Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Risks Will Be Taken

Nothing warms my heart quite like a novel with protagonists who are unlikely, controversial, or irredeemable. The most fun I've had as a writer has been working with characters like Akela from Red Branch and Lucan from Dark Need, because they not only break all the novelist rules, they rewrite them. They also push me to take risks with my work, and I'm a firm believer in nothing ventured etc.

The new novel from Linda HowardLinda Howard should borrow Usher's new tag line, Risks Will Be Taken to promote her latest novel, Death Angel. The protagonists are an assassin and a drug lord's mistress. I'm not kidding. The novel opens with a bang (literally.) By the time I got through the first chapter I thought I was perhaps having a meds reaction and hallucinating this plot, as it was so beyond anything I've read. From there Linda takes the reader on a dark, twisty, wholly unpredictable journey all the way to love and death and back again. And I'm not saying another word about it, because to do so would ruin the story.

Death Angel will no doubt ruffle a lot of feathers because it features characters who are unlikely, controversial, and in some ways completely irredeemable. It challenges the reader to set aside all the same old acceptable safe stuff along with their preconceived notions about heroism, and step across traditional boundaries to see what's on the other side. I think anyone willing to go there will be as surprised by what they find as I was.

But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name a novel that challenged you or your beliefs in some fashion (or if your belief systems are inviolate, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Thursday, July 3, 2008. I'll draw five names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned hardcover copy of Death Angel by Linda Howard. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

87 comments:

  1. W00t! Love Linda Howard.

    My belief systems are inviolate, so just throwing my name in the hat. ;)

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  2. Anonymous12:24 AM

    Put my name in too please :-)
    Marian in SA irwinm@jgi.co.za

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  3. Thieves of Baghdad by Matthew Bogdonos gave me one of the only remotely positive views I possess on the way any piece of the Iraq war was being handled. I don't agree with every political position he takes, but I came away with a deep respect for him and the work he does.

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  4. I'm drawing an utter blank on beliefs, but this book sounds fascinating. Please throw my name in the hat.

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  5. Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong challenged me because I never would have thought that confessed assassins could/would be protaganists that I would like. That the story didn't include a big life changing event that made them [the assassins] regret the life they were living and that I would still like them and see their side of things.

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  6. I was just talking about this book elsewhere on the internets. If I won a free copy ( ;p ) I'd be willing to take another chance on her, since her last couple of books just haven't done it for me. I must qualify that by saying that up until a few years ago, I bought everything she'd ever written!

    So I'm just gonna throw my name in the hat, and hope for the best ...

    — Bonz

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  7. Matriarch, by Karen Traviss, copyright 2006, is the last book I read that seriously challenged my belief system.

    I haven't read anything by Linda Howard to I hope to win Death Angel. Thanks for the opportunity, Lynn.

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  8. Tries to think books challenged my belief system. I can't think of any that challenged my beliefs. I can think of books that the subject "icked" some romantic suspense about serial killers. Love to read Linda Howard's latest.

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  9. I'd say my beliefs are pretty inviolate, but that doesn't mean they've never been challenged. I rather like being challenged, actually. :-)

    THE LAST DAY OF A CONDEMNED MAN, SPIN, and PARADISE LOST come readily to mind.

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  10. I do not really thin I've read such a book to challnge my beliefs.

    Please enter me.

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  11. Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk. Characters were beyond redemption (they didn't even try, just moved on and went with the flow). I was fascinated by the many negative reviews by people who based on the plot (porn queen wants to go out with a big bang, literally) than the actual book. Now after having read it, I can see both sides to the story. I doubt very much that if Palahniuk hadn't written such an outrageous book that I would have bought his backlist. :)

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  12. Anonymous6:14 AM

    I'm throwing my name in the hat, just coz I'm dying to win something...anything. And I love Linda Howard, even if I don't like the characters, or some aspect of their "lives", I still love Linda's writing.
    Pat T.

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  13. Steven Eriksons's Malazan Empire series (it is a fantasy series). It is so far about six or seven books all 800-900 pages long. The books all include scenes of war, rape,torture and even one of them features cannibalism. I am not usually drawn to dark books. And the idea of a series that is so relentlessly about violence should be abhorrent. But I find the writing is so engaging, the author has built such an incredible world that includes characters that not only maintain their humanity but also sense of humor under harrowing circumstances. Totally opened my boundaries in reading, especially in the area of fantasy fiction.

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  14. I'll throw my name in.

    Can't name a particular book, although I love trying to flip rules around in my own writing. I've got an ebook out in August featuring a dead guy who comes back to try and save his lover before it's too late-and his lover is the woman who murdered him.

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  15. I know I've been challenged by a lot of books, but it's not even 7AM here and I can't think of a single one at the moment, so I'll just throw my name in the hat but I'll think about this question again when I wake up. :)

    Heather

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  16. The Liar's Diary by Patry Francis made me take a long hard look at how I live my life. It gave me a shaking and made me open my eyes to how I let myself be indifferent too often. It's not who I am, so why would I live like that?

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  17. Okay- sounds interesting. Put my name in the hat, please. :-)

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  18. Well, I don't think you mean it this way, but the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov has really challenged me. Not because of the content, but because it can be such heavy reading. It took me a while to get into the flow, and I still have to take breaks to make my head stop spinning!

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  19. Anonymous8:14 AM

    I am going to throw my name in the hat too...

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  20. Anonymous wrote: I am going to throw my name in the hat too...

    Anonymous, I'll need you to repost your entry with a name or handle that identifies you, otherwise I can't put you in the hat.

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  21. *sigh* I asked for this for review through Writers are Readers and it was, of course, taken. It sounds awesome. I love assassins.

    Books continually challenge my beliefs. The Left Hand of the Electron is one that comes to mind. (Non-fic, Isaac Asimov)

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  22. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
    Anita Blake character of Laurell Hamilton's series
    City of Pearl and series thereafter by Karen Traviss
    I've read one Linda Howard novel, was not overly impressed - a bit of fluff at the time. Would really like to read something that has such an unlovable protaganist!

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  23. I am fascinated by irredeemable characters! I want to write a bad guy hero so bad.....

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  24. Tammy9:00 AM

    Geesh it's hard to think of a book(s) that challenged me for some reason.............The Drake Sisters sereis by Christine Feehan.

    I LOVE Linda Howard, and I haven't gotten this one yet, so I'd love to win one, please add my name to the hat.

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  25. Anonymous9:02 AM

    I'm going to go with Memnoch the Devil, by Anne Rice. It definitely made me think, especially since I'm Catholic. ~Jennifer K.

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  26. Excuse me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn challenged my beliefs. It made me realize that complaining about things sucks, and being postive about my life worked better.

    Name in hat, please. Thank you! Your book giveaways are always so generous.

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  27. Anonymous9:16 AM

    Most books challenge my beliefs at least a little. I can't think of a book that was exceptionally challenging.

    Unlikely heroes are fascinating.

    Max

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  28. This didn't challenge my beliefs, but it's the first book that comes to mind when I think of taking a risk with an irredeemable main character. In fact, I'm a bit surprised nobody's mentioned it yet: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I guess it challenged my belief that a novel about an unrepentant pedophile could be any good. Humbert (I hope I'm getting his name right) is not a good guy, he's not redeemed and we're not supposed to like him. But the writing is brilliant and the story fascinating, in the icky moral specimen sort of way.

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  29. Any of John R Maxim's Bannerman books.

    What's funny about it is that I was at a Linda Howard signing years ago when her book "Open Season" came out and she recommended two writers to everyone to try... Maxim and SL Viehl. I've enjoyed both ever since!

    Wendy

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  30. C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy has my favorite anti-hero, Gerald Tarrant. His character undergoes some fabulous tranformations in this trilogy. I find myself recommending this trilogy quite often, mainly because of Tarrant.

    Krista Heiser

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  31. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. It was so good that I can't bring myself to re-read it.

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  32. I love books that challenge my belief systems, but an assassin as hero wouldn't do that. I adore Linda Howard, though and I've read several books where either the H or h were assassins. They make for incredible conflict.

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  33. Alison C.9:47 AM

    This work didn't challenge my belief system, but I loved the way Anne Bishop threw the conventional light / dark spectrum on its head with her DARK JEWELS series. She took a risk--and saw things in a new light. And it worked.

    Alison C.

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  34. "Fall From Grace" by Megan Chance. The characters are outlaws. . .

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  35. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde - a series of books about books, but fiction and quite fantastic. He also wrote the Nursery Crimes series. Challenging because he shows that writing about classic literature can be more than just *good* - it can be fun, funny, and amazingly complicated.

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  36. To Sail Beyond the Sunset by Robert Heinlein. His main character has such a liberating view of sex. It was a revelation to me how anyone could have sex so freely, so joyfully, so guilt free. I read this at a young age, and I would have to say it made a huge impression on me.

    Please add my name to the hat.

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  37. The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes. Definitely a challenge when the narrator flat out says he's lying to you throughout the book.

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  38. Stephen R. Donaldson's Covenant series. Thomas Covenant has so many flaws that I read most of the books because I loved the secondary characters, not because I cared for him. He was a rapist, supremely selfish, and at times horribly cruel. A lot of good people and beings die because of him. And when he finally redeems himself at the end of the first trilogy, we meet Linden (in the second trilogy) a woman who killed her own mother and spends three books making some of the worst choices I've ever read. Somehow Donaldson makes you care and eventually understand what led these characters to their terrible choices. The books end with victory, but not without horrible costs. They challenged what I thought was heroic.

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  39. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Don't put my name in the hat as I have a copy, thank you.

    Developing the relationship between Alexandra and Michael over seven novels seemed to me a large risk, considering the short attention span of romance readers. You are fearless. I also thought the Liquor books by Poppy Z. Brite were an admirable career risk taken (you sent those to me, didn't you?)

    L.

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  40. Anonymous10:44 AM

    Throwing name into hat.

    Sari

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  41. Oh yeah, Heinlein. When I read him I was a Catholic with a much more conservative view of sex. I'm still more conservative on sex than Heinlein, but it definitely challenged me.

    Thinking about it some more, Orson Scott Card's Shadow series challenged me because I have a very different outlook on world politics than he does.

    The Thomas Covenant books, on the other hand, didn't work for me. Unlike Humbert in Lolita, which I mentioned above, Covenant is supposed to be the guy we see as good by the end, and Donaldon just couldn't pull that off, for me. (Spoiler coming, but it's already been said here). I could not get over the rape. Maybe a rapist can find redemption in God's eyes, but not in mine. I wanted nothing to do with him. I hated him. So I guess it challenged me, but it didn't win me over as a reader.

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  42. I'm sure there are examples, but I can't think of any right now. Usually, I am challenged by the first book of a sort that I read, not necessarily the first one ever written of that type. So, the first Stephen King, the first explicit historical romance I ever read (when I was like 12...boy was *that* eye opening), etc.

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  43. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever
    I first read Lord Foul's Bane when I was 12, and have reread it many time since then.
    I found the idea that the protagonist could commit the crime of rape deeply disturbing, and the far reaching effects and consequences of that act a revelation.

    Ps. I ordered TF yesterday from amazon, can not wait for it to arrive in the post

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  44. Throwing my name in the hat:)

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  45. Dang, I just ordered Death Angel last night from Amazon or I would try for the win. : )

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  46. Tamith11:50 AM

    "Mind of my Mind" by Octavia Butler. The way she writes about her characters' flaws is frank, unapologetic, unvarnished--she doesn't try to redeem them. And I'm a little disturbed that I finds such a cold-blooded killer like Doro so likable.

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  47. Not sure about challenging my belief systems, but "David Copperfield" certainly helped form them :).

    *rams name into hat*

    :)

    Could do with a free book!

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  48. A Clockwork Orange. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started that book oh so long ago.

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  49. Laurell K Hamilton
    Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

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  50. Putting my name in the hat. L.D.

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  51. I guess I would have to say the Anita Blake series (back when it was still good) challenged my beliefs about love and monogamy.

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  52. Anonymous1:17 PM

    Sorry...I am new to the posting thing...I am not a writer myself but an avid fan of anything written by PBW

    Thanks...Mohua

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  53. All right, you've caught my interest. I'll throw my name in the hat.

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  54. Plunking my name in the hat, please.

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  55. I can't think of any right now. So I am putting my name if the hat.

    Teresa

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  56. The last book to change my beliefs was Odd Thomas. The main character was the embodiment of innocence, and he had such an optimistic view on the world -- seeing the comedy in places where most would only see tragedy. Since I read that, I've been trying to do the same thing.

    Tossing name in hat. This sounds really interesting.

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  57. Not putting my name in the hat as I've made arrangements to get this book.

    Wanted to thank you for your great review/recommendation of Death Angel. I am a longtime Linda Howard reader. But have been hoping/wishing since her Kiss Me While I Sleep that she would get back on track with exciting books.

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  58. Great idea and would like to be entered please. Thanks for the chance.

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  59. Interesting concept. Put my name in the hat. Thanks.

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  60. I can't think of a book to name but I do love Linda Howard so please toss my name in the hat.

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  61. Not certain I've read a book that challenged my beliefs.

    But I read The Host by Stephenie Meyer this year, and it certainly made me think about how human beings would be thought of by an objective alien viewpoint. How completely crazy we must seem.

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  62. Just throw my name in the hat. :)

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  63. I don't think I've read anything that challenged my personal belief system - it's pretty darned fluid. But I appreciate what Anne Stuart has done to expand the heroic archetype in her "Ice" series. She turned stone killers into heroes and heroines, which was a great lesson in craft: you can pull almost anything off with the proper character motivation. ;-)

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  64. I'd love this, but I don't know if you mail outside the US.

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  65. Throwing my name in the hat. Thanks.

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  66. I love reading Linda Howard but I was disappointed in Drop Dead Gorgeous. Maybe it was the first person?

    Other than that one book I love her writing.

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  67. Anonymous7:13 PM

    I would love to read this. I like reading things when it seems impossible.
    kimikaio@yahoo.com

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  68. hi I can't think of any novels at the moment but I sure there are a few novels that have challenage my "rules"
    Annie

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  69. Can't think of anything I've read that challenged my beliefs, but it sounds like a good read.

    /throwing my name in

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  70. Ann Aguirre wrote: I'd love this, but I don't know if you mail outside the US.

    Absolutely. I mail to anywhere on earth as long as you have postal service of some kind that delivers packages from the U.S. This is basically everywhere on the planet except places like the middle of the Amazon or the South Pole (although someday I hope to work out a delivery deal with the lost tribes and the Emperor penguins, respectively.)

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  71. No Need to enter me. I'm going to buy this book NOW. LOL Thanks for the recommendation, I love books that are edgy, and surprising.

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  72. Haven't had a book that has challenged my beliefs really. But this sounds like a fascinating read.

    Please toss my name in. :)

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  73. Some book called "If Angels Burn" because I swore to my friends in my local readers' group that I DO NOT LIKE VAMPIRE stories....


    ;) Terri B

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  74. Most recently was the book The Host by Stephenie Meyer. The character of Wanderer was an alien that took over the mind/body of a human. I kept thinking I shouldn't like her because of what she was and what she had done. By the end of the book I liked her a lot.

    Please add my name.

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  75. The book that comes to mind as challenging me is Laura Leone's "Fallen From Grace." I read it years ago and the male hero was a paid prostitute. It was beautiful and amazing.

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  76. Anonymous11:24 PM

    Throwing my name into the hat!

    I love Linda Howard's books! Good luck everyone!

    Thanks,

    Terri W.

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  77. I have never read any Linda Howard but I always love a challenge! Throwing my name in the hat and intending to look the book up regardless! - Hannah G.

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  78. knew i should have checked the blog yesterday - i think i have missed the deadline.

    but chucking hard for the hat anyway.

    there was one book very disturbing to read - the main characters could mind control other people and they were not nice about it - just can't think of the author.


    Cheers from Australia

    sorry did it work already- is this a second copy of the same thing?

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  79. Karin Lowachee's Warchild flipped by universe upside down. Utterly captivating.

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  80. Please throw my name into the hat. Sounds like a great read!

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  81. This sounds like a great book and one I would love to read. Please put my name in the hat!

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  82. Thanks this is now on my must read list. I really like Linda Howard's work already, but this really sounds fascinating. I love irredeemable characters, lol

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  83. I LOVE LOVELOVE Linda Howard. CRY NO MORE made me bawl my eyes out and made me a lifelong fan. I'll be buying this right away. I LOVE it when hard hitters knock it out of the park, it loosens up the market for the rest of us.

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  84. This would be a new author for me, I'm always looking for them. Count me in!

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  85. SaraC5:27 PM

    I loved Holly Lisle's The Secret Texts Trilogy because it really subverted one of the great fantasy tropes.

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