THE FOLDED WORLD – Catherynne Valente

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When the mysterious daughter of Prester John appears on the doorstep of her father’s palace, she brings with her news of war in the West–the Crusades have begun, and the bodies of the faithful are washing up on the shores of Pentexore. Three narratives intertwine to tell the tale of the beginning of the end of the world: a younger, angrier Hagia, the blemmye-wife of John and Queen of Pentexore, who takes up arms with the rest of her nation to fight a war they barely understand, Vyala, a lion-philosopher entrusted with the care of the deformed and prophetic royal princess, and another John, John Mandeville, who in his many travels discovers the land of Pentexore–on the other side of the diamond wall meant to keep demons and monsters at bay.

These three voices weave a story of death, faith, beauty, and power, dancing in the margins of true history, illuminating a place that never was.

Well, damn.

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MECHANIQUE – Genevieve Valentine

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Come inside and take a seat, the show is about to begin…

Outside any city still standing, the Mechanical Circus Tresaulti sets up its tents. Crowds pack the benches to gawk at the brass-and-copper troupe and their impossible feats: Ayar the Strong Man, the acrobatic Grimaldi Brothers, fearless Elena and her aerialists who perform on living trapezes. War is everywhere, but while the Circus is performing, the world is magic.

That magic is no accident: Boss builds her circus from the bones out, molding a mechanical company that will survive the unforgiving landscape. But even a careful ringmaster can make mistakes.

Two of Tresaulti’s performers are entangled in a secret standoff that threatens to tear the circus apart just as the war lands on their doorstep. Now the Circus must fight a war on two fronts: one from the outside, and a more dangerous one from within.

Oh man, when was the last time I was this pleased about a book? It’s especially great because prior to this one I read bits of novels mediocre to outright shite, so the sheer blazing excellence of Valentine’s prose and style took me by surprise and felt like pure mountain air after you’ve been breathing nothing but secondhand smoke for fucking weeks. It’s made even more pleasant still since I didn’t expect anything because, y’know, steampunk. Seen one of those novels and you’ve seen them all.

Not this one.

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