A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.
On Literary Discoveries, 2012 Edition
As we roll around to a new year, I find myself reminiscing, thinking over the many many novels, anthologies, poetry collections, and graphic novels which I have read over the course of 2012. Most have faded, reduced to scattered scenes or memorable lines. Others remain more coherent, plot lines complete. A few notable books remain completely intact in my memory, characters permanently etched into my consciousness.
Life is too short to waste on bad books. As such, here are my literary discoveries of 2012. Some are brand new books, just published; others are new to me; still others qualify as rediscoveries, books read many years ago and mislaid or forgotten.
The Jackal's Head by Elizabeth Peters definitely falls into that last category. As a teenager, I was at the library every week where I checked out one after another of Peters' mystery novels. While I was especially a fan of her turn of the century Amelia Peabody books, I also enjoyed her stand alone books. As a trained archaeologist, most of Peters' books deal in some way with lost treasure, lost artifacts, lost tombs, lost sacred texts -- you get the idea. It was a thrill to be carried along with her characters as they brought the villains to justice and brought lost history to light. Rereading The Jackal's Head (hint: Nefertiti) is the reminder I needed that old favorites are worth revisiting.
In the former category -- mislaid -- can be found The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation by Judy Chicago. I picked this book up many years ago at the campus book store. I devoured it for a few days, then stuck it on a shelf, where it remained forgotten until I started organizing and cataloging my book collection. Bad me. Chicago's monumental multimedia, multi-piece exhibit is a celebration of women and Goddesses, and our powers of creation. I would dearly like to see it in person.
The manga series Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki is another rediscovery. I saw the anime many many years ago, but didn't really understand what was going on. I got that the hero was a girl, she had a cool flying sled, and she was fighting to save the Earth; that was good enough for me. I was unaware that a manga even existed until I went to work at a comic shop -- and then I never got around to buying past the first two volumes. Happily, I have rectified that oversight.
Sword of Sorcery Featuring Amethyst (DC Comics) qualifies more as a rebirth than a rediscovery. As a kid, I was only ever able to collect a few scattered issues of Amethyst Princess of Gemworld. I mean, what little girl would not love the story of another little girl who discovers that she is really the long lost princess of a magical realm, and that she has super powers? As an adult, I made a point of tracking down the entire series, despite the cost. Apparently, I was not the only one pining for Amethyst, as DC Comics just relaunched the character in a new series -- though with notable differences. I plan to stick around for a few issues and see where this is going ....
While the first book in Kevin Hearne's The Iron Druid Chronicles was published in 2011, I only got around to reading Hounded this past month. On the one hand, I am rather glad I waited, since I can just rip through the series now, one book right after the other. On the other hand, I wish that I had had something this fun and unusual to read earlier. Ah, well. If you are looking for an urban fantasy series with a witty protagonist (Atticus Sullivan, 2000+ year-old Druid), some truly nasty bad guys (Polish witches, Bacchants, demons, you name it)*, and a healthy dose of well-researched mythology, look no further. The books are very polytheist friendly, with Atticus coming right out and saying that all the Gods are real.
Secondhand Spirits, the first book in Juliet Blackwell's San Francisco-based A Witchcraft Mystery series, was initially released back in 2009, but, again, it took me until this past year to discover it. I was delighted to find a cozy, relatively non-violent, magical series with a sympathetic protagonist (in this, a hereditary witch of mixed European and Aztec descent) and an eccentric cast of supporting characters. I am particularly fond of Lily's gargoyle familiar, Oscar, who assumes an adorable porcine form around the nonmagical.
Finally, two brand new books stand out for me. The first is Mermaids: The Myths, Legends and Lore by Skye Alexander. I have only recently become interested in mermaids, so I snatched up Alexander's book when I spotted it on the shelf at the book store. Lots of spot illustrations and lots and lots of fascinating stories, mythological tidbits, and assorted other odds and ends. I will be using this as a writing resource for many years.
The other is the brand new Jesus Through Pagan Eyes: Bridging NeoPagan Perspectives With a Progressive Vision of Christ, edited by Reverend Mark Townsend. This book has been much talked about in Pagan circles, so all I can really add to the discussion is my own opinion: this is an important book filled with a wealth of varied, sometimes complimentary, sometimes contrary, insights. If nothing else, it will make you think and question your own long-held beliefs, as it has my own -- and that is always a good thing.
The above are just a few of the books which I discovered in 2012. Have any literary discoveries of your own? Let me know what they are.
And I can't wait to see what 2013 has to bring.
*Fair warning to any Thor devotees out there: in The Iron Druid Chronicles, he is a "major asshat."
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