This week I’d like to highlight some new novels that stand out because of their quirky and fascinating premises, from a peculiar kind of immortality to a library in hell to suffragist witches.
Would you want to live forever if the price was that nobody would ever remember you? That’s the question at the heart of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, by V. E. Schwab, which just came out this week. Addie makes that bargain in early 18th century France, and lives for hundreds of years, cursed to be that person no one remembers having met or having interacted with. What exactly is immortality worth if you can’t make long-term connections? If you can’t do anything that will have a lasting impact that people will connect to you? On one hand, you don’t have the Tuck Everlasting problem where you have to move on periodically before people realize you’ve been around for an awfully long time and haven’t changed in that time. On the other hand, the thrill of being able to do things and not have anyone remember you did them would wear rather thin after a hundred years or so. What happens to Addie, what it means, when she finally meets a man who does remember her, is the heart of this new fantasy novel.
Of course hell has a library. As established in The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith (NOT a new book), there’s a special wing of hell’s library called The Library of the Unwritten, where all the books their authors never finished reside (eek, I probably have several books there myself). The librarian, Claire, mostly works to keep the books in order and make sure no books try to manifest as characters and escape from the library. She has help, of course, in the form of a former muse named Brevity, when one book attempts an escape, leading to a search for the Devil’s Bible and the near destruction of the entire library. The Archive of the Forgotten, the sequel which just came out, begins in the aftermath of that near destruction, when Claire notices that some of the books are leaking a particular kind of ink. And, because this is a library in hell, that ink has some strange powers, and Claire and Brevity are immediately at odds about how to handle the situation, while other demons and forces are drawn to the possibilities the ink represents for changes in hell and heaven and all the other realms as well.
The linking of witches and suffragists is such a perfect concept that I’m amazed it hasn’t been taken up before. Alix E. Harrow fills that gap with the new The Once and Future Witches, an alternate history like no others. At the outset of the book,set in 1893, there are no witches; they’ve all been burned over the years, and magic is just small time stuff, good luck charms and the like. But that’s before the three Eastwood sisters get together with the local New Salem suffragists. The sisters, James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna, start investigating the old forgotten words and the powers their ancestors may have wielded, and all the people who fought against witchcraft in the past, and who are opposed to letting any women (especially witches) vote, join together to try to stop them. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to bring about both political and magical power for women. I’m actually willing to forgive the publisher for repeatedly referring to “suffragettes” rather than suffragists (a particular bugbear of mine), just for the prospect of seeing how witchcraft and votes work together in an alternate America.
Of course we have the usual bestsellers available for you, but why not try something new, something a little different, a little quirky, a little fun? We’re here for you.