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561 pages, Hardcover
First published November 21, 2017
— kehera. her characterization baffles me a little bit. she was raised as the heir to her kingdom and to the magical power (called an immanence) that it has a symbiotic relationship with. when readers meet her, however, she is embroidering something to pass the time while she and her fellow noble ladies anxiously await news from the war front. that's not terrible, even if it sets a weird impression. was she intended to be a decorative queen, one who only handles matters of policy? what i gathered later in the novel was that male leaders of their immanences totally will be at the war front, and even if they aren't actually on the front lines of battle, will make decisions and command their soldiers while there. the first impression, unfortunately, holds true. several times (well, more than several, really), kehera laments the fact that she has no fucking clue what is going on in any tactical sense during a conflict. maybe that doesn't seem silly to everyone, but to me, it seemed utterly unbelievable. if her father intended her to lead their country after him, why wouldn't he make sure she had at least a general knowledge of military strategies and battle tactics?? especially in the context of anticipating her control over the vitally-important magical power of their realm. all of this was frustrating at best and ridiculous at worst.
— regressive gender politics. yeah, yeah, come at me with your "it's fantasy, suck it up" arguments. i don't care. it's 2018, and the last two years have proven how little progress has truly been made in the real world to make the world a more equitable and just place for all marginalized people, including women. i just don't have the patience for fantasy stories that aren't willing to reckon with gender politics in their imagined worlds in a critical (or at least creative) way. this world's ideas of gender are boring, tired, and utterly unoriginal. from the above treatment of kehera to the male protagonist, innisth, and his idea of women as fragile and breakable, to the weird lack of women (in roles other than maids) in the country where most of the novel is set, Ëaneté. (hell, even the immanent powers seem utterly focused on maintaining a dichotomy of dominance and subordination.) i'm not looking for the hackneyed idea of a strong woman as badass, unflappable, and perfect, of course. just some nuance and forethought. it's annoying to find a novel with so much creative energy spent on magic systems yet so little of that energy spent on a genuinely fantastic set of cultures. i guess i'm just looking for love in all the wrong places?
— hand-waving of abuse and torture. ok. i feel like i'm opening a can of worms by discussing innisth at all. he and i just didn't click. readers are seemindly expected to empathize/identify with him at least a bit as his perspective is prominently featured throughout the novel. and yeah, i don't have to want to be buddies with a character for me to find them interesting. in fact, i did occasionally find him and his struggles with his immanent power engaging. but he is not nearly ready for an adult relationship with anyone at any point during this novel, even at the end; his thirst for violence hasn't truly disappeared, i doubt, and he still seems to struggle with respecting most people, especially potential rivals. suffice it to say that the novel's perception of innisth and my perception of him diverged drastically.