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Kaia

Kaia

Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

Currently reading

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
Neuromancer
William Gibson
A Taste of Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
Progress: 380/501 pages
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)
Charlie Higson
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Perdition
Ann Aguirre
My Fair Godmother - Janette Rallison, Cyril Laumonier This book was like a Caribbean cruise gone horribly, horribly wrong. Like, you know, it starts out great, with sunshine and blue water and beautiful beaches everywhere. Then things start to go wrong. Small things at first; your dinner is cold when it reaches you, the waiter gives you the wrong drink, your bathing suit strap frays and you have to buy a new one.And then suddenly a freak heat wave moves in, the polar ice caps melt, and your cruise ship is drowned in the ensuing flood. Sadly, this book did not end before the Earth was flung free of its orbit, careened into Mars and sent it into the sun, as if the sun was a pocket and Mars was the eight ball. I may have more to say about this later, but right now, I need it out of my sight. EDIT 21/09/11:Right. Okay. This book.At first, I was really loving it. It was clever and witty. I mean, I was actually laughing out loud, which isn't something I do with many books (I'm generally more prone to mental snickers). Even though the main character, Savannah, was a bit shallow and ditzy, I still liked her. I don't know, maybe it's because lately, every time there's something with magic and romance in YA, the main character is inevitably a "plain" (not really, usually, but she thinks so) loner who studies and is smart and reads all the time (but never anything other than classics and modern literature, of course) and is supposedly mature and responsible and doesn't wear makeup or girly clothes. And these things are supposed to automatically qualify her for Great, Worthy Person status, no matter how much of a spoiled, selfish, moronic brat she really is. Barf.Savannah isn't those things. She's popular and pretty, irresponsible and impulsive. She's the kind of character with room to grow, which is what I prefer. Normally, a story like this would have centered around Savannah's sister, Jane, who is the smart, studious one of the family, the one who never messes up or anything like that. I certainly don't want to read about perfect teenagers who never make mistakes and are always acting maturely and doing the right thing. Mainly because generally, I don't care for books that make me feel ashamed and embarrassed about the mistakes I made as a teenager. So yes. Witty, fun, fluffy...I was having such a good time reading it. And then...And then."You're right. We're not in the marines. We're in the Middle Ages, where, as you might recall from world history class, men own women. You're considered property like horses, saddles, and land. [...]"This comes from Tristan, the boy Savannah accidentally gets sent back to the "Middle Ages". At first I was ignoring the fact that it was called the "Middle Ages" because it had a bunch of fairytale elements, but no. It is supposed to actually be the Middle Ages, in this case a cross between Fairytale Middle Ages and Dung Age Middle Ages. I should probably have just put the book down then and there, but I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.While there would have been some places and periods where "women are chattel" was the mode during the Middle Ages, it was hardly a widespread, sweeping concept. Women as chattel is a Greco-Romance/Renaissance concept. There were women in the Middle Ages who could vote (if they were head of the household--each household only got one vote anyway). Property does not vote! In some societies--like the Viking one--women ruled the household and trying to tell them you "owned" them would probably land you a nice soft bed in the snow. In the dead of winter. If this is really what's in history books these days, I think I need to find a corner where I can curl up in the fetal position and cry.It doesn't get better from there. Savannah packs a bunch of spices and costume jewelry when she goes back to the "Middle Ages" to use to trade. Because, you know, people back then were ignorant fools who ate bland food. Except...no they weren't. Herbs and spices existed just fine all over Europe, even in the Middle Ages. Vikings traded spices to other parts of Europe, just for a single example. For crying out loud, gingerbread is a medieval invention. Yet somehow Savannah sells enough spices to buy two horses. !!! Unless she was toting around several pounds of saffron, I don't see how that's possible. And the jewelry thing? You might be able to fool people back then with synthetic jewels (heck, you can do that now) but fake gold or silver? Nothing doing. Ever seen, in movies or TV shows, a part where someone gives someone else a gold coin, and the latter person bites down on the coin? Gold and silver are soft metals. Testing for whether they're real is really easy. There's no way Savannah could trick anyone into believing that stainless steel silverware was actually made of silver. Let alone a wizard, who would have been able to detect that there were no spells on it. Sheesh. Don't get me started on the fact that she sells off enough cheap costume jewelry to buy Tristan custom made armor. Just don't.There's just a gazillion little things, about the Middle Ages and otherwise, that Rallison doesn't know. She mentions, for example, that Savannah gets the hot, clean bathwater because she gets to take a bath first. But that kind of bath would be taken by peasant families or country nobility. In a city or town, like Savannah was staying in, there would be communal bathhouses. Of course, Rallison also thinks nobility wouldn't stink like peasants do, because hey, the rich are cleaner, right? Except no. Regardless of station, baths were usually only had about once a week. Nobility might smell different from peasants, but not better. And no, this is not a minor detail. Just wait, you'll see. We'll be coming back to this blunder, I promise you.There's the fact that Savannah is supposed to be a noble woman, but travels without an entourage, without a single person ever remarking on it. There's the fact that Tristan becomes a page at eighteen. There's the fact that no one bats an eyelash when Tristan suddenly has the money to afford a horse and armor. There's the snicker-worthy notion that a knight in armor would be slow and therefore damsel-in-distress Savannah could run away if need be. Hint: Battlefield armor =/= jousting armor. A battle-ready knight needed to be able to jump in the saddle. If you can't run, you sure as hell can't jump. Oh, right. Rallison also doesn't know that a riding horse cannot carry both a muscular eighteen-year-old boy and tote a cart with a large male pig, over rough terrain, and make ten miles in two hours. Or that a horse cannot carry two muscular eighteen-year-old boys back across those ten miles in two hours. Horses =/= medieval motorcycles, people!Eventually Savannah's sister, Jane, finds out what happened to Savannah and decides to go rescue her. And you'd think, hey, Jane's the smart sister, all this nonsense about the Middle Ages should go away, right? "This is the Middle Ages, Savannah. This is not a safe place for a teenage girl. It's dangerous. It has the plague, and wars, and--"Apparently I missed the part where no teenage girls survived the Middle Ages. Or the part where the modern world has eradicated all war and every last deadly, contagious disease. In fact, the only thing that really puts Savannah in danger is herself: she continually makes stupid, impulsive decisions that nearly get her killed and she barely learns from any of it.While Tristan is off defeating the dragon (because, you know, girls just don't do things like fight), half the town decides to climb up on the church roof to see if they can see any of the battle.Jane followed me up, all the while telling me that we shouldn't be up here because there were no building codes in the Middle Ages and the roof was likely to collapse.*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* What!? No! Nononononononono!!! My poor, art/architecture history-loving heart simply can't take the abuse. Rallison clearly has never seen a medieval church. http://www.planetware.com/picture/armenia-medieval-church-in-armenia-arm-arm005.htmhttp://travel.webshots.com/photo/2837967870076906760pXTJFkhttp://www.historyforkids.org/learn/medieval/architecture/cathedral.htmThese motherfuckers do not simply collapse at random! HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF A RIB VAULT, LADY!? Most of the medieval buildings still standing today are churches. For that matter, many of the surviving ruins are churches. These babies were built to last. In fact, they were built using several innovations on architectural elements that made Greco-Roman structures so damn sturdy. Even a thatched roof needs to be sturdy enough so that you can walk around on it to change the thatch. And this is supposed to be the smart sister talking!I don't care if you've added dragons and wizards. If you're calling this the Middle Ages, it damn well better look like it.Just when I thought it couldn't get worse--when I was only like ten pages from the end--that whole thing I mentioned about Earth being flung loose from its orbit, careening into Mars, etc. etc., happened. While in dire straits, her only hope resting on her ability to recognize the Black Knight, Savannah realizes that she can recognize him after all:"Bring all of the nobles, any man who is rich at all, to the ballroom.""And how do you know he is a rich man?""When he kissed me he didn't smell bad. He's wealthy enough to bathe regularly."Fuck me. If I was to headdesk as much as this deserved, I'd kill myself in the process. Savannah's entire ability to solve her problems was predicated on shit that wasn't actually true. I only toughed out that last few pages because it was only a few.This is insulting. I don't care how light, fluffy and fun this book is supposed to be. I don't care that it was written for teenagers. The implication that light, fluffy, fun teenagers don't deserve to have thoughtful, well-researched books is offensive. The implication that any teenager doesn't deserve thoughtful, well-researched books is offensive. If you're going to pull it all out of your ass anyway, don't call it the Middle goddamn Ages! Honestly, I could not be more letdown by Rallison's offering if she'd tried.P.S. If you're not going to do your research, don't cheat me out of an ass-kicking heroine who can defend herself, please. Watching Savannah have to constantly be rescued (or aided in escape) did not make this experience any better.