Since I managed to finish The Way of Kings, I was able to move on ahead and read several more books last month! So let’s get to it.
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
I bought this book last year on a day off mostly because it looked like the type of adventurous MG books that I really like, plus it had a blurb by my favourite author, Megan Whalen Turner. I didn’t get to it until just recently. In this book, the world has been fractured by something called the Great Disruption, where different areas of the world are in different eras. Sophia lives with her uncle, Shadrock, one of the best cartologists among all eras. But one day, Shadrock is kidnapped, and Sophis teams up with a boy named Theo to get him back.
Overall I really liked this book. The world-building was very imaginative, and the “magic” comes in the form of special maps that could be activated in various ways to show not just places, but memories of different kinds. I’m very impressed with the way the author managed to keep track of the different eras, how characters from these different eras manage to interact with each other, and how well-crafted the final twist was.
The book also had a slightly political bent to it (I mean, of course, having a book in which different eras must interact would have politics in it). I liked how despite living in our “past,” Sophia’s era still managed to abolish slavery and give women equal rights. That said, while there are some progressive ideas that leaned towards acceptance and tolerance, there are moments that strongly echoed outdated colonial views, like how it was up to them to propagate Western values to the rest of the world. It was a little jarring to read that.
I still highly recommend this book, if only so that I could ask people how they feel about the twist. I saw an ARC of this book’s sequel at work, and I will be eagerly picking it up next.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
I picked this book up on a whim, and ended up enjoying it a lot. It’s about a world where people are born gray and dull, and there are special women called “The Belles” who have the power to make others beautiful. Camellia wants to be the favourite Belle so that she can work in the palace.
The plot was gripping, and there was enough depth to the intrigue that it kept me wanting to read more. I did something for the first time while reading this, which is to read while walking home, hehe.
Back from the Crocodile’s Belly by Lily Mendoza
This is a collection of essays that explore how the essence of the babaylan (a traditional, indigenous Filipino shaman/priestess) can be invoked to help modern Filipinos decolonize themselves and cope in a world that moves increasingly farther away from traditional values.
I was hoping to glean more information about precolonial Filipino culture. However, I found only a couple of essays that did so (the ones written by Grace Nono and Lane Wilcken), and the rest feature more contemporary reflections rather than historical information.
As I closed the book this morning, it once again hit me that a lot of the resources I’ve been reading about Filipino culture have been written by Americans or Filipino Americans. The majority of the essayists in this compilation were Filipino Americans. It concerns me a little. I’m not saying these aren’t valuable, or that these are less valuable, than if they were written by Filipinos in the homeland, but even the authors of these essays agree that one’s environment influences the way we think and function as human beings.
So it makes me think. Where are the essays and resources written by Filipinos who live in the country? Is it that the Filipino diaspora are the ones who have the luxury to research and compile these kinds of resources? Is it because the editors are Filipino Americans, and hence are more likely to reach out to Filipino Americans in their networks? Are the diaspora the ones who have time to think about decolonization? (Personally, I didn’t think about decolonization until I came to Canada, so it sort of makes sense. Sometimes it’s easier to question some things when you’re not so knee-deep in it.) Or perhaps, as someone who lives in Canada, it’s just easier for me to access books authored by Americans rather than those in the Philippines? By not reading more native authors, do I somehow get a skewed picture? Am I asking too many questions? Lol.