December 21, 2009

Turning Pages: 1 Last Princess & Death by Weather

How could I have forgotten Once a Princess by Sherwood Smith, whose strong female character in Crown Duel/Court Duel made her one of my all-time favorite authors?? (And how could I have forgotten the unfortunate cover which looks like it does not say "got books?" but something ... else?)

I just got princess'd out, I guess.

Sasha's parents had a fairytale romance. In the middle of L.A., her flower-child mother, Sun, met a prince from a magic kingdom, and Prince Mathias took her away through a magic portal to his kingdom for several marvelous years, where Sasha was born. Unfortunately, she barely remembers it, or him, anymore. When she was ten, her father sent she and her mother away, with a promise to follow them when it was safe. He never came.

Fighting heartbreak, Sun did what she had to do to make a normal life for her daughter. Normal with... extras. Fencing. Sword training. And a lot of hurried, dark-of-night moves all over the country with name-changes. By the time she's a teen, Sasha is sick of it, and sick of believing that they're hunted. Of course, once she's tricked into going through the portal into the kingdom of Khanarenth, on the planet of Sartorias-deles -- she becomes a believer, fast, and is grateful for the moves she's learned, which keep her alive. Now that she's there, she wants to stand and fight for her father's kingdom, and find loyal subjects to rally for the cause of her birthright, but isn't sure who she can trust. Aren't pirates inherently untrustworthy, and princes trustworthy?

Both Sun and Sasha are fun, strong female characters, and you'll enjoy this "Happily Ever After" read, too.

So, this Cybils has brought up a lot of end-of-the-world novels -- Death by Weather, I call them. Ice, by Sarah Beth Durst had a light touch with the environmental stuff, and the danger wasn't from the weather -- but it's a good example of the right way to talk about the environment -- with a light touch. The Tomorrow Code, which Aquafortis has already ably reviewed, struck me as having a slightly heavier hand, and a few moments of "Eh?" in amongst the other good stuff.

Zenith, by Julie Bertenga is the most recent Death by Weather novel I've read, and it is the sequel to Exodus which I reviewed last year. It wasn't really a stand-alone, but there are plenty of new characters introduced.

Mara has sailed away from the drowned city she came to know, in search of a new world. She has taken the street urchins from New Mungo with her, and together they hope to find Greenland -- and a place to start over. Fox stays behind to fight the corrupt government of New Mungo, and Mara hopes he will join them someday. Yet, the memory of their love fades, when Mara meets Tuck, a thief whose people live on boats. I thought this was pretty fickle of her, but really, it showed her as a flawed but realistic young character -- she loved the one she was with. Together Tuck and Mara weather disasters and battle with the Ilirians, the barbarians who live in stacked cave dwellings. All these troubles bring the New Mungo crew closer together...but Fox's memory will be with Mara always, too. There's a definite open door to a sequel, which was, to say the least, surprising.

My favorite Death by Weather novel of this Cybils cycle is Saci Lloyd's The Carbon Diaries, 2015. Laura Brown's family is a typical UK family -- they drive their own cars, stay in their own rooms, listen to their own music, make calls on their own phones and watch their own TV's. They're just like everybody else, and when the UK government makes a top-down decision to cut energy emissions by 60% and begins to ration energy with Carbon cards -- it hits them as hard as it hits everyone else.

As Laura's diary relates, the things that happen are terrible -- the SmartMonitors which everyone has to install will cut the energy off if you overuse. The Brown's have to sieve out cheese sauce from the hard bits of the macaroni -- because the power shuts down mid-cooking. And the fridge.

Mandatory Carbon Education classes take place at school -- which Laura flunks. She also flunks her finals. And the boy she likes totally ignores her. And her sister is being this total witch -- and selling black market energy credits with the neighborhood bad girl. And her parents... are falling apart.

Life keeps happening, when the environment crashes.

Power outages. Droughts. Floods. The world of 2015 is obviously messed up. And getting worse. Laura and her friends keep waiting, hoping, that things will get back to "normal," and yet chaos is the new normal. Yet, somehow Laura has a funny, funny life, filled with loud, punk rock music, snarky, irreverent observations, and the truth: that we are a energy-guzzling disaster of a culture, that we have no idea how to change, hold back, or diminish our carbon footprint, and that crap is coming down. Soon.

Yet, we are also a people who love each other, who find ways to make life worth living, and when push comes to shove -- and God help us, do we have to be shoved hard -- we figure out a way to fight to keep our heads above water. We are better than we think we are.

This novel reminds us of all of that, and what we owe to ourselves and our world -- all without ridiculously heroic characters, single-dimensional bad guys, and didactic preaching. It's a keeper.

It's the end of the world as we know it. Read all about it in Zenith, the spectacular The Carbon Diaries, 2015, and get your Grrl Power on with Once a Princess, at an independent bookstore near you!


adrienne said...

Death by weather. You make me laugh.

Of course, obviously, I'm laughing while putting the books all on hold. I am weak when it comes to the end of the world.

tanita davis said...

Adrienne: I know, I know, but the Carbon Diaries 2015 is really, really good. I thought I wouldn't like the sort of breezy tone -- but really, the tone stayed the same as the world dissolved, and it was a necessary lightheartedness for the dark stuff.

I also liked that the novel disabuses the reader of a lot of the nostalgia of WWII -- which is the BIG UK stock and trade in terms of "the good old days when we worked together." Not so much -- where do you think they got the idea to black market energy?? Same-same, back in the day. A lot of consequences and reality in this book, yet not too heavy at all.

adrienne said...

I almost always enjoy books that have some kind of lightness to them along with the serious. It helps the truth seep in a little more solidly, I think. At least for me.

adrienne said...

(Incidentally, I'd be putting the book on hold even now if our catalog weren't down. We're having this weird thing where every Tuesday at about 4:30, the catalog decides it's not going to function for a while. It's only Tuesdays. It's only 4:30. No one knows why. I believe it is a sign that the computers are plotting something.)

Heather Zundel said...

Ooh, so glad to see you put Once a Princess up. And the "death by weather?" - made me smile.

Charlotte said...

I did so enjoy Once a Princess! Once of my favorite reads of 2009, I think.

Carbon Diaries, not so much--I never connected to any of the characters (except the old neighbor, who seemed to be the only person with any sense!)