That pretty much describes my relationship with Sherwood Smith books. But since that isn't very helpful or informative, I'll try my best to do justice to an author who deserves (in my opinion) to be up there with Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling and Susanne Collins. But don't take the word of a frizzy headed mom... you could also hear it from a much more knowledgeable (and cool), frizzy headed mom. Shannon Hale. Or, climbing up one more stratosphere, you could go read Orson Scott Card's own homina.homina.homina about Sherwood Smith.
I stumbled across Sherwood Smith, after going over Bethany's book list from last year. There was some hopeless confusion, where I thought Sherwood Smith was a tall, dashing, man who wrote Science Fiction. Instead I found "he" was a "she" and her books were something more akin to Jane Austen meets Merlin in King Arthur's court. Happy mistake, since I like SciFi about as much as I like taking the kids to the park on a holiday. But historical romance with a kickass heroine and a bit of magic? Bring it on.
These books aren't nearly as popular as I would have expected, and I think part of the problem is they're hard to describe. They aren't what some call "high concept", and you can't really describe them in one sentence
But if you can, imagine a story told from the perspective of a girl who's technically some sort of princess in a place that's so poverty stricken, it's like Detroit's alternate reality twin (if you can imagine Detroit with crumbling castles). She fights like a girl...which is to say...not that great, but she's so pissed at the man responsible for tearing apart the kingdom, she rushes headlong into doing whatever it is she can. She will not to go down without a fight, and since she's smart, naive, and hopelessly determined, you can't help but bite your nails and turn pages as fast as you can.
Now imagine that story told with all the subtly of Pride and Prejudice, with characters you bleed and die for. Someone please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks it sounds interesting. (Bethany's note: I agree so much that although I read some great books in 2010, this was the only one I put on my Christmas list. In fact, it was the only item on my Christmas list.)
Court Duel/Crown Duel was originally two books, but current edition has both books together under one cover. The second book is just as good, but with a lot more pretty dresses and court intrigue.
If I'm being entirely fair (which is only an attempt), there are some things that might not appeal to everyone. For instance, Jim would not be a huge fan of these books. Plot is king for him, and Crown Duel/Court Duel definitely is stronger in characterization than plot. Not that the plot is bad, it's just not the complicated puzzle that attracts some readers. It also starts kind of slow. It wasn't boring necessarily, it just didn't reveal it's true potential until a few chapters in. I know I could be snarkier, but how can you not love an author who has had her world building all drawn out on a beach ball since the 70's? Seriously.
a) I have studied and memorized the timeline and sections of history for Sartorias-Deles (the name of her "earth")
b) I bought this book for my family to read aloud (which speaks volumes). It's the rare book that is clean enough for my mom, romantic enough for my dad, and adventurous enough for my brothers.
c) Since January I have read almost all the books Sherwood Smith has published.
I'm kind of desperate for other people to read these books, so I can talk, make jokes, and elude to things without looking like I'm talking to myself. Clearly, I'm much more dependent on the whims of mainstream than I thought I was. So I'm giving away a copy of Crown Duel/Court Duel to someone. If you want that person to be you, leave a comment saying so before next Friday (the 25th).
a) Only ask to be included if you really don't mind giving the book a try.
b) If I've oversold the book, don't blame me. I have fairly simple tastes.
c) A winner will be chosen by the random generator at midnight Friday, February 25th.
Fist to heart!