All right! Today, for my birthday, the Beloved Husband got me two books – Changes by Jim Butcher and Shalador’s Lady by Anne Bishop! I’ve been waiting for these two since they were released in hardcover last year (my special brand of Reader’s OCD is that if I own one book in a particular series in paperback, then all books in that same series must also be in paperback – same with hardcover editions). Anyways, they’re out in paperback now, so they’re mine!

I’m rereading Shalador’s Lady first, mainly because it is my favorite out of the two I received today. It’s the seventh in the Black Jewels series and the direct sequel to The Shadow Queen. While not my favorite, it’s one of the most fun.

See, the thing about Anne Bishop’s writing (and perhaps what I love the most) is that her books keep getting lighter and more fun as the series progresses. Instead of starting in a good world that gets battered down and destroyed in an attempt to make each book more exciting than its predecessor, Bishop starts her series with the book Daughter of the Blood, and introduces readers to a corrupt and ruined world that she fixes and cleanses as the story progresses. By the time we reach Shalador’s Lady, the early characters who had to suffer in that corrupt world have gotten married, raised families, and have been allowed to heal. Bishop makes the wise decision to shift them to secondary characters (still with strong presences in every book, but no longer focal points) and put the spotlight on new people. I really like this writing strategy because I feel rested as I watch characters I’ve grown to love get happy endings instead of having to wade through still more crap in an attempt to up the excitement.

With her unique blend of dark intensity and light humor, all of Anne  Bishop’s novels have been a joy to read. I definitely recommend picking them up – just be sure to start at the beginning, or the series will lose a lot of its potency.

Shalador’s Lady
Copyright © to Anne Bishop, 2010
First Roc Mass Market Paperback printing, March 2011

Jim Butcher’s Changes is a good book too (would have to be for me to buy it). It’s the twelfth book  in the Dresden Files series. Parts of it are sheer fun – exercises in nerdy glee, if you will. Other parts are pretty intense and emotional and the ending is a killer that had me growling because I had to wait a year for the next book.

Butcher’s books have grown steadily darker over the years;  many of the characters have lost bits and pieces of themselves that have caused them to harden. On one hand, it’s an interesting evolution, especially given one of Dresden’s musings in an earlier book about how men change themselves to survive. On the other hand, each new crisis just causes me to shake my head and wonder what these characters ever did to their author  that he won’t let them rest or give them the slightest break from sorrow. Still, not all of the fun has been lost, as shown by the many comparisons and quips involving Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

The sarcasm and fun that first drew me to this series is still there, but it’s getting buried under the ever-increasing mound of heartache and trouble. Luckily, the stories are interesting and the action is engrossing, so that counterbalances the growing darkness.

Copyright © to Jim Butcher, 2010
First Roc Mass Market Paperback printing, March 2011