Reviews in Brief — Distances, Savvy, Five Odd Honors

You guys? Distances is a love letter to mathematics. Evocative, compelling, and wistfully beautiful, Distances reminded me of deliciously vintage le Guin. Anasuya’s people have athmis, which grants them the ability to see connections and patterns otherwise unknown. Anasuya’s specific athmis lies in mathematics — she eventually leaves home to further study the world her talent tells her exists, and in so doing, encounters the literal distances of space and culture.  This is also a story about the industrialization of the academy and its connection to the literal colonization of peoples. Anasuya’s journey is nuanced and fluid, and Singh’s delicacy in handling these myriad topics is astonishing. Plus — there’s a healthy, functioning polyamourous pentad. Hip hip. Also: Distances just got an award!

Savvy is much lighter. Narrated by 13 year old Mibs, Savvy tells the story of the Beaumonts, a family of unusually talented people. Mibs’ brother Rocket can manipulate electricity, and her brother Fish can manipulate water. Each found out their talent on their 13th birthday… and Mibs can’t wait to see what havoc she’ll be able to wreak once she blows the candles off that cake. But then… DISASTER. Mibs’ father is in a car accident… and Mibs’ savvy might be the only thing able to save his life. This is a fantastic coming of age story featuring a charming protagonist, quirky language, hilarious plot-twists, and a heart-rending resolution. My father was in a plane accident when I was in high school — I WISH there’d been a book like this when I needed it as a young teen. This is a must for the precocious pre-teen reader.

Five Odd Honors continues the adventures of the Thirteen Orphans. This book features a LOT of Pearl being a bad-ass, which I kind of love. The Orphans have realized the source of the threat to the Lands, and now know that their ancestors coming to our world was merely one move in a game crossing worlds. Moreover, Brenda, the inheritrix of some zany Chinese magic and Irish sight, may hold the key to the Orphans’ assault on the lands. I gotta say — I love that ALL the main characters are mixed race (even if some, like Nissa, don’t look it). This means that Brenda’s journey is less a “mixed race babies will save the WORLD” and more of a young woman’s coming of age. Plus, PEARL IS A FIERCE BAD-ASS, did I mention that? Lindskold rocks at writing kick ass older women who will CUT you with their magic, SLICE you with their wit, then DICE the bits left older with their pointy magic swords.

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