Grace's Reviews > The Forbidden Circle

The Forbidden Circle by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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's review
Oct 26, 2011

did not like it

Oh, for GOD'S SAKE.

Hell no. HELL NO! Dammit, I hated this! In order:

The Spell Sword: Pretty bland, really. Meh. Woman in peril, woo-ooo astral projection, we speake oldene speech because we liveth in an icy ren faire, blah. This sort of setting has never been my cup of tea, but I like cultural clashes, so when we started with a Terran crash-landed on a frozen mountain I had hope. Sadly, it goes downhill (downmountain?) from then on - the Terran teams up with a clan of inbred hill wizards and they do the lamest battle possible with the "cat-men" and rescue the maiden fair and fine, whatever. It's setup for the next book.

Now, look. Marion Zimmer Bradley is hailed as revolutionary feminist writer, and maybe when she started writing her work was groundbreaking. Maybe. But reading her stuff in 2011 is weird. I don't understand why this feudal setting was chosen, with women controlled by their male relatives. The women aren't particularly strong - if anything, MZB seems to have crippled the men? Everyone is the reverse of action. But The Spell Sword was just generic boringness. The next book had me nearly tossing the book across the room.

The Forbidden Tower: So, having abruptly married into a cult of witchy inbreds and renounced his entire damn background, Terran Andrew Carr is now subjected to a book-long brainwashing ritual. There's practically no action in this book, it's all about interpersonal feeeeeelings and culture clash and crap. Seriously, the amount of "I should have told you" and "Why did you react that way" and general hair-pulling navel-gazing agony? Just knock me unconscious already, because this is fricking awful. And boring. BORING.

Andrew is a cipher, he's got nothing to him other than being a vague sexual threat to his own wife, who can't touch him (she's a virgin priestess, basically, so you know the storyline there). Really he's there to spend the entire book being pressured into a group marriage. Is this particularly feminist? Two sisters and their cousin-husband burst into tears every time Andrew "hurts their feelings" by reacting to something with the totally natural context of his cultural taboos, and yet they also expect him to flawlessly incorporate THEIR culture without compromise. They're mean-girling him into compliance! Even weirder, they're mean-girling him into polygamy.

And can I just tell you how much crying there is in this book? SO MUCH CRYING. Most commonly because someone's feelings were hurt, though also because someone's feeling guilty, or weeping regretfully over something from decades ago. Weep weep weep. And then there's a big life-or-death battle and you think YAY, action! But not QUITE the sort of action you might be thinking about, because you know how to prepare for psychic battle? Well, I'd probably get some sleep, but this gang instead have a night-long orgy. Obviously. And it's not even good sexy writing, dammit, it's all hazy feeeeeeeeeeelings. And then the long-awaited "epic battle" turns out to be 15 minutes of deep emotional discussion. Fantasy by feminist process! SHUT UP!

In conclusion: I hated this freaking book. I hate all the mulling and the talking and the feeeelings. I REALLY hate the sense that Andrew Carr is now having sex with both his sister- and brother-in-law because he's been brainwashed into it, and because they cried until he gave in. Is this the feminist bit, casting Andrew Carr in this totally subjugated role where he obeys while thinking it's his own free will? Seriously, someone tell me.

I'm going to try one more of these because I'm a flipping masochist. There MUST be a reason for MZB to have gotten the reputation she did, right? So one more. One. But I'm watching about twenty episodes of "The Vampire Diaries" first, as a palate-cleanser.
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