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Sunday, March 18, 2018

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

It's been a long time since I read a straight-up fantasy novel this good. Chakraborty's debut starts off in 18th century Cairo, where an orphaned young woman ekes out a living as a con artist and minor healer. A con goes wrong, however, exposing her to a world where djinn and ifrits are real, and where she appears to be descended from a line of powerful healers stretching back to King Solomon.

A young nobody discovering she's heir to great powers and an important legacy is practically a required element in the genre, but there's a lot that makes The City of Brass stand out. For one thing, most traditional fantasy novels take place in a quasi-European milieu, so a story set in a completely different culture is a refreshing change of pace.  And fascinating -- Chakraborty clearly did her research, and her world feels vibrant and real.

Moreover, Nahri doesn't feel like a Mary Sue because she is a complex character with genuine flaws. Chakraborty is not afraid to show a heroine who is amoral and self-centered, someone who, upon learning of her legacy, thinks not "I'm unworthy" or "how can I save the world?" but "how can I use this to my advantage?"  Which isn't to say there is no character growth; Nahri does gradually begin to care about others as she is exposed to the history and politics of the djinn populations and learns the consequences of her power.

Chakraborty has said that she wanted to use the novel to explore themes such as colonization and culture clash, apparent in the political unrest plaguing the titular city, Daevabad. What's remarkable is that despite the deep-seated prejudices and terrible events on display, there are no true bad guys. Every character is trying to right a wrong or bring peace (at any cost) to the city, and while the methods may be evil, the motivations are understandable. It's not the usual good v. evil tale, but neither is it a proponent of moral relativism.

The novel is not perfect; for one thing, it's the first volume of a trilogy, so there is a lot of world-building and exposition, and what appears to be the true plot doesn't start to take shape until the latter third of the book.  I also found it hard to keep track of all the factions, tribes, characters, and new-to-me concepts, although there is a helpful glossary at the back of the book. But I thoroughly enjoyed The City of Brass, and I can't wait until the sequel comes out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Ok, so I'm a little late with February's entry in the Inspired by Reading group (maybe because I only remembered to start reading the last week).

Watchmaker is Pulley's debut novel, and an unusual novel it is.  Set mostly in London, 1883-1884 (with a few flashbacks to Japan), it details the odd relationships that develop between Thaniel, a telegraph clerk for the government, Mori, the mysterious titular watchmaker, and Grace, a physicist at Oxford. Despite the setting and clockwork inventions, and even the touch of magic, "steampunk" doesn't really apply as the story is far more concerned with the philosophical concepts of fate and free will.  The novel is deeper and darker than its synopsis would suggest.

Fittingly, with the exception of Thaniel (a genuinely good man) the characters are difficult, flawed people who don't neatly fit into storytelling tropes like The Ally, the Wise Man, or The Antagonist. Grace in particular is fascinating, exasperating, egotistical, and sometimes just plain terrible. This gives the novel a depth that keeps it from becoming too twee and whimsical. By the story's end, there is a lingering disquiet because we don't know who is ultimately right about Mori, Thaniel or Grace. 

On to the jewelry! Incorporating watch parts was a no-brainer, but I wanted a fairly simple necklace:
I added a typewriter key because of Thaniel. Yeah, telegraph keys are unadorned because there's only the one per machine, but I like the way it looks.

I really enjoyed the thoughful Watchmaker, and I look forward to the coming sequel.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Even More Minecraft

Zombie Pigman (my fave) and Witch

Mooshroom and Snow Golem


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

More Minecraft

These are working up so quickly!

Enderman and squid

Wolf and ocelot

Saturday, February 24, 2018

One Can Never Have Enough Purple Necklaces

I got French General's beaded crochet kit for Christmas, so I made a super-long sparkly necklace that perfectly matches a cardigan, leggings, and my winter coat (guess what my favorite color is!):

Inspired by Black Panther's costuming and jewelry (such a good movie), I pulled out Zulu Inspired Beadwork by Diane Fitzgerald and made the flowerette necklace:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What I'm Stitching

I started Bee's Needleworks's "Tree of Stitches," a project I've been dying to stitch for a few years:

I've started up again with Der Feine Faden's "Summer Mood":

And I'm almost finished with the Victoria Sampler's "L Is for Librarian":

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

On to the Next Quilt

Now that Beadboy1's quilt is finally done, I can start in on Beadboy2's. Years ago I bought a Seminole quilting book thinking I might do that, but I think I would (again) be biting off more than I can chew. And then, last year, I discovered the Minecraft Quilt.

Beadboy2 is has been obsessed with Minecraft for years, and he enthusiastically supports this quilt (he also swears he will still be into Minecraft whenever the heck I finish it). So I bought the fabric bundle and started cutting and piecing. Just a couple of weeks later I already have seven squares!
Skeleton and Villager
Pig and Cow
Alex and Steve
This is progressing much faster than the star quilt (probably helps that I'm not dealing with a gazillion 4.5-inch squares).  Dare I jinx it, and predict that I might have the top done by the end of the year?