Guilt and books: Tobler, Radford, Czerneda

The pile of Mount To-Be-Read keeps mounting higher and higher. (This is because my life is not entirely dedicated to reading fiction, and I still acquire more books than I can read in the time I have available.)

I always feel guilty about not finishing a book, unless it is a library book. I confess with Irene Radford’s The Silent Dragon I barely gave it time to get started: with a prologue from the point of view of a dragon talking about a plague and a first chapter concerning two young boys – princes, with magic – it struck me as very much in the traditional mould. As I’m not familiar with Radford’s work, and I have a great deal else on my shelf, I decided to go with my first instinct and move on.

Radford has written any number of books, and if eighties-style fantasy with dragons is your cup of tea, this might be one for you.

I didn’t give E.C. Tobler’s Gold and Glass very much longer than The Silent Dragon. It opens promisingly, in an alternate 19th-century Paris, and involves airships and archaeology. The narrative voice is brisk and interesting; but shortly it takes a turn into flashbacks that manages not to maintain my distractible attention. It is not in the novel’s favour with me that its protagonist (or her father) is supposed to be from Dublin: I have made it a habit to avoid portrayals of Irish people in fantasy unless they are from Irish authors or a handful of other authors I have seen do things right before. Perhaps I would’ve read on, otherwise: I may yet one day try it again and see if it holds my attention better then.

Julie Czerneda’s A Turn of Light is another book I intend to try again one day, out of grim determination if nothing else. Over 800 pages long in paperback, it is a very rural, closely local fantasy – it reminds me of Patricia Briggs’ The Hob’s Bargain, but where Briggs’ short book gets its feet under it rapidly and moves to drive its plot towards climax and conclusion, Czerneda’s slow burn is a bit of a slog. I stalled out on page 307, because it seems there was going to keep being a lot of running-around-and-going-nowhere, and people keeping secrets from each other for no good reason.

I grow older and crankier and harder to satisfy.