35. The Golden Horn by Judith Tarr, finished 02/02/11
34. Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed, finished 02/01/11
A good thing about all this reading--besides the actual joy of reading itself--is that I am making a real dent in my "for later" list at the library as well as all the unread books in my own collection. There is a used book shop in downtown Tacoma called Meta Books and it has a great SF/Fantasy collection. The owner/bookbuyer must have a good knowledge of the genres because every title that I've bought has been really well written. (I usually read the first few pages of any genre novel before buying it...I know genre fiction tends to get a bad rap generally, and there's plenty of gold amongst the pebbles but still more pebbles than gold.) I tend to be a thematic reader instead of one focused on prose. That is, I'm interested more in the ideas and themes of the story and can put up with less than stellar writing if the overall theme is interesting to me. But even I have my limits; thankfully, with genre fiction, it's usually easy for me to tell within the first few pages if I can't handle the writing style.
Anyway, during one visit to Meta Books I bought a book called The Hound and the Falcon by Judith Tarr. It's a very thick book (688 pages) but that's not unusual for Fantasy novels. However, what I hadn't realized when I bought it is that it is a collection of three previously published novels, which is no problem except that I had a mild dilemma on my hands: do I count this as one book or three? One of my rules for my 100 book goal was that each book had to be published individually (the other is that the book has to be mostly narrative) so was this one book or three? I decided to count this as three books because each novel had been published separately AND each story is standalone. (Many, many fantasy novels are a single story even if they are published in multiple volumes, like The Lord of the Rings.)
I had deja vu while reading the Hound and the Falcon; the main character is an elf raised as a monk in a Welsh abbey during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. Now, most of these issues are pretty cliched in Fantasy lit: elves, Celtic location, Middle Ages, Crusades--but this particular combination seemed rather unique and I had a feeling I'd read this before. Cliches aside, just how many novels about an elven monk in a Welsh abbey who befriends Richard the Lionheart and then becomes involved in a Crusade could there be? In the middle of the second book, I came across a section that I could almost repeat from memory, so I am sure that I had read that part before. I guess I must have read an extract from that novel way back when without having read the entire book. Rather glad to find out that my memory wasn't playing tricks on me. I had read this before! At least, that part.