Right then; I’m going to start condensing several days into one post because my life isn’t fond of free time. Between work picking up and friends arriving back in town, my attempts at scheduling have taken several hits. But I will prevail! And to that end, here are three Christmas recommendations.
Day 13: Garth Nix’s “Abhorsen” series
Fun fact: kid!me simply adored Garth Nix. The “Keys to the Kingdom” series enchanted me for a couple years. The few books of “The Seventh Tower” series in my school library delighted me. But my favorites were probably the Abhorsen trilogy. Of course, there’s probably a certain level of nostalgia at work, but whenever I encounter these three books on my shelves, the feelings are all positive. The series takes place in a world divided by a wall. On one side of the wall, in the Old Kingdom, magic is an active (even sentient) force and the dead often have trouble staying that way. On the other side, in Ancelstierre, technology is the order of the day, no necromancy in sight. And for the people around the border, life can flip either way, depending on which way the wind blows. The title of Abhorsen is appointed to the necromancer responsible for laying the dead to rest and preventing malicious necromancers and magic elementals from gaining power. Specifically, Sabriel is the story of how the young woman Sabriel, 18 years old, takes on the position of Abhorsen and faces one of the Greater Dead, Kerrigor. Lirael and Abhorsen together tell the the story of Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr who discovers her destiny is entwined with that of the Abhorsen Sabriel and the royal family. Notably, a fourth book came out just last year, a decade after the original trilogy ended:
Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of reading Clariel yet, but it’s certainly on my list.
Day 14: Chasers of the Light, by Tyler Knott Gregson
As with all poetry, with all literature even, this collection is not going to suit everyone’s tastes. But the premise of it, as stated on the back cover, intrigued me and drew me to pick it up, read it, and eventually pass it along as a gift.
One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.
The poems are typed alongside pictures and overtop old receipts, random pages gathered up and slid into the typewriter, a palimpsest of the deeply emotional with the mundane. Gregson’s work is all about emotion, focusing on life and love and matters of the heart, the joy and pain of it all portrayed with exquisite imagery. Sure the collection might not enter the lofty halls of academic poetic canon (the number of poetry snobs who leave disparaging remarks concerning the artistry of the work is truly impressive), but it appeals to the romantic spark inside of people, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Day 15: The Wicked + The Divine, from Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Hailing from Image Comics, The Wicked + The Divine features the brilliant combination of writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, colorist Matt Wilson, and letterer Clayton Cowles. The first two trade paperback volumes have now been released and I cannot stress enough the mind-blowing awesomeness of the art. Here, have two of my favorite characters:
The series premise is that every 90 years, twelve gods, a different dozen each time, are reincarnated into the bodies of young people and become cultural superstars. These particular gods take over the music scene, with one huge caveat: “They are loved. They are hated. They are brilliant. Within two years, they are dead.” The Recurrence of the Pantheon is a studied and theorized on phenomenon, though it seems like not many believe they are actual gods. At least not until someone tries to kill Lucifer, whose violent retaliation sets off a series of events that lead to mysteries, mayhem, and more murder.
Honestly, the story is fairly predictable, especially moving into Volume 2, “Fandemonium”. There are a few unexpected story beats, but if you have a feel for plotting, you’ll probably nail the bigger “twists.” This does not make the series any less enjoyable. The art is incredible and the characters’ personalities are vivid. Throw in some memorable lines and sparks from a handful of abrasive personalities vying for space and there’s quite a show going on. And this Christmas season is the perfect time to either receive or gift The Wicked + The Divine because Volume 3, “Commercial Suicide,” is set to release February 3, 2016.
So that wraps up this countdown collection. As we get closer to last-minute shopping, just keep chanting to yourself that there’s a gift for everyone and you’re not procrastinating, you’re courting inspiration.