November 25th, 2011


Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear

E-ARC provided by the author (matociquala).

Sometimes you can let go of what you used to be, and sometimes you can't. I'm not actually talking about the book here, but about my reaction to it: I used to be a physicist. And it turns out that this time I could let go of what I used to be. Thank heavens, because the worldbuilding is not trying to be our physics, it's trying to be a particular kind of fantasy that Bear has thought out and many of the other attempted practitioners have not. The world of Range of Ghosts fundamentally does not work the same way as our world. Heavenly bodies are not like our heavenly bodies. Divine mediation touches every level of this place; which gods your land follows will matter intensely, but not obtrusively. So hurray for letting go of physicist pickiness to let the really interesting things with this imagined world be interesting.

I am, very few people who read this book will be surprised, a pretty big Samarkar fan. She's a princess who gives up her status and her fertility to become a wizard, but this is not a world with a lot of guarantees about anything, and one of the things that has no guarantees is whether someone who makes those sacrifices will wind up with any magic at all. And the system actually has interesting roles and training for the people who try this and don't end up with magic to use, so a) no giant gaping social holes promoting discontented angry people and b) no clear and obvious path for Samarkar where everything she is and will do is laid out for the reader at the beginning of the book. I was so pleased by all of this.

It's not that I don't like Temur. I do like Temur. I just like the other major characters so much that Temur is not my focus. I don't resent the sections of his POV, though, and not just because of the horses, but I really did like the horses. I am not a horse person myself, and my obligatory Young Girl Horse Phase lasted about twelve seconds. So what I really liked about the Temur sections was his relationship with the horses, how it was simultaneously a great deal more involved than anything I've ever had or wanted and comprehensible to me as someone on the outside culture. So to speak.

As is so often the case with a new series of matociquala's, this is doing something quite different from what the previous series have been doing, and the freshness really shows. I recommend this one and will want to buy a hard copy to get the maps and the improved readability and like that. I was very excited about this book before I read it, and now I'm very excited about the rest of the series to come.

As a final note: sometimes people will write to ask me how I got review copies, and mostly I get them because a publisher decides to send them to me, occasionally because an author decides to send them to me, and pretty much never because of anything I've done in specific. In this case, however, this ARC came to my hands because I signed up for a monthly story subscription thing matociquala was doing, and she decided that a surprise was called for. I note this because you may have another subscription opportunity from some author at some time, and you never know what will come of it. Keep it in mind.