Bisexual female protagonist.
An impoverished farmer sells his daughter to a foreigner who takes her across the ocean to a school where peasant girls learn the manners of courtly ladies. The unnamed girl is kept in strict isolation from anyone except her teachers, who instruct her in art, fashion, literature, music, haute-cuisine, and dancing, all in the hopes that someday she may be sold as a nobleman's concubine. Unbeknownst to the schoolmaster, the dance instructor gives lessons not included in the curriculum—lessons in the art of assassination.
My impression upon reading was a conceptual blend of Memoirs of a Geisha and La Femme Nikita. Both titles are certainly worthy of imitation, and the original French version of La Femme Nikita is one of my favorite films. I think if this novel could have successfully combined those influences, it might have been fascinating and exciting.
Instead, I found it repulsive and creepy. There's way too much detail about spanking a little girl and her sexual initiations and... just ick.
I understand that child abuse is the foundation upon which many a classic plot is built. But Green felt gratuitous. Later in the novel, the teenage protagonist engages in all sorts of sexual escapades, mostly with other girls and adult women and once with a boy. The sexuality didn't read as a natural choice for the protagonist. It seemed more like the author's wishful thinking.
I believe fantasy novels can be enhanced by erotic elements. But this was not successful erotica. It was... dumb... and creepy.
I probably would have thrown this book aside as unworthy of my time, but I hit this nugget on page 43;
"All life came from water," Mistress Tirelle continued. "Water lies within us all. You spit water from your mouth and pass water from your vagina."
I'm willing to believe Jay Lake writes from a female perspective without having any knowledge of female anatomy. But surely his editor would have caught that?
So, kind of like driving by a five-car pileup on the highway, I kept reading from morbid curiosity. Sure enough, I saw the bodies laid out on the asphalt. The protagonist, at the ripe age of twelve years, learns about sex from examining her teacher's "sweetpocket."
Don't choke... I did just say "sweetpocket." As in, "Jappas's voice was husky, low as it got when she was ready for her release after I had ridden her sweetpocket hard." (pg 202).
Res ipsa loquitur.
© All Rights Reserved