Jun 05, 11
Read in June, 2011
I'm not going to lie, this book is a hard read. I'm not saying that it's hard to read, but it starts off with a child of rape and details why she's hated and how she came into being.
One of the great things about this book is its sense of place. You get a feeling for the culture and the people and the environment. There is no sense that this is set in a vague, fantasy setting. The author knows exactly where this book takes place.
I also liked how it took the tropes of golden age and modern fantasy and turned them on their heads. The book doesn't have the "everyone but the girl's mentor is sexist!" or "the mentor is so enlightened he doesn't care she's a girl!". Instead, we see what real misogyny looks like. Her mentor enjoys turning down her requests for mentorship. He refuses to see that she's more powerful, that she's a sorcerer. Even when he does accept her, he's still sexist.
And she calls him on it. All the time.
Aro: Listen, you're ugly and beautiful. Ugly because you're a child of two races, but also beautiful. Your boyfriend can't be expected to resist you. So you have to stop having sex with him.
Onye: Ok... that was incredibly sexist. Women aren't these irresistible things. Boyfriend and I are both people, so we'll both work on the not having sex thing. Stop treating me like I'm different just because I have a vagina!
Also, the boyfriend! I was so in love with reading a book where the main conflict between a couple wasn't "will they get together, won't they get together (but let's face it, you know they will)". The main conflict was their relationship!
It was keeping themselves together! It was the fact that he was jealous of her powers, and they constantly addressed how sexist it was for him to want to be the center just because he was the guy! And he supported her a lot! And he took care of her! And he loved her unconditionally and she loved him unconditionally.
There are a lot of reasons to love this book. The fact that it is a fantasy set in Africa, dealing with genocide and rape as an act of war is... weirdly, a huge selling point for me. In a lot of ways this subverts the idea of "big evil" by taking away any sort of vagueness about what evil really is. This isn't Voldemort with his larger than life badness, or Sauron who seems almost glorious in his badness. This badguy is evil because he uses religion to rape and kill an entire race.
Also, it was just a really engaging book. Onye makes mistakes, but they aren't stupid mistakes or ones of incredible arrogance, they're just mistakes.