With An Accent Recommends: Books that need more love

This month we’re recommending our favorite books that aren’t really mainstream. Some might be on bestseller lists, some might not, but they’re all titles our staff feels don’t get loved on and recc’d often enough.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Recommended by Valerie Parker, Managing Editor

What if books were so important in our daily lives that literary questions (such as who wrote Shakespeare’s plays) often led to gang wars and even murder? What if the Crimean War never ended? What if Wales was a Socialist Republic? What if England was so beholden to a large corporation that said corporation and its employees basically had free rein of the nation (and were on the point of bringing it to active war)? What if someone brought dodos back? And most importantly, what if books were a “real” world and some people could jump into them, possibly altering the story forever in “our” world?

Such is the world of 1985 England, where we find Thursday Next, a Literary Detective for the Special Operations Network. Her world is thrown into chaos when her former Professor, Acheron Hades, a man who got bored one day and decided murder and mayhem was more his thing, decides it might be fun to steal a precious manuscript and hold the book at ransom to the nation. When he takes Jane Eyre hostage just after the fire in Rochester’s rooms, and the book in the “real” world goes blank beyond that, it’s up to Thursday and her partner (with some help from her genius uncle, Mycroft) to get the book back on track, even if that means Thursday ends up stranded in the world of Jane Eyre forever.

Warning: the wit and imagination of Fforde is sure to catch you, and you may be sucked down the rabbit hole of his work. There are 7 books in the Thursday Next series alone (and likely more to come), so it could turn into a fun commitment. Luckily, each book works as a standalone, so if it takes you a while to get through them, you’ll be fine.

The Eight by Katherine Neville – Recommended by Tere Michaels, Assistant Editorial Director

Computer expert Cat Velis is heading for a job to Algeria. Before she goes, a mysterious fortune teller warns her of danger, and an antique dealer asks her to search for pieces to a valuable chess set that has been missing for years…In the South of France in 1790 two convent girls hide valuable pieces of a chess set all over the world, because the game that can be played with them is too powerful….

This is one of my favorite books of all time and I am sad it hasn’t had a wider, more lasting audience. This thrill-a-minute story volleys back and forth between present day and a trip through history as we meet prominent (and real life) figures who give us tiny pieces of the overall story until bringing the two halves together. Can you figure out the mystery before Cat does?

You want danger? Mystery? Romance? A plot based on a chess game? Real life historical figures dropping in to share some clues? This book has it all!

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – Recommended by Angela, Contributing Editor

Would fill you with delight to watch a biracial Indian woman troll her way through the old white rich establishment, while a former slave-turned-royal-sorcerer watches on, charmingly panicked but also secretly turned on? If the answer is yes – and why wouldn’t it be – then welcome to the wonder that is Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown.

Zacharias Wythe inherited the staff and mantle of the Sorcerer Royal by right as those holding the position always have. The members of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, however, cannot abide an African man – one born as a slave, no less – in the most influential magician’s position in England. They go to increasingly desperate and abhorrent methods to oust him.

Prunella Gentleman was raised at a boarding school for female sorcerers; her father brought her back from his journeys in India, charmed the headmistress, and died. She’s one of the most talented women there, but there are two catches: one, women are expected to suppress their magic; and two, the color of her skin means the woman who raised her will never truly accept her as a daughter, or allow her to live fully as a student at the school. 

Sorcerer to the Crown is kind of like Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, only without the complex detailed mythology and with more antics. And with confrontations of micro and macro aggressions, racism, colonialism, European exceptionalism, and sexism.

Plot isn’t the most important thing in a story for me, so if it is for you Sorcerer to the Crown might not be the strongest novel; it’s not that there’s no plot, it’s just well-worn and predictable. Twists aren’t the moments that give me life right now, though; what I live for are moments like Prunella asking Zacharias if his patrons – who were (almost) like parents to him – stopped even a moment to consider freeing his actual parents; or Zacharias telling said patron about the rich and powerful magical traditions in India, only to have that patron immediately advocate taking it – because such power should only belong to England.

What I live for is Prunella steeling herself and doing what she must to survive in the world, immediately finding and connecting with non-Western magical traditions, not giving a crap and trolololing at the old white men Zacharias tries to hide her from (because heaven forfend they know what she’s capable of). I live for Zacharias’ dawning realization, at times aided by Prunella, that there are other ways to be free, and magical, in society without having to play by the establishment’s rules. I live for this sparkling, charming novel.

1 2