Mar 16 2021

Black Panther: Tales Of Wakanda edited by Jesse J. Holland

Being a comic book fan from way back, it’s often difficult for me to find prose-form entertainment featuring my beloved comic book characters that is as compelling as the comic book versions themselves. But I love what Titan Books does with its short story anthologies and, like much of America, I’ve been made a Black Panther stan by the excellent Ryan Coogler film, so I leapt at the chance to read and review this volume. And y’all, I have Thoughts.

So if you’re just wanting a taste of Wakanda in the form of short pieces where T’Challa and his circle have various interesting adventures, incorporating other parts of the Marvel Universe that have yet to appear on-screen (Namor, heyo!) then this is the collection for you! And if America is all you know of the world, then you might enjoy this collection unreservedly. But as a first-generation immigrant, I winced through a first part, especially, that didn’t seem to grasp the delicate balance that Mr Coogler et. al. achieved with their vision of a proud nation that had never known the yoke of imperialism, showing the way forward to a future of Black excellence, yet still needing to reckon with the costs of its isolationist past. Ofc, lots of people came out of the movie thinking Killmonger was right, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the need for Americans to flex on Wakanda here?

The first few stories are all about how America(ns) can fix Wakanda and while I guess this was necessary to draw in the America First crowd, I was put off by the joy taken in American exceptionalism, as if that kind of nonsense isn’t the driving force behind our own colonialist past and present. It was a relief to get a story thrown in here from Killmonger’s point of view, in Cadwell Turnbull’s excellent Killmonger Rising. At least Killmonger comes by his desire to change Wakanda out of genuine pain, and not just from a concept that would be deemed white saviorism were the protagonists a different color. I guess it’s just weird to me that authors feel the need to tear down Wakanda, a fictional nation, in order to make themselves feel better about America, an actual place where change, however slow and painful, can be affected. “See, it’s not that great!” is an unproductive attitude when it comes to a place meant to be an ideal to work towards.

The jingoism fades as the book progresses, but oh golly, do I wish more attention had been paid to detail, especially by the American authors. At one point, Okoye gets a report that kidnappers (who all had very Muslim names, like, okay, thanks) were speaking “Nigerian” and my eyes rolled so hard. You mean English, the official language of Nigeria? Or Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, or one of the many languages spoken by one of the many ethnicities of that country? Even in another story, that I otherwise enjoyed, Troy L Wiggins’ What’s Done In The Dark (featuring a very awesome guest star,) I was boggled by the idea that you’d have to fly south from anywhere in DC, through Capitol airspace, to get to Lanham, where my husband works (an especially weird error given that editor Jesse J Holland lives in Bowie, which is basically a town over from Lanham!)

Things definitely pick up by the time we get to L. L. McKinney’s Legacy. I’ve loved her short story work, even if I find myself much iffier about her longer-form prose, and was so pleased to find here another of her trademark kickass stories about a brave young woman, in this instance on her way to Wakanda for the first time. Linda D Addison’s Shadow Dreams was also a great story about a young woman who’s just been accepted to the Dora Milaje, who finds herself falling behind in training till given an opportunity that comes with shadowy strings attached. Harlan James’ Bon Temps was also a really fun, really lived-in tale that showcases Shuri’s struggles with her self and position without making her come across as a completely self-absorbed brat (also the guest stars were too awesome!) Bon Temps also brought up issues that dovetailed nicely with Mr Holland’s own entry in this volume, Faith, where I enjoyed T’Challa’s conversations with the Reverend Rutherford far more than his “banter” with the deeply annoying Neffie. Thankfully, Neffie seems to have been created solely for the purpose of this book, which is something I can’t say for the guest star of Tananarive Due’s Return Of The Queen. I guess other people bought into the whole Storm + Black Panther thing, but I think it’s weird when supes get together like that, like a Black version of Superman and Wonder Woman, which I also found deeply uninteresting. What’s grodier to me in the T’Challa & Ororo pairing is the whole royal lineage “mystique”: as I grow older, my impression of hereditary monarchy continues to dim, to the detriment of my poor best friend, who just wants to play Lord Of The Rings Online with me without having to hear me scold the Rohirrim for sacrificing themselves for a family of overconfident dumbasses, followed by my musings on how the entrenchment of wealth and education in olden times meant that the best leaders often came from the ruling classes simply because they had the resources to learn such skills… but that’s another rant for another time.

The last two stories of this volume are among my favorites, tho I think it would have been better to end the book with Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s thoughtful, hopeful Stronger In Spirit than with the downer ending of Temi Oh’s Zoya The Deserter. Interestingly, those tales were also written by non-American Black writers, providing an altogether different perspective from how the book began. In general, the stories I enjoyed here were the ones that didn’t have a strong implication of how Wakanda needs America in order to matter. I actually enjoy the critiques of Wakanda — in matters of history, politics and faith — but the whole “only I, an American, have the answers that will save you” missed the entire point of a Wakanda unbeholden to foreigners. Save the nationalism for the Luke Cage collection (which I’m hoping will be a thing if I put that thought out into the universe!) (Maybe not so much with the actual nationalism tho.)

Black Panther: Tales Of Wakanda edited by Jesse J. Holland was published March 9, 2021 by Titan Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/16/black-panther-tales-of-wakanda-edited-by-jesse-j-holland/

Mar 15 2021

All The Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

So many times have I picked up a fantasy novel promising to be a modern fairy tale, only to be disappointed almost an equal amount of times by what I’ve just read. Nevertheless the allure persists. I’m fascinated by all myths and fairy tales, all these delightful archetypes and variations, but so few modern authors manage to capture that particular blend of mundane and mystical that sets the fairy tale genre apart from, say, the urban fantasy (which is a genre I also very much enjoy!) It has a lot to do, I think, with a lack of depth in world building, where the fairy tale bits are merely a skin on the real world, a glamour easily seen through by the discerning reader, or even more jarringly, by an inelegant fusion of fantasy with modern sensibilities, usually in the form of clunky dialog/exposition. The ones that do succeed tend to be either Young Adult or novellas; nothing wrong with either of those forms or formats, but sometimes you just want a nice meaty, adult novel to sink your teeth into.

Here in A. G. Slatter’s book of merfolk and witches, kelpies and shapeshifters, I finally feel like I’m holding something at once timeless and refreshingly of the now, perfectly blended to satisfy all my old-fashioned hungers and new. It likely helps that Ms Slatter has written several volumes of fairy tales and cites some of those here, each adding to the rich tapestry that makes this world of monsters and curses seem vibrant and real, as our heroine, Miren O’Malley, must find her way out of a marriage arranged for her by her scheming grandmother Aoife. And can I say how much I appreciate the inclusion of full, lively fairy tales within the narrative? There is nothing more annoying than books that reference fictional storybooks as being foundational texts for the protagonists but then never quote more than a paragraph or two: bonus disappointment when the text quoted is dishwater dull, as is definitely not the case here.

All The Murmuring Bones avoids all the pitfalls of its kindred, presenting us with a truly absorbing Gothic/fairy tale where Miren, the last of the pure-blooded O’Malleys (or at least the most pure-blooded of the last O’Malleys) is betrothed to a rich relative in order to restore the fortunes of the dilapidated Hob’s Hallow, her ancestral home. There she was raised by her grandparents, Aoife and Oisin, who fought each other constantly, and their servants Maura and Malachi. Each loved her and taught her what they knew as best they could, but Oisin’s death forces Aoife to gamble on one last desperate plan to uphold the O’Malley name.

Unfortunately for Aoife, Miren quickly sees right through the urbane facade of her intended to his violent, avaricious heart, and makes plans to escape. The discovery of hidden letters in Oisin’s study will give her something to run to, even as she runs away from a life she never asked for.

Telling any more would be to spoil the many wonders of this story, but I can safely say that Miren is one of the most engaging, feminist heroines I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a long while. She doesn’t shrink from the pleasures of sex or the necessities of violence and, more importantly, she stands in solidarity with other women and with anyone taken advantage of and mistreated by the societies and strictures they’re trapped in. I spent a lot of time rooting for her as she furiously thought her way out of trouble, and as she dealt with the complicated emotions that necessarily arise from being part of her strange, some would say cursed, family. Best of all, she never had to do anything stupid in order to advance the plot: it’s so, so great to be able to unreservedly root for a heroine who isn’t perfect but who definitely feels real and not merely a vehicle for the author to get from point A to point B in her own narrative. Also great is the lack of tortured romance: she has a love interest but he’s not the be-all and end-all of her existence, which adds to the refreshing factor of this book.

This was a really great, absorbing read, and I’m desperate to read more of Ms Slatter’s work (she also writes as Angela Slatter, and I’ve loved some of the short stories I’ve read of hers previously.) I’m hoping this is the book that shoots her to global and popular renown, as it deserves to.

All The Murmuring Bones by A. G. Slatter was published March 9, 2021 by Titan Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/15/all-the-murmuring-bones-by-a-g-slatter/

Mar 14 2021

Der ewige Spießer by Ödön von Horváth

Ödön von Horváth was born in 1901 in what was then the Austro-Hungarian port city of Fiume and is now known as Rijeka, Croatia. His name and his family background reflect a Mitteleuropa that was thriving (at least for some people) when he was born, was damaged by the First World War, and practically destroyed in the fires of the Second. His father was an Austro-Hungarian diplomat; his mother came from a family of military doctors. Before Ödön — the name is the Hungarian form of Edmund — finished school, he had also lived in Belgrade, Budapest, Munich and Vienna. He began writing at an early age, and a play of his was staged when he was 20. It’s good that he did, because his would not be a long life.

Horváth’s family resources enabled him to keep writing through the turbulent early 1920s. He moved between Munich, Berlin, and his parents’ home in the picturesque small town of Murnau in southern Bavarian Alpine foothills. He built on his early success with more plays that found their way to stages across Germany and Austria. In the later 1920s, he warned increasingly of the dangers of rising fascism. Murnau would not have warmed to Horváth. Numerous men from the town had taken part in Hitler’s attempted coup in 1923. One-third of Murnau’s voters chose National Socialists in 1924, making them five times or ten times more popular there than in Germany as a whole, depending on which of the year’s elections is meant. Soon after Hitler came to power, the SA searched the Horváth family villa in Murnau.

Ödön, now over 30, took that as a cue to leave Germany. He had enjoyed great success with his plays, including his most famous piece “Tales from the Vienna Woods” (titled after the Strauss waltz), but the rest of his life would be a struggle with encroaching Nazism. He first moved to Hellersee, near Salzburg. Production of his plays was forbidden in Hitler’s Germany, depriving Horváth of most of his income. He had published just one novel by that time, in contrast to more than a dozen plays. In 1937, he published the novel Jugend ohne Gott (“Youth without God,” published in English as A Child of Our Time) in Amsterdam; that, too, was soon banned in Germany.

Following the Anschluss in 1938, Horváth left Austria, traveling to Budapest and Fiume, and then onward to Paris. On the evening of June 1, after a meeting about filming Jugend ohne Gott, he was walking along the Champs Élysées in a storm when a branch fell from a tree and struck him dead.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/14/der-ewige-spieser-by-odon-von-horvath/

Mar 13 2021

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

I would like to think that Tolkien, if questioned about how he handles race in his tales, would say what Éomer says when confronted over his harsh words about Galadriel: “I spoke only as do all men in my land, and I would gladly learn better.” (The Two Towers, p. 37) For Éomer does learn, and meets Galadriel after the War of the Ring when so many of the great of Middle Earth visit Minas Tirith and King Elessar. He does not deem Galadriel the fairest in the world, and yet his quarrel with Gimli is mended. “Then Gimli bowed low. ‘Nay, you are excused for my part, lord,’ he said. ‘You have chosen the Evening [Arwen Evenstar]; but my love is given to the Morning. And my heart forbodes that soon it will pass away for ever.'” (RotK, p. 305)

And for all that The Lord of the Rings is full of male characters, with female characters relegated to the sidelines, one gives voice to the injustice involved:

“‘Shall I always be chosen [to govern the people until their lord’s return]?’ [Éowyn] said bitterly. ‘Shall I always be left behind when the Riders [of Rohan] depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?’
[Aragorn says some things.]
“And she answered: ‘All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.'” (RotK p. 55)

True to her words, she — along with the hobbit Merry, whom the big men have also tried to banish from the battlefield — dispatches the Witch King, the chief of the Nazgûl, second only to Sauron in power. On the other hand, after she recovers from the effects of that struggle, she chooses a different path. “I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.” (RotK, p. 292) She no longer desires to be a Queen; she is content to marry Faramir and be Princess of Ithilien. The men, too, would rather build in peace than fight forever, so I suppose Éowyn does not take on that much of a lesser role, certainly not compared with practically all of the other female elves, dwarves, hobbits and humans who are off stage throughout the trilogy, unnamed.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/13/the-return-of-the-king-by-j-r-r-tolkien/

Mar 12 2021

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, And Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

I want to like popular science, and am always pleasantly surprised on the rare occasions I do. I think that, to a large extent, my reading habits in this have been shaped by being a good textbook student. When I’m presented with nonfiction, I like to have things laid out to me systematically (as good textbooks will do!) in bite-sized pieces, layered on to one another. In college, I developed an interest in quantum physics, but since my college didn’t offer those classes, I borrowed library textbooks on the subject (idk why my school had them, considering) and thoroughly enjoyed those. Physics, in general, was my favorite science, from high school and beyond.

So it’s always been weird to me that I’d pick up seminal pop science texts from Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan and the like and be, frankly, bored. I’d read the first chapter or two and just find myself utterly mystified and annoyed. So Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is in good company when I say that I found the first 4-6 chapters of her book a struggle. As she herself admits later on in The Disordered Cosmos, writing about science for a lay audience is hard. She’s got a ton of enthusiasm and a ton of knowledge, but trying to break that down into pieces for readers who don’t have at least a working knowledge of the subject is a tough task, and one I don’t feel she accomplishes. But this isn’t meant to be a textbook — and that’s a good thing, because I had occasional quibbles with her scientific philosophies, which at one point directly contradict themselves (more on that further down.) What it is meant to be is an exploration of what it’s like to be a minority in a supposedly highly rational field, and to be continually confronted with all the ways this so-called rationality is really just systemic white supremacy.

The back 60% of the book is essentially a sociology of science text, and is really engaging and brutally frank as Dr Prescod-Weinstein discusses her experiences as a Black Jewish agender queer woman in the field of particle physics. She talks about race and radical politics, solidarity with labor and Indigenous peoples, rape and sexism, and her hopes for a society that encourages everyone to learn — and not just by providing aspirational models but by actually giving people the security with which to choose the pursuit of knowledge instead of needing to divert all that energy into mere survival — with both fire and finesse. Reading TDC makes you wonder why her politics are considered radical when anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that they embody doing the right thing for humanity in general. “But who’s going to pay for it?” moan the trolls and the ignorant and the entrenched interests. Well, once we properly tax the rich and stop letting the military-industrial complex use our tax dollars as their fun money stashes, we’ll be in a good position to fix the fraying social net that’s barely supporting America, thereby launching entire generations into scholarship, if that’s what they choose to do.

That is, however, another of the weaknesses of this book, that it is very American — understandable tho given that therein lies the bulk of Dr Prescod-Weinstein’s experience. It’s just weird that she complains about cultural imperialism but defaults to assuming that America is the center of the world, in line with several other inconsistencies that haven’t yet been ironed out in her thinking, e.g the difference between scientific fact and the assigning of moral value to them in re: the field of optics; or the complaint that the pursuit of knowledge needs to justify itself (for funding etc.) vs the insistence that science needs to tie itself to social issues. I get what she’s trying to say, but I wish she’d done it more clearly so that I’m not left doubtful in assuming that she and I actually are on the same page.

Anyway, TDC is fine for pop science (I guess) but it’s really great as a critique of the way contemporary American science — and by extension, contemporary American society — treats people who aren’t able-bodied straight white males. Skim the first few chapters to get to the really good stuff, tho.

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, And Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein was published March 9, 2021 by Bold Type Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/12/the-disordered-cosmos-a-journey-into-dark-matter-spacetime-and-dreams-deferred-by-chanda-prescod-weinstein/

Mar 11 2021

Kickstarter Alert! Out Of The Darkness edited by Dan Coxon

We here at The Frumious Consortium are huge fans of Unsung Stories, one of the UK’s finest independent purveyors of speculative fiction, so we were super excited to find out about their upcoming project, Out Of The Darkness! OotD, edited by Dan Coxon, is an anthology of dark fantasy and horror fiction, raising awareness of mental health issues in collaboration with the charity Together for Mental Wellbeing. Not only are they putting a special edition out exclusively on Kickstarter, they’re also offering very cool bundles at different reward levels, including books by other Unsung authors such as one of our favorites, Aliya Whitely. There are also valuable chances still available at the time of writing to get your work critiqued by their editorial staff!

The Kickstarter is already fully funded (in just a little over 8 hours!) so you’ll definitely be getting your book, especially as Unsung ships worldwide. And since all the authors involved have committed to donating their royalties to Together for Mental Wellbeing, with editor Dan Coxon donating all his fees, more books sold means more money going to a charity devoted to helping people struggling with their mental health.

Click on the graphic to find out more!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/11/out-of-the-darkness-edited-by-dan-coxon-kickstarter/

Mar 09 2021

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales

This might be one of my favorite romance novels ever, never mind a YA romance. And that’s even with hating the guy around the beginning: he gets (a lot) better, and I’m really hoping the devil’s advocate nonsense is something he grows out of because, you know, he’s a teenager and it’s understandable, if certainly still annoying, at that age.

The guy is Alexander Brougham, who totally busts our heroine Darcy Phillips as she’s retrieving letters from school locker 49, out of which she runs an anonymous relationship advice business. He wants to hire her to help him get his ex-girlfriend back. Afraid that he’ll expose her, Darcy reluctantly agrees. It isn’t just that she doesn’t want their fellow students to know that they’ve been taking love advice from a high school junior whose own love life is practically nonexistent. She’s worried that if the truth ever got out, it would seriously jeopardize her relationship with her best friend and long-term crush, Brooke Nguyen, because she once did something seriously unethical to Brooke under the guise of dispensing advice. She’s striven to make up for that ever since, making sure to dole out solid, thoughtful responses to the many people paying her to email them with solutions to their woes.

Darcy is eager to get Brougham, as he prefers to be called, and Winona back together again so she doesn’t have to worry about him ratting her out, but Brougham is surprisingly close-mouthed about his relationship issues, given that he hired her to help him in the first place. An exasperated Darcy has to figure out not only how to fix his love life, but also what makes this infuriating weirdo tick. What follows is one of the most delightful takes on so many of the overworked (and in lesser hands, excruciatingly tiresome) tropes in romance today: miscommunications, matchmaker falling in love with her client, dislike-to-love. It’s all So Good and So Sweet, with characters who have real problems and who sometimes communicate poorly but never stupidly.

And there is so much representation! Darcy is bisexual and worried that dating a straight guy will jeopardize her ability to be accepted as part of her school’s small but close-knit queer community. Her older sister Ainsley is trans, and there’s a healthy amount of racial rep among the school’s student body and faculty as well. None of it feels forced, and all of it is so loving and accepting and kind that I burst into happy, relieved tears at one point while reading.

This is such a wonderfully compassionate novel, depicting the lives of flawed, lovable characters as they seek to navigate the vagaries of love. It is the Young Adult romance every bisexual person — and the people who love them — should read. Smart, funny and deeply touching, it’s a wholly lovely book, and one I’ll be coming back to whenever I need a fix of realistic sweetness (should there ever be a break in my reading schedule, that is.)

Perfect On Paper by Sophie Gonzales was published today March 9, 2021 by Wednesday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/09/perfect-on-paper-by-sophie-gonzales/

Mar 07 2021

Wintering Out by Seamus Heaney

Wintering Out struck me as even more oblique than Door into the Dark, and I often struggled to see and hear what Heaney was connecting with. Not that they have to be something that I can find on first reading, or even second or third. Wintering Out has the first appearance of Tollund Man, a figure that Heaney says in Stepping Stones appears in or influences numerous later poems in his career. The book was published in 1972, three years after his previous collection, and shortly before its publication he taught for a year at the University of California, Berkeley, a time most clearly reflected in the book’s final poem, “Westering.” It was a time that changed Heaney, too.

He tells Dennis O’Driscoll, “Something changed, all right. It was the first time we’d lived for any length of time outside Northern Ireland. The first time we lived in the sun. The first time when the pay was enough for us not to be always thinking about money. I was taller and freer in myself at the end of the year than at the beginning. And it wasn’t just the waft of the climate or the waiving of economic anxieties. It had to do with the intellectual distinction of the people around us, the nurture that came from new friendships and a vivid environment.” (Stepping Stones, pp. 136–37)

Wintering Out by Seamus Heaney

Later, O’Driscoll asks him, “The general assumption, then that the short line of Wintering Out is in the American, W[illiam] C[arlos] Williams grain is correct?” Heaney answers, “I believe it to be so, although there was already a drift in that direction in the landscape poems at the end of Door into the Dark. If I couldn’t altogether escape an Irishy/Britishy formality, I had an inclination from the start to dishevel it. I’ve always been subject to a perverse urge to galumph rather than glide.” (Stepping Stones, p. 146)

Wintering Out opens with the very short lines of “Fodder”:

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/07/wintering-out-by-seamus-heaney/

Mar 05 2021

Forget Me Not by Alexandra Oliva

A genre-bending novel, when done right, can really reshape the way we think about what’s possible both in fiction and in real life. Much like Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl, this layered blend of literary genres has the reader reconsidering the processes of our everyday existence, what it takes to live in (or buck) the societies around us, and what we owe our parents in addition to ourselves (tho unlike in Ms Faring’s excellent debut novel, the parents of our protagonist here are unfortunately varying shades of awful.)

Linda Russell was born to fill a hole left in the lives of her parents with the death of her older sister, Maddy. As is sadly the case with too many deaths of children, her parents’ marriage did not survive for very long after Maddy passed away. Lorelei, her mother, grew more and more obsessed with rebirthing her beloved girl. And so Linda was born, to be raised on a remote, walled-off estate, her only companions her mother and her twin sister, Emmer. One day, an incident occurs that has Linda fleeing the estate in a panic: when she returns to an empty house, she decides to strike out for help. Her arrival in the nearby town of Cedar Lake causes a hubbub, drawing unwanted media attention as questions swirl around who, and what, she really is.

Fast-forward almost two decades and Linda is living alone in a Seattle apartment building, listlessly following the health-maintaining instructions sent to her via her Sheath, the wearable smart device that’s a logical extrapolation from modern technology to a reasonable near-future conclusion. The media firestorm that surrounded her emergence into the modern world has left her shy of other people in general and of strangers in particular. So when a friendly extrovert moves in on her floor, Linda’s first instinct is to avoid her.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/03/05/forget-me-not-by-alexandra-oliva/

Mar 04 2021

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

To give you an idea of how much I hated the heroine, the first time she’s in mortal peril, I was hoping she wouldn’t survive. When she unfortunately does escape the potentially fatal consequences of the (self-inflicted) accident only to be later gravely wounded by a villain, I literally shouted with laughter because I was so over her nonsense and wanted her to die.

Honestly, I can put up with a lot from my reading, but to have a heroine — in this case Wren Southerland, a healer for the Danubian army — start out stupid and just keep doing stupid things while holding on to the bizarre idea that her stubbornness and selfishness come from being emotional instead of being a moron was almost too much for me to handle. I had to put the book away at the 92% mark when the heroine does something so idiotic that I needed to just sit by myself and take deep breaths in order to handle the swelling in my breast of rage, both at the author and at my need to persevere to the end of this deeply ludicrous book.

I mean, any sympathy I might have had with this protagonist was strained very early on in the book. Wren and her hardass commanding officer, Major Una Dryden, are out on patrol when they scare a spy right out of a tree. The spy breaks his arm rather grotesquely and Una makes the questionable, on many levels, decision to shackle him to the tree by his broken wrist. Wren wants to heal the boy, protesting sepsis and the need to interrogate a living subject, but Una tells her not to be so soft-hearted (!) and to guard him while she goes off to scout.

At this point, I was all “only assholes torture prisoners” and I was super glad Wren disobeyed orders and went to magically heal him anyway… except that the only way this complete numpty could think of to do so was to free him altogether from his shackles, NOT restrain him in any manner whatsoever, and then be terribly, horribly surprised when he runs away as soon as she heals him. I was aghast at how this allegedly seasoned military veteran could make such a rookie mistake but thought to myself, well, her heart’s in the right place, and surely the author is only having her start out daft only to redeem herself by learning to make good choices by the end…

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