July started with the opening of a reading challenge - to read one book by Robin Hobb every month to plunge again into the Realms of the Elderlings for a year, beginning with the Farseer Trilogy, a huge favourite since I discovered it ten years ago (you can find my posts on Instagram with the hashtag #OneHobbAMonth). My other reads for the month also included several series, nice discoveries and a potential new favourite.
Assassin's Apprentice, by Robin Hobb · 1995
My history with this book started some ten years ago, when my favourite bookseller pushed it into my hands. He was already my favourite bookseller, but I didn't yet know how grateful I would be to him. Assassin's Apprentice became my favourite book of all time after I first read it (and the following two books in the trilogy, and Hobb's other books in the same universe).
There's something in this book I've never found again elsewhere, which makes each re-read like coming home. It's a home where not everything is perfect, some family members I'd rather stay away from, and sometimes I still get lost in some shadowy corridors, but at its heart are endearing, defiant characters I feel I've known for a long time, and places I know will always keep a warm spot for me. I first read the Farseer trilogy in French, proceeded to re-read them in English when I could get my hands on the covers illustrated by John Howe, and now I'm re-reading them with Magali Villeneuve's beautiful, smooth pictures. But it's not exactly my third time reading. Over the years, I've come back to Robin Hobb when I needed comfort, to read a page or a couple of my favourite chapters. A few lines were enough to wisk me back to that home, and although I couldn't place who was whom and what some people were doing there, I always found my warm spot to settle back in.
Something that astounds me is the amount of foreshadowing you can't possibly grasp the first time. But re-reading it when you seize those clues is doubly heart-breaking because you're already aware of the hardships waiting for the characters, you remember them before they even happen, and you can't do anything to prevent them. It may sound like a painful experience, but there's also much beauty and comfort to be found within those pages.
TW: abandonment, animal death, bullying, grief, mental illness, suicidal thoughts + small TW for alcohol, drug use, murder, toxic relationship, violence.
Rogue Protocol, by Martha Wells · 2018
Murderbot continues to explore the universe and their identity in the third installment of their diaries. This series is officially my new comfort read. Until recently I didn't know cosy Sci-fi was a thing, and when I first wrote a flash-fiction piece in this genre (see "Soupe intergalactique" in French on my blog) I thought it was a weird, one-off thing, partly inspired by what Becky Chambers made me feel (or rather, her book The Long way to a Small, Angry Planet). Then came The Mandalorian, and after that I discovered Murderbot and their adventures make my heart happy. What else can I say?
Are you also into a very, very niche genre?
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire · 2017
This second volume in the Wayward Children series is quite different from the first one, which had been the definition of a whimsical, unexpected book. This one is much more consistent, and has the feel of a fairy tale. You can almost hear a voice-over as in the series Pushing Daisies or the movie Penelope, and although it can feel tedious, here I thought it was done really well and effectively.