Liviu's Reviews > Spirit: or, The Princess of Bois Dormant

Spirit by Gwyneth Jones
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's review
Nov 23, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: genre-sf, 2008_release_read, top_25_2008_novels, aq_more_favorites

Spirit: The Princess Du Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones is a standalone novel in her Aleutinian universe of the White Queen trilogy and several stories.

I liked this one so much that I ordered the original trilogy and I intend to read those books when I get them.

In the Diaspora universe of Humanoid Bipeds - of which the "Blues" - humans of Earth/Blue Planet are one race, the serial immortals Aleutinians are another, and the vampire bat-like Sigurtians yet another with several more around, the space station Speranza is the capital of a loose federation, with interstellar travel by the Buonaraotti coaches or Aleutinian pods, dangerous, unreliable and which may have even disturbed the fabric of the Universe leading to the existence of the non-human races as far-future descendants of humanity joined in the Simultaneity - that is known as the Strong Paradoxical Theory, with several other competing theories involving parallel evolution or a mythical common ancestor, to account for the similarities and even capability of interbreeding with a bit of genetic help between the Humanoid races...

On Earth, humanity is divided between Traditionalists - life marriage, man as the head of family entitled to many concubines, women restricted at least in their private life, honor, duty, loyalty at least in theory - and Reformers - some men or women, but most bi-gendered alternating between male and female aspects, social workers, state service, serial lovers, part-time marriage - and at the beginning of the novel the Reformers hold power, while various factions vie for a "restoration" of the Traditionalists

General Yu is the nominal head of one of the most powerful Traditionalist houses, but quite a lot of power resides with his wife Lady Nef and her Aleutinian secretary and unofficial lover Francois. They are "Seniors", allowed sophisticated genetic treatments enabling them to live 150-200 years with Lady Nef having the prestigious title of "Immortal Designate" which makes her household almost untouchable despite the blunders of the General in his quest for power with dubious friends and allies.

Suppressing a rebellion in an obscure mountainous corner of Earth, General Yu's army brutally massacres all rebels except for the ten year old Gwibibwr/Bibi - which means Princess in the rebels tongue - who is found hiding in a tunnel after the soldiers blood lust has passed. Taken to Lady Nef, Bibi is offered the choice of becoming her servant or the General's concubine and as it becomes the daughter of a traditionalist chieftain, Bibi chooses the former.

In time she befriends two Han Chinese orphan girls Honesty and Nightingale who are her bed-neighbors in the girl's wing of the Yu/Nef household, attracts the attention of Francois, gets sponsored for college and returns as a junior Social Worker under Lady Nef's patronage. Honesty who remained in domestic service becomes her maid and confidante while Nightingale who is the daughter of a dead hero becomes an officer in the People's Army.

Bibi meets a young Reformer boy Mahmood at college and their "houses" agree to a match, Honesty is studying to become chief-servant, while Nightingale has a powerful young Prince as a lover so our 3 heroines seem to have their future assured. But of course it is not so simple.

Chance and fatality intervene and thrown unwittingly in the middle of dangerous plots, Bibi and Honesty have to follow Lady Nef and General Yu on a diplomatic mission far-away on Sigurt, the humanoid vampire-bat planet and while Bibi is temporarily promoted to Francois' assistant and noble status, that comes with a hidden price.

Part Count(ess) of Monte-Cristo in space, part space opera, part sociological/gender SF, Spirit is a wonderful, wonderful novel that made me a big time fan of Gwyneth Jones work and it vaulted in the top 5 sf novels of the year.
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Reading Progress

November 23, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
November 26, 2008 – Finished Reading
December 13, 2008 – Shelved as: genre-sf
December 23, 2008 – Shelved as: 2008_release_read
September 27, 2010 – Shelved as: top_25_2008_novels
March 28, 2012 – Shelved as: aq_more_favorites

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Shane (new)

Shane Liviu, Was this hard to read not having read the Aleutian trilogy,or if I haven't read "The Count"?

Liviu I have not read the Aleutinian trilogy either - before Spirit of course - since then I bought all 3 novels and read #1, plan to read #2 and #3 too - they are not really connected directly, though they carry over characters descendants and such

I think that not reading Count of Monte-Cristo is an advantage in so far you do not know what happens here and there - there are some very precise similarities in some parts.

Liviu I mean the books in the trilogy are not directly related; Spirit shares the setting but nothing more as far as I know; takes place several hundreds of years later

message 4: by Shane (new)

Shane OK thanks, Liviu. I was checking out The Aleutian trilogy, White Queen has gotten some really good reviews. I seen the aliens were really alien! lol
This one may have jumped up on my list.
Thanks again.

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