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464 pages, Hardcover
First published September 17, 2013
Jurou’s grin was all Kitsune-in-the-henhouse, aimed squarely at Hana...kitsune-in-the-fucking-henhouse, just fucking kill me
It is a complicated situation. There is no easy answer. We need diversity in literature. We need it desperately. [...] And so it is important that all authors include diversity in their books.
But there is that part of me that wonders why is it that when I see a list about what Asian fantasy books are out there, the books are predominantly by caucasian authors. Are POC writers not writing them or are they being passed over for books written by non-POC authors instead? And why is it that books by or about POC don't tend to sell as well as other "mainstream" books. What is the difference? Is it the difference in how they are marketed? Is it their cover art? Where they are placed in the bookstore or library? How they are pushed or not pushed by the booksellers, librarians, and teachers?
The reality is, there are just not a lot of POC authors out there. We are not representing the 37% of our population when we only amount to 10% of publishing. When you look at diversity panels or even the YA tag in racebending.com, the authors tend to be predominantly white because they reflect publishing.
This is why I can't help but be resentful. I freely admit it. It sucks being a POC author sometimes. You feel invisible. You feel passed over. And true or not, it feels harder for us to get to tell our own stories. And that shouldn't be the way things are.
—CANNOT FEEL THEM, KINSLAYER? NOT HEAR THEM SCREAM WHEN THE MONKEY-MAN STRUCK HER BELLY?—
Buruu sighed, storm howling overhead, lighting reflected in the bottomless black of her eyes. The girl he loved more than anything in this world. The girl he would do anything to protect, to spare her even one more second of pain.
But he could not spare her this.
Oh, gods, no …
The sigh came from the heart of him.
YUKIKO, YOU ARE WITH CHILD.
He could feel the little ones inside Yukiko—two tiny sparks of life, shapeless and bright, intertwined with her own heat. They pulsed, too formless to know true fear, but real enough to feel their mother’s terror, shock, sorrow through the Kenning. The fear spilled into him, fear for them, for the one who carried them, for the beating, bleeding heart of his world.
He knew Kaiah could feel them too.
Kaiah growled, deep in her throat, tail whipping side to side.
—NO. WILL NOT FIGHT FOR YOU.—
Kaiah padded over to Yukiko, knelt on the stone before her. The girl looked up, swollen, trembling lips and frightened, blackened eyes. An age passed, there in the howling storm, the clawing wind, the driving rain, until at last, the thunder tiger leaned in close, pressed her head against Yukiko’s belly, and listened.
The sun slipped out from behind the clouds.
Just for a moment.
—BUT I WILL FIGHT FOR THEM.
Seventeen, perhaps eighteen years old at most. Her lips were full and pouting, as if she’d been stung by something venomous, her features fragile and perfect; a porcelain doll on its first day in the sun. She narrowed her eyes, held one hand up against the light.
Inexplicably, Yukiko felt her heart sink.
Her tongue emerged from between bee-stung lips and she touched it to her fingers, just once, shivering as she tasted copper and salt.
Her lips tasted of strawberries and sweat, warm as spring and soft as Kitsune silk. Wet beneath his fingertips, thighs smooth as glass, a river of glossy black spilling around her face and clinging to dripping breasts. She swayed above him; a long, slow dance in the lamplight, spilling across her contours, down into soft curves and sodden furrows. Soaking all around him, slick and scalding to the touch. She took his hands, pressed them against her, biting her lip and sawing back and forth atop him. Her sighs were the only sound in his world, her heat soaking through to his center. Her hips moved like a summer haze over lotus fields, climbing the mountain as she moaned his name over and over again.
“Ichizo.” Her lips on his own, breathing into his mouth. “Ichizo…"
She was not clad in a jûnihitoe as occasion would dictate; just a plain shift of deep red, rivers of long, raven hair spilling about her shoulders. No powder upon her bloodless face, nor kohl around her bloodshot eyes. Her right arm was bound in plaster, her lips pale and bereft of paint, left eye still surrounded by a faint yellow bruise, skin split almost to her chin down the left side of her mouth, stitched with delicate sutures. Yoritomo’s beating had been far more brutal than most in the court were allowed to believe.
And still, she was beautiful.
She wailed in fear as he stepped closer. Bruises on her face, those bee-stung lips swollen further still, ugly purple around her wrists, across her thighs.
She reached into the box and drew them out, scarlet card falling to the floor. Four and three feet long, gentle curves and glittering saw-blade teeth. She thumbed the ignitions on the hilts and the motors roared to life, vibration traveling up her arms and into her chest, bringing a small smile to painted lips.
Michi gunned the throttles of Ichizo’s chainkatana and wakizashi. Tearing away the intact layer of her jûnihitoe gown, she stepped out of her wooden sandals, wriggling her feet in split-toed socks. She took up her stance, flourishing the blades about her waist and head, a twirling, snarling dance of folded steel.
Michi dashed across the floorboards, narrowed eyes and gleaming teeth. The commander came to his senses first and stepped forward, bringing his nagamaki into some semblance of guard. She slipped down onto her knees, fine Kitsune silk and her momentum sending her into a skid across polished boards, blade passing harmlessly over her head. Cutting the commander’s legs out from under him, a blinding spray of red, a shriek of agony as the chainsaw blades sheared through bone like butter. Spinning up to her feet, katana cleaving through another bushiman’s forearm, wakizashi parrying a hasty thrust from a third as the soldiers at last registered the threat. Sparks in the air as steel crashed, the girl moving like smoke between the blades, swaying to the music she made.
A blade to a throat. A crimson spray on the walls. A parry. A wheel-kick. A thrust. Red mist in the air. Heart thundering in her chest.
She blew stray hair from her eyes, idling chainswords dripping into the gore pooled at her feet, staring at the commander’s corpse.
“I think I’ll put you down instead,” she said.
A female character who kicks ass and chews bubblegum and does a billion slow-mo kills in a slinky nightgown or catsuit (Aeon Flux, Resident Evil, Ultraviolet, etc) is not traditionally thought of as empowering because behind that concept is the lurking terror of a creepy, objectifying male writer or director. Even though "the writer" or "the director" don't exist in-universe, their presence is felt strongly enough that it's nearly impossible to think of such characters as being "a woman exhibiting agency".
Your anger can topple mountains. Crush empires. Change the very shape of the world.” He pressed the blade into her hand, watched her cool eyes the colour of steel.
“Your anger is a gift.”
Skin was strong.
Flesh was weak.
There is power in words.
There are words that bid us laugh and make us weep. Words to begin with and words to end by. Words that seize the hearts in our chests and squeeze them tight, that set the skin on our bones to tingling. Words so beautiful they shape us, forever change us, live inside us for as long as we have breath to speak them. There are forgotten words. Killing words. Great and frightening and terrible words. There are True words.
And then there are pictures.