The season of seasons has almost come upon us. Stores are flooded with leaves and pumpkins, there is rarely any food or drink that has not been seasoned with pumpkin spice, the trees are shedding their first leaves and the air is getting crisper. If you are an autumn-enthusiast just like I am, this is about the right time to think about what books to get cozy with this fall. May I present you my top four picks, including If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Diviners by Libba Bray and The Immortals by S. E. Lister.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio- Imagine dedicating your whole existence to Shakespeare. That’s what Oliver and his classmates at Dellecher do. Or rather, once did. It’s been ten years since Oliver has last been at Dellecher, serving ten years for a murder he may or may not have committed. Being released after all, he finds that he is not the only one who cannot forget and after ten years, he might finally be ready to share what happened a decade ago. As they start their fourth year of acting at the elite conversatory Dellecher they think it is going to be just as it has always been. The seven of them, never apart, playing the same roles in life as on stage. But then everything begins to shift, castings get changed and the friends seem to drift apart. And all of a sudden they find themselves actors in a tragedy they never intended to play. Their every-day rivalry becomes more and more present until one of them is found dead, while the rest of them have to face their most significant role yet. Convincing the police, and each other, that they are innocent.
“Halloween approached like a tiger in the night, with a soft rumble of warning. All through the second half of October, the skies were bruised and stormy, […]. As the ill-omened day crept closer, it was impossible to suppress a buzz of mounting excitement among the students. The morning of the thirty-first, whispers chased us around the refectory as we poured our coffee. […] When witching hour arrived, we set off through the woods, one by one.”
If you have read The Secret History by Donna Tartt you’re probably suspicious. Yes, If We Were Villains is similar to it, I cannot deny it, but I personally liked it better than Tartt’s work. I know that quite a lot of people consider The Secret History a very fall-appropriate book and I do too, but M. L. Rio took it a step further. Halloween, especially the night of it, plays an important role as the story unravels, but I don’t want to forestall anything. If We Were Villains has just the right amount of poetic fall passages, the darkness that comes with obsession and an overall stunning sense for plotting the perfect crime. You will have to see for yourselves, but having a glimpse at this one probably won’t let you down.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik- As long as tales exist, the darkness of the woods has awakened fear in people everywhere. The forest close to Agnieszka’s home is no different. Her whole life people around her have been living fearing it, but there’s more to it than just it’s darkness. No-one comes back from the Woods unchanged. So for as long as Agnieszka can remember every ten years a wizard, the Dragon, comes down to her village to choose a young woman to serve him for the next decade, in exchange for providing the villagers safety. Already fearing her friend Kasia to be taken during the Dragon’s next choosing, for she is the most perfect of them all, Agnieszka’s world is turned upside down when it turns out, it’s not Kasia he takes.
“On the last day, I found us a clearing in the woods where the trees still had their leaves, golden and flame-red rustling all above us, with ripe chestnuts all over the ground. We made a little fire out of twigs and dry leaves to roast a handful. Tomorrow was the first of October, and the great feast would be held to show honor to our patron and lord. Tomorrow, the Dragon would come.”
Uprooted is like an old children’s tale you’ve never come across before. Every word in it is heavy, as if drenched in magic. Reading this book, one feels like knowing what is going to happen next and constantly ending up being surprised by how differently from ones own imagination the tale unwraps, one page after another. Uprooted is a novel unlike any other. At most times it is strange and dark, intensely fantastic and magical. Yet sometimes manages to authentically include friendship just as love along the way. Uprooted is a fall must-read.
The Diviners by Libba Bray- It’s the 1920s. Evie O’Neill gets sent off to live with her uncle, curator of the “Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult”, in New York City after getting in trouble at home one too many. By the time she gets there a series of mysterious murders is troubling the city and Evie finds herself diving headfirst into investigations.
“She knew she could try to read any of the objects to find out more about Sam Lloyd, but it wasn’t worth the headache. She’d trust that he’d come back looking for the coat. It was September, and the weather would turn soon enough.”
The Diviners just had to make the list. This book is kind of spooky and dark with fantastic elements, but not in a way as serious as the other three books. It has humor, a kick-ass female lead with a well-developed male character right by her side. Beside that it’s gripping and mysterious, only revealing what has to be revealed in order for the reader to still understand the main plot, but there sure is a lot more going on. This would definitely be my go-to Halloween pick for a book.
The Immortals by S. E. Lister- This is a story of falling through time, of an uncontrollable journey, of lost wanderers. This is the story of Rosa Hyde, of the Immortals. Due to a traumatic event in her father’s past Rosa Hyde has never left the year 1945. During all her seventeen years of life she and her family are forced to live through the same year time after time, from beginning to end and over again. For most of those seventeen years, she doesn’t have a clue about what is going on, how something like that is possible, until she escapes, falling through time. But she finds company in Tommy Rust, a man certain that he will live forever. An Immortal, like her. Roaming the millennia they wander, ever admiring the places, wherever the tides might take them. But as easily as the tides brought Tommy and her, and the other Immortals, together as easily do they fall apart all the same, leaving her falling through time all over again. But from that point on something is different. It seems that the tides too are aware of it’s travelers, and that the harder they hold on to anything that is dear to them, the faster it all falls apart and there seems to be nothing they can do about it.
“They were sitting out on the balcony in the late afternoon, sipping hot coffee, coats about their shoulders. The autumn sunlight cast a rosy glow over the rooftops and the cobbled street below […]”
The Immortals manages the perfect balance between being intensely fantastic and magical and at the same time spreading a very realistic aura. It’s a mixture I have never seen so well developed in any other novel and that’s exactly what makes this book so special. The warm feeling you experience when reading about magic intertwined with pure every-day life wrapped up in a layer of stunningly beautiful wording. All of the four books I am introducing in this review are dear to me, but out of them all, this is my favorite pick. Partly because it seems to be so unknown, but mostly because I just genuinely love it’s writing style and the complexness of the plot, just as the characters. But above all, because it really reminds me of autumn. It has this certain feeling to it that makes me think of crisp air and crunchy leaves. I am holding onto myself desperately to prevent myself from begging you to read it. You’re welcome, but please still do so.
With that said, I wish you the most memorable of autumns! May you have golden days, just as rainy ones and may you find the perfect read to keep you company, no matter the weather.