Monday, June 04, 2007


I must say that I am absolutely overwhelmed with the goodness of Jo Walton's writing--seriously, she's one for the very short list of favorites, I have been trying to slow down so as to eke out the remaining books but it is simply not possible to resist such excellent novels.

Here's what I said at the end of April about Farthing, and here are a few thoughts on The Prize in the Game. Now I've read an advance reader's copy of Ha'penny, and it is an absolutely wonderful follow-up to Farthing, everyone should read both of these books!

Seriously, they are so cunning and subtle and beautifully written, very much in the spirit of Peter Dickinson but also with a distinctive quality that's really not quite like anything else I've read--they should appeal to crime fiction readers and to SF/fantasy readers and really just to anyone who loves novels, they're that kind of book. Only a reader with a heart of stone will not fall for their subtle charms! (And it looks like they're getting some attention, too, award nominations etc. Colleen's just posted about them also and quite rightly observes that there is no reason Walton should be known exclusively or primarily in the science fiction/fantasy world, it's more than overdue for the crossover thing to be happening.)

So anyway, before that I read The King's Name and The King's Peace, and these two books are almost even more the kind of thing I most love. They're strongly Arthurian/Roman Britainish, only it's an alternate kind of place, all the names and nationalities a bit different; just wonderfully well-written, beautifully done all round. I loved these books! They've got the hard clear-headed pleasure of the Robert Graves-Mary Renault-Rosemary Sutcliffe school of historical fiction, with amazingly compelling first-person narration. In fact I must just say that I have the feeling reading Walton that she and I must have been reading pretty much the exact same books growing up, or perhaps it's just a temperamental-intellectual affinity. I love, love, love these books!

(I've got one more left to read, Tooth and Claw, which is like Trollope with dragons and whose dedication includes the statement that the novel is the result of imagining a world in which "the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology." Perfect! Also I was laughing quietly to myself as I read through her recent blog entries, she makes the eminently sensible observation that really Patrick O'Brian's novels are fantasy and that you read them thinking each time that the next one might feature Napoleon beating Wellington at Waterloo! Perfect!)

One complaint/quibble/plea for justice to be done to these books--the covers on The King's Name and The King's Peace are absolutely dire. I don't mean to disrespect the artist and book design team & such. I personally have nothing against this style of cover design, I like the way that you get the diamond-in-the-rough effect reading a really wonderfully well-written book that's packaged in this sort of mass-market paperback clothing, and of course I totally grew up, you know, spending my baby-sitting money in Waldenbooks on the Del Rey kind of science-fiction paperback (when I was eleven or twelve there was nothing I coveted more than the complete works of Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony). HOWEVER it must be said that many, many people are not even going to think about picking up a book that looks like this. It's their loss; but won't Tor please reissue Walton's back-list in nice trade paperback editions with tasteful covers?!? Everybody should be reading these books!


  1. It's so wonderful to read about how much you love Walton - she is just so good and I really wish more and more people would read and adore these stories as well.

    Having said that, I have much on the backlist to tackle as well - but oh my. They really must do something about those covers, shouldn't they?



  2. The Penguin Australia covers were worse. But I think the Tor Prize in the Game cover was the absolute worst. It looked like a Conan novel. I'm all for your "reissue in tasteful covers" suggestion.

    Thank you for the kind words, and yes, it certainly does look as if we grew up reading the same kind of books!

  3. Perhaps fortunately, the copy of Prize in the Game that I bought in London had a huge Waterstone's 2 for 1 sticker plastered over the front!

    I actually do sort of love books with really trashy covers, but it is no good trying to sell people books that they would be rather ashamed to be seen reading in public, eh?!?

  4. You and Colleen have convinced me. Walton it is. And actually, I have a contrarian fondness for flashing such covers in public, and can borrow any number from my middle son. Hm ... maybe he's even got some Walton, I must check.

  5. I definitely have in mind to get some of Jo's backlist out in trade pb; however, I plan to start with Tooth and Claw in 2008. I'd certainly like to repackage the Sulien books with a more upmarket look, and with any luck, this will eventually happen.

    I'm glad you like Jo's work as much as I do!

  6. That sounds good--do please, though, give us a lovely fat one-volume Sulien edition, like those fat Arthurian Mary Stewart volumes!

  7. Jenny, just one thing about the original covers - I really liked the way they tapped the Norse Valkyrie element of King's Peace/King's Name. Coming from an operatic background, the images leapt out at me.

    Hope Tor finds someone really skillful to do new art.

    Tom Barclay