Mystic Magic: Some Light Reading

On the left, Plain Bad Heriones; on the right, Gideon the Ninth. Photo taken by Grace Cavanaugh.

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Editor in Chief

     Taking a break from my general witchcraft commentary, I wanted to talk about a couple of books I have read recently.

     As a college student, I do not normally have time to read for fun, because I am already reading a lot for class. In the past few months, however, I have been participating in an extra-curricular book club that changes genres every month.

     In January, we chose a gothic horror genre, and the book was “Plain Bad Heroines” by Emily Danforth. Without going into spoiler territory, the book follows the past and present exploits of queer women who deal with ghosts, curses, and a real-life book, “The Story of Mary MacLane,” published in 1902.

     Clara and Flo are students in love in 1902 at an all-girls school run by Libbie Brookhants and her ‘companion,’ Alexandra. When death comes to the campus, a curse is rumored to exist on the school. In present day, an author, Merritt Emmons, and two actresses, Harper Harper and Audrey Wells, are making a movie at the girls school and have to deal with the curse as it affects the production.

     Be warned, though: the book is a hefty 617 pages. The font is pretty small, making every page a sprint, but there are also gorgeous hand-drawn pictures every once in a while that are made in the style of early 1900 drawings.

     “Plain Bad Heroines” is everything you could ask. The narrator often breaks the fourth wall to lend commentary in quippy footnotes about the happenings, and there is plenty of sapphic love to go around. Have you ever read anything by Flannery O’Conner but wished it was a little more gay? Pick up “Plain Bad Heroines.”

     Not for a book club, but simply because I kept seeing it pop up everywhere, I bought a copy of Tamsyn Muir’s “Gideon the Ninth.” The quote on the cover calls says, “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space,” which pretty much sums up the plot of the book pretty well.

     Gideon is a swordsman for the Ninth House, a planet on the edge of a solar system full of necromancers. She is chosen by the necromancer of her house, Harrowhawk, when Harrow is summoned to the Emperor’s planet to compete for an immortal spot with the Emperor himself. However, the other necromancers on the planet are out for blood, and everyone keeps mysteriously dying, so what is really going on?

     There is a ton of gorgeous fan art on Twitter, Reddit, or wherever you can follow artists who double as book nerds. The story is beautifully written but can be a little dense sometimes with the language. Gideon is a hilarious main character, and her relationship with Harrow is a joy to read about.

     While both books can get pretty dark and a little graphic, they are both so worth the read. You can find them online, at Given’s Books on Lakeside Dr., or wherever you buy your books.

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