free books

I reviewed Karen Wyle’s Twin-Bred in October and liked it a lot. Now Twin-Bred is part of KDP Select. Amazon Prime members can borrow the book for free, at least from now until May 10, 2012 or so, and everyone will be able to download it for free from Amazon on this coming Wednesday and Thursday, February 15th and 16th.

This novel is available for free for registered users at Book View Café’s science fiction section.

This is an alternate history novel set in the court of Louis XIV. The vast majority of the book is historical, including most of its characters. The only exception is that sea monsters are real.

The Sun King has funded an expedition to bring sea monsters to his court. Alive if possible but dead if not. Father Yves de la Croix is a scientist and a priest, and his curiosity has driven him to lead the mission. He succeeds and is able to bring back one live sea monster, a female, and one dead sea monster, a male. This triumph makes him the Sun King’s premier scientist which turns out to be a rather precarious position.

However, the main character of the book is Yves’ sister Marie-Josèphe who is also a scientist. When they were children, Yves would study various animals and Marie would help him and also draw the autopsied animals.

But now they are both older and have been apart for years after their parents’ death. Yves sent Marie to a convent where she was very unhappy. Yves has started to think that it’s not proper for a young woman to assist him. However, nobody else is as knowledgeable and skillful so they fall back to their childhood roles.

Marie-Josèphe helps her brother any way she can; she feeds the live sea monster and tries to tame her, when her brother performs an autopsy on the dead sea monster (in front of Louis XIV and his court) she draws his findings, she tries to help him become more used to the court life, and she also tries to look presentable. She is also trying to fit in with the court but that’s not easy for a woman who was born and raised in Martinique and then lived for years in a convent. Many men notice her or use her to torment his own lovers.

Amidst all this, she starts to slowly realize that the sea monster might not be just an animal. However, the Church has declared sea monsters animals (rather than demons), so she doesn’t have any allies when she tries to desperately save the captured sea monster from death.

The Sun and the Moon is definitely a historical book. The level of detail about the king, the pope Innocent XI, and their respective courtiers is just amazing. There are also a lot of descriptions about Versailles and the gardens. The people also have sensibilities and opinions that truly belong to the age. To everyone in the court the King is the only person who matters and everything flows from him. Marie-Josèphe belittles herself constantly and humbly receives the sharp comments about how she, as a woman, is worthless and should be silent. While Marie-Josèphe has a curious mind and is especially interested in natural sciences, she can only study them because the men around her have allowed it. During her time in the convent the nuns forbade her everything, even the study of mathematics because they thought it was sorcery.

Most of the book has been written from the point-of-view of Marie-Josèphe but occasionally we see the point-of-view of others as well. Lord Lucien, Count de Chértien is one of those characters. He’s the King’s son out of wedlock although the King has acknowledged him and made Lucien of his closest advisors. Lucien is also a dwarf and his body gives him a constant ache and sometimes even sharp pain. He is absolutely loyal to the King. He’s also an atheist.

The third point-of-view character is Yves although very briefly.

Pope Innocent XI arrives to the court to seal his alliance with Louis XIV and enjoys the King’s hospitality for a while. He is very hostile to Marie-Josèphe.

The book has many plot threads in addition to both Marie-Josèphe’s and Yves’ growths and the story of the sea monster. One of them is Odelette, who is Marie-Josèphe’s slave. The nuns told her that it was a sin to own another human and yet they wanted her to sell Odelette and give the money to the convent. She refused. Odelette becomes very popular in the court because she’s very good at making ladies hair dresses. We also hear the story of the sea monster race and their unhappy history with land people. I also enjoyed very much the characters of Monsieur (the King’s brother), Madame (Monsieur’s wife), and Mademoiselle (their daughter).

This is an excellent historical tale (except for the sea monsters, of course) but it’s not an adventure book. The pace might be a bit on the slow side especially in the beginning.

Over at Suvudu Free Library there are five free ebooks to download in .pdf:

T. A. Pratt: Blood Engine (urban fantasy)
Naomi Novik: His Majesty’s Dragon (alternate history with dragons)
Harry Turledove: Settling Accounts: Return Engagements (alternative history)
Kim Stanley Robinson: Red Mars (hard science fiction)
Robin Hobb: Assassin’s Apprentice (epic fantasy)

I noticed some time back the site Book View Cafe. It has a collection of various authors’ works for free. Most of the stuff is short stories and novellas but there are books too such as Vonda McIntyres’ The Moon and the Stars, Susan Wright’s Slave Trade, Sue Lange’s Textile Planet, Jennifer Stevenson’s Brass Bed, and Sarah Zettel’s In Camelot’s Shadow. You can also read the first three chapters of other books. They have works from the genres of fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, young adult, humor, speculative fiction, and romance.

I have to applaud the writers for daring to put up their works for free and I hope it will be a very successful venture.

I will be reviewing some of them later on.