Every Monday in the month of July, we’ll talking to Seattle-area booksellers about the books they’re most excited to read this summer.
Christina at Ravenna Third Place Books has the perfect book for your summer vacation: The Winged Histories by Sophia Samatar. As a fan of speculative fiction and high fantasy, Christina says Histories brings something new to the genre, “a response to tropes of the fantasy genre that tend to go unexamined, like the glory of warfare or toxic masculinity or colonial oppression and things like that.”
Histories, Christina explains, is the story of four women — a nomadic poet, a socialite, the emperor’s niece, and “the daughter of a cult priest whose religion has been used as a source of violence and oppression” — in the middle of a “huge rebellion.” The women are on different sides of the conflict, and Christina says Samatar is an “incredible stylist” who ensures that each of the women are “fully embodied” as characters of “great depth.”
Many of these characters in Histories are huge readers, and their reading greatly influences their actions. The duaghter of the priest comes from a cloistered background, for instance, while the emperor’s niece is a soldier who has “grown up reading epics about swordmaidens.” And Samatar’s deep research into the gender divide in nomadic literature provides a central conflict in the poet’s story.
So who would Christina recommend Histories to? “It would be great for anyone who’s in love with fantasy,” she says, “and is curious to see it from a different perspective.” She says people who love reading will find much to enjoy here: “there’s such a discussion woven naturally in this book about the effect that reading a lot can have on your view of the world,” Christina says, that the act of reading the book takes on a deeper and more pleasurable resonance.