Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Reading stuff

I spent yesterday doing nothing. Yes, that's in both the spirit and the letter of Shabbat, but mostly it was the heat - I slept badly and woke up too late for synagogue and then didn't want to walk 3/4 mile to my friend's house (not to mention how a two hour nap kinda makes you feel like not doing much). I mean, I finished lunch (lunch being cold baked salmon steaks with yogurt dill sauce and a salad - yogurt dill sauce: as tart a low fat yogurt as you can find, mixed with chopped fresh dill so that you can taste both. If the yogurt isn't as tart as it could be, add lemon juice. It doesn't really get any easier.), but that's all I did.

Except read. I read a lot.

The first book was one I'd received on Thursday. It took me that long to finish because I do stuff on Thursday and Friday and because it was a longish and complex novel that took time to read, but I have to say I'd enjoyed every moment of it.

I know that there are those who don't like her (or rather, her publisher and lawyer's) attitude towards fanfic, but the fact is, she's a truly fine writer who knows how to build a universe and create interesting and three dimensional characters - Lynn Flewelling. This book is Hidden Warrior, the sequel to The Bone Doll's Twin, and it takes place several generations before the Traitor's Moon series. You don't need to have read the Traitor's Moon series, although I recommend that for all the same qualities and a lovely m/m relationship portrayed without coyness.

The situation - a girl raised as a boy for political and safety reasons - is old, but the reasons behind it, the way in which it was done and the moral ambiguity - no, the true horror - surrounding all of it are all original. And you care about the characters, even if they're far from perfect. There's even the point where it's clear the protagonist loves and is loved by the main villain and the conflict there.

And, while there is some degree of exposition, it is done carefully - few, if any, infodumps, and she shows as much as possible, and major characters don't come out of nowhere and it's just a pleasure to read.

And then. Then I decided it was time to finally read the books I'd picked up back in May at Balticon. And it was like...well, it was like the way I felt on my first trip to Israel, when we went to Jerusalem first, and then Tel Aviv - I'd gone from a beautiful ancient city to a city not much different from any other modern one.

Okay, it wasn't quite the same. :)

However. These books were by Mercedes Lackey, her Elemental Masters series, which are really retold fairy tales. I like retold fairy tales. I seek them out - Robin McKinley, who seems to have made a career out of these, is one of my favorite fantasy writers. (And, yes, I love brighidstone's TS fairy tales, too.)

And. The prose was clunky and relied too much on exposition. She *told* a lot more than she showed - entire paragraphs telling how women and women doctors and half-castes were oppressed in 1909 Edwardian England, plus entire dialogues saying the same things over and over again, and she even included an author's note saying, "It's a lot of fun doing historical work because I can use all these quotes, but if you see a difference between what really happened and how I portray them, remember, it's all fantasy."

This prepared me to read the book looking for historical inaccuracies. Did I find them? I don't know, actually. Edwardian England isn't a time I've studied extensively. Although, if I were writing about that time period, I darn well would have. She probably did research for the clothing styles, because A. they ring true for things I've read and B. I know costuming is an interest of hers, and the dress reform stuff is also true.

The other thing is that the fairy tale stuff seems - wedged in. The story itself was interesting in its own way, and fairly original, and would have worked equally well without the Snow White elements. But it was still done with far too much *telling.*

An example comes from the second book, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty (the protagonist has the MarySuish name of Marina Roeswood, and the novel is called The Gates of Sleep and it begins with an evil christening curse, so this is not a spoiler.) Marina and her godmother are going to the local town for some Christmas shopping, and she describes the town square, including that "The fountain in the square was not decorative. It was used as a source of water for those with no other source and for watering animals." Just like that, when it would have been *less* trouble and more interesting to have Marina watch women fill pitchers of water from the spray, while animals drank from the basin.

This is in comparison to a scene from, I think, the second book of Flewelling's earlier series, where the street of brothels is described. Each brothel is color coded in one of four colors - does it have women for men, or men for men, or men for women or women for women? Just as one character tells the other this, we see a captain and crew run happily from a brothel with women to one with men.

From this bit we learn that prostitution is open in this city, that women have a position of equality such that it's worthwhile to have houses that cater to them, that homosexuality/bisexuality is considered normal *and* that there is probably effective birth control because while a male customer might not worry about making a female prostitute pregnant, a female customer is not likely to want to *get* pregnant from a male prostitute.

And none of this was *said*. :)

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