave your thoughts here. I’ll leave mine in the comments below.
PS. In case you missed it, we’re doing a free fantastic strangelings zoom with horror master Grady Hendrix later this month so check your email to rsvp if you want to hear Grady and I talk all about fear and explore his latest book, The Final Girl Support Group. And follow Nowhere Bookshop on instagram because I might be doing another fun mystery October zoom with one of my favorite people that will be open to honorary members as well. 🙂
PPS. As a little bonus, here’s an author-suggested cocktail to try while settling down to read The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. Dorothy Barker approves.