Like the sequel (which I for some reason reviewed first, probably because I just finished it), I read this originally as a teen, and I was pretty surp...moreLike the sequel (which I for some reason reviewed first, probably because I just finished it), I read this originally as a teen, and I was pretty surprised that it held up as well as I remembered it. It's definitely 80s sword and sorcery a la Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress anthologies, but for me, that's a major selling point. I was SO HAPPY to find that the duology has been reprinted in ebook format. (And I want more, please!)
Thorn is a foul-mouthed warrior woman who wants desperately to be rid of an accidental pregnancy. This is actually something I didn't quite pick up on when I read it initially; she starts out looking for an abortionist. She then meets Frostflower, a sorceri who wants a child -- except the sorceri can only adopt because their powers are tied to their virginity. (Although this is something addressed and questioned later in the book.) While she's not actively looking for a child (she is out in the world to learn more to enhance her powers), she runs into Thorn, which is just perfect. She magically speeds up the pregnancy so that she can birth and have her child immediately (and so poor Thorn doesn't have to go through months of pregnancy herself, which would affect her ability to work as a warrior).
(Also, can I just say that I LOVE reading a book in which abortion is treated not as something shameful but as something practical for Thorn. She doesn't want a child, and pregnancy would affect her ability to support herself. Even before Frostflower enters the picture, Thorn treats it like it's no big deal, and I love that. It's so very rare to read a portrayal of abortion like this.)
The worldbuilding is exquisite and deeply interesting. I wish there were more about this world. But even more than the worldbuilding is the characters. Thorn is acerbic, blunt, and sometimes not totally likable -- but I couldn't help but love her. Frostflower is much more mild-mannered, thoughtful, introverted, curious, and questioning. You would think that they would be like fire and ice, but they actually strike a deep bond, which is, I would say, the focus of the story.
I won't go into more detail because that would be spoilers (all that I have mentioned happens in the first chapter or so, so I don't feel it's too much a spoiler), but suffice it to say, I loved the storyline. There's adventure, and some very deep and emotionally intense stuff that happens. Karr isn't afraid to go places other people wouldn't.
I rate it 4 stars because there are some pacing issues, but I think this was Karr's first novel, so that's not too surprising. (And a lot of sword and sorcery books, I find, have similar pacing issues.) It's a very feminist book, very focused on the women, their relationships with each other, and Frostflower's recovery from an extremely traumatic event is well-handled. I was worried that wouldn't stand up to a re-read as an adult, but I loved it, and very much wish there were more.(less)
I read this book (and its predecessor) when I was a teen. I was a bookish child, and my allowance went mostly towards books at the awesome used bookst...moreI read this book (and its predecessor) when I was a teen. I was a bookish child, and my allowance went mostly towards books at the awesome used bookstore in town, which stocked quite a lot of older fantasy and SF. I stumbled across Frostflower and Thorn (the first book), and upon finishing it, HAD to go back to find this one.
Now, I mostly expect that books I read as a teen to... not hold up. Some of my teen favorites, I can't read now, not always because they were badly written, but because of things I recognize now as offensive and problematic.
Such is not the case with Karr's Frostflower books. While the society is a patriarchy (in an odd sort of way -- women are warriors, because they are considered expendable; this is not something I have ever seen done before or since), the focus of the books is on women and their relationships with each other.
I felt the second was a little more info-dump-y than the previous, but it didn't bother me too much as I was interested in the world setting. I could have done with a little less of Eleva's personal monologue, since it took time away from Frostflower and Thorn, who I wanted to read about more... but she won me over, and by the end, I adored her.
This is definitely sword and sorcery in the style of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress anthologies. They are fun, intense stories about two women and the deep friendship they have. That is exceedingly rare, I find. There is also plenty of adventure, and in this book, a whodunit plot that has immense stakes. There is also serious personal growth on the part of Frostflower, especially; her questioning of the religion she was brought to is poignant and relevant to those of us who have doubts and questions about the religions we were raised in.
I wish there were more books about these two characters. I love them so, and want to read more about their adventures!(less)
A primarily female cast, POC, queer women, polyamory, disability, spirituality, all in an awesome sci fi setting -- what's no...moreI really loved this book.
A primarily female cast, POC, queer women, polyamory, disability, spirituality, all in an awesome sci fi setting -- what's not to love? I've been looking forward to this book for a long while.
Speaking as somebody who is disabled with not one but two pain conditions, I had a lot of sympathy for Alana. It felt dead on, and all too familiar. I have seen some criticism that nobody would be able to work through that much pain, but frankly, having worked through pain, you learn to. The descriptions of Alana's pain is in enough detail that I found myself becoming aware of my own pain (which I normally "background", which you learn as a survival skill).
I really loved seeing a working polyamorous relationship that is similar to my own. Normally, if poly is shown in fiction, you see triads or quads, or what is known as polyfidelity (where there are multiple people, but they are only involved with each other). You don't really see "network" poly much ("network" poly being where not everyone is involved with each other, and the chart of romances looks more like a network), and as that is the type of poly that I am, I'm very glad to see folks like me here.
The book is not perfect, but I don't think any book is. But, it's a gripping read, and quite brilliant, especially from a new author. I can't wait to read more about the crew of the Tangled Axon. :)(less)
This was excellent. I happened upon it by a review at The Book Pushers, and simply had to have it. An assassin heroine with PTSD who struggles with he...moreThis was excellent. I happened upon it by a review at The Book Pushers, and simply had to have it. An assassin heroine with PTSD who struggles with her love for her mark, who is an emperor and an amputee? Sign me up!
I really loved this. As someone who has PTSD, or PSTD like symptoms, the descriptions of Vitala's "visions" were dead on, and I nearly cried reading someone describe ways that I felt -- and Lucien, able to sympathize via his own experiences.
The only reason this is a 4 star vs. a 5 is because of the amount of "if only they talked" based conflict. I can see where they are coming from, but for me, it was too over-the-top, especially when they both had shown themselves to be sympathetic and understanding of one another. It seemed contrived to me.
That being said, that's a minor quibble about an amazing book that I would heartily recommend. I can't wait for the author's next book!(less)
I really loved the previous books in this series, except for the lack of Native Americans, which is something that still leaves a bitter taste in my m...moreI really loved the previous books in this series, except for the lack of Native Americans, which is something that still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth as a woman with Cherokee ancestry. (There's a lot of older posts on this controversy, if you care to look it up.)
This series has held a lot of charm, though, being an alternate history with magic that reads quite a bit like Little House on the Prairie with magic. This book, while enjoyable, felt slower paced than previous works, and I expected that more would happen. I don't know if Ms. Wrede has further books planned, but if this is the last one, I'll be very disappointed, because there are still many threads left hanging.
I also was not quite convinced of the romance, which was an incredibly minor side plot and only came out towards the very end.
Quite readable, but it unfortunately left me wanting more.(less)