My Month in Books: September 2021

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I love a good portal fantasy and this one has so many portals it’s impossible to resist. A Darker Shade of Magic centres around Kell, a magician with the rare and coveted ability to travel between worlds. By cosmic coincidence, each world has a city called London, which sits in the same geographical area across each of the different worlds. Kell acts as an ambassador for the Maresh Empire, the rulers of the prosperous and magical Red London. He travels frequently to White London, a vicious and dangerous world fraught with bloody fights for the throne, and Grey London, the dullest of all worlds where there is no magic left. There was also once a Black London, but it was lost as a result of a terrible magical catastrophe. On the side, Kell has a dangerous habit of smuggling contraband between the different Londons and one day he is tricked into carrying an incredibly dangerous magical artefact from one world to the next. Having unleashed a greater danger than he can comprehend, Kell is forced to work with Grey London pickpocket Delilah to restore order to all of the magical universes. This was a fantastic, fast-paced and twisty fantasy novel that cost me many hours of sleep because I needed to know what happened next. A must-read for fellow magic nerds.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Look, I know basically everyone on earth already has Opinions (TM) about Sally Rooney so I’ll keep this review concise. I loved this book. I loved it for the same reason I loved her other books and it has very little to do with Rooney’s prose (which is beautiful for the record) or her politics or the plot or anything other than the fact that there is no author who can make me feel like Sally Rooney. I was completely and utterly invested in the lives of four broadly insufferable people who spent their time shagging each other, not talking about their feelings and being deeply pretentious. I cared about these fictional idiots like they were actual real people who I was friends with. I spent two days on an emotional rollercoaster desperate to know whether they would end up together and find happiness. Sure I appreciated the structure of the novel, I enjoyed the incredibly specific sense of place (I haven’t been home to Ireland since pre-lockdown) and I even liked the long, pseudo-philosophical email exchanges (that Rooney writes with tongue firmly in cheek) but goddammit all I really want is a book that grabs me by the heartstrings, wrings me dry and makes me impossible to talk to coherently for at least a week afterwards. Rooney, as always, has delivered.

The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice by Shon Faye

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for sending me an ARC of this fabulous book. The Transgender Issue is a powerful manifesto that tackles the toxic myths that make up much of the frenzy and ‘debate’ around the rights of transgender people to live their lives free from harassment and discrimination. So often this debate doesn’t actually include any actual trans people so Shon Faye adding her voice and expertise to the conversation is a hugely refreshing change. In her meticulously researched book, Faye examines what it really means to be transgender in Britain today, looking at everything from healthcare to employment to prisons to the relationships between the transgender community and the LGBTQ+ and feminist communities. If you’re a person who’s trying to get your head around the trans experience, get to the truth behind all of the culture war bluster and understand what you can do to be an ally to the trans community, this book is a fantastic starting point.

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