For the sixtieth book in the challenge, I read Warrior by Zoë Archer, book one in The Blades of the Rose series.
Every chapter felt like a new episode of a TV show. There was a lot of unnecessary explanation, everyone used everyone else’s names all the time when there were more than two people in the conversation, and the exposition on feelings…there was so much of it. Every action was punctuated by an explanation of its emotional significance, which of course was pretty much the same emotional significance weighing down the previous eleven actions, and by the third or fourth action in the chapter I was pretty tired of reading about how much they wanted to bone each other RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW BUT OH WHAT IF MY LOVE IS WOUNDED I WOULD DIE.
That said, I really did like the characters. Usually the Manly Man has a really hard time accepting that Strong Woman is capable enough to take care of herself in ANY situation, and that’s the only spark of energy between them, and it’s patronizing and belittling and benevolent sexism all the way. This was slightly different. Manly Man adored that she was competent, but very realistically still worried that she would get hurt because things happen, and when he tried to coddle her a little she fought back, and eventually he stopped trying. That’s not to say that he wasn’t a product of a very sexist society and didn’t have some expectations to work on, but he recognized that the way England treated its women did not work for him at all. (The whole spiel on English women being a foreign species was unnecessarily critical. Like, how dare they do everything they can to thrive in this bullshit patriarchical society that infantilizes, victimizes and then penalizes them for doing anything except looking pretty, shutting up and having babies. So fucking sorry you can’t figure out how to not talk about bodily functions or swear words for five fucking minutes; try living like that. Bet those women got more than a raised eyebrow when they slipped up. /rant) His fears about her safety were not because she was a precious lady who needed protecting, but because she was His Person and he’d be lost if she died. And yet, he didn’t stop her from fighting. He didn’t get in her way when she chose a dangerous profession. It’s a step in the right direction.
I did have a problem with the idea that the Educated White People came to remote areas to help save the Good-Natured But Child-Like Natives from their own magical artifacts. That doesn’t sit well with me. It was tempered in this novel, especially by the way that most of the Educated White People had no idea what they were doing most of the time, or how to work the artifacts, and that some of the Educated White People were Educated Westernized POC toward the end. The nadaam festival felt problematic to me, that they could just change the rules and then win because they’re awesome; it felt like they beat the native peoples at their own games by cheating. The one bad guy in the nadaam WAS cheating, and the structure of the competition meant that he beat out other competitors for them, but…yeah. Not cool. I like that they went back, though, to fulfill their vow. You can’t just run off with a tribe’s most prized possession once you’ve won guardianship of it. That’s just rude. God knows the English wouldn’t tolerate rudeness.
I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars. (I don’t necessarily regret buying it, but I did read parts of it out loud to Mr. Cranky-Face before gesturing angrily at the e-reader. Unfortunately, no cathartic book-throwing is possible when it’s an e-book.) (Oh, and it gets really close to having sex-magic artifacts and by that point I was just ajkld;jfl;jajklsjas;asjkl;sjkl;ajlk;.)