Not much of a reading haul for me again this month.
It took a while, but just this week I finished An Autumn War, the third book of the Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham, which I started at the end of May. Aspects I enjoyed in the first two books -- particular characters, the worldbuilding, various intrigues and conspiracies, the interaction of the thought-form andats with their poet-slavemasters -- were largely missing from this one which takes place about 16 years after the end of Book 2 by which time Otah is well-established as the Khai or ruler of his city-state and a Galt general sets in motion a plan to destroy all the andats, poets and Khais and their cities. There's an obvious analogy made between weapons of mass destruction in our own time and the powers of the andats to destroy at great distance, but I found much of the argument specious, and I felt no sympathy for any of the characters which didn't help. Nonetheless, the writing was as good as ever and the ideas interesting. I've got a combined volume with books 3&4, but I'm not sure whether to plough ahead and finish the series or jump to something else first.
One reason it took so long to get through An Autumn War is that I set it aside to read another couple of books. Last October I read a new fantasy, An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass, aka Carol Berg. While for me it wasn't as deep and the magic wasn't as compelling as her Lighthouse and Sanctuary series, it was enjoyable enough and when I discovered its sequel, A Conjuring of Assassins, was published earlier this year, I ran out and bought it -- well, I ran to the computer and ordered it online -- and it arrived mid-month. After reading it, I then went back to Book 1 which I actually enjoyed more on the re-read, perhaps because I had lower expectations this time around. In this fantasy world, which has similarities with Renaissance Italy, those who have magical tendencies are killed or enslaved. Our heroine, Romy has escaped this fate so far, though she was sold into prostitution as a 10 yo, trained as an expensive courtesan and at 15 given to the leader of the city-state with whom she's subsequently fallen in love (a worrisome aspect when set out baldly like that but there are hints that she later begins to reassess their relationship). But after several years of living amid great wealth and power, she's effectively exiled to the Beggar's Quarter when her brother, also with magical powers, gets into trouble. The first half of Book 1 deals with her coming to terms with the situation and trying to keep herself and her brother alive, during which time they come across two others who use magic, but the second half turns into something like a heist novel, when Romy and her three companions have to act to save the city leader after a valuable figurine is stolen. Needless to say, the four decide to continue their adventures, and Book 2 deals with another heist in which once again they save the city with the help of some contrived divination worked by something like Tarot only with needles not cards.
One aspect of the books I like is Romy's magic, in which she can think herself into being a different person -- invaluable for disguise and intrigue! -- so much so that until she's woken from the state she doesn't know her real name, and people see her as the other person. This is cleverly shown by the first person narrative changing; it's still first person but from the assumed character. The magic of the others is very different -- eg walking through walls, making paintings of doors which become real -- which is OK by me as I don't require a regimented magic system, but unfortunately it does come across as a bit like Mission Impossible in that they have exactly the skills required for the plots. Another problem is that Berg is something of a mannered writer, and it always takes a few pages to get into her voice, but this seemed worse than ever with Book 2. (One of the reasons I re-read Book 1 was to check how bad it was then, and it wasn't nearly as mannered.) Nonetheless, I'd recommend both books to anyone looking for some lightweight fantasy where the emphasis is on intelligence and quick wits, though swordplay and action do have a part.