I think you can tell a lot about a writer by the books they themselves love. But my house contains thousands of books, and most of the fiction I have read many times. I’m a re-reader, not just a reader. And I have so many favorites. But here’s quotes from some of them. See if you can guess the book they’re from. Answers below.
“It’s a tarasque. It comes from the south of France, grows to an enormous size, and it’s supposed to breath fire.”
Also according to the legends, a tarasque was a dragon. These guys looked more like cats who’d somehow sprouted rhino-like armor, but who was I to complain?
“How did the French kill it?” Derek asked.
“They sent a Christian virgin out, and she bound it with her hair and led it back into the city, where the citizens slaughtered it. We don’t have a virgin handy.”
“No shit,” Desandra said.
The door rattled again, knocking the dust from its hinges. Something about the man’s voice was off. It was too clear for a normal human’s, and the certainty in his words stirred up strange memories that made the door decidedly uncomfortable.
“Wait,” it grumbled suspiciously. “You’re not a wizard, are you?”
“Me?” Eli clutched his chest. “I, one of those confidence tricksters, manipulators of spirits? Why, the very thought offends me! I am but a wanderer, moving from place to place, listening to the spirits’ sorrows and doing what little I can to make them more comfortable.” He resumed the pleasant tapping, and the door relaxed against his fingers.
“Well“—it leaned forward a fraction, lowering its creak conspiratorially—“if that’s the case, then I don’t mind telling you the nails do poke a bit.”
“You asked for an explanation,” Angbard reminded her. “The arrival of an unknown world-walker is always grounds for concern. Since the war … suffice to say, your appearance would have been treated drastically in those days. When you stumbled across the old coast trail a week ago, and the patrol shot at you, they had no way of knowing who you were. that became evident only later—I believe you left a pair of pink house-shoes behind?—and triggered an extensive manhunt. However, you are clearly not connected to a traitorous faction, and closer research revealed some interesting facts about you. I believe you were adopted?”
“That’s right.” Miriam’s heart was fluttering in her ribs, shock and unpleasant realization merging. “Are you saying you’re my long-lost relatives?”
For a moment, brief as an eye-blink, I am in a dank stone room, naked, and the weight pinning me down belongs to the man I hate most in the world. And then I am back in the dawnlight, facedown in dew-cool grass, and I can hear the short, panting breath of the man holding me, and his voice, cursing in a slurred mutter, in Marathine.
“Who am I?” I sob into the grass.
“The worst fucking shit-for-brains pain in the ass I’ve ever been saddled with. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“Who am I? Please, just tell me who I am!”
There is a long pause, as fragile as blown glass, and then he says, in a small, deeply worried voice, “Felix, are you okay?”
“Felix? Is that my name?”
“Yeah. Felix Harrowgate. You’re a hoc—a wizard. In the Mirador. You’re my half brother.” And in an even smaller voice, “I’m Mildmay.”
“Oh!” I say and burst into tears.
The scales on the dragon’s head were smaller and rounder than the scales on its body. When he put his hand on one it was as smooth as glass, with edges like a freshly sharpened sword, and warm to the touch.
Corin closed his eyes. For a while there was just the usual clamor of his mind. He stilled it, focused his thoughts on the dragon. It was images that came slowly to him then, not words: a darkness with a distant fire raging in it, a teapot lying in smoke-stained rubble, a black moth circling a candle. Colors, pulsing slowly. Brown, which was warmth, and green, which was pleasure. Grey for calm, blue for exultation, red for stubbonrnness. A bloodstained sword lying beside a crack in granite. A mountain, snow on its peak and sides, wind roaring around it, sending the snow into white sprays that glittered in the close-by sun. A man with eyes glittering like black stone who turned to ash. Braided garlic hanging from a rafter. A woman’s hand with an apple in the palm, green and small and round. A small bronze pendulum swinging back and forth.
This is who I am, she thought bitterly. I don’t even get the luxury of not knowing what my name is. I don’t get a chance to start a life. Whoever this Myfanwy Thomas was, she managed to get me into a whole lot of trouble. She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve. She looked around at the place she was in. Some sort of park. Willows drooped their long tendrils down around the clearing, and she was standing on what used to be a lawn but was rapidly becoming a mud hole. She came to a decision, pulled her feet out of the mire, and stepped carefully over the ring of bodies that were scattered around her. They were all motionless, and all of them were wearing latex gloves.
‘She was the apple,’ Jane said bleakly. ‘It was an old and withered apple. I even told her about the apple. I told her. I told her about her own death!’
She started to pull her hair again.
Merrily walked over and pulled her hands down. They stood there facing each other, Merrily clutching both Jane’s hands.
‘This is no time’, Merrily said, ‘for that superstitious crap.’
And knew as soon as it was out, Jane’s expression curdling, that this was about the worst thing she could have said.
Pulling back with a gasp, I looked into Dominic’s eyes, seeing my own thin control reflected there, and gasped, “You just walked in on the Holy Feast of I Swear, Daddy, I’ll Kiss the Next Man That Walks Through That Door. It was the only way to make them stop.”
Dominic blinked again. Seeming to realize that the cheering had faded, he stepped back, letting me move away from the wall. “They … who?” he asked blankly.
“My resident colony of Aeslin mice.” Sensing the mood was irreparably broken, I took the bag of chicken from Dominic’s hand and called, “You can come out now!”
“HAIL!” replied the mice, popping into view from places all over the room.
“Be careful with the sorcery. I know it usually just happens,” she cut off his protest. “But that’s part of the problem. The aunties think you have no control.”
“Yeah, but they don’t want me to do it on purpose or practice.” Jack scratched at the old crescent scar on his cheek. It looked like a hockey scar but had probably been a near miss by one of his uncles. “They say practicing accumulates power. They can’t have it both ways.”
“How long have you been here? The aunties have it any way they want it.”
The Son of Darkness, or what was left of him, was hanging in the lowest sub-basement of the Mithran Council Chambers, and he was Leo’s source of power, an addictive blood-meal, and nothing but trouble, even back when he was sane-ish and free. As a piece of undead flesh with no heart, he was a bargaining chip or an excuse for a vamp war.
Everything in the vamp sub-basements was trouble, from the paintings and mementoes stored there, to the SOD, to the redheaded bloodsucker prisoner named Adrianna. I’d killed her a few times already, and each time Leo had brought her back. She was a future problem, though, not part of this.
Deep inside, Beast thought at me, Cold mountain stream. Good water. Not stinky water here. Want to go home.
I’d seen him draw upon the pack to force silver out of his body. Apparently it worked in reverse. He was drawing the silver from that damned concoction Doc Wallace’s son had created. When he was finished, he’d be dead—but the pack would be free.
I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t respond. Adam intended to die.
Are you not my daughter, whispered another voice, Coyote’s voice, so quiet I almost missed it. Had I not been caught in that first moment of shock when everything goes quiet before the pain begins, I would not have heard it.
Coyote never loses, Coyote told me. Because I change the rules of the games my enemies play. What are the rules of your game?
Moon knew he was dreaming.
In the real world, he was in Jade’s bower, lying on the furs near the metal bowl of the hearth, just close enough to feel the heat of the warming stones on his skin. Chime lay nearby, breathing deeply, a book unrolled across his chest. Jade was up in the hanging bed, and he could hear the faint rasp of her scales against the cushions as she stirred in her sleep The damp night air was laced with the familiar scents of the court, the flowers floating in Jade’s bathing pool, and the ever-present musky sweetness that was the scent of the mountain-tree that housed the colony.
In the dream world, he was watching the Fell destroy the Indigo Cloud Court.
“What is this intrusion?” he demanded. He spoke in the clean, clipped Anglais that those few stewards assigned to direct intercourse with humans used. “I insist these offices be cleared.” His gaze skipped from the guard to Sojourner. “Of these females.”
Tess stood up. The Chapalii steward looked at her. Like an indrawn breath, the pause that followed was full of anticipated release.
The green cast to his white skin shaded into blue distress. His thin, alien frame bent in the stiff bow Chapalii accorded only and always to the members of their highest aristocracy.
“Lady Terese,” the steward said in the proper formal Chapalii. “I beg you will forgive my rash entrance and my rasher words.”
Unable to trust her voice for a moment, Tess simply folded her hands together in her human approximation of that arrangement of hands called Imperial Clemency.
The Michen’theileian proved not to be the copy in miniature of the Untheileian that Maia had feared. It was more lavishly appointed than he cared for, in ivory and gold, which would emphasize his dark coloring, but it was sensibly furnished with a long table and massive padded chairs, was well heated and was not, withal, a bad room in which to do business.
The Witnesses for the Wisdom of Choharo were there when he and his nohecharei and secretary arrived: two men and a woman, all dressed with shabby respectability and all wearing scholars’ keys around their necks. Although, unlike the prelacy and the mazei, scholars did not swear oaths of poverty, it was rare for one to attain great wealth. Setheris had said this was because they were fools, but Maia looked at the tired, drawn faces of the Witnesses and saw no foolishness.
I wanted to say I could take care of myself, no problems. Calaj, however, was no drug punker or gang duster. I doubted I could best a Jagernaut. “Just take me closer. I’ll be a whisper.”
The deepers considered each other, doing that communing thing. I felt a pressure on my mind. Stop it, I told myself. You’re imagining it because of what they said about Calaj.
Maybe not, Max thought. Apparently you do have psiamine in your brain. You may be feeling their mental communication.
Stop eavesdropping. Maybe that was why Calaj went wacko. Gods only knew what had happened to the EI in her spinal node, and she was stuck with it in her brain, unlike my gauntlets, which I could take off anytime.
The servitor tilted its head at her encouragingly. Cheris hesitated, then pulled the filament out. She felt a painful pulse of heat in her forearm. There had to be a message in the filament. Her gloves felt briefly warm, then cold.
A map distended in her mind. She could feel it as though she could walk her fingers over the tangled strands of voidmoth routes and feel the heat of far-scattered stars. The map identified the Fortress of Scattered Needles for her, unnecessarily. It was the largest nexus fortress in the Entangled March, and formed a microcosm of the hexarchate.
One of the Fortress’s functions was to project calendrical stability throughout the region. If it had fallen to calendrical rot, the hexarchate’s exotic weapons would be of limited use there. The hexarchate’s lagged in invariant technology, which could be used under any calendrical regime. In particular, too close to the rot the voidmoths’ primary stardrives would fail. Without the voidmoths to connect the hexarchate’s worlds, the realm would unravel.
There were at least six moons visible: we were in the Summerlands, standing on the fae side of the knowe. Evergreens pressed in on us from all directions, creating a verdant barrier between our small party and whatever lay beyond the castle. We moved closer together without saying anything about it. Our position had us totally exposed — any archer who wanted to appear on the castle wall and put an elf-shot arrow through our hearts would have been able to do so without making any real effort.
“Points for ‘I can design an imposing front door,’ no points for ‘people will want to use it’, ” I said.
I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
Inda faced his scrubs: Kodl; Scalis and a cluster of big, brawny forecastlemen; Niz and his two topmen, both Olarans from the Nob; Dun, once a carpenter’s mate and now the carpenter for the mariens; the mids.
“It will,” Inda said, “take at least half a year before you can use a weapon and expect to do anything but lose against an experienced warrior.”
Surprise, astonishment, dismay met his words. Disbelief, too. And a few shifty side glances and shuffles.
“So let’s get started. Now, here’s your stance …”
It actually didn’t take as long as Inda had feared.
I’d let magic into my life — against my own rules — and a vampire had crept in with it. Dozens of creatures had followed. Remembering the way that magic had contributed to the loss of my parents, I felt the beginnings of panic in shallow breath and prickling skin.
‘Living without magic is the only way I know to survive, Matthew.’ I breathed slowly so that the feelings wouldn’t take root, but it was difficult with the ghosts of my mother and father in the room.
‘You’re living a lie — and an unconvincing one at that. You think you pass as human.’ Matthew’s tone was matter-of-fact, almost clinical. ‘You don’t fool anyone except yourself.’
To describe Melisande Shahrizai is, as the poets say, to paint a nightingale’s song; it is a thing which cannot be done. She was three-and-twenty years of age at that time, though time never seemed to touch her, either way it flowed. If I say her skin was like alabaster, her hair a black so true it gleamed blue where the light touched it and her eyes a sapphire that gemstones might envy, I speak only the truth; but she was a D’Angeline, and this only hints at the beginning of beauty.
As I am D’Angeline and Night Court-born, you may be sure, I am not easily awed by beauty; but I am what I am, and there are other things that awe me.
At this very moment astronomers are detecting planets around distant stars by measuring how much their orbits wibble, and the clever people at CERN are smashing particles togther in the hope that Doctor Who will turn up and tell them to stop. The story of how we measure the physical universe is the history of science itself.
And what do me and Nightingale have to measure vestigia with? Sod all, and it’s not even as if we know what we’re trying to measure in he first place. No wonder the heirs of Isaac Newton kept magic safely under their periwigs. I had jokingly developed my own scale for vestigia based on the amount of noise Toby made when he interacted with any residual magic, and called it a yap, one yap being enough vestigia to be apparent even when I wasn’t looking for it.
“As long as the circle isn’t broken,” said Sefton, “we’re fine. Believe that, ’cos it’s true. We can stand here all night if we have—”
Their phone text alerts all went off.
They all jumped simultaneously at the sudden noise. Costain let out a relieved breath. The tension was broken. Whoever that was was from their world, from the world of forms to fill out and warrant cards and cups of tea. It was probably the news about the DNA searches they’d been waiting for. It was like a torch they could hold up against the dark. Something modern. He took out his phone and defiantly hit the text from an unfamiliar number. He expected to see a proud announcement of success, of hope he could use to hold off this dark, even to hold up the screen and yell at whatever it was that they were closing in on it.
He stared at what the text actually said:
Any communication breaks the circle.
Costain looked down on hearing a sudden noise, and the others looked too. The circle had roared into a sudden, consuming flame.
“Oh fuck,” said Sefton.
“Okay,” I said. Turned towards the cowering crowd of Residual Human Resources. “Here’s how we’ll do it. Eenie, meenie, minie, mo, catch a zombie by the —”
I reached out with my mind and grabbed. He came, shuffling, reluctantly: an older, more withered corpse, wearing the dress uniform of a funereal military policeman. The original owner of the body was long dead. What held it upright now was a feeder in the night, a weak demon with a tendency to embed itself in (and take over) the neural connectome of its victims. I think it knew that I had a fate in mind for it, and not a pleasant one, but it was bound into the body by a geas, a compact of power that required it to obey my lawful commands. “Hear ye this,” I said, in my halting Old Enochian: “define new sub-routine basilisk_grenade() as callback from operator(); begin; depress red button on front of payload; aim payload at self->face(); walk forward for ten paces; halt and retain physical control of payload indefinitely…”
I set the self-portrait timer on the camera to ten seconds, handed it to the zombie, and sent him into the grid and through the door to blow himself up. Then things got weird.
Gil knew that it was only a dream. There was no reason for her to feel fear — she knew that the danger, the chaos, the blind, sickening nightmare terror that filled the screaming night were not real; this city with its dark, unfamiliar architecture, these fleeing crowds of panic-stricken men and women who shoved her aside, unseeing, were only the vivid dregs of an overloaded subconscious, wraiths that would melt with daylight.
She knew all this; nevertheless, she was afraid.
Constable Detritus, Ankh-Morpork City Watch, was guarding the Opera House. It was an approach to policing that he’d picked up from Sergeant Colon. When you were all by yourself in the middle of a rainy night, go and guard something big with handy overhanging eaves. Colon had pursued this policy for years, as a result of which no major landmark had ever been stolen.1
1Well, except for Unseen University once, but that was just a student prank.
‘So this is it,’ said Arthur, ‘we are going to die.’
‘Yes,’ said Ford, ‘except … no! Wait a minute!’ he suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur’s line of vision. ‘What’s this switch?’ he cried.
‘What? Where?’ cried Arthur twisting round.
‘No, I was only fooling,’ said Ford, ‘we are going to die after all.’
We are very fond of pineapple, all three of us. We looked at the picture on the tin; we thought of the juice. We smiled at one another, and Harris got a spoon ready.
Then we looked for the knife to open the tin with. We turned out everything in the hamper. We turned out the bags. We pulled up the boards at the bottom of the boat. We took everything out onto the bank and shook it. There was no tin-opener to be found.
Then Harris tried to open the tin with a pocket-knife, and broke the knife and cu himself badly; and George tried a pair of scissors, and the scissors flew up, and nearly put his eye out. While they were dressing their wounds, I tried to make a hole in the thing with the spiky end of the hitcher, and the hitcher slipped and jerked me out between the boat and the bank into two feet of muddy water, and the tin rolled over, uninjured, and broke a teacup.
Then we all got mad. We took that tin out on the bank, and Harris went up into a field and got a big sharp stone, and I went back into the boat and brought out the mast, and George held the tin and Harris held the sharp end of his stone against the top of it, and I took the mast and poised it high in the air, and gathered up all my strength and brought it down.
It was George’s straw hat that saved his life that day. He keeps that hat now (what is left of it), and, of a winter’s evening, when the pipes are lit and the boys are telling stretchers about the dangers they have passed through, George brings it down and shows it round, and the stirring tale is told anew, with fresh exaggerations every time.
Harris got off with merely a flesh wound.
“What can I do for you?”
“Free the winds.”
“One star will call out of silence the Master of the Winds; one star out of darkness the Master of Darkness; one star out of death the children of the Masters of the Earth. You have called; they have answered.”
“Who is —”
“The war is not finished, only silenced for the regathering. You will bear stars of fire and ice to the Ending of the Age of the High One —”
“But we cannot live without the High One —”
“This we have been promised. This will be.”
“You mean,” asked Carol, “that there might really be a Devil?”
“Two centuries ago,” said Maxwell, “people asked, in exactly the same tone of voice as you are using now, if there actually were such things as trolls and goblins.”
“And ghosts,” said Ghost.
Almost all these are part of a series, so these are just representative books. They’re usually the first in the series, but not always. There’s no significance to the choice of book in the series. I’ve included the covers, because many people will find them more memorable than the title. Also, the covers will take you to the Amazon store, where you can find more about the books, if you’re interested. The Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that Amazon will pay me a tiny amount if you actually buy anything.
- Magic Breaks, by Ilona Andrews
- The Legend of Eli Monpress, by Rachel Aaron
- The Family Trade, by Charles Stross
- Melusine, by Sarah Monette
- Moth and Spark, by Anne Leonard
- The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley
- The Wine of Angels, by Phil Rickman
- Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire
- The Wild Ways, by Tanya Huff
- Cold Reign, by Faith Hunter
- Frost Burned, by Patricia Briggs
- The Edge of Worlds, by Martha Wells
- Jaran, by Kate Elliott
- The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
- The Bronze Skies, by Catherine Asaro
- Nine Fox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee
- A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire
- The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
- Inda, by Sherwood Smith
- A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
- Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
- Moon over Soho, by Ben Aaronovitch
- London Falling, by Paul Cornell
- The Rhesus Chart, by Charles Stross
- The Time of the Dark, by Barbara Hambly
- Soul Music, by Terry Pratchett
- The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
- Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
- The Riddle-Master of Hed, by Patricia McKillip
- The Goblin Reservation, by Clifford Simak