I found Tanya Huff’s Four Quarters series in the local used bookstore and had a vague memory of reading and liking the first. On the strength of that, and thinking they were likely to make good plane reading, I picked up Sing the Four Quarters and two of its sequels. (The fourth book appeared to not be closely connected and I was trying to exercise some restraint in my purchases.)
Sing the Four Quarters got me from JFK to Detroit and into the air on the way to Osaka. As I had hoped, it was perfect plane reading. Annice was a princess who received her father’s deathbed permission to become a Bard and leave royal politics behind. Her brother, infuriated at being outmanuvered, cast her out of the family and forbade her to marry or have children without permission, for the stability of the realm. Ten years later, they’ve never reconciled—and now Annice is unintentionally pregnant. Even better, the father has just been framed for treason, and Annice is the only person who doesn’t believe he’s guilty.
It’s fairly unusual to have a pregnant woman be the protagonist in a novel. It’s more so to have her going off to rescue the father of her child who is not her true love. But here, the emotional drama is largely saved for family bonds and betrayals (though there’s some for Annice’s actual lover). But what could have been High Angst in other hands (Mercedes Lackey, I’m looking at you) is largely treated in a sensible manner: slightly cranky at times, but essentially good-humored. Many people aren’t as bad as they first appear (I especially liked the treatment of Annice’s brother the king), and a strikingly large number of conflicts are resolved by people exercising empathy—possibly one too many, but air travel may have been making me cranky. (That’s even more likely about my feeling that the made-up curses were too dense.) At any rate, this was great not-too-fluffy comfort food for the start of a long day of travel.
(The book is also matter-of-fact in its rejection of heteronormativity. For instance, Annice is bisexual, and same-sex marriages are apparently on the same footing as opposite-sex marriages. Polyamory’s present too, though its status is less clear.)