How’s 2019 treating you so far? It was a bit of a shock to the system to have to get through my first full five-day working week for quite a while – ah, January, I have not missed you at all! Also my “bury head in sand” approach to Brexit is not quite going to work over the next few weeks, I suspect. Aarrgghhhh.
So it’s probably no surprise that I’ve been inclined to escapism reading-wise. I started the year with a bit of a Rachel Neumeier glom, finally getting around to reading THE CITY IN THE LAKE. Don’t let the cover put you off – I find it vaguely Scream-like (probably why it was languishing in my TBR pile), which is the complete opposite of the actual story. CITY is a lovely and beautifully-written fantasy, with characters you totally root for. It’s technically shelved as YA, though I didn’t really see why.
I then flew through her Griffin Mage trilogy (UK readers – you can get the e-omnibus for the bargain price of £3.99, btw). All three books are very much standalone stories, but both the world-building and characters grow more multi-layered and complex as the series progresses, with the final book capping off the trilogy on a very satisfying note. I thought the third book was probably the strongest, with Miethe’s story pulling me in right from the start, though the ease of connection I had with her may be somewhat due to me being familiar with the setting and (at least some of) the characters.
I ended the week by reading her short story collection BEYOND THE DREAMS WE KNOW, which had stories set in the worlds of some of her previous novels (and as bonus, is available in Kindle Unlimited). It was a delightful collection of stories – after my recent Neumeier backlist exploration, there was only one story where I wasn’t already familiar with the setting (and the story made me want to read THE FLOATING ISLANDS ASAP).
I’m having a tough time pinning down exactly what it is about Neumeier’s writing that so appeals to me. Her stories have a different feel to a lot of other fantasies being published nowadays – they’re not OTT in terms of emotions nor are they action-packed, and they definitely don’t have unrequited love or love triangles as an integral part of the plot. But they’re not boring either – her writing’s beautiful and evocative, her stories character-driven, and they’re all set against the backdrop of some really well-developed settings and cultures.
If I had to come up with authors who I think write in a similar manner, perhaps Sharon Shinn, Sherwood Smith or Andrea K Höst, with the caveats that I don’t think Neumeier’s romance subplots are as front-and-centre as Shinn’s, Smith’s books lean much more towards YA (IIRC), and Höst’s stories have a fresher feel to them IMO. If you’ve read Rachel Neumeier, which other authors do you think are similar?