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So the reason why I continue reading Jacqueline Carey, as a general thing, is her standalone novel Santa Olivia, which is pure lesbian loup-garou awesomesauce, a genuinely good book, and one of those books that makes me think the author probably has another good book floating around in there somewhere.

The reason I still read the Kushiel books is... huh. I appear to have entirely forgotten. I guess there must be one or I wouldn't have found myself sitting down with this, but damn if I know why I care anymore. In fact, I kind of think I don't.

I mean, for one thing, the major things I liked about the Kushiel books were the kink positivity and the way the important relationships in the series are the ones between women. This latest trilogy has no kink to speak of and while it's much more explicit about female relationships being Important, the main ones here are just not that interesting, because the protagonist spends all her time traveling and consequently doesn't spend long enough in any one place to build anything really complex. And her relationship with her husband feels like second verse, same as the first trilogy in several directions.

Anyway. This was the last of... I have no idea how many of these trilogies there have been at this point. The protagonist has been, and I am not making this up, being hauled around the entire map of the globe because it is her gods-given Destiny. No, really. She feels Destiny and she goes. As far as I can tell, the goal of her Destiny is to give the people who put the maps in the fronts of books more to do. One of Carey's more irritating qualities has always been that when there is a map in the front of the book, come hell or high water our protagonists will go everywhere pictured on it. This leaves you sitting there going oh, hey, we only have x number of pages left, I guess it's going to be pretty whirlwind about x city, huh? and then it is. Not the frame of mind you want to be in if you are looking for an immersive reading experience.

In this installment, our protagonist goes off to America to deal with some plot from book one. It is an amazing example of how a writer who is genuinely trying to write a story which assumes the personhood and agency of all of her characters and the validity of many different cultures can nevertheless end up writing a story which boils down to What These People Need Is A White Person To Save Them. She does attain the feat of being the only fantasy writer I have read who does not instantly go 'Aztecs = massive human sacrifice all the time = everyone in this culture is either terribly deluded, fighting the system, or horribly evil' and instead goes 'people generally have reasons for the customs they have evolved and it is not the business of outsiders to think they understand those reasons', except that by the end of the book the protagonist has wound up accidentally changing the whole system anyway so it becomes irrelevant. *facepalm* Also, nobody in either the alt-Aztec or alt-Inca cultures ends up with any agency; the villain is a white guy, the people who kill him have come from Europe (at least one came from China, I guess, that's something); don't even get me started on the whole thing where he's ruling as a god-king because it is clearly trying to be a commentary on the entire way the Spanish were and it fails completely. I mean this is a book in which on every surface level the author is saying as hard as she can LOOK THESE ARE PEOPLE DAMMIT and on every plot level they just don't get to do things. Aargh.

Anyway, there is some consolation in the fact that one protagonist or another from the various Kushiel trilogies has now literally been hauled over ninety percent of the world, which means that she's either going to stop the series, write a book set in the Pacific islands (PLEASE NO), write a book set in Antarctica (okay, that would be hilarious, I'll take it), or maybe write one set entirely in the alt-France where she is clearly the most comfortable and has done the most worldbuilding, just for a change?

I suspect that whatever it is, I'll end up reading it, both for the trainwreck factor and because Santa Olivia (which you should all read! it's really good!) is the sort of book that makes me automatically keep reading an author for a few years in (possibly futile) hope. But this one, well. NO. A world of no. Not playing to her strengths. Don't bother.


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March 2017

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