Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

October 7, 2011

Towards a Hope Mirrlees Award, Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Sam @ 6:16 pm

Here’s a more detailed proposal building on my previous suggestion. Please do suggest alternative possibilities, explain why my suggestions won’t work, and point out the obvious things that I’ve forgotten!

What: A yearly award for the best fantasy novel of the previous year; a sub-award for the best first novel by a woman writer; and a second sub-award for fantasy artwork (cover, cartography, or illustration).

Eligibility: Must be arguably fantasy of some kind: high fantasy, low fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, rainbow fantasy, hamster fantasy if anyone decides to publish some. Must have first been published in English in the year since the last award. Can be submitted; may be co-opted.

Criteria: Quality, innovativeness, and an elusively magical sensibility. Sales, popularity, or past record will not be taken into account either positively or negatively.

Judging model: A jury of six, including a coordinator with a casting vote in the event of a tie. Each year, within three months after the award, the three longest-serving members resign and the remaining three co-opt three more members to serve for the next two years. If someone resigns during their term, another member can be co-opted immediately.

Shortlists: Shortlists should be published in good time before the presentation, and should show a commitment to inclusivity (without aiming to be comprehensively representative) and against discrimination of any form. At the same time, jury members should disclose any financial, professional, or personal interest they have in any of those books, their authors, or their publishers, and should consider recusing themselves from commenting on a book if they have such an interest. Those interests, on the other hand, shouldn’t preclude a book from consideration, or bias other jury members against it.

Award: An art object and a nontrivial sum of money, which should be raised through donations or sponsorship, but not co-branding, because having Mirrlees’s name on the award is important. Besides, that way people can say they officially have a Hope.

September 30, 2011

Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death

Filed under: review — Tags: , , , , , — Sam @ 6:38 pm

This is postapocalyptic fantasy, but very much not in the Shannara or Shadowrun sense; it’s poetic and spare, without concerning itself with European fantasy tropes or the endless codification which is the curse of so much fantasy.

Codification, indeed, is one of this book’s cores. A Great Book forms the central text of the Okeke/Nuru society in the area; the dark-skinned Okeke grew proud with their technology and their cities, and then disaster fell and the light-skinned Nuru were placed over them. Rana, the Seer, prophesies that a tall Nuru man will rewrite the book; Daib, a sorceror, decides that he is that man and begins exterminating the Okeke. On the other hand, Onyesonwu—the titular “Who fears death?” and an Ewu (child of interracial rape) sorceress—is told by her teachers that Rana had rewritten the prophecy, unwilling to believe that it really could have meant an Ewu woman. So we’re nicely set up for both plot conflict and an ambiguous look at the whole concept of prophecy & textuality.

This is echoed interestingly by Okorafor’s use of nsibidi, ideograms used in pre-Roman-script West Africa for magical & legal purposes as well as for communication. They’re inherently powerful, but they aren’t exclusively powerful, and we see throughout the book that there’s a lot of juju Onyesonwu doesn’t understand or can’t use, as well as juju she has learnt or is inherently very good at. This is no all-powerful player character wizard, and what in a European fantasy we’d refer to as a magic system (it’s neither magical nor systematic here) does not have edges or demarcations. To mix cultural metaphors appallingly, it’s a song not a topographical map.

Another (related) theme is heritage and genetic/familial determinism. Ewu are generally thought to be inherently violent, being the children of violence. That’s something that Onye repeatedly tells us isn’t true, but it isn’t particularly borne out by her actions; she’s very much Not A Nice Person. Mwita, the other Ewu we meet properly, is a child of love rather than violence, but has had a very violent past; his avocation is as a healer. It’s flatly impossible to separate any effect of birth—what in a Christian context we’d call original sin—from the toxic effects of tradition, cultural hatred, and old wounds. (This may look like a traditional African theme, but it isn’t; it happens everywhere, sadly.)

Okorafor easily resists the bog-standard “science and rationalism bad, living in harmony with the environment and intuitive magic good” approach, and undramatically weaves in realistic and useful high technology where it’s appropriate. By European fantasy standards, this is a dystopian future; coin-sized computers and weather-gel treated clothing are sold from open stalls in dusty markets, and slaves carry heavy loads along roads thronged with bio-fuel scooters. I’m rather reluctant to use the word “dystopia”, though, because that implies something that doesn’t exist already; this sort of complex intersection of technology levels, social conditions, traditional practices, and the future is already happening all over the world, and has been for quite some time.

Unsurprisingly, this book easily passes the Bechdel test; not only that, but it gives an interesting look at familial relationships between women, forcing Onye to re-evaluate her mother at the end. Another interesting—and entirely appropriate—representational issue is that there are no white people (except one, Sola, whose milk-coloured skin and flat lips mystify & repulse Onye) and no legends of white people. This is not a story of dark-skinned people emerging from a pale-skinned colonial yoke, but a story of a culture who have re-mythologized their own history.

It’s a deeply affecting book, and as you’d expect it avoids the pile of easy clichés about Africa that what little African-influenced fantasy we do see so often shows off. I’m not in any sense qualified to evaluate the book’s treatment of contemporary African issues, only to note that it exists. I’d recommend this book to anyone, with some serious trigger warnings over rape and female genital mutilation.

September 16, 2011

Towards a Hope Mirrlees Award

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Sam @ 11:27 am

A brief discussion on Twitter (brief because nobody disagreed) has resulted in the conclusion that a) we need more genre awards named after women, and b) there should be one named after Hope Mirrlees.

Why? — well, to address point a), it’s pretty much universally recognized that women’s contribution to fantastika is greatly undervalued. Not enough gets to market; not enough of that gets reviewed; and not enough of that gets nominated or chosen for awards. Having almost all our high-profile awards named after men or gender-neutral objects (the Tiptree is the sole exception that springs to mind) doesn’t help this; it flags the field as one dominated by men, and for men, and that “women’s fiction” is something unique and separate and lesser.

(Just to clarify, I do think there’s something qualitatively distinct about fantastika by women, as there is about fantastika by members of other underrepresented groups. However, discussing this here would be derailing, so we can do that some other time.)

As for point b), Mirrlees is an amazing author; in Lud-in-the-Mist she produced something utterly unique and strange, fantastic in the oldest senses of the word, and something that’s rarely given the acclaim it deserves.

I propose that we (collectively) establish such an award, for fantasy published in the previous year. There are a few questions that need to be nailed down, though.

  • Eligibility: All authors, women only, or a requirement for shortlists to be more-or-less balanced? English-language, for practicality as much as anything else. Should there be a geographical restriction?
  • Prize: Realistically, there would need to be a monetary award as well as an art object. Sponsorship or donation drives should deal with that.
  • Operating requirements: eg. website design & hosting, publicity, promotional materials, fundraising overhead, ceremony costs. Quite a bit of it can be crowd-sourced or donated, but some will require actual money.
  • Judging model: jury, popular vote, or a combination of the two? The same model for the shortlist as for the final choice?
  • Mission: basically, what’s it for? To encourage good writing & inclusive publishing, or to encourage a particular style or characteristic of fantasy literature?

A lack of reliable health & energy, combined with a lack of most of the relevant skillset, means I can’t take a proper lead on this, but if anyone fancies setting up a proper committee then I’m very much in. (Also, I’m about to go away for a week and a half. But I wanted to make a proper post for discussion first.)

Fundamentally, though, this is very much doable.

June 24, 2011

Women in fantastika – an alphabetical meme

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Sam @ 12:46 pm

In lieu of real content, have a meme. Here’s a list of women who write/wrote fantastika, one for each letter of the alphabet. (Where I couldn’t think of one beginning with that letter, I’ve doubled the previous one—if you know one I don’t, let me know and I’ll insert them.) Bold means I own some of their work, italics mean I’ve read and remember something they wrote. If I’ve mis-alphabetized any of the non-English names, again, let me know.

Since it’s only one per letter, I’ve purposely picked less well-known women, or ones I haven’t seen on most lists.

Aiken, Joan
bes shahar, eluki (also writes as Edghill, Rosemary)
Cooper, Louise
Dean, Pamela
El-Mohtar, Amal
Furey, Maggie
Gloss, Molly
Hambly, Barbara
(I) Hunter, Mollie
Jones, JV
Kerr, Katherine
Lee, Tanith
McKenna, Juliet E
Nimmo, Jenny
Okorafor, Nnedi
Pierce, Tamora
(Q) Priest, Cherie
Reichert, Mickey Zucker
Swainston, Steph
Tepper, Sheri S
(U) Tuttle, Lisa
Volsky, Paula
Williams, Liz
(X) Willis, Connie
Yolen, Jane
Zettel, Sarah

April 27, 2011

Privilege & fantasy

Filed under: essay — Tags: , , , , , — Sam @ 3:32 pm

In my last essay, I talked about two forms of nostalgia, and the characterization of History within fantasy texts. This time around, it’s time for an assertion: it’s much harder for the privileged classes to write literary fantasy than it is for the oppressed and marginalized.

Let’s start with some definitions (do feel free to take issue with them in the comments—I’m not going to be ideological about them):

Literary: of enduring worth; of complexity; supporting multiple disparate readings; possessing novelty or making an original contribution. Layered and polysemous enough that it isn’t immediately accessible in its entirety. Possessing an awareness of itself as a text.

Fantasy: That Which Is Not: a change in the philosophical and/or metaphysical nature of the world, which I’ll tentatively call a diversa after Suvin’s “novum”. A desideratum, or an elegy. Passion is a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition for fantasy; there are some unpleasant words for fantasy without passion. Popular trope fantasy is perhaps the apotheosis of advertising, without any product. It’s normally impossible to tell it from pisstake fantasy.

Privileged: Possessing something inherited or innate that makes life easier for them than most people, and, in general, not aware that this makes a difference. Tending to ascribe their success entirely to hard work or luck. Generally, in the case of fantasy writers, it means “middle-class white cis urban-dwelling Western/minority-world men whose first language is English, and who aren’t disabled”, and it covers most of them.
(more…)

January 21, 2011

Stone Telling, Issue 2

Filed under: review — Tags: , — Sam @ 1:33 am

Stone Telling is a relatively new online magazine of speculative poetry, free to read. Issue 2 is here. I’ve linked to some of the highlights for me, pieces that particularly resonated; yours will probably be different, so do take a look at the whole thing.

Start with Rose Lemberg’s introduction to the issue, which gives us a new eye to see each poem.

“It’s about loss,” I would say. “It’s about continuity, and becoming. The heartbreak issue. The aftermath of loss. It is about memory. It is about women.”

And yes, Stone Telling 2 is all of those things; but most of all, this issue is about generations – the chain of linked selves, forged together, sometimes at odds with each other; nurtured and nurturing. When the chain breaks, we are broken.

Mid-Journey, by Athena Andreadis
Text, English & Greek

This poem calls up strong echoes of classical Greek hero tales, with its bitter, proud, bronze-voiced evocations of flame, ruin, and exile, but the issue’s focus on women and the ties between women makes it a particularly interesting read. It’s an away poem, looking back but resolutely orienting itself forward; remembering, but never regretting a choice.

Athena Andreadis also writes about Sapfó of Lésvos:

When Hellenes said The Poet and used a masculine suffix, they meant Homer; when they used a feminine suffix, they meant Sapfó. Sapfó is quicksilver, saffron and wild silk; seabreeze and crackling flame. To hear her, even in pieces, is to drink starlight, glimpse the elusive blackbird that ushers the dawn.

The Winter Tree, by Amal El-Mohtar
This poem speaks—in fierce, sharp-edged, lyrical verses—of what is and what might have been, of the tree within her and of the moon that draws its tides.

Sometimes, the tree sings,
keens broken lines and lullabies,
murder-ballads, loneliness,
paper-bark and thorns.

Art Lessons, by Yoon Ha Lee
This is a dark, ominous poem, written in a disconcerting mixture of incantatory witches’ chant and dactylic speech rhythms. The final two lines, very deliberately breaking out of the spell, come as a jarring shock, but that’s the idea after all.

Archaeology, by Eliza Victoria
This is a prose poem, giving us some of the highlights from the history of a mass grave—one of the shamefacedly unmarked atrocities from modern wars—and from one of the people buried there.

Eight Legs of Grandmother Spider, by Catherynne Valente
This poem has two parallel narratives; one is our old friend, the person (in this case, a spider) who goes to retrieve the Sun when it leaves. The other is a four-year-old mixed-race child, fallen asleep on her grandmother’s lap. What I like most about this poem, I think, is that it describes people through activities; singing, holding, scattering seeds. Stealing the sun.

January 11, 2011

Steam Powered – Steampunk Lesbian Stories (ed. JoSelle Vanderhooft)

Filed under: review — Tags: , , , , , — Sam @ 8:17 pm

This anthology works well both as a collection of short work with a steampunk sensibility, and as romance & erotica. Not all of them feature explicit (or any) sex, but they all have good central women, often women of colour at that.

The first story is a novelette by NK Jemisin (author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), called The Effluent Engine; you can read it online here. It’s a secret-agent story, wherein our hero is sent from free Haiti to New Orleans in order to enlist the help of a brilliant chemical engineer. If he can assist them in refining & stabilizing the effluent from rum distillation, their airships can run rings around the French forces. He may not want to help, but he has a handsome (and equally brilliant) sister…

That’s one of my favourites from the anthology, but a few others come close. Where the Ocean Meets the Sky, by Sara M Harvey, sees an airship privateer come into port in San Francisco for an audience with Emperor Joshua Norton I, and not quite lose her head over a lovely Irish mooring-ship clerk.

“You’ve done it!” He cried, coming forward more like an excited child than a man of majesty. “I mean, lots of folk said they were going to and I signed lots of those letters, but you’re the first one who has returned with tribute. Brilliant!” He clapped his small, square hands together and reached into the box. He did not put one finger on any of the precious metals, but instead brought forth the honey jar. The warm light made it glow perfectly amber in the glass and the courtiers made appreciative noises. “I can tell just by the look of it that it is real Tupelo. The finest honey in the world.” He turned the jar over in his hands and watched the air bubble slowly morph and move. “My mother used to serve this on sourdough.” He spoke in strange tones, like one remembering a dream.

Steel Rider (by Rachel Manija Brown), Truth and Life by Shira Lipkin, and The Hands that Feed by Matthew Kressel make a trio of Jewish stories; emet is the character that gives them life. The second of those, an economical tale of a young woman who becomes a skilled engineer, is my favourite of the three.

Rivka, he said, baking is also a science. Embroidery will teach you precision. All of these things your mother wants you to do, they all give you skills you can use here.

Mike Allen’s Sleepless, Burning Life is a very Moorcockian trip through cosmic clockwork, in search of “the dark-eyed dancer who made the cosmos turn“. The worldbuilding is beautiful, and I’d have loved to see a full-length novel with a similar conceit in the same setting.

The Padishah Begum’s Reflections, by Shweta Narayan, centres on Jahanara Begum, remade after her accident as a mechanical—a woman of silver and enamel, of clockwork and gears—who becomes a cunning and powerful ruler in her own right. A delegation from Revolutionary France have arrived, bringing with them Madeleine Vaucanson, weaver, engineer, and expert with Jacquard looms. As a love object, she is unusual; but of course, she’s so much more than that.

Crickets and the garden’s song of leaf and water settled into Jahanara’s silence. The weaver—she could be the one Jahanara had been hoping for. She was neither young nor pretty as humans counted these things; her hair showed silver, her jaw was long, and her body more square than rounded. She clutched a blue pashmina shawl tightly over the neck of a diaphanous gown, and her shoes exemplified why European ladies must lean on the arms of their men.

None of the stories struck me as bad or inadequate, but these are the ones I enjoyed the most. In Georgina Bruce’s Brilliant, I disliked the love interest (a spoilt, sulky brat) enough to skip to the next story, but that’s a purely personal reaction. A few need trigger warnings: for rape in the case of Teresa Wymore’s very dark Under the Dome, and forced mental-health hospitalization in Clockwork and Music by Tara Sommers.

Overall, these stories are good and well-collected, and present a refreshingly broad view of “steampunk”, with an above-average proportion of real prizes.

Cherie Priest – Boneshaker

Filed under: review — Tags: , , , — Sam @ 6:20 pm

This is the first serious novel-length piece of self-identified steampunk I’ve read, and I’m more impressed with it than I’d expected. It seems rather churlish to praise a novel by the flaws it lacks, but I fear this oft-maligned genre requires a little of that before I pass to its undoubted virtues. Most of the fluff I’d read previously was not much more than a caricature of Victorian England, and often seemed rather confused about which literary era it was from. Infested with aristocrats and implausible brasstech, it seemed rather to be a celebration of a hypocritical, decadent Empire than a problematisation.

Boneshaker, on the other hand, is utterly American in its mythology; set in an alternate 1863, where the Klondike gold rush (and thus Seattle) boomed much earlier, it constructs itself without any reference to class divisions or to the English beyond a mention of their forces in the South. It’s also a post-apocalyptic dystopia, with the survivors living beyond the two-hundred-foot wall around a town centre infested with – well, it’s an early 21st century post-apocalyptic dystopia, what do you think is infesting it?

Considered as steampunk—which is to say as a literary universe featuring anarchists, revolutionaries, strange and ambitious technology, realistic solutions to implausible problems, no shortcuts for hard work, and the dead hand of economic & political hegemony[1]—it’s really good. Our protagonist is a middle-aged widow, aptly named Briar, and she takes us on a tour of Seattle’s abandoned inner city during her efforts to rescue her son. The family itself is a microcosm of the city, torn apart and left damaged by capitalism and the American Dream—Briar’s husband, Leviticus Blue, destroyed them both in his efforts to rob a bank using his immense tunnelling machine, the titular Boneshaker.

The survivors of the disaster, predictably, have organised themselves into a series of competing gangs, armed with experimental weapons and kept from the more-than-deadly gas by improvised air-conditioning technology, made from “treated cloth, paper, pitch, anything else that might seal out the awful gas outside”.

I’ve never been a zombie fan, but they work perfectly with steampunk, even steampunk without British aristocracy[2]. The pervasive influence of Something (a poisonous gas, here) turns otherwise perfectly ordinary people into ravenous monsters, intent on eating you and/or turning you into one of them—it’s no coincidence that the three “infectious” monster types (zombie, vampire, and werewolf) have become Big Business in the last few decades.

For a zombie novel, Boneshaker is curiously anaemic. The horror of zombies depends on the idea that these are real people, turned into mindless ravening monsters – people like you, people you knew, perhaps even you yourself – and there’s very little of that here. We get quite a few lovingly detailed descriptions of walking corpses, perhaps sorted by type or previous occupation, but the closest we come to seeing a person we already knew “turned” is having to watch a precautionary mercy killing, and a moment of tension as everyone waits to hear whether Briar’s arm is going to have to be amputated.

That’s not a serious fault, though, because the “rotters” are more of an atmospheric sideshow or an environmental hazard, and the plot resolution doesn’t really involve them at all.

This is a well-constructed novel, very gripping & readable, with a great deal of deep structure and a very solid literary root system ranging from Arthur Miller to Mark Helprin, and it features several tough, competent older women. Definitely recommended, and I’m going to have to look for more of Priest’s work in future.


[1] I don’t define by material-culture tropes, so the “goths discover brown” and “random brass shite” stereotypes are out, and I have to try and make a stab at themes. This is not intended to be exhaustive, complete, or even particularly accurate. Other suggestions very welcome!
[2] They’re rather stupid, but unstoppable. They often walk with a strange lurching gait, they have an odd slurred accent and very small vocabularies if they can communicate at all, and they thrive on the bodies & brains of other people. All these things also characterize zombies.

December 10, 2010

Best of 2010, and Christmas Giveaway – Erekos by AM Tuomala

Filed under: meta — Tags: , , , , — Sam @ 1:49 pm

Now closed! Congratulations, Penelope Friday!

This year’s Best Of post is early, because I’ve managed to arrange a special treat for you! But first, the results. I’ve read enough Really Good Books this year that I’m splitting the nomination in two, for Best From Large Publisher and Best From Small Publisher. (Er, that’s “large” as SF&F imprints go, which is not “large” in absolute terms.) NB: I’m including self-published pieces, and pieces only published on the web, under “small publisher”. Any suggestions for a better name for the category gratefully received!

Out of all the good books from large publishers, Catherynne M Valente’s The Habitation of the Blessed utterly blew me away, and sails away with the nomination to some fantastical shore. In second place, if I were awarding second prizes, we have The Meat Tree, a re-envisioning of the story of Blodeuwedd by Gwyneth Lewis.
Honourable mentions also go to Pennterra by Judith Moffett, and to Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey.

I’ve read fewer from small publishers this year, and that’s something I want to remedy in 2011. On the other hand, there have been a couple of books that were absolute standouts by any measure, and the winner is Erekos by AM Tuomala. Second prize would go to Akačehennyi on a Diet of Dreams, by Kayleigh Ayn Bohémier, a blog novel published by the author under a Creative Commons license.

Erekos cover

I liked Erekos so much, I want to share the love—and the publisher, Candlemark & Gleam, agree with me, so they’ve donated a copy for me to give away. It’s a digital-only book, and you’ll get your choice of either direct digital delivery (ePub, PDF, or mobi format) or a special gift package with all three formats on a CD, so you have something to put under the tree this Christmas. This is a worldwide offer, but if you choose the CD option we can’t guarantee getting it to you by Christmas unless you live in the US. We’ll try our best, though!

The competition will be open till midnight GMT on Wednesday 15th December, and all you have to do to enter is comment below and tell us who your favourite goddess is. Mythological or fictional, we don’t mind. You can also enter by Twitter, if you use the hashtag #erekos—please spread the word!

November 23, 2010

NK Jemisin – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Filed under: rereading,review — Tags: , , , , — Sam @ 5:12 pm

I first read this quite a while ago, and for some reason I was under the impression that I’d reviewed it then. However, when I went looking for the link to my review I discovered that it didn’t actually exist. Looking back on my first reading I suspect I knew then that I’d need to read it once more, with the ending in mind, before I could do it justice.

Once more was yesterday, so here we go.

This is a deceptively easy book to read—Jemisin’s style is so open and readable that it’s really tempting to rush through it, but that would be a mistake. There are enough layers and hidden motivations that so many of the story elements only reveal themselves in retrospect, and the story repays careful reading.

In some ways, it’s a classic Family Story, with the relative raised outside the Ancestral Home coming to visit, and also a classic story of survival in a Deadly Decadent Court. On the other hand, both are shown to us through a point of view that’s very aware of race & gender politics.

Fittingly, then, it’s about power structures: about the struggle for control of them, and different peoples’ perspective on them. It’s about a contest for control of the world, and two family squabbles. Nothing in this book happens on a small scale. Yeine, our half-blood protagonist, is a leader amongst the matriarchal jungle-dwelling Darr before she goes to join her pale-skinned mother’s family—the literal rulers of the whole world—in their magical palace high above the city of Sky. Once there, she has to unravel the mysteries of her own heritage and of the War of the Gods while keeping herself alive.

It sounds like a portal quest, but it isn’t, really. We don’t see Yeine leaving her homeland; the novel begins with her arrival at Sky. She’s very much the captain of her own fate—within the bounds that her heritage sets up—and the Wizard character (you know the one; the old man who knows what’s going on but doesn’t explain it properly, with potent but mysterious powers) is ambiguous at best and creepy-unpleasant at times. Incidentally, Yeine is mixed-race and nearly everyone else in Sky is so white they’re practically Tesco Value.

Instead of plot coupons and battles, the story progresses through shifting relationships, and through Yeine’s own understanding of her family history. Knowing herself subjugated, jerked about at the whim of her grandfather (significantly, the uncrowned king of the world), and stigmatized for her barbarian heritage, she allies with the family’s “weapons”—cast-down gods, bound to serve the Arameri family. Despite having the power to control and order them herself, she makes a point of not doing so.

This could so easily turn into the anti-racist Mary Sue, but it’s saved from that by a couple of important points. First, she isn’t Arameri-white; she straddles the fence between them and the brown-skinned barbarians (she uses that term herself) who are her people of birth, and so she’s neither Nobly Changing Sides nor using mixed-race privilege. Second, sometimes she fails. She does use some of the powers she’s been given, but not in the ways her family expect. Indeed, several times she has her unwillingness to do that thrown back at her—not a true Arameri—as an insult.

There’s a strict limit to how far I can evaluate the identity politics here, because I’m quite thoroughly white-male myself, but I’m getting a distinct whiff of Audre Lorde. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t at all academic or preachy—quite the reverse. Those don’t belong in fantasy, and for good reason. If you don’t know who Lorde is, you’ll enjoy this book just as much, but having that cultural context will add a layer of richness to the text in the same way that Marx does Miéville, or Rand does Goodkind.

In summary: if you read fantasy for action scenes & epic battles, this isn’t for you, but on all other counts it works well.

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