I read Jesse Bullington's The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart last year -- I think it's safe to say it was my favorite book I read in 2010.
I loved Brothers Grossbart *so hard*. It's been so long since I've read a book and needed to tell people about it. Incessantly. "Hello, random person at a party! ZOMG I have a book you have to read!" Reading that book at the gym tricked me and kept me on the treadmill for an extra hour. I'm pretty sure I creeped Jesse out with the power of my enthusiasm about it at World Fantasy last year. (Cassie, repeat = fans, yes, stalker, no.)
The combination of deep history, scathing wit, and fierce brutality -- it's a shameless book. It was epic. I'd never read a book like that before. I wondered if I would again. It did the best possible thing books can -- it made me writer-jealous and reader-thrilled.
Even my cat loved it -- photographic evidence to follow:
So I bought Jesse's next book The Enterprise of Death when it came out. (They're not in a series, it's a whole other book, just fyi.) I'd saved it to read until my own book edits were done for two main reasons:
1) I needed a book to look forward to. One that I was 97% sure that I would love.
2) If I read it before I finished editing my own, I might have to stop editing and give up in despair, join the SCA in a pathetic late-life attempt to become a medievalist and try, desperately and without ceasing, to grow sideburns. Because surely that's where his grand writing power lies. In his majestic sideburns.
Luckily, my strength held until my edits were done. And so this past weekend (in, um, mostly the past 48 hrs) I devoured (hoho!) The Enterprise of Death and found it just as awesome as Brother Grossbarts that came before. A mash-up of accurate history, fantasy, fairy-tale, it's a whirlwind tour of the end of the Dark Ages, involving necromancy, the Inquisition, slavery, unintentional necrophilia, tips on running brothels in the Swiss capital, and the redemptive power of heart-touching friendships, and also cannibalism. It's dark, but it's also hilarious, and humane and shiningly honest in turns.
In short, I adored it. And,um, if there's a ever a cannibalistic buffet at Mr. Bullington's house -- dibs on the brains!