Happy Thanksgiving: Have a Dinosaur Romance

DTML-JJE-2A couple of weeks ago, Elyse on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books reviewed a book called “The Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay”.  As you might expect, this prompted considerable discussion on Smart Bitches and elsewhere.  When a reviewer on Amazon called it “The Wuthering Heights of Gay Dinosaur Fiction”,  I decided that what we really need is a Jane Eyre of gay dinosaur fiction.  So I wrote it.  Now you too can read, “Jurassic Jane Eyre: The Dinosaur Turned Me Lesbian”.  But you really, really shouldn’t.  Take it from me – I wrote it, I should know!

Head on over to Smart Bitches for all the fun, including a list of charities that the book might inspire you to support.  The “book” is free at Kobo and Smashwords.  It’s also available at Amazon but until price sharing kicks in I had to list it for $.99.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and if you want some more conventional Jane Eyre (and Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice), check out my other book – my much, much better-than-Jurassic-Jane-Eyre-book:

Pride_PopcornCover_final

 

Find Pride, Prejudice and Popcorn at these retailers:

Amazon        Barnes and Noble     iTunes      Harlequin.com

Wednesday Videos: Grateful for Sleepy Hollow!

WednesdayVideoOne of the many things I’m grateful for this year is the presence of Sleepy Hollow, the TV show that io9 describes as  “the show that makes any attempt at describing it to a non-watcher sound like you’re the drunk guy who went to a historical-conspiracy website one time and Cannot Stop Thinking About It!”

I was hunting for videos and I came across this compilation which made me ridiculously happy – it’s behind the scenes interviews with Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie.  They basically act exactly the same out of character as the do in character.  It’s adorable.   Highlight:

Tom:  “Well, when you’re running down this corridor and you know people are about to jump out at you…oh, don’t look so tough!”

Nicole:  “Please!  You just had coffee with them in the chair!”

Whatever you are thankful for this year, I hope you have plenty of it!

A Season of Gratitude: Writing

Charlie Brown and SnoopyI’m continuing my short series on gratitude with eleven things I’m grateful for concerning writing.  I’ve made some big shifts in how I think about writing since summer and I have a lot to be grateful for!

1. San Diego Comic-Con 2014.  This was a huge turning point for me.  My family and I drove from San Diego – which means that when SDCC was over I had ten hours in the car to think about what I’d experienced, and what I experienced was people telling me to go make stuff.  By the end of that trip, I had a work schedule in place, a new way of thinking about my work, and had redefined some family roles when I’m working at Conventions.  Which leads me to…

2.  Support.  My husband treated my writing as an actual job worthy of attention, time, and respect long before I did.  Thanks, Glen.

3.  Convolution. A year ago I was a panelist for the very first time at Convolution and this year I was a featured guest!  It was an amazing experience.  I felt like Cinderella at the ball.  I was so inspired and warmed by everyone I met.  The Convolution/Baycon crowd is rapidly becoming family.

4.  ARCS!  I mentioned advance review copies in my Reading Gratitude entry, but I’m going to mention them again because they involve my writing.  People often ask me if I make much money.  “I make some money and I get free books” I tell them.  “But do you make a lot of money,” they invariably ask.  I look at them blankly and say, slowly and clearly, “I get FREE BOOKS”.

5.  Interfictions Online!  I’m thrilled to have sold my first essay to a magazine.  You can find it here.  What makes it especially exciting is the company I’m in.  I’m in the same magazine as, for instance, Genevieve Valentine, author of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, which I reviewed here, as well as many other amazing people.  This is so exciting to me that when I saw the Table of Contents I got tears in my eyes, no lie.

6.  Royalty Check.  Hey, I made a book(lette) and I got my first paycheck, too!  Like a real author!  And, BTW, you can buy my book here:

Amazon        Barnes and Noble     iTunes      Harlequin.com

Pride_PopcornCover_final

 

7.  My Laptop.  Please, laptop, please never stop working  I’m sorry I dropped you that one time.  Please forgive me.  I love you! XOXOXOXOXO!

8.  Going to the movies for work.  I get paid to review things like The Book of Life and Guardians of the Galaxy.  I am living the dream, yo.

9.  Beta Readers.  You guys are the best.

10.  A flexible schedule.  I bitch about this all the time, because a flexible schedule means my writing tends to get pushed aside.  But, since my newfound since of purpose post SDCC, I’ve been able to enjoy flexibility without having to start four hours of work at 10PM every night.

11.  I go to work in my PJs.  ‘Nough said.

 

A Season of Gratitude: Television

Charlie Brown and SnoopyI only watch a handful of TV shows (due to time constraints) but the ones I watch I like A LOT.  If I know I only have time to watch about 3 hours of TV in a week, they better be damn good hours.  Here’s eleven things I’m grateful for from television lately!

Arrow

1.  Felicity chirping, “Bitch…with wifi!”.  It’s from last season, but it was a gift that keeps giving.

2.  From last season – we all thought Sara and Felicity would get into a cat fight but instead Sara gave Felicity self-defense lessons and Felicity kept Sara from getting shot.

Sleepy Hollow:

3.  Ichabod’s cappachino mustache

4.  The diversity of the cast and insanity of the plots.  Don’t let the white characters take over, show.  I’m counting on you.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

5.  The fact that the show went from “meh” to “must see TV”

6.  More than one kickass alpha woman, more than one black guy, a guy with a disability – just generally a much more diverse series than it was last season.

7.  May vs May

8.  Evil Grant.  Please show, I’m begging you – don’t make him go back to being hero Grant.  He’s a great pyscho.

Outlander:

9.  “The Wedding”

10.  Costume porn!

11.  Drunk, angry Claire having a battle of tug-of-war over a goat

Bonus:  Orphan Black and Agent Carter

I discovered Orphan Black this year and binged on the first two seasons.  Season 3 comes out some Spring.  This is an amazing show.  I love everything about it.

And…Agent Carter gets her own show starting January 6th!  Let the trumpets sound!

 

 

 

Between the Lines Books Club: New Schedule in January!

between the lines book club logoHey Book Clubbers!  We are taking the month of December off but we will be back in January.  For those who join us in person at Arden Dimick Library, in Sacramento, California, be aware that we have a new schedule.  Starting in January, we’ll be meeting on the fourth Saturday, of every month, at 10:30AM.

Here’s our schedule for the next six months:

January 24:  Little Failure, by Gary Shteyngart

Hopefully we will all survive the holiday season with our crazy families.  As the first step in post-holiday family recovery, here’s a very funny, sad, and touching book about a family which is insane but tightly connected.  This memoir of a man who emigrates to America with his parents from the former USSR at a young age is the very definition of tragicomedy.

cover of Little Failure

 

February 28:  Emma, by Jane Austen

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Here’s the classic story of a well-intentioned matchmaker who gets everything wrong.

cover of Emma

March 28:  The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis

Hattie is one of many African-Americans who migrated North from the South.  She marries and settles into a new life – but the tragedy that befalls her marriage in its early days changes her ability to connect to her husband and her children.  Each chapter is told by a different child of Hattie’s, giving us a look at history from the early 1900’s through the Vietnam War.

cover of Twelve Tribes of Hattie

April 25:  Love In the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

This book is a classic work of magical realism from the incredibly influential author Gabriel Garcia Marquez challenges our ideas about love, duty, and family.

cover of Love in Time of Cholera

May 23:  The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in a Digital Age  by Astra Taylor

This nonfiction book explores the way the Internet fails to meet its promise of democratizing speech.  It talks about how the Internet affects the way artists get paid (or don’t get paid) as well as the ways large business monopolies continue to grow despite, or because, of the presence of the Internet.  It’s a challenging book with some ideas of how to make things better.

 

cover of The People's Platform

June 27:  The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri

In this slow-paced, beautifully written novel, two brothers grow up in India.  One becomes involved with a revolutionary movement.  The other becomes a college student in America.  Their lives diverge but continue to affect each other for the duration of their lives and the lives of their children.

 

cover of The Lowland

 

See you on January 24, 2014 at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento – and see you right here every Friday, starting January 9, 2015!

 

Wednesday Video: Sailing to the Moon

WednesdayVideoOh, this is so cute!  Two guys sail into outer space in a cardboard box – adventures ensure.

This video is from Let’s Talk About Space.  This duo, Kieran Heather and Chris McGarry, tours UK schools and talks about, you guessed it, space.  Their website is www.letstalkaboutspace.com.

 

A Season of Reading Gratitude

Charlie Brown and SnoopySince November is the eleventh month, I’m taking today to think about eleven things I’m grateful for that have to do with reading.  Some of this list refers to experiences, like snuggling with my daughter at night while my husband reads Tolkien to us.  Some of this list is just a list of books I’ve read, or am about to start reading, that were exciting.

Here’s some books and reading experiences that I’m grateful for this year:

1.  My husband and I are reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy aloud at night to our daughter.  Bliss.

2.  Symbiont, by Mira Grant.  When will I learn not to read the first book in her series until the last one comes out?  Parasite ended on a cliffhanger so I’ve been writing in agony waiting for the next book to come out.  It’s not every day that I’m thrilled by the prospect of a tapeworm zombie apocalypse but I am SO EXCITED.

3.  Silverblind, by Tina Connolly.  The conclusion to Ironskin and Copperhead was soooo satisfying but now I’m sad that the series is over.  So maybe I’m not that grateful.  I’m semi-grateful.

4.  Between the Lines Book Club.  Those of you who can’t make it to Arden Dimick have no idea how much this book club makes me step up my game – and after a steep learning curve I feel like I’m finally hitting the right groove.  We have such a great group of people, and I love stretching in terms of reading outside of SFF and Romance genres and in terms of coming up with deep discussion questions!

5.  The West Coast Bitches Meet-up in California!  You’ll never find a nicer group of people than followers of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  And you’ll never find a more talkative bunch of introverts!

6.  Which leads me to…Romantic Times Booklovers Convention!  After years of trying to get to this convention I’m finally going this May.  Gonna meet my fellow reviewers for the first time!

7.  ARCs on the porch.  As I disclose on my FAQs page, I often get advance review copies from publishers.  Sometimes I request them and sometimes they just appear.  The UPS Fairy brings them.  As God is my witness, that happened AS I WAS TYPING THIS POST.  I never know what I’ll get.  It’s like Christmas every day, y’all.

8.  The Dresden Files.  Everyone told me to go read the Dresden Files and now I can’t get anything done because there’s 13 books in the series and I have to read them all right now.  They are so good.  They are like Thanksgiving Dinner.  Thirteen helpings of Thanksgiving Dinner.  But not literally, because that would be gross.  They are just right.

9.  I read Hogfather by Terry Pratchett every Christmas.  This year Sarah Wendell at Smart Bitches Trashy Books wants me to write about why I re-read it.  I think I better read it again to make sure it’s fresh in my mind, don’t you?

10.  Having an excuse to read Emma.  Between the Lines Book Club is reading Emma on Feb 28, 2015.  Can you believe I hadn’t read Emma before?

11.  Getting books signed – by my friends!  I love the collection of signed books I’m amassing.  a few of them represent five seconds of interaction but most of them are signed by friends, or by authors who I actually got to hang out with a bit, or from events that I want to remember forever.

 

Book Review: Silverblind, by Tina Connolly

silverblind-coverSilverblind is the conclusion to the Ironskin trilogy (it works just fine as a stand-alone novel).  The first book, Ironskin, was a very loose retelling of Jane Eyre, set in an alternate version of England in which England and the fey have been at war.  I reviewed it at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  The second book, Copperhead, was about Jane’s sister, and I also reviewed it at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, here.  In Silverblind, the story revokes around Dorie, the half-fey, half-human girl who Jane was originally hired to tutor.  Dorie is grown up now, and wants to help both humans and fey survive the aftermath of the war.

Silverblind shared the strengths of the other two books – compelling characters, great world building, beautiful imagery, and complex themes of identity, gender, sexuality, and ethics.  It was fast-paced and exciting and emotionally engrossing.  I got so involved in it that I read it while walking in the mall and almost walked into a door.  Normally I never run into things while walking, but in this case I thought the door was manual but it was actually automatic and it attacked me.  Anyway, Silverblind and I made it through the mall unscathed.

Silverblind does have one fault.  It’s very rushed.  The fast pace makes for exciting reading but it also distances the reader from the emotions of the characters.  Dorie was very compelling, but other characters barely register (I’d love to see a spin-off about Jack, though).  I was disappointed by the rivalry between Dorie and Annika.  I wanted to see these two women team up, not be on opposite sides.  Near the end, I kept thinking that surely the book couldn’t be so close to being over – but whoosh, there it went.  Aspects of the end were quite convenient.  The closing pages were delightful, but I wanted a little more time to sink into the story.

Overall, I loved this book.  Thoughtful, compelling, exciting, interesting.  It completely destroyed my productivity for the day and almost caused me a concussion, which I consider to be high praise.  Maybe I was sorry to get to the end of the book because, as far as I know, this is the last Ironskin book and now I’m depressed.  Luckily I have a huge exciting pile of ARCs waiting to comfort me!

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: The Invention of Wings and the Real Sarah Grimke

between the lines book club logoIn The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd tells a story inspired by the real life of Sarah Grimke.  At first, Kidd planned to write a historically accurate version of Sarah.  she spent four years researching and writing, but in the course of writing she realized that she was going to have to more loose in her depiction of Sarah if she wanted Sarah’s voice to come through:

I revered Sarah’s history to the point I initially became boxed-in by it. In the beginning, I had a hard time letting her venture outside factual borders. The longer she was cooped up by the facts, the quieter she got. I’d read the Grimke sisters’ diaries and essays, and while they gave me an extraordinary glimpse into their lives, their writing was rendered in nineteenth century language, wrapped in rhetoric, piety and stilted phrases. I wanted Sarah’s voice in my novel to feel authentic and carry some of the vernacular of the time, but I knew I had to bring some modern sensibility to it. I rewrote her first chapters over and over, before I felt like I’d found her voice. Finding it was all about loosening it. I realized I had to tap into Sarah’s inner life and set her free to speak from that timeless lace, as well as from the time in which she lived. I needed to let her veer off script. I had to find Sarah in my imagination, as well as in history. Doing so brought her alive for me.

The real Sarah Grimke lived from 1792 to 1873.  She was born in South Carolina and resented the superior education and greater range of opportunities her brothers had.  She had a personal slave and got in trouble for teaching her slave and the family slaves to read.  She stopped when she realized that while she would be punished, the slaves would be punished far more severely.

Sarah accompanied her dying father to Philadelphia, where she became a Quaker.  She brought her sister, Angelina, with her and the two became abolitionist activists.  Sarah discovered that one of her brothers had three children with his slave.  Sarah and Angelina worked to provide them with an education, funds, and a sense of family.

Sarah and Angelina Grimke

Sarah and Angelina Grimke

Sarah and Angelina spoke and wrote against slavery but received criticism for also speaking about women’s rights.  Angelina withdrew from public speaking sometime after marrying abolitionist Theodore Weld, who opposed the women speaking about women’s rights as he felt it was a distraction from abolition.  Sarah stopped speaking publicly following a critical letter from Weld, but she continued to write.

Although Sarah is not known to have been close friends with Lucretia Mott, they did attend the same Quaker meeting.  She also knew Sarah Mapps Douglass, but never stayed with her.  Instead of striving for historical factual accuracy, Kidd strove for an emotional accuracy.

 My greatest hope, however, is for readers to take away a felt experience of the story, of what slavery might have been like for someone or what it was like back then for a woman without rights. I want the reader to feel as if he or she has participated in the interior lives of the characters and felt something of their yearnings, sufferings, joys, and braveries. Empathy—taking another’s experience and making it one’s own—is one of the most mysterious and noble transactions a human can have. It’s the real power of fiction. While in college, I studied Ralph Waldo Emerson’s concept of “the common heart,” a place inside of us where we share an intrinsic unity with all humanity. The idea has remained with me all these years. As a writer, I believe in it. The hope that this story would help us find a portal into that place is the most I could hope.

If you would like to read one of Sarah Grimke’s met influential writings, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, you can find it free online at national humanities.org.

History’s Hidden Heroes: Denmark Vesey

Denmark VeseyThis month in History’s Hidden Heroes, I’m writing about Denmark Vesey.  Vesey is a character in The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd.  We are reading The Invention of Wings for Between the Lines Book Club.  The character is loosely based on  a  real person, Denmark Vesey, born Telemaque, who planned a slave uprising in 1822.

Telemaque was born a slave, with the name Telemaque, in 1767 in St. Thomas.  He was purchased by a sea captain whose last name was Vesey.  Vesey eventually brought Telemaque to South Carolina.  Telemaque won $1500 in a lottery in 1799.  He bought himself, and took on the name Denmark Vesey.  Vesey married a woman who was a slave.  He attempted to buy his wife, but her owner would not sell her.  This meant that all of Vesey’s children would be born into slavery, since by law they acquired the legal status of the mother.

Vesey started a congregation of the African Methodist Episopal Church.   When the church was closed by city authorities, Vesey began planning a rebellion.  Two slaves leaked the plot and Vesey was arrested, along with other suspects.

Vesey was hung on July 2, 1822.  Records show that he was hung publicly, but folklore tells of him being hung alone, secretly, at an oak tree, and this is the story Kidd uses in The Invention of Wings.  Kidd also perpetrates the legend that Vesey practiced polygamy although there’s little evidence to support this.  How advanced the rebellion was remains a matter of historical controversy.  However advanced Vesey’s plans were, he inarguably had a huge effect on slaveowners, slaves, and abolitionists.  He remains a controversial figure today – revered because of his commitment to freedom, and condemned by some because of his willingness to use violence towards that end.

 

 

Book Review: The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Wincester

cover of "The Professor and the Madman"This is one of those nonfiction books that pops up on my radar but that I never make room to read.  finally I sat down with it and it’s such a delight.  This book got a lot of praise when it came out in 1998 and it’s so fun for me to finally get to find out why!

The Professor and the Madman is about the professional and personal relationship between Professor James Murray and Dr. William Chester Minor.  Murray was the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – the very first edition, the first to try to compile the definitions and examples from written language of every single word in the English  language.  The project was farmed out to hundreds of volunteers.  One of the most prolific was Dr. William Chester Minor.  He had plenty of time to research words for the dictionary because he was incarcerated at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic asylum.

This book is fascinating on several levels.  The concept behind the OED is much more vast than I had realized and reading about how it was complied is not unlike reading about a military campaign.  Intermixed with this is discussion of the history of dictionaries in general.  This first English language dictionaries in England offered only “the choicest words”, leading to this passage:

So words like adminiculationcautiontate, denunciate, and attemptate are placed in the vocabulary too, each duly cataloged in the tiny leather books of the day; yet they were words meant only for the loftiest ears”,

Goodness, is it warm in here?

Meanwhile, the story of Minor is bizarre, sometimes appalling, occasionally bloody, often tragic, and often quite touching.  While most of Minor’s life took place in two rooms, his earlier life involved war and murder, and while in Broadmoor he suffered from delusions of persecution that provide an abundance of drama.  The juxtaposition of what seems like a dry subject on the surface (the dictionary) with what appears to be the most lurid subject possible (insanity in the late Victorian Era and early Edwardian Era) means that the dictionary is given excitement and the madness is given depth and consideration.  Minor is treated by the author with great compassion, as indeed he seems to have been treated by Murray, with whom he exchanged hundreds of letters and several personal visits.

There’s some odd language in the book.  It reads like a much older book.  Early on the author describes Minor’s adolescence in the South Seas in unnecessarily lascivious terms.  Minor was troubled all his life by sexual fantasies and guilt, so there’s nothing odd about mentioning his adolescent discovery of sexual attrition, but the author dwells so much on the charms of the girls of the South Seas, as opposed to Minor’s reactions to them, that you have to wonder if the author has the same problems.  Elsewhere he uses the word “niggardly” to describe a stingy person.  It seems odd and distressing that the author of a book about words and their constantly changing meanings would use a word that has fallen justly out of favor.

On the whole, the book is warm as well as interesting.  It’s telling that the book is dedicated to man, George Merrett who Minor murdered.  This man was a stoker who was on his way to work when Minor shot him.  It was this murder that resulted in Minor being sent to the asylum.  Not much is known about Merrett, but the author of the book refuses to let him fade into the background.  The book is dedicated to Merrett, the first chapter describes Merrett’s life and death, and the end of the book returns to talk about him and the fate of his widow, who forgave Minor for the murder.  That insistence on humanity pervades the book and makes what could have been a dry topic deeply emotional.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: The Invention of Wings

between the lines book club logoRead fast, book clubbers, because this month our in-person book club is on November 16th !  We’ll be discussing The Invention of Wings at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, at 2PM.  Of course you can also leave a comment every Friday about the book right here!

The Invention of Wings tells two, intertwined stories, very loosely based on historical fact.  When Sarah Grimke was eleven years old, she was given an eleven year old slave as a birthday present.   Sarah grew up to be an ardent abolitionist and women’s rights activist.  The fate of the little girl who was gifted to her is unknown.  Sue Monk Kidd invents a powerful story for the little girl, named Handful, and uses a mix of fact and imagination to create a version of Sarah’s life.  The two girls go through life in parallel but not always together, as Sarah goes to the North and leaves Handful behind.

suemonkkidd

My favorite thing about this book is the language.  Here’s some phrases I noticed:

  • “A malicious headache”  – Sarah’s mother
  • “heart broke so bad you could hear it jangle when she walked” – Handful, describing Sarah
  • “severe and terrible mercy” – Sarah
  • “She’s been boiled down to a good, strong broth” – Handful
  • “My heart had been beat to butter” – Handful
  • “He has been shaken from the lap of Charleston like a salad napkin” – Sarah

The other thing I loved was that Handful has her own story, and it’s given as much weight and time and narrative importance as Sarah’s – in fact, I found Handful’s story much more compelling than Sarah’s.  In her first book, The Secret Language of Bees, Kidd had a white protagonist who becomes involved with a group of black women.  Their stories were told through the white protagonist’s eyes and she had the primary narrative.  It’s very common to have stories about minorities told though Caucasian eyes and that’s particularly problematic when their stories become props for the white protagonist’s story.  The Invention of Wings avoids this by having half of the book narrated by Handful, by not having the two women together all the time, and by ensuring that Handful has her own plot.

Sue Monk Kidd has a great website with tons of supplemental material, including an interview and recipes (mmmmmm recipes!).  You can find it at suemonkkidd.com.

Wednesday Videos: Ariana Grande IN SPACE!

WednesdayVideoWaa…I can’t even.  This is the most ridiculous music video possibly of all time but now that I’ve seen it I can’t stop staring at it.  There are so many questions!  How does Ariana Grande shoot a giant robot with her boobs?  Does that mean she has an endless supply of metal boobs hidden in her chest?  Can you get those at Target?  When she’s in zero gravity, why does her underwear float but her hair does not?  If I had a spaceship, would I spend so much time writing around in a corset?  Hint:  Sure, why not, although in all honesty I would not look like Ariana Grande while doing it.  And most importantly, why was I not invited to the Cantina party?  Ariana, do you have any idea how much time I had to spend watching you in Sam and Cat with my preteen?  You owe me a party!

Anyway, thanks to io9 for bringing this to my attention – they wrote about it quite hysterically so go read it.  Video is mildly NSFW due to writhing, underwear, and boob rocket guns.

Guest Post from Erin Lindsey: Gender in “The Bloodbound”

cover of Bloodhound

Welcome Erin Lindsey, author of the new novel Bloodbound!  In this guest post, Erin talks about how readers and reviewers see gender in Bloodbound, and how Erin herself sees gender roles in the Bloodbound universe.

If I needed any reminder that gender in SF/F is a hot topic these days, publicity around THE BLOODBOUND has certainly served it up. The early buzz has made much of the fact that the protagonist, Alix Black, is female. I have to admit, I’m a little surprised this is still a Thing. I mean, there are loads of female protagonists out there. Maybe Alix is a little unusual in that she’s a soldier, one who goes on to become the king’s bodyguard. But still… 2014, right?

A number of early reviews have referred, directly or indirectly, to “unusual” gender roles in the book. “Modern gender equality”, as one reviewer put it. Well, yes – and no. Aside from the fact that I wouldn’t call modern gender roles equal, I wouldn’t characterise the gender roles in THE BLOODBOUND as such either. More equal than traditional fantasy, certainly, but let’s be honest, that’s not setting the bar very high.

Women in the Kingdom of Alden do have more sexual freedom than you’d typically find in a medieval setting. Sex before marriage isn’t proscribed, morally or legally, so long as there are no complications (i.e. pregnancy). But that doesn’t mean women have much freedom to choose in the long run. They’re still expected to marry and have children, and marriage – especially in the higher ranks of society – is viewed primarily as a political and economic transaction. So beyond a few youthful dalliances, women in Alden can look forward to the same futures as their real-world medieval counterparts, with all the potential misery that implies.

It’s a similar story when it comes to women in the military. Yes, women serve in the Kingswords, in great numbers. An Aldenian woman doesn’t need to dress up as a man or endure the scorn of society in order to fight in the war; she has her own place in the army. But make no mistake – it is a place, one she is given, not one she chooses for herself. Women are physically weaker than men, so with a handful of exceptions, you won’t find them in the infantry or the cavalry. Women have two choices: they can be scouts, or archers. Aldenians see this as playing to the comparative advantage of each gender. Men are strong, and so placed on the front lines. Women, meanwhile, are graceful and coordinated, so they make stealthy scouts and dead-eye shots. There’s a saying in the Kingswords: It takes a woman to thread a needle. Not exactly a model of gender equality, is it?

Women can become knights, as Alix does, but only if they’re highborn. Here again, Alden isn’t exactly a bastion of equality. It’s as classist as any medieval setting. That means Alix has more freedom than her lowborn compatriots when it comes to her role in the army, but less in matters of marriage. As the daughter of a Banner House and one of the highest ranking women in the land, she has very little freedom to choose her own destiny. Oh, she can play around on the margins – a casual dalliance or two before she’s sold off, a dashing adventure in the Kingswords – but in the end, she’s expected to be a wife and a mother. (Of course, Alix has ideas of her own, and if there’s one thing she doesn’t do well, it’s follow orders.)

What it all comes down to, in my mind at least, is that while gender roles in THE BLOODBOUND are certainly different, they’re every bit as entrenched and restricting as those in other worlds. Re-cast, but still cast in stone. In some senses, therefore, while you could fairly call THE BLOODBOUND a story of girl power, I will accept no kudos for it being particularly progressive.

Unless those kudos come in the form of chocolate, in which case, I take it all back.

Author Erin Lindsey

Author Erin Lindsey