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Things I do when I’m not farming: reading

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott, available for pre-order from Hachette Press via many fine outlets, release date 3 November.

So it turns out that sometimes you can in fact sad face enough at an author (and also be the first person to name a goat after one of her characters) that you can score a sneak peek at a book! Which was me and Black Wolves, because I am a huge fan of epic fantasy and when I heard Kate was working on a new one, I was all a-flutter. BW is set in the same world as her Crossroads Trilogy, although years later. You don’t need to have read Crossroads to read this, but if you have you may find a whiff of comfort among the familiar places (and faces) even as Madam Elliott exercises the reader-torturing skills for which we adore her. I know I’m reading a Genuine Kate Elliott Novel(tm) when at least two or three times I have to resist the urge to tweet “OMG WHAT HAVE YOU DONE”.

The plot synopsis is available at every bookseller, so let me say this: BW is a book about what family means, about love, about grief, about betrayal, about hope and about struggle. It is also about, and I quote, “giant justice eagles”. It is not the book you pick up when you’re half-delirious from the flu and need to kill some time, rather it is the book you pick up to sink into a world and a plot so rich and complex it feels almost more documentary than fictional. If you’re me, it’s the book you pick up because you love fantasy and the recent trend toward “realistic” books (where “realistic” means “full of gratuitous violence against women” hi Mr Martin) has made you wary of picking up new books.

That’s not to say nothing bad happens to women here, but it doesn’t feel like it’s there to titillate or to add “grittiness”. Kate Elliott almost invariably invites the reader to empathize with the victims of violence, though, in a marked contrast to many authors, and it’s no different here. This focus means that the incidents of bloodshed are many times more devastating for the reader than they would be otherwise. You’ll probably join me in the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth if not the desperate capslocked pleas for mercy on Twitter.

In short, if you would like to read fantasy with giant eagles set in an east Asia analogue instead of your standard western European analogue fantasy setting, if you would like to read fantasy with complex human relationships in all their messy glory, you should pre-order this book in whatever format suits your fancy. If you don’t like to read these things, you should question your life choices and then buy it anyway.

5/5 fuzzy little sheep for keeping me riveted from beginning to end.

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