“A true love story is not a fairy tale”
April 24, 2019
Understanding the mysteries of our universe
April 26, 2019

Fabulous novels for this spring

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad, Grove Press, US $27.00, Pp 564, April 2019, ISBN 978-0802129437
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie, Orbit, US $26.00, Pp 432, February 2019, ISBN 978-0316388696
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, Harper, US $26.99, Pp 464, April 2019, ISBN 978-0062898104

Set over several decades in the first half of the 20th century, The Parisian is the story of a French-educated Palestinian man–Midhat Kamal. The father of Midhat Kamal is a wealthy textile merchant from the Palestinian town of Nablus in the Ottoman Empire. As the war comes to Europe in 1914, his father sends Midhat Kamal to France to study medicine. Like most young men at his age, Midhat is a dreamer and a romantic. In Nablus, Midhat always dreamed of France but never felt at home in Montpellier where he studies. This is in spite of his becoming assimilated in the French culture. When Midhat returns to his native Nablus after his studies, Palestine has come under British occupation and the region is simmering with nationalism. In France, Midhat has thoroughly assimilated himself in French culture. In Palestine under the British, he feels his loyalty divided. He may be pulled by Europe but he is pulled back to Palestine with the same force. Midhat’s story evolves at a time when the idea of Palestinian nationhood has just been born and is evolving. As he tries to make sense of his Palestinian nationalism in a chaotic world, another political change to redefine the Middle East is coming in the region. European Jews are moving to Palestine on Herzl’s call, making Nablus divided along religious and ethnic fault lines. The territory is also divided as to who should be resisted — the migrating Jews or occupying British. The Parisian explores questions of power, culture and identity and how love and the past can endure. The Parisian is about a very important period of world history. If you are interested in Middle Eastern history, you will find The Parisian very interesting and entertaining at the same time. Isabella Hammad is a powerful new voice in fiction.

About the author

Isabella Hammad was born in London and this is her first novel. She won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction.

*****

The Raven Tower is set in the imaginary Kingdom of Iraden which is under the protection of the Raven — the god who has been living for centuries in a tower in the powerful and rich port of Vastai. Atop the tower, the Raven watches over and protects the territory of the kingdom of Iraden and implements his will through his Lease — the human ruler — whom he has chosen to rule the territory. The Raven speaks through a living bird called the Instrument. Every Lease is supposed to offer the blood sacrifices to stay in power and sustain the magic of the Raven. They gain and keep power through their oath of sacrifice their own lives to the Raven when the Instrument dies. After many centuries, the power of the Raven is being challenged and weakened by a rival god who claims his throne. The kingdom is often invaded by those who envy the prosperity of Vastai. The invaders are helped by the rival gods who want to destroy the Raven. Prominent among the rival gods is the god of the Silent Forest whose chief votary is the Mother of the Silent. Against this background, the warrior Eolo enters the scene. The warrior Eolo is an aide to Mawat, the would-be Lease. The warrior Eolo wants to help Mawat reclaim his city. Mawat learns that the previous Instrument is dead and his father missing and his uncle Hibal seated on the Lease’s bench The warrior Eolo knows that there is a secret buried somewhere in the foundations of the Raven’s Tower which can help him achieve his goal. This secret will reveal the dark history of the Raven’s Tower. If it is revealed, it would destroy Iraden forever. At this stage, enters another god — the Strength and Patience of the Hill — and unfolds the treacherous game of politics being played out, which gradually reveal the divine motivations that drive the history. This highly gripping novel explores what humans have been exploring since always — the world of gods. This fantasy novel is written beautifully and plotted carefully. If you like to read this genre of novels, you will find it probably the best novel of the season.

About the author

Ann Leckie is the author of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, and British Science Fiction Award-winning novel Ancillary Justice, and its Locus Award-winning sequel Ancillary Sword. She has also published short stories in Subterranean MagazineStrange Horizons, and Realms of Fantasy. Her story “Hesperia and Glory” was reprinted in Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton. Ann lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

*****

Set in the Australian town of Brisbane in 1985, Boy Swallows Universe is the story of a 12-year-old boy who wants to salvage his broken family, bust drug rings and make sense of his brother’s odd pronouncements. His brother’s writings in the air generally don’t make much sense. He utters phrases such as “Your end is a dead blue wren,” “Boy swallows universe.” That is a lot for a 12-year-old boy but Eli Bell grew up in the world of crime. His father is lost. His mother is in jail on charges of drug dealing. Hi stepfather, Lyle, is a heroin dealer who falls out with other criminals and is killed. His mother is arrested and sent to jail. The closest person to Eli is Slim — a known felon who has escaped prison umpteen times. Slim is an elderly small-time criminal who has been breaking jails since his youth. Slim looks after Eli and his elder brother, August. They live in Darra — a neglected crime-ridden suburb populated by Polish and Vietnamese refugees. Eli may be just twelve-year-old but he has a hardened soul and grown-up mind but he still tries to follow his heart and wants to learn what it takes to be a good man. Slim is encouraging him to break the jail and get his mother out.  He wants to be a successful journalist and reveal the truth about the respected businessman who’s actually behind a drug-dealing. Life has not been kind to him. Brisbane’s most prominent drug dealer Tytus Broz will not let Eli leave the world of crime. The two work at cross-purpose. The real problem started when Eli fell in love. He now has to face off truly bad boys and save his mother from certain death. He has yet to go to high school. At times Boy Swallows Universe will grip your attention and then break your heart. It is a story of love, crime, and hope. It is written with love and told with joy. Trent Dalton is a powerful new voice in fiction.

About the author

Trent Dalton was born in Ipswich on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia, and raised by a suburban wingless angel and a tattooed bibliophile mud crab fisherman with a soft spot for drunks. He’s a novelist, a two-time Walkley Award-winning journalist, a screenwriter and, coolest of all, the father of two girls. Author of By Sea and Stars: The Story of the First Fleet and Boy Swallows Universe, winner of the 2019 Indie Book Awards “Book of the Year”.

*****

Most of the biographical notes in our reviews are provided by the publishers.

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