Author: Naomi Novik
Narrator: Julie Emelin
This is not a bad book, and I really wanted to love it. It’s very popular, hailed by authors and critics far and wide (Rothfuss loved it; LeGuin too), and has been nominated for a Hugo award, which is always a good sign. I enjoyed the use of slavic mythology, and the first half really sailed.
Unfortunately I felt that it bogged down in the second half, descending into commonplace and feminine fantasy tropes. Lots of descriptions of food and clothing, falling in love and planting things; not so much in the way of plot development. The ending is familiar, completely predictable and VERY politically correct. Men practice martial, violent magic; women practice domestic, natural, healing magic. The women are always right, and the men are always “remembering the wrong things”. Civilization is evil and we should all just live a simple farming existence. (sigh)
I couldn’t help but think of the Sad/Mad Puppies controversy, wondering if the popularity of this book is a deliberate challenge to those ridiculous “men’s rights warriors” and the overt misogynism that does appear in some of fantasy fiction, and it all just makes me sad. Which is better, liking a book because it’s anti-women, or liking a book because it’s anti-men? Why do we always do this to ourselves? And do I really have to participate?
Still, I am the first to admit that I myself spend too much time “remembering the wrong things”, and I love diversity in the genre, so I’m not about to stop exploring new authors and current trends. I think it makes me a better reader and a more educated and wiser person. In the end, I didn’t really get a whole lot from this book, but I’m glad I read it.