Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Genre-ally Speaking: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Title: Falling Kingdoms
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Year: 2012
Read: April, 2013
Genre: YA-fantasy
Magical Epic or Epic Fail: Epic Fail 1/2* (0.5 star)

The Quick and Dirty:

Unenjoyable enough to need Cicero's help in reviewing. Wants to be Game of Thrones, succeeds in sucking.

The Wordy Version:

When, publishers, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? Do you imagine that we have never met people who act with logic? Or do you willfully flood the market with paltry imitations of human behavior so that we shall no longer be able to recognize shadow from form?

This novel has a score of characters who, time and time again when given information, refuse to interpret what they have heard. It is impossible to believe that an impoverished kingdom, paying a 75% tax on wine exports, does not recognize that their tax rate is partially to blame for their poverty. The income tax in Sweden may be close to 60% today, but the Swedish government uses its income to provide its taxpayers with social services. The chief of Paelsia does not give his people anything but a vague hint that he can use magic (a claim none of the characters take seriously) to better their lives. Yet Jonas, the most intelligent of the teenage main characters, doesn’t begin to think of the possibility that his taxes are being mishandled until the end of the book. This is senseless; Jonas—in almost any other story—would be considered stupid.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review: The Summer Prince

Title: The Summer Prince
Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Publication Year: 2013
Read: April, 2013
Genre: YA-futuristic sci-fi
Star Rating: ****1/2 (4.5)

The Quick and Dirty:

Beautiful contemplation of the interface of art, physicality and mortality, set in a militantly feminist city in future Brazil.

The Wordy Version:

In a future world where nuclear winter has destroyed whole countries, and technology has extended physical life to 200+ years and digital life indefinitely, the city of Palmares Três has become an oasis in neo-Brazil. Palmares Três, to reject the violence that destroyed the world we live in, created a government of women, led by a term-limited queen and council of aunties. Every five years the people elect a Summer King to participate in government functions and select the next queen as the current queen slits his throat in a spring ceremony.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Youth Revisited: Lemon Squares

 photo IMG_0283_zps0abac871.jpg When Alyssa and I first talked about doing a Youth Revisited post about food, I was kind of stumped.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Youth Revisited: Watergate Salad Recipe

For our latest recipe challenge, Susan and I decided to do recipes we remember fondly from our childhood. Interestingly enough, they both ended up being desserts. I chose Watergate salad, hearkening back to a time when salads were a lot more diverse than greenery in a bowl with some extra add-ons to liven things up (not that I’m against that sort of salad. I actually rather enjoy it!). Just looking at it reminds me of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when people ate all manner of strange “salads” and things that might appear odd to modern taste buds, served at dinner parties and potlucks. (I’m picturing people in Mad Men-style attire, smoking cigarettes and schmoozing. It’s a very glamorous American nostalgia mental image, and I wasn’t even alive then for me to be nostalgic about it now!)

Alas, my visions of vintage fashion and family life might be set a couple decades too early, as pistachio pudding mix, one of the main ingredients, didn’t come out until 1975. Apparently Kraft, the maker of said pudding, came up with the recipe under the moniker of “Pistachio Pineapple Delight.” There doesn’t seem to be much consensus on how the name “Watergate” came about. Some think it was a new name for Kraft’s recipe invented by a Chicago food editor, others say the whole thing was concocted by a sous chef at the Watergate Hotel, and still others say it’s just an association with the presidential scandal that occurred around the same time as the salad’s height in popularity. Wikipedia says all these things and more.

At any rate, I find “Pistachio Pineapple Delight” to be a little too literal for me. I prefer the name Watergate for the tasty green concoction—mysterious, with absolutely no hints as to what the ingredients are. And Watergate was such a mystery to me as a child, my eyes peering at it over the edge of my grandparents’ dining room table, sitting so unnaturally pastel in its crystal bowl, waiting until such a time as I would be allowed to glop it on my plate. Did it contain water chestnuts, and that’s how it got its name? Wasn’t Watergate also a kind of crystal, and maybe that’s the kind of crystal bowl it always lived in on my grandma’s table, and maybe that’s why it’s called Watergate? It was an endless source of mystery and speculation to me. Not only the name, but the ingredients that made it so delicious as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Genre-ally Speaking: Matched by Ally Condie

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Year: 2010
Read: April, 2013
Genre: YA-Dystopian
Dys-miss or Dys-hit: Dys-miss. **

The Quick and Dirty:

Tired dystopian clichés make the background for a typical YA love triangle. Attempts to make the book "deep" (i.e. quoting poetry) merely irritate me.

The Wordy Version:

Tolstoy’s famous quote is that every happy family is alike but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. If only this could be applied to futuristic novels in addition to families. As far as I can tell, almost every unhappy future envisioned by novelists is unhappy for the same reason of having a fundamentally flawed socialist government taking away people’s individual freedom.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Audio-Philes: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Disclaimer: I fully intended for this to be a short and sweet review of the audiobook, but it morphed into a beast of a treatise on the merits of audiobookery, poetry in translation, and other geeky rants. You’ve been warned! (Skip to the next-to-the-last paragraph if all you want is the bottom line.)

Title: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Author: Unknown
Translator: Simon Armitage
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Listened to: April 2013
Star Rating: ****

Now, I’m not normally a person who enjoys audiobooks. I am very picky about them—if I don’t like the voice reading the book or how it reads the book, I will probably end up not liking the book. I suspect this has something to do with early trauma watching Milo and Otis with that one guy doing voices for ALL the animals, including a terrible approximation of a female voice. (There was also a bad experience involving the audiobook of Snow Falling On Cedars, with some offensive stereotypical “Asian” accents for the Japanese-American characters, but we shall speak no more on that matter…)

Read-Along: AGoT chapters Tyrion 1, Jon 2, and Daenerys 2.

And we keep on truckin' in the read-along! Susan has found herself buried under a veritable avalanche of library books and has tabled her A Game of Thrones reading for now, but hopefully she will rejoin us soon with some savvy insights and snark! This week we read Tyrion 1, Jon 2, and Dany 2. Join us!

Tyrion 1

Our first Tyrion POV, yay! Not a very long chapter, but it serves to move the plot along a bit. Tyrion has pulled an all-nighter reading in Winterfell’s library, and now that dawn has come he heads out in search of breakfast. He comes upon his nephew Joffrey and the Hound in the courtyard. The ever-sensitive Joffrey doesn’t see why he should go tell Lord and Lady Stark that he’s sorry their son fell out a window and broke his back, so Tyrion provides some instruction, punctuated by a brisk slap across the face. And another. Readers rejoice!

Tyrion then joins his siblings Cersei and Jaime, along with the royal children, for breakfast. Here as well Bran is the hot topic of conversation. Little Tommen and Myrcella appear to (thankfully) not be cut from the same cloth as their brother Joffrey, and express the more conventional thought that they hope Bran doesn’t die. Pretty much all the adults Tyrion has encountered so far this morning seem to think it would be more merciful to kill the comatose boy and be done with it, however. When Tyrion reveals that the maester thinks Bran will live, he notices a glance pass between Cersei and Jaime. Hm…

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Genre-ally Speaking: Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne Valente

Title: Six-Gun Snow White
Author: Catherynne Valente
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Publication Year: 2013
Read: April 2013
Star Rating: ****

The Quick and Dirty:

Valente adapts the Snow White fairy tale and replants it in the Old West. Our Snow White is the half-Crow daughter of a gem and precious metal robber-baron-type based in San Francisco—she lives a lonely childhood mostly ignored by her father, with only the animals in her backyard menagerie as her friends. After her father marries a cruel woman from the east coast, Snow White runs away to wilder parts of the West and has encounters with a huntsman/Pinkerton detective, a commune of (perhaps 7?) women living together in Montana to escape their pasts, and other hidden elements of the traditional Snow White tale. While it takes its cues from a fairy tale, this is definitely not a book for children—there are a lot of issues regarding race and the often-downtrodden place of women in history tied up in it. That being said, the book doesn’t feel preachy in anyway. The writing is lyrical and evocative, and poetic in a rough-and-tumble way that suits a fairy tale transpiring in the Old West. Expect some visceral gut-punches as you’re reading.

The Wordy Version (Spoilers May Lurk):

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I really liked the Old West-y style it was written in and Snow White’s voice, with people “cogitating” and “hollerin’” and other phraseology we don’t use so much anymore. I think the writing makes us really able to feel for Snow White with her double-whammy of being a) half-Native American in a white man’s world, and b) a woman, but surprisingly (or not) I was also able to feel for her stepmother Mrs. H, who you get the distinct impression is as horrible as she is due to her treatment as a woman throughout her life.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Haul: April 14

 photo AnatomyofaLibraryHaul_zps37f17b67.png

Romance Rubric Smackdown #1

Among our group of college friends, Susan is the romance novel expert. If you look at what she’s read in the last year, you’d be disappointed to see that she’s really only read about two, but you’ll have to trust us when we say that five years ago, the only pleasure reading she did was romance novels, and she could write peer-reviewed papers on the subject.

Several months ago our book club had a question about why romance novels treat sexual harassment as though it were the sexiest form of flirtation, and that got us all thinking about what really makes a successful romance.

Well, wonder no more. We present Susan’s carefully considered Romance Rubric, which we have begun to use in our recommendations to each other. As you can see, a superb romance will garner 18 points, and an awful romance will hover around 6. (There is no good reason to be reading a romance novel that looks like it will get below a 6. Honestly. Put the book down, and find some Austen fanfic instead.)

To show you how much fun it is to grade books with a rubric (and to test how much variation we can get between our scores), we’re taking on some of the most buzzed-about YA sequences out there, starting somewhat arbitrarily with:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Cinder were book club picks for us recently, and just like you can’t have a conversation about wizardry without arriving at Harry Potter, it’s impossible to start comparing YA romance-driven series without Twilight. Congratulations to Cinder for squeaking out a win over Daughter of Smoke and Bone in the romance department! Tough cookies, DoS&B, since Alyssa had a much more positive reaction to you. And soggy vegetables, Twilight Series, on your low score. (If you are at all interested in our snarky remarks written on the rubrics, you should be able to click on the photos and be linked to bigger, more readable versions of them.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Karou studies art in Prague, but increasingly she is called to run errands for her foster father, a chimera who trades teeth for wishes. Although Karou doesn't know anything about chimera other than the kindness of her family, chimera are eternal enemies of angels, who have a new plan to win. The angel Akira means to kill Karou as he closes the doors through which the chimera obtain teeth, but something about Karou fascinates him and starts to bring life back into his otherwise dead personality.

Mixed bag from the book club on this one, with Alyssa's cooler urban fantasy taste finding it good and Susan's hang-ups over bloody teeth and POV changes much less forgiving.

Alyssa on Daughter of Smoke and Bone photo photo5_zpscae7eb00.jpg Susan on Daughter of Smoke and Bone photo DaughterofSmokeandBonesSusan_zpse8c0c2db.png


Cinder is a young mechanic living in New Beijing with her adoptive father’s widow and daughters. When Crown Prince Kai asks her to repair his trusted old android, Cinder and Kai find they have mutual respect for each other, but Cinder fears what will happen when Kai finds out that she’s cyborg (having several mechanical body parts and some adjustments to her nerves). Meanwhile the country is facing a mysterious and deadly plague, and Kai’s under pressure to marry the beautiful but cruel moon queen.

We tried to have a book club discussion about this book, and it came down to our agreeing that the book was fun to read, very similar to Sailor Moon, and not particularly thought-provoking.

Alyssa on Cinder photo photo5_zpsfe874096.jpg Susan on Cinder photo CinderSusan_zpsd0bdd2f8.png


We had relatively positive feelings towards Twilight back in 2006 (before some of today’s Twihards could read...maybe even before some were born). Sure, New Moon was silly and pointless, but it seemed like a fluke publishing, kind of like sequels to rom/coms making it to movie theaters (Legally Blonde 2, Miss Congeniality 2, etc.). Unfortunately the books kept coming, and now we’re part of that hip group that talks about the death of feminism in the age of Edwardian vampires. As you may guess, that doesn’t make for high romance rubric scores:

Alyssa on Twilight photo photo6_zps6d7c89d5.jpg Susan on Twilight photo TwilightSusan_zpsef006120.png

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Read-Along: In which Ned comes to a tough decision and two Stark children don't listen to their adults.

Here we are with another week's batch of AGoT chapters! Wonder what hijinks our friends and frenemies will get up to in Catelyn 2, Arya 1, and Bran 2...

Catelyn 2

Catelyn and Ned just had sex, and are now going to ruin the evening with an argument. Catelyn is thinking about how cool Winterfell is, with hot spring water running through its walls so it’s always toasty and the bath water is always warm, when Ned goes and opens the windows and lets all the cold air in. Uh oh, nothing good comes from brooding out the window into the cold darkness…

Ned doesn’t want to go south and be the Hand of the King for Robert. He says when he refuses Robert will be upset for a while and then get over it, but Catelyn disagrees. She says Robert has changed and will see such a refusal as a) possible plotting against him, and b) an affront to his pride. Ned must not refuse these honors!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Read-Along: It's a twofer, it's a twofer!

(You have to imagine that in the voice of the panicked farmhand at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz.) We had 6 chapters ready for posting yesterday, but decided to nip it down to 3 so it wouldn't be (as much of) a beast of a post. So here are the next 3, and it's not even Saturday yet! Check out Daenerys 1, Eddard 1, and Jon 1 after the jump.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Read-Along: A Song of Ice and Fire

Hello, bookworms and moths! Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend. We have been working hard to bring you our latest project--a read-along! We've seen them on other blogs, and it looked kind of fun, so we thought we'd give it a try. Susan just started reading George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, and as Alyssa was looking for a good excuse to re-read the series, it was decided that this would be a fun option for a read-along, especially since it is so zeitgeist-y at the moment. We plan to post chapter-by-chapter summaries, followed by our individual takes on the chapters, aiming for at least 3 chapters per week, posted on Saturdays. We thought it might be interesting to see the perspective of a book newbie (Susan) *and* the retrospective perspective of someone who has already finished out the current 5 books (Alyssa). There will be spoilers for the chapters we are summarizing and commenting on (duh), but any spoilers for later books will spoiler-tagged so you won't see them unless you want to.

Full Disclosure: Alyssa got hooked on the TV show first, and then gobbled down the books. She really enjoys the show, but she really enjoys the books, too. If you put a gun to her head she would pick the books over the show, but does not consider herself to be a crazy book purist when it comes to the TV show adaptation.
Susan read the first two chapters of Song of Ice and Fire in February during a bitter cold spell, and was put off by its length. A few weeks later she watched two episodes of season 2 with a friend, and became hooked. She's made it up to episode 107 (and the 6% mark on the book) rapidly after that.

So without further ado...


We open on a scene of three men of the Night’s Watch, ranging beyond the Wall. Ser Waymar Royce, a young lord from the South, commands the ranging, although he has had the least experience of the three—Gared is an old man by Westerosi standards and has spent most of his life at the Wall, and our POV character Will has been there for 4 years.

Recipe Challenge: The Thief (Part 2)

Last week, in the hope of getting Alyssa to finally get over her PTSD from the POV switch in the second book of Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief sequence (only traumatic if you’re in middle school, I think), I challenged her to cook something inspired by the books. I think it’s working!

As I was describing my idea for the challenge to Alyssa, she and I basically jinxed ourselves by saying “Mediterranean Food!/?” at the same time. The wording probably wasn’t exact, or we don’t count alternate punctuation marks in jinxes, because we both continued talking happily that night. A few nights later Alyssa asked me if I had any ideas for what I was making. Possible spoiler “Sumac?” I added, otherwise clueless.

A few nights later, I was in bed with my Kindle, skimming the series for mentions of food. The series is set in a land somewhat like the Byzantine Empire could have been if the ancient Greek gods were still worshiped. Setting-wise, this excludes tomatoes, potatoes, corn and any pepper you’d chop. Since those are some of the most adaptable foods for cooking, I knew I would need some inspiration from the books. Unfortunately I forgot that about half the series involves journeying, and foods on the road tend to be bread and hard cheese, with a stolen chicken for a treat. Even when characters are sitting for a meal, there isn’t too much time spent on describing the food. Soup comes up a few times, everyone drinks wine, olives are stored in jars, and court meals involve soft cheese spreads and lamb. Somehow all this was less than inspiring without the prospect of a tomato to balance the saltiness.

I went back to the books. Agriculturally, olives are a big deal—Gen, the thief, doesn’t just pass through the Sea of Olives on his travels; another character tells him an etiological myth for the trees. In terms of relevance to the cooking challenge, though, olives interest me only in the form of olive oil. I dislike the texture of canned and jarred olives, and am particularly disgusted by the smell of brine.

I had almost resigned myself to the possibility of making a bowl of barley for breakfast and calling it my inspired meal, when I reread a passage about wheat. I love wheat.

The meeting on wheat production seemed to be a recitation of the yield of every wheat field in the country in the last year. Costis tried unsuccessfully to pay attention. They were a half hour into the list when the king asked, “What’s the difference in the wheat?”

“If Your Majesty would like to see, I have samples here.” [Pilades] reached into a variety of small bags that he was carrying and dumped handful after handful of grain onto the table. Dust rose in a cloud, and the king winced, waving his hand in front of his face. Pilades didn’t notice. He called the king’s attention to the formation of the seeds, to the number of the seeds, to their shape. He dumped more piles onto the table and explained the advantages of each, which one yielded the largest crop, which survived the most inclement weather, which could be planted summer or fall. Many facts Costis knew, having been raised on a farm. Some were new, and the lecture, once begun, was clearly unstoppable.

The king, who normally wandered away to a window during meetings like this, sat immobilized. He had little choice. If he so much as shifted in his seat, Pilades moved in closer, hovering over him with zeal. No doubt he rarely got a chance to expound to this extent and was reluctant to lose the king’s attention. The king made a few abortive attempts to escape but was ultimately forced to sit and listen.

… When Pilades finally wound down, the king, his face blank, thanked him. He thanked the two men he’d begun the meeting with and suggested that perhaps they could finish their business at another meeting, or better—they could just give him a written summary and he would look over it sometime himself. They nodded; the king rose and escaped into the hall. Once there with the door closed, he put his face in his hand.

“Thank gods I didn’t ask about fertilizer,” he said.

--Megan Whalen Turner (2006)

In fact, wheat confuses me even more than it confuses the advisors initially present in the meeting described above. In an attempt to replicate a Marks and Spencer salad last fall, I went on a grain-buying trip to Whole Foods, where I discovered that spelt and farro look almost exactly the same, both being varieties of wheat. Farro is the more expensive of ye olde wheats, and also takes about three times longer to cook; spelt sounds as rustic as you can get.

With that passage in mind, I decided to adapt a Middle Eastern rice soup recipe from the Around the World Cookbook Alyssa and I used in college. The rice became spelt, the beef meatballs became cubes of Quorn because I’m meat-adverse but the soup needed the textural contrast, and all the fresh herbs changed to dried ones from last summer’s garden.

I’m still not sure the spelt is the most likely wheat that the characters would find at an inn in Sounis, but unlike the characters in the series, I never had a lecture about varieties of wheat.

Sounis Soupis

1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ Tbsp. ground turmeric
½ cup yellow lentils
6 cups water
1 cup chicken (I used Quorn Chik’n Tenders + 1 veg bouillon cube)
1 cup spelt
~1 Tbsp. each, dried parsley and mint
~½ Tbsp. each, oregano and dried lemon-thyme
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
dab of butter
small pinch of saffron strands

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and fry the onion, stirring often.

  2. When the onion is golden (or when some of the pieces look like they might start to burn if you don’t do something soon), add the turmeric, lentils and water.
  3. Bring lentil-onion mixture to a boil, then put the top on the pot, and lower the heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the protein, spelt and herbs (except the saffron). Stir, and simmer for another 60-90 minutes, depending on how crunchy you are willing to leave your spelt. Spelt, like rice, will plump with water. Spelt will absorb more water per dry cup than rice will, so most of the water in the pot will disappear by the time the soup finishes. When I served my soup, the spelt was plump and its kernel was splitting open. My thinking now is that it would make more sense to put the spelt into the pot with the lentils.
  5. For the saffron, pour some boiling broth over the strands in a small bowl. Let the strands dissolve in the water, and add the liquid to thesoup towards the end of cooking.
  6. Garnish soup with garlic, lightly fried in butter.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Haul: Library Edition

So I went to the library today, and unsurprisingly returned home with more books than I had originally intended. Behold the haul:

Okay, okay, so it's really not all that many...it's been worse in the past. Most of these are possibilities for the WordNerds book club May pick, and I just wanted to be sure to get my hands on them so I won't run into the problem of the one we decide on being (of course) checked out when May 1st hits. I do believe the current front-runner is Gail Carriger's Etiquette and Espionage, although the longer a specimen of steampunk sits in the corner of my room, the harder it will be for me to resist reading it early. My main interest in the Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is that it was written by an alum of the university Susan and I (and most of our other book club members) attended. Out of the Easy has been tossed around by book club before and has gotten pretty solid reviews, and another book club member suggested How to Lead a Life of Crime. I WILL finish catching up on Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series soon, thus A Conspiracy of Kings (I seriously think that one's been in my possession for nearly 4 months now, between renewals and quick-returning-it-to-the-library-and-poaching-it-again).

But the real prize this time is Catherynne Valente's Six-Gun Snow White. I was astounded that the library had it--I keyed it into the library's search engine last night just on a whim, and sure enough, it was supposedly sitting on the new shelf. This book was published by Subterranean Press, a small press publisher of genre fiction which releases lots of delicious collector's and limited editions. I don't think this one was even published with a trade edition available, just the autographed, numbered limited edition of 1000 produced. It was released at the end of February and I feel like it was $60 before they sold out? (I clearly stalk Subterranean a lot and drool over the awesome things they release.) Anyway, I was a little incredulous that my small local library had managed to get a hold of this one. But sure enough, when I visited today, it was indeed as the interwebs promised:

Like I mentioned, this is sold out. I wondered if maybe some librarian ordered it for the library, hoping that when it someday got weeded out they could take it home (this is probably what I would do if I were a librarian). I was so excited that I asked at the reference desk if there was some way to know when a book was getting removed from the shelves and headed for the Friends of the Library book sale, because I would be really really interested in giving this one a good home eventually, but she said sadly there was really no way to predict or track that. She also thought it was really unusual that the libes would get such a unique sort of book, and confirmed that it was from a vendor they don't use very much. But still, wow! I will have to keep my eye out to see if they get more Subterranean books on the shelves via this vendor, or if it was a one-off. Part of me wants to just never give this lovely little lady back... XD If you're interested in checking this one out and weren't lucky enough to order a hard copy before they sold out, I do believe there is an e-book version available here. Has anyone else picked these up yet?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Recipe Challenge: The Thief

As our first ever recipe challenge, Susan challenged me some time last week to create a recipe inspired by The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner! Now, this book has been one of my top 5 since I read it way back when in 7th grade or something—it completely blew my mind, in a way that few books have done before or since. I don’t want to ruin anything if you haven’t read it, BUT YOU SHOULD READ IT. It’s not the kind of book where you say it’s good…for YA fiction. Nope, no qualification necessary. It’s a just plain good book, whether you are a YA or not. In the decade and a half since The Thief’s publication, the series has grown to a total of 4 books so far, with more to come. The WordNerds (the Skype book club Sus and I belong to) planned to read all 4 and discuss them for our December meeting, but I had some other things going on and wasn’t able to finish all 4 in the allotted time. I am still working my way through them, with reviews to come in the future, I imagine. I finished up my re-read of the second novel, The Queen of Attolia, a few days ago (no link to that one—I’m serious about avoiding spoilers on these gems!). So with my brain in the correct frame of mind, I set about concocting a recipe worthy of the world of Gen, the Magus, Sophos, Ambiades, et al.

A little background for anyone who hasn’t read these books: They take place in a fictional world that takes its cues from the Mediterranean climate and ancient culture of our own world. Very Greco-Romanish in its religions, mythology, agriculture, clothing, names, and so on. Lots of olive trees. The most part of the books’ action takes place in the three neighboring countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia. Sounis and Attolia are the lowland countries on either side of Eddis, which is a smaller nation up in the mountain range separating the other two. For some reason I always got the impression that Sounis was more arid and desert-y than Attolia, although it is on the sea, and that Attolia has much more arable land. Eddis, being up in the mountains, doesn’t have much in the way of agriculture and relies on trade for much of its food. I only mention these random bits of information because they were what I pondered while trying to invent a dish that might be consumed by the characters in these books. Of course, I can take some inspiration from Greek and other Mediterranean cuisines, I thought to myself, but I don’t want it to just be a Greek-style recipe that I plop down in the world of the books. I wanted it to still be something unique that would fit into that world naturally, taking into account the kinds of foods that would be available there, but not have it be something, like, the gyro recipe from that little Greek shop down my street. And this is what I came up with.

Side Dish: Cucumber Yogurt Salad

So this is my take on tzaziki, the Greek staple. I imagine it’s quite likely something like it exists in the world of The Thief (I seem to remember something involving yogurt when they’re at an inn in the first book, but I could be wrong), and as it’s simple, tasty, and cooling, I can imagine it being consumed by peasants and rulers alike during hot Sounisian and Attolian summers.
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