BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature
A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.
On Summer Literary Discoveries, 2014 Edition
Even in this era of artificial lighting, the longer days seem to encourage reading. I can sit out on my front porch well into the evening, and still have enough light to curl up with a good book. Of course, it helps that I have an ereader, too -- not just because I can stay in my rocking chair longer, reading and listening to the tree frogs, but because it means that I can (re)discover so many good books.
Many many years ago, I read a few books in a choose your own adventure-style series. I could not remember the titles or the author, only a few key scenes, so it took me a while to track them down. When I finally did, I was thrilled to discover that not only had author Rhondi Vilott* reclaimed the rights to the series, but she was releasing them as Kindle ebooks. Instant gratification! The Dragon Road series (originally Dragontales from Signet) features strong heroines, brave heroes, Gods, monsters, and plenty of derring-do. Sword Daughter and Legend of Greenbriar were (and are) particular favorites; I spent one quiet afternoon last month with a plate of cookies, reliving my childhood.** My only complaint is that the books need a much more thorough edit; there are a surprising number of typographical and grammatical errors.
Since I only have a brief lunch break at work, I find it easier to read short stories rather than full-length books. Thus, my nook is filled with issues of Apex, Asimov's Science Fiction, and New Realm. I recently added Fantasy Scroll Magazine to my digital pull list. A nice mix of science fiction, fantasy, interviews and reviews, I particularly appreciated the first issue's "In the Shadow of Dyrholaey" by KJ Kabza, which is inspired by Icelandic myth.
The Legend of Bold Riley was one of my favorite graphic novels last year; I profiled it in a BookMusings column. The story follows the adventures of a princess who has renounced her claim to the throne in favor of wandering the world, fighting monsters and demons, befriending Gods and spirits, and romancing pretty girls. I practically squealed when I found out that Weathington and company were continuing the series, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The first issue, The Talking Bone, was just released in May, and I can't wait for the next issue!
Many in the Pagan community were anticipating the release of A Million and One Gods: The Persistence of Polytheism by Page duBois. I'll have a more detailed review of it down the road, but, for now, let me just say that I think this is one of those books that every polytheist should read. I disagree with some of duBois' statements, and she seriously needed to cut down on the length of her sentences. Those complaints aside, I found it to be an insightful, enriching read.
Of Dragons and Magic: Tales of Lost Worlds is a new ebook anthology from Witty Bard Publishing. I was familiar with two of the featured authors -- Edward Ahern and Dana Wright -- but not the rest, and really had no idea what to expect going in. I was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed the collection. I particularly loved Jamie Marchant's tale "Jennie's Wolf" (shape shifters and an unawakened shaman) and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" by Skye Allen (dj invited to a fae revel). I will be tracking down more of these authors' works, and downloading more of Witty Bard's anthologies.
For a completely different sort of book, check out the erotic romance Once In a Blue Moon by Delilah Devlin. The first book in the new Beaux Reve Coven series, it centers on a circle of powerful witches -- witches who are in hiding. When their location is discovered (by a sexy troll, no less), the women have to decide whether to stand their ground with their new allies, or run again. This is one of those rare paranormal romances which is actually polytheist-friendly: the Goddess of the witches and Thor are both honored.
Another polytheist-friendly paranormal romance is Sigil Fire by Erzabet Bishop. Author of the non-paranormal Erotic Pagans series, Bishop here tries her hand at urban fantasy-romance, with great success. Again, I will have a longer review later, so let me say for now that I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Sonia and Fae are great protagonists, supported by a diverse cast of secondary characters (seriously, a succubus cop? neat!). While the story is effectively wrapped up by the end, the world is rich enough for Bishop to continue writing for years.
I keep track of my personal library through the cataloging site LibraryThing, through which publishers offer free copies of their books. I've won a few ebooks and print editions over the years, including several from Bookview Cafe. Among those is Nancy Jane Moore's Walking Contradiction. A terrific anthology, Moore's stories are not explicitly Pagan or polytheist, but they do deal with many issues of interest to our diverse community. For example, the main character in the title story is a "walking contradiction": an ambisexual private investigator looking into a cult dedicated to genetically engineering a new race of asexual human beings. Another tale deals with socio-economic justice, the military-industrial complex, and ambiguous identity. And so on. Highly recommended.
There you have them: a few of my summer literary discoveries. So, grab a tall glass of strawberry lemonade, find a comfortable chair (and maybe a cat), and spend a few hours losing yourself in a good book.
*Vilott writes under several different pseudonyms, including Jenna Rhodes, Charles Ingrid, and Emily Drake.
** The Dragon Road books flip-flop between male and female lead characters. There is also the short-lived and very difficult to find HeartQuest series from TSR which was explicitly geared towards girls; it features female leads who rebel against their expected role in society, go on great adventures, and (sometimes) find love.
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