Cute and funny and smart MG fantasy, which I enjoyed very much. Like many of my friends who've read this, I was equally taken with the castle itself (...moreCute and funny and smart MG fantasy, which I enjoyed very much. Like many of my friends who've read this, I was equally taken with the castle itself (not only sentient but keeps the monarchy about more than just inheritance!) and Celie, the 11-year-old heroine. I was particularly happy that her siblings listened to her, which I'd been afraid they might not do at points. I also look forward to more of Prince Lulath when I read on in the series! (less)
[Editing because I slipped into the descriptors of race used in the book, which I shouldn't have done. Not good.]
As I said in my brief write-up of the...more[Editing because I slipped into the descriptors of race used in the book, which I shouldn't have done. Not good.]
As I said in my brief write-up of the first Lily Bard book, I had to try not to be too critical just because I was comparing this series to Julia Spencer-Fleming's series. The second book was less slight as a mystery, but it had more of the problems that had bothered me in the first, as well as a whole new set.
Firstly, there was the slut-shaming, with Deanna, as before, the chief shamee. It's not just her though, and there's a really odd bit with Pardon's niece, who appears in the karate class, where she's - I don't even remember her belt-level - but she's the most highly qualified in the class, and immediately after saying something about how she respects her for it, Lily is talking about her overly-heavy make-up, her long, long blond hair, and her too-tight exercise clothes which are attracting all the guys' attention. Give me a bloody break. I was thinking about it after and there are two women of roughly Lily's age who aren't dismissed as slutty, and one of them is (view spoiler)[another rape victim (hide spoiler)], and the other the never-described-as-in-any-way-sexy but certainly dedicated town doctor, Carrie.
Then there's Lily herself, who is irresistible to all the decent men in the town, of course, and is leered at by the others. The distinction between the two isn't quite as solid as it might be, though, especially when Mysterious Stranger's first real conversation with Lily contains "I get a hard-on every time I see you." It was especially messy as Lily had just figured out who he was (from the pictures of him in the news a few years ago), and he'd also figured out who she was, and this implied that he was turned on by her past abduction/rape/torture. I don't think this was actually the case, but the whole scene just went very wrong. His story is hardly one that seems likely to make her trust him, but hey - sexy times with no-longer-mysterious still-stranger were apparently irresistible to her too.
So, these were not good elements of the book, but then there's the racial question. I do understand that the book was published in '97, and that levels of awareness of white (and class) privilege were even lower than they are today. It's also got to be difficult to write a book at least in part about racial tension and hatred without giving excessive voice to the racists. I'm still not okay with the use of the n-word, which happens several times. There's more that's problematic here though, starting with Lily's saying something about how she had been comfortable with the slow pace of change in Shakespeare, as things were pretty okay; some of the black people had good jobs and even nice houses. (I do have to rely on memory, meaning I'm probably not quoting accurately, as the app for listening to library digital loans is woeful.) Ouch. This is pretty basic privilege stuff, but while Lily herself is clearly not racist, and the book shows the real racists as despicable in every way, there's more negative than positive in the overall effect. (Again, I am not saying that the author herself is bigoted, just because I feel that the book kind of fails in this area.) The thing that happens very near the end, which really pulls together everything I think makes this aspect of the book a fail, is spoilery in just about every way it can be. (view spoiler)[ I could think of no reason for Mookie to die, except for her to be hanging onto life just in order to talk to Lily. That is - offensive. There's nothing suggesting that Lily should be that important to Mookie, except of course for the fact that Lily went running to ask for Mookie's help (she has a rifle and the targets to prove she's a good shot!) to save Jack, which led to her death. But Mookie says it's okay, as she got to kill some of the guys who'd murdered her brother. So really - Lily has yet another installment of pain, injury, near-death, before getting back to her life, her sexy times with Jack, whatever - while Mookie's dead before Lily gets back to her own hospital bed. Look the least bit like the characters of colour are more props to Lily's story than much else? Yeah, to me it does. (hide spoiler)]
I might have given just one more of the books a try, but then I saw that book 4 is called "Shakespeare's Trollop", and the blurb indicated just who gets killed in this one, and - no.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The three stars is really for the high-point of the book, where Valeria starts to find a role in life she actually wants for herself, while the unders...moreThe three stars is really for the high-point of the book, where Valeria starts to find a role in life she actually wants for herself, while the understated romance between her and the prince is getting rolling. It was really quite cute, and at that stage I could ignore the obvious weaknesses of worldbuilding/plot and the fat slams that went on throughout a book that obviously intends to be a fat-acceptance one. Weaknesses there were, however (like the apparent paucity and incompetence of kitchen staff in the palace in Riviera, until Valeria and her accompanying maid and nanny arrive), and fat-unfriendliness too, such as repeated use of the word "waddle" to describe Valeria's walking, which continued throughout.
On the surface, it's a very fat-friendly book, which has several things going for it: 1) Valeria mostly doesn't care that she's fat, despite a horrible number of bad things said about her and her size; 2) she doesn't lose weight - either intentionally or as a side-effect of another change in her life - at the end of the book; 3) she gets herself a prince (and it's pretty clear another would also have been delighted to get her) AND a career (of sorts, and she is a princess, so the 'of sorts' makes sense in the context) through being herself, rather than changing to suit others. That aspect almost made up for the beginning's association of her being fat with her being extremely self-indulgent and -- frankly, to the outsider, bloody boring, as she has no interest in anything except eating. If she'd occasionally had a book to read before/after if not during her morning or afternoon tea-and-cake breaks, it would have made her a bit more appealing! Instead she's said to be "satisfied with her luxurious, idle life in the palace".
It's a short book, and this may well seem like more analysis than the book merits, but there are so few really fat-friendly books out there that the close-miss found here is more disappointing than it might be otherwise. (less)