State of the ARC: April 2021

State of the ARC is a meme hosted by Avalinah’s Books in which we round up our ARCs and attempt to wrangle them into something approaching order. Sometimes it’s like herding cats.

I’ve finished up several ARCs lately, but then I went and requested several more, which were promptly approved, so I haven’t exactly cut down on the number of ARCs I have on my To Read shelf. Alas and alack. I am not upset by this fact, as they all seem so interesting (of course, we always say that about ARCs, else we wouldn’t have requested them, would we have?).

Recently Published:

Until the introduction of the printing press in Europe in the late 1400s, books were some of the most precious and most beautiful artworks of the late medieval era. In addition to holding the knowledge of the ages, they contained intricate illuminated pages and beautiful illustrations. In 1400s Florence, Vespasiano da Bisticci became one of the most prolific booksellers in Europe, whose clients included kings and popes. Called the ‘king of the world’s booksellers’, his literary empire would face its greatest challenge with the introduction of the printing press in 1480. The Bookseller of Florence is an ode to the world of books and bookmaking, as well as a memorial to a literary titan of the early Renaissance.

  • Dance with Death (Barker and Llewellyn #12) by Will Thomas
    Historical Mystery
    Expected publication date: April 13, 2021, by St. Martin’s Press

In the summer of 1893, the young Tsarevich Nicolas has traveled to London to attend a royal wedding. He has brought with him his ballerina mistress and his security forces, for his life has been threatened by an assassin known as La Sylphide. Though Nicolas is protected by forces from both Russia and England, an attack on Prince George proves that they need more help. Enter Barker and Llewellyn, who are hired to track down the assassin. Their investigation brings them face to face with old enemies, high society, and motives both political and personal. While facing attempts on their own lives, Barker and Llewellyn must solve this case before the greatest royal families in Europe fall victim to the crime of the century.

Long beloved for their shimmering feathers, hummingbirds have long held a special place in the imaginations of people all over the world. But these tiny birds live on a knife’s edge, fighting for survival in myriad places– some of them being among the harshest ecosystems on the planet. Acclaimed nature writer Jon Dunn travels around the world, from the Arctic reaches to Antarctic islands in search of hummingbirds in all their varieties.

Lacking in essentials like air and water, the little planet of Gora is an unremarkable place, though its convenient location makes it a popular stop on the way to somewhere else. When a freak accident halts all traffic in and out of Gora, three travelers of different species– an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a crossroads, and a mysterious traveler doing her best to help those on the fringes– must face where they’ve been, where they’re going, and what they could come to mean to one another.

Upcoming Releases:

Inspector Lu Fei is a graduate of one of China’s elite police academies, but he has been sent to a remote backwater village where nothing ever seems to happen. Until a young woman is found brutally murdered. A rising star in China’s CID is sent to investigate, but as the country grows more authoritarian, stability and prosperity are valued more than solving the murder of one poor woman. It seems that no one cares about justice except Lu Fei. The more he investigates the crime, though, the more enemies he makes, and soon he realizes that he could be putting himself and everyone he loves in danger.

  • The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
    Expected publication date: May 25, 2021 by Bloomsbury Publishing

In an alternate history where England is a French colony, a man named Joe Tournier is suffering from amnesia. The only thing he knows about his identity comes from a century-old Scottish postcard, written in the forbidden language of English, signed only as “M”. Joe goes in search of M in order to discover more than one identity, and in so doing, will change the course of history forever.

A young woman finds love with another woman whose true self emerges just once a week. A young witch seeks freedom through betrayal, innocent bones, and a meticulous spell. A princess flees an arranged marriage and finds a family with a troupe of actors deep in the forest. These stories and more make up The Tangleroot Palace, Liu’s first collection of short, fantastical stories.

  • The Ice Lion by Kathleen O’Neal Gear
    Science Fiction
    Expected publication date: June 15, 2021 by DAW Books

A thousand years in the future, a thick slime called Zyme covers the oceans. Three-mile thick glaciers cover continents. Ancient stories say that a god-like people known as the Jemen left stories behind telling of how their attempts to halt global warming went terribly wrong. To counter that, they recreated the species that survived Earth’s greatest Ice Ages, among these were a people known as the Denisovans. Sixteen-year old Lynx and his friend Quillien live in this new world of freezing seasons and monstrous creatures. On a journey to save their lives, Lynx and Quillien find the impossible: a still-living Jemen who tells them that their only chance of survival is to sacrifice themselves to a quantum computer.

  • Beyond (The Founding of Valdemar #1) by Mercedes Lackey
    Expected publication date: June 15, 2021, by DAW Books

Lackey has hinted at Valdemar’s beginnings in many previous books, but at long last, she is telling the story of Baron Valdemar and how he and his people fled the Eastern Empire to find freedom in the wilderness– and how the mystical Companions arrived to aide them.

Heather Cass White, herself a lifelong reader, advocates for a life spent in books. Not for educational purposes or the ‘value’ ascribed to certain kinds of books, but for the sheer enjoyment, fascination, and the expression of the self that reading brings to a person’s life. It is also a tribute to the reading life and aims to help people rediscover their love of books.

For millennia, the Scandinavian people of northern Europe lived relatively quietly among the forests and fjords of their sub-arctic climes. But in the mid-Medieval period, they emerged from their remote homeland and spread out across Europe, from the icy volcanoes of Iceland to the cathedrals of Byzantium– and beyond the known world to North America, hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage. In The Viking Heart, Herman blends historical narratives with the latest archaeological and DNA research to build a fascinating story of a people who have captured our imaginations for centuries.

  • Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
    Expected publication date: August 17, 2021, by Del Rey

Mexico City, 1970s. Maite is a secretary who escapes the troubles of life in the pages of romances while her neighbor Leonora lives a life of intrigue and romance. One day Leonora disappears, and Maite finds herself unexpectedly looking into the mystery. Meanwhile, a young criminal named Elvis, who would rather go into the movies and rock ‘n roll than follow his shadowy gangster boss’s orders, is also out looking for Leonora. During their separate investigations, Elvis observes Maite from afar and starts to fall for her. As their search brings them together, they plunge deeper into the dangerous world of spies and violence that Leonora was involved in.

In 2017, DNA evidence showed that a skeleton from a high-status Viking grave in Birka, Sweden, was actually a woman. Archaeologists had long believed the skeleton to have been that of a male, thanks to the weapons buried with the person. The idea that this grave was that of a woman upended the notions we had about Viking society. Was this woman a Viking warrior? In The Real Valkyrie, Brown explores the idea that there were female Vikings alongside the men, which is contrary to our modern notions– which are based upon Victorian histories that often sought to reinforce their own gender roles and assumed superiority, rather than tell a true story of history. Using sagas, stories, and archaeological evidence of the Viking era, Brown seeks to expand upon our views of a woman’s place in Viking society.

Raena Schinen narrowly escaped being murdered by the Queen’s Guard when after they killed her entire family. She has spent the past fifteen years disguised as a male knight, biding her time until she has a chance to kill the Queen. Just when the time is right to enact her plan, however, Raena is sent to a foreign land to serve the common-born Duchess Aven Colby, whose connection to the queen threatens to reveal Raena’s secret. As their relationship blossoms, though, they must set out on a journey to stop a looming invasion. To do so, they must form precarious alliances and risk the Queen’s wrath even as a mysterious foe rises to threaten everything they hold dear.

As of today, I’ve received 66 approvals and reviewed 57 of them for a feedback ratio of 86%. I have four pending requests, none of which are going to be published until this Fall, so even if the publishers don’t get back to me for a while, that’s okay. There’s plenty of time (for now). The Kingdoms is the next ARC on the list, so I’ll get to that one soon. I’ve already taken a look at it, and there’s a weird formatting issue that might get completely on my nerves or not, depending on whether or not I get used to it. Or it might be something that’s related to the story itself. I’ve only read the first couple of pages so I can’t tell yet.

It’s odd, that even though I’ve been pretty picky about the ARCs I request, I think I have more active ones than ever. But so far I have enjoyed all of them I’ve read so far this year. Which is great! By this time last year, I’d had two ARCs that were awful and they made me want to stop reading ARCs for a while. But we’re past that, and I’ve had a great time with everything since then. Huzzah!

4 thoughts on “State of the ARC: April 2021

  1. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was pretty good. It’s probably my third favorite of the Wayfarer novels, but definitely enjoyable. Thief of Souls was pretty average. I guessed whodunnit about two-thirds of the way through, and the writing was pretty mediocre. I don’t know if it’s that Klingborg is a mediocre writer, or if it’s because this is his (I think) second novel, and he’ll improve as he goes on.

  2. This is an amazing list. I love it. Do you keep track of your ARCs-Read-By-Publication-Date? I’m curious if you manage to read your ARCs on time regularly. Lord knows I never did. XD

    It intrigues me that you don’t cross-post to the reviews you’ve written for these ARCs. I know you reviewed (at least) Thief of Souls and The Galaxy, and The Ground Within recently. I dunno. I think if you’ve already reviewed the ARC, people might be interested in knowing and checking out your review? Or maybe that’s just me…

  3. I was cross-linking the reviews, buy stopped doing that for some reason. I don’t remember why. Might have had something to do with the WordPress editor’s update driving me absolutely nuts for a while….

    I haven’t been late for any of my ARCs’ publication dates yet, except for the one I didn’t receive until a month after it came out.

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