In War’s Dark Shadow: The Russians before the Great War by W. Bruce Lincoln took me a year or more to finish. This book is from the 1980s, when it was a big deal that Lincoln had actually been to the U.S.S.R. for research. I had known very little about Russian history, so it was as good a starting place as any. I now know that labor strife has a long and storied history in Russia, and how the peasant farmer commune system worked very badly for a very long time, and that the Russians were really, really unprepared to enter into World War One. I also learned about the Russo-Japanese war, which I’d like to read more about some day.
The Course of Honour by Avoliot is original m/m romance fiction on AO3 – features arranged marriages, treaties, gaslighting (in the past), and political intrigue.
I obtained and read a galley of Dragon Blood by Eileen Wilks, out in January 2018. The previous volume in the series, which I’d read on vacation back in August, ends on a cliffhanger, so this was a real relief! As usual with this series, the book left some plot threads dangling and opened up some new ones, but the cliffhanger wasn’t as maddening as the previous one.
I’ve stuck with this series for so long because of the ongoing, ever-evolving relationship between Lily Yu and Rule Turner, the abundance of interesting continuing secondary characters, and the incredible depth and complexity of the worldbuilding. The series contains one of the few insta-mate-bond setups I’ve ever liked, because it causes more tension and complications for the protagonists rather than fewer.
For the most part, I’ve preferred the books in this series that happen on Earth rather than those in the series in other dimensions, like this one; that’s because I love reading about an Earth where magic has returned in a big way, and has to be dealt with by people and governments. Laws and social interactions and balances of international power and even technology are all changed by magic, and the characters have to figure out what to do about it. That grounded aspect is my favorite aspect of the Lupi series. And like previous books in the series, in this one the characters consider the results of their actions, both good and bad; they must weigh necessity versus degrees of harm, and deal with their emotions about the harm they inevitably cause.
Another plus is that Dragon Blood focuses mostly on female characters, including the awesome Grandmother Yu Li Lei as a point of view character.
Though I don’t think the previous book would be a good starting place for a reader new to the series, this one might be. Just be warned that the plot is driven by children in jeopardy; you don’t actually see them in jeopardy until close to the end, though, and things work out okay.
Penric and the Shaman: Penric and Desdemona Book 2 by Lois McMaster Bujold mostly made me want more, because it introduced a lot of really cool concepts relating to a different sort of magic, and I wanted to see those played out more. It was fine as a novella, but could easily have been expanded to a novel and made me happier for longer.
Hawkeye: Kate Bishop Vol. 1: Anchor Points featured a guest appearance from Jessica Jones; there were also art references to the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye series, and some elements of the tone of that comic, as well. Kate is working in California as a private detective with no money, and trying to locate her father. She makes some friends, who don’t yet have a lot of depth. I will probably check out the second volume.
Black Widow Vol. 3: Last Days has gorgeously autumnal art and a sad story of Natasha Romanov as a child in the Red Room interwoven with a science fictional organization that wants to control the future. There is also Surprise!Winter Soldier; his appearance is brief, though.
She-Hulk Vol. 1: Deconstructed was decidedly not like the old She-Hulk comics, which tended to have a lot of humor. Post-Civil War II, and the death of Bruce Banner, Jennifer Walters is grieving and recovering from injury and trying to return to work as a lawyer, while struggling with her transformations. I don’t think I’ll go on with this series right now, as I’m not in the mood for this type of recovery story just now.
The Con Job by Anaquana adorably crosses over my Leverage OT3 with Captain America. And it starts at a comic con. And there are costumes. So cute.
Indiana Barnes and the Curse of the Tesseract by follow_the_sun and SulaSafeRoom places assorted Avengers characters in a WWII setting with many references to the Indiana Jones movies. It was one of the cleverest AUs I’ve seen in a while, and I would happily read more set in this universe.
Beyond Belief by thingswithwings crosses over Agent Carter with Wonder Woman, and there is action, and lesbian shenanigans, and heading off into the sunset together. More like this, please.
White Rabbit by Domenika Marzione (domarzione) was an extremely long X-Men (comicsverse) gen story focusing on Alex Summers/Havok as he tries to leave superheroing and go to grad school in geology. The timeline has other ideas, but he also gets married and gets to go to mutant kid birthday parties. And then Things Happen. It has a happy ending.
A Contest of Stories by alby_mangroves, hansbekhart, and Scappodaqui is one of the best Captain America WWII AUs I’ve ever read. It begins with Bucky having been used as a test subject by Arnim Zola, but his rescue and subsequent fate is very, very different. Steve Rogers never got a super soldier serum, and is instead working as an artist of camouflage and misdirection for the army in Europe. Each of the Howling Commandoes gets some characterization, and some are point of view characters. It was so nice to read fanfiction that was unpredictable.
The Confederated Global Job by Tam_Cranver is a (Netflix) Daredevil/Leverage fusion starring Ben Urich, and really, do I need to tell you any more than that?