I never did get that chocolate, by the way. *cue violins* However, thanks to the nice folks at NCIX and their blazing-fast shipping capabilities, I now have sitting beside me on the desk a brand-new Wacom Bamboo Fun to replace my old Graphire II pen and tablet (which had pretty much stopped working, to the detriment of my carpal tunnel syndrome). It is shiny and black and full of cool new features, and I am looking forward to taking it for a proper test-drive soon -- if I can only catch up with all the other things I ought to do first.
Also happy-making, albeit in an extremely tense, clutch-your-heart-and-pant kind of way, is Elizabeth E. Wein's The Empty Kingdom, the second book in her Mark of Solomon duology, which I finished last night. I wanted to read all Wein's books before I posted about them in any detail, and now I have, so prepare to be lectured at:
If you love historical fiction, adventure, intrigue, complex and dynamic characters, multilayered plots that practically demand re-reading to savour their cleverness, and are looking for something different from the bog-standard Medieval/Victorian Britain norm, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on Wein's series. Her first book is The Winter Prince, an Arthurian tale of Mordred and his tortured relationship with his half-brother Lleu which is now out of print, but even if your library fails on that point you don't need to have read TWP to appreciate the next book in the series, A Coalition of Lions, which is about Lleu's sister Goewin and also introduces us to the true setting of Wein's ambitious historical cycle -- 6th century Ethiopia.
Yes, really. And it's fabulous.
If you can't get a hold of Coalition (which would be sad, because Priamos is a lovely lovely man, and it's so much fun meeting Telemakos as a young boy and getting all these delicious hints of what he will later become) you can still jump into the series with The Sunbird or even The Lion Hunter, but I think Sunbird is a better starting place if you can manage it. I could go on for pages about the complete and total awesomeness of Telemakos -- he's one of these characters who just steals your heart and breaks it into a million pieces and puts it back together again, and you just can't help but love him for it anyway. (A bit like Miles Vorkosigan without the manic energy, or Eugenides without the cockiness, by way of comparison -- Telemakos's virtues and faults are very much his own, however.)
The point is, a lot more people need to read, and buy, these books or there might not be another, and that would be a serious tragedy. So for purely selfish reasons I command my f-list to go out and read Elizabeth E. Wein's books, because I want the next one. Preferably soon.
(Oh, and Megan Whalen Turner thinks they're fab and has been urging her fans to read them, too. So you know it isn't just me.)