What’s Sera Reading? Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

Suggested by a Teen patron to the Tenbury Library I have been following the Witcher and his adventures in the hit collection THE LAST WISH Now on Netflix. But preceding the main Witcher Saga we the collection of six short stories. These were originally published in 1992 in Poland for a creative writing magazine. The book gives the stories of Geralt of Rivia in as chronological fit as was possible. fans of the show will be able to pick out characters and events from the first series that link in.

Geralt is a mutated human known as a ‘Witcher’ in this story world. He is a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Although he is a sword for hire Geralt (and other witchers) have a code. The ideal would be to protect the innocent and strive for good to win over evil. However, as he travels the wilderness and countries Geralt discovers not all are vile beasts and monstrous, some are the victims of evil or naive mistakes. Nevertheless, Geralt remains our hero as he battles monsters, demons and prejudices alike 

Tharshigly great read with high fantasy and all the gore you could want from such a great genre. Geralt’s stoic character has him chasing his destiny even when he wishes to avoid it. But, as all heroes are fated to do, he turns up when he is most needed, not when wanted. The nice twist on this is that Geralt admittedly is not always on his best behaviour. However, the faults in his manner create some exciting and fun moments of storytelling.  

What’s Julie Reading? The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Julie is a Worcestershire Library Customer Assistant who loves to read an eclectic mix.

‘The Miniaturist’ is set in 17th Century Amsterdam and most of the action takes place in the house of a wealthy merchant. An unusual wedding gift is at the centre of the story which slowly unfolds as the main character, Nella Oortman, gets used to her new life, in a new town as a very young newly married woman. Several chapters in there is a sudden turn of events that had been hinted at, but which still took me by surprise. From thereonin there are revelations about all of the main characters which keep you hooked, wondering what the next revelation could be.

Jessie Burton is a keen observer of human nature and her likeable characters are full of flaws and vulnerable, yet strong and resilient in the face of 17th century prejudices. The ending was a poignant mixture of sadness and hope and I thoroughly enjoyed entering another world and another time and getting caught up in this gripping story.

What’s Sera Reading? The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

I’m Seraphim Bryant and I work at Tenbury Library UK I love to read but it wasn’t always so. I struggle with the written word, and will all my life, but I have the taste for adventure too and there is nothing as remarkable as the other worlds we find in books.

This week I finished reading The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. It is chocka-block with different themes including love and friendship, science and religion. The book begins with a fantastic mystery. on New Year’s Eve, a drunk young man wanders down to the shore of the Blackwater estuary with the intention of swimming. He senses something strange in the water and then disappears.

Set in 1893 Cora Seaborne her son Francis exchange bustling London and rural Essex after her husband passes. I love how refreshing the main characters of Cora and Dr Garrett are. Cora is, a bright woman who has a burning interest in the natural sciences. Dr. Luke Garrett (nicknamed the Imp for his diminutive stature) has fallen in love with Michael Selborne’s wife, Cora, who he grew to know while treating her husband. He sensed an unhappiness in the marriage and became acquainted with Francis Seaborne (Cora’s son) and Martha (Francis’ nanny). when Cora moves to the rural village she discovers a population in thrall to the local legend of a sea monster lurking in the nearby estuary and a village priest who is desperately trying to dissuade his congregation of this belief.

 A thoroughly exciting read the novel is full of ideas, though its sensibility is firmly, consciously, outright story. A cheeky bit gothic and a dreamy delivery start is not off putting at all . Narrative and voice coil together until it is very difficult to stop reading, very difficult to avoid being dragged into the dark and sometimes darkly comic waters.

What is Sera Reading? The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Hello, for those who have just met me I’m Seraphim and I am a Worcestershire Library worker. I wasn’t always a big reader but now I can’t stop. Sometimes it’s hard to pick your next book as it’s a lot of time and energy you are giving to another world. So to help folks out I’m posting what I think of the titles I’ve tackled.

This week in honor of the LGBTQ+ Month I picked up an new title from a debut novelist.

The Sweetness of Water is Nathan Harris tribute to the lost history that most or at least for many Black Americans is missing. “All Black writers are drawn to filling in their past,” he says. The Main theme deals with the end of the Civil War in America and with the newly emancipated slaves. Harris really gets you thinking about the repercussions of the enslaved suddenly becoming free, and what that freedom meant when there were no guidelines to help navigate the change.

Opening with the main character George Walker, a decent, moral man transplanted to the south from New England, wandering in the woods. He is searching for a monster: “A black coat of fur that clung to the shadows, moving fluidly as if it were part of the darkness itself.” Instead, he meets the two brothers, Prentiss and Landry, recently freed from under the yoke of a villainous neighbor.

Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox

A personal and political twin tale, this is a far from traditional renderings of post-Civil War America. Harris is writing with both passion and thorough research, this gives us a compelling story which I really enjoyed.

What’s Sera Reading? The Starless Sea

I fell in love with the author Erin Morgenstern creative style after I read “The Night Circus.” Worlds with mysterious circuses, grand love affairs and beautiful prose are just my ‘cup of tea’.

The Starless Sea is a magical realism narrative, a newish gene, that has picked up a large following very quickly. Morgenstern is known for master crafting words, and I was stunned at the beauty of some of the sentences I read. yet she can leave you lost in a world of description almost forgetting to tell you the story, (not a mistake she made in The Night Circus.) She has a genuine power to create brand new and original sub-plots, stories within stories, that somehow feel like myth. There is also some amazing queer representation in this book. The main character, Zachary Rawlins, is gay, Huzzah! Unfortunately character development in some of the main characters such as Zachary get a bit limp toward the later half of the book and for such a large book this is bad. The role of the main female lead, Mirabel. She is the immortal representation of Fate, but again she ends up feeling much like a minor one because she was not developed to her full potential. Mirabel had a lot to offer, but the author left her alone after a certain point. She felt simply unfinished.

However, for a fantasy novel this is no let down. For those of us who love to visualize new worlds and inter-dimensional layers there is so much to play with here. If, like me, you enjoy deciphering narrative clues, weaving together story threads, and nodding at metatextual nuggets. Read this book!

Young Writer Competition

Poster for WCAF’s story writing comp

Worcester Competitive Arts Festival aims to give  amateur musicians, actors of all ages the opportunity to perform in a friendly and supportive environment. Medals and trophies are awarded to the winners of competitive classes and winners may also be invited to perform at the festival concert.

The next festival will take place on

12th and 19th March 2022.

https://www.wcaf.org.uk/

What’s Sera Reading? The Phone Box at the Edge of the World

Quote from The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina


Inspired by a real telephone box located in the north-east of Japan comes The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina, a novel about Yui, a woman who lost her mother and daughter in the 2011 tsunami and is forced to navigate her grief as well as the life that lies ahead.  A radio host, Yui first heard about the wind phone when she was moderating a discussion on grief. A caller, who had also lost a loved one in the 2011 tsunami, described the phone box with a phone doesn’t work; there’s no connection but the caller says that “your voice is carried away with the wind” Yui is intrigued and makes the drive from Tokyo.

The writing style is different to normal English writers. First written in Italian and published as Quel che affidiamo al vento, the English translation was done by Lucy Rand. Rand’s translation is fluent and seamless; she captures the lyricism and meditative quality of the writing with care. Longer chapters are punctuated by shorter ones, some written as lists (“Ten things plus one that Hana and Akiko loved doing together”), others as fragments, a single word, or an in-depth look and what had otherwise seemed like a secondary observation. These ultimately add to the experience: revealing a relationship through quieter moments, serving as a break in the tension or offering a different lens to reflect upon the previous chapter.

There is a stillness and quietness to the book that makes each movement all the more meaningful. The words carry a weight that makes each sentence feel intentional; there’s no fat to trim. Moving and heart-breaking, Yui’s story, and that of the Wind Phone, is equally uplifting and heart-warming.

What’s Sera Reading? The Hoarder

Seraphim with Tenbury Library’s copy of The Hoarder by Jess Kidd.

This is a very gifted writer at her best. Kidd takes on a roller-coaster of a mystery crossed with a ghost story, including clues to the disappearance of two women, and traps for the reader to fall into. The characters are very strong and original in this setting so, even though we are mostly set in the old house, there is so much to explore. The main charters are Maud Drennan an irreverent Irish care worker who has been assigned the unholy task of bringing order to the life of Cathal Flood, a cantankerous old man who lives with his cats in a decrepit house surrounded by piles of rubbish. I really enjoyed the charter of Mr. Flood the way he talks, the mysterious life he had lead, and plays tricks on Maud. he is a giant of a man and his character arc is also giant. A special mention has to go to Maud’s glorious cross- dressing, agoraphobic neighbor, Renata, who is a beloved element to Maud’s life and such a joy in the narrative. The house itself seems to have a character shown in the amazing imagery and description.

What’s Sera Reading? The Wind on Fire Trilogy

the original book series Wind on Fire trilogy
the updated covers for the 10th anniversary

Book 1 The Wind Singer

Sera with the Tenbury Library copy of The Wind Singer by William Nicholson

The first in a trilogy, The main characters are twins Kestrel and Bowman Hath, who share a telepathic/empathic connection and include what seems a useless character Mumpo. The children are from a very controlled life and are suddenly chased into an epic, at times strange adventure.  On top of Bowman possessing empathic abilities, the group have to overcome completely different lands. In part, it is a children’s book about the horrors of standardized testing. In the city of Aramanth, the lives of its citizens are ruled by a colour-coded caste system of tests. How well one does on the yearly “High Examination” determines what one does for work, where one lives, and even what colour clothing one wears. Yet there is more to the book, the complexity of friendship and challenging the thoughts of aggression as one only form of attack or defence. You are left with many questions about what will happen next (good job, it is a trilogy) and why the world is so different. So if you want an honestly mind-boggling adventure with loads of fun, here is a book for you.

What’s The Next Book?

Book 2 Slaves of the Mastery

picks up the story of twins Kestrel and Bowman five years on from the closing chapter of The Wind Singer. released from the grip of the fearsome Morah the city is new and is therefore not ready to deal with an oncoming attack. This time it is the whole people that are taken from their homes and led on a death march to a new land. with the exception of Kestrel Hath, the Manth people who survive are brought to the Mastery, a beautiful country built up entirely on slave labour. They are branded and given jobs. 

This is as dark as the first story but for me, much more clear about its enemy. Every day the Manth people have to deal with life and death choices and Nicholson spares no mercy in how he delivers the test of characters. reading this book I’m reminded of how we have so many choices and how difficult it would be to try and give others hope in such a dark test of time/trust. the whimsy of the first book is gone and I like this telling of characters and situations better. The narrative is cleverly written so young readers can manage the subject matter, evoking vivid imagery but never going so far as to make it too graphic. A much cleaner and more mature narrative with lots of adventure and plenty of emotion put in every step.

Book 3 Firesong

The third and final book in the Wind On Fire Trilogy. The story of the Hath family and the Manth people continues from where book 2 left us. They all go on a long, and harsh journey from their city prison, to their homeland. Led by Hanno and Ira Hath, thirty-two mostly Manth survivors of the fall of the Mastery search for the fabled Homeland. Ira knows that as long as she feels the warmth on her face, despite the wintry conditions, they are heading in the right direction. This part of the story is brilliant at giving children an understanding of long-term illness even death within the family. She grows weaker with every step. Hanno must keep up the spirits of the marchers, Kes and Bowman are different in the way they face their mother’s fight for life.

Kestrel Hath is One of the most active characters throughout the trilogy. A strong-willed girl, telling the authorities exactly what she thinks of the system. She and her twin share a telepathic bond but use this ability less as they get older. At the end of the third book, Kestrel becomes part of the army to permanently destroy the Morah.

Bowman Hath: Kestrel’s twin brother. He is somewhat empathic, and can ‘read’ peoples’ hearts and minds. by the end of this journey, he has experienced the power of both the Morah and the Singers. Sirharasi (Sisi), the beautiful but spoiled and childish princess is in love with Bowman, At the end of book two she rebels and refuses to marry, which throws the whole country of the Mastery into chaos. Here with her scars, she becomes a vessel for fate and faith. it’s not a strong charter but I find her slow and calm undertone really helps the narrative from becoming too dystopian.

This is a powerful and imaginative ending. full of energy and emotional force.

[SPOILER ALERT] Kes dies, However, this is only a physical. Bowman reaches into her mind and they become one. They see through each other’s eyes and think together. This way Kestrel lives on through Bowman and they are always together. I’m not sure this life-after-death moment is as cute as it is spooky. It left me feeling haunted rather than comforted.

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