Archive for February 14, 2024


More From the TBR Shelf

One of the books that languished on my To Be Read bookcase, in advance copy form, until after the third book came out was A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne. I think when I started reading it, back when it was still ahead of publication, I was afraid it was more intense than I was up for at that time. So it went on the shelf until I decided I really needed to read it a few weeks ago. I suppose it is intense in places, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s definitely not cozy, but it’s not grimdark, either.

This book has a really interesting narrative structure. There’s a framing story about the aftermath of a barely averted invasion of a city by a strange race of giant-like creatures. The city is now full of refugees from places where the invasion wasn’t averted. A bard from a nearby land shows up, saying he has news that may be able to explain something about the invasion and he has reports from other lands. Our first-person narrator is a scholar who gets assigned to work with the bard to help him and record his stories (and also figure out if he’s a spy or enemy agent). Each night, the bard regales the crowd with stories of what happened in the other lands, and he has magic that allows him to “become” the people whose stories he’s telling, looking and sounding like them. Most of the book is these other people’s first-hand accounts. To keep the audience eager to come back each night, he tends to stop each person’s story on a cliffhanger and move on to a different person’s story. We get bits and pieces of a greater story that eventually comes together. In between these stories, our narrator tries to figure out what’s going on with the bard while also dealing with the impact of living in the aftermath of the attempted invasion.

I love it when a story is told a bit out of order, limited to the perceptions of just one person at a time when those people don’t have the big picture, and it’s up to me to put the pieces together and find the patterns, so I found this to be really engaging reading. Writing something like that is on my literary bucket list, but I don’t yet have the right story to tell that way. The magic in this world is also interesting. Each of the lands has its own “kenning” or form of magic that allows some people to manipulate a particular part of nature. To get this power, a person has to go through a particular ordeal that will either kill them or give them power, and there’s no way of knowing which one it will be. But then using the power drains the person’s life force. In small amounts, it’s barely noticeable, but if they have to go all-out, they may age decades. That means that there are real stakes in the use of magic.

Now that I’ve finally read the first book, I’m going to have to read the rest of the series, as we don’t yet know everything about what’s going on with these giants, and the threat isn’t over yet.