Sickness & Literature

· by Steve · Read in about 2 min · (387 Words)

It’s easy for my wife to tell if I’m ‘properly’ sick; if I don’t have any interest in touching a keyboard for a while, it’s official - I’m ill. More reliable than any doctor’s prognosis. I came down with proper ‘flu for the second time this winter, which sapped my energy to do pretty much anything for the last few days. Sucks. I didn’t even have the energy to play any games until late in the weekend!

As such I passed much of my (waking) time reading. I like reading fiction, but these days it tends to be mostly limited to holidays and periods of illness because I seem to have so many other things to do - and a lot of my reading time is always taken up with technical volumes when I’m mentally alert. No such luck over the last few days, so the book I devoured this time was Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay, one of my favourite authors. I like Kay’s books because while being strictly fictional and regularly tinged with the fantastic, they’re always very much based on a real place and period in history, which gives them a solidity that many novels lack. A Song for Arbonne for example is loosely based around the Albigensian Crusade, and Last Light of the Sun revolves around the Viking invasions. In all cases he has a knack of creating very deep, believable characters and story arcs within the larger overall context that are hugely involving.

Ysabel was a little different to usual, being based in contemporary times, albeit with plenty of historical influence. Based in Provence, Kay does a characteristically good job of establishing the setting, and of weaving a simple modern day story into a historical fantasy / mystery. It’s slow to start, but once you get past the initial few chapters (in hindsight, necessary for establishing the normality of the setting and characters before beginning to spin it out into something larger & more unusual), it’s hard to put down. It might not be his best work (Tigana still holds that accolade, although many of his recent books have come close, particularly Lions of al-Rassan) , but it’s very enjoyable nonetheless. Recommended.

If you’re waiting on something from me, give me a couple of days since I’m still recovering & catching up.