A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, offers readers many pleasures, not the least among them a plot-driving quest to discover ancient hidden secrets and historical artifacts that are of great consequence to a modern world that includes witches, vampires, and various and sundry other beasties. If you’re looking for another book about a modern day heroine who takes a deep dive into the past to discover dark secrets lurking, Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni, stars a young historian who learns that the Nephilim, human-angel hybrids of the Old Testament, are real, and have been manipulating all of human history to their own ends. Also, one of them is kinda cute.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, is a singular work, on one hand a deeply personal story of love, friendship, and heartbreak; on the other, an excursion into the arcana of comic book history, an examination of why we’re all still so fascinated by weird guys running around in long underwear and capes. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, by Paul Malmont, can’t quote match Chabon’s heart (or his prose), but it gets the geeky part right, building an inventive and slightly fantastical mystery story around the true-life involvement of some of history’s most famous pulp sci-fi authors (including Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard) in World War II-era weapons research.
Insurgent, the middle volume in Veronica Roth’s dystopian Divergent trilogy, was where I bailed. It wasn’t the book (it was every bit as pulse-poundingly readable as the first book); it was me. After reading about countless post-apocalyptic scenarios that twisted the world in weird ways (and even trying to write one myself), I just needed a break. If you’re feeling similarly, Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey, might be just the palate cleanser you need. It hits some of the same beats while building an entirely new future, one in which a small percentage of all children born in the U.S. begin to develop superpowers, with world-altering results. Call it a dystopia in the making.
Let’s face it, it is going to be a long, long winter or two before George R.R. Martin gets around to releasing the next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’ve already digested all 5,000 pages of A Game of Thrones and its sequels, The Dagger and the Coin series, by Daniel Abraham (a protégée and friend of Martin’s), will more than sate you while you wait. It has all the strengths of Martin’s work, from complex characters, to intricate point-of-view plotting, to a richly imagined world, all while lacking its one great weakness: the books are actually coming out on schedule, year-by-year. Start with The Dragon’s Path; book four, The Widow’s House, releases in August.