This book sets a lofty goal for itself in the synopsis – a protagonist in the realm of Han Solo, Leia, AND Rey. And were it not for the overuse of cursing, I would almost say that the protagonist filled this role. It was an interesting, well-developed world that I enjoyed living in – until the very end. I found the “matriarchy” concept a little hard to swallow, as it stood out against a unique, well-crafted backdrop as the only element of the author’s world-building that was so blatantly inspired by liberal-toned feminism. I typically turn away anything with that roughly feminist undertone because it ends up, in my opinion, usually being whiny, on-the-nose, and unrealistic when juxtaposed with the true core of femininity. But I chose to put that aside, and I was able to appreciate the rest of the Indranan world despite it.
Since I started this book right after many weeks spent studying worldbuilding myself, I could see her attention to detail and the solving of potential problems or plot holes within the narrative that fit seamlessly, not weighing down the story with exposition. She clearly has experience and understands the concepts, and that was refreshing for me. She chose unique elements of real-world cultures to combine into her fantasy world, which made it very different than the mainstream worldbuilding I am used to seeing. I even was thrilled by the cover art – I usually HATE the cover art of sci-fi/fantasy, because, well, it’s usually over-sexualized CRAP. I loved that the face of the character art was not shown… I always find it more satisfying to be able to picture the character in my mind as I read about them, without that vision being tainted by low-budget cover art. And the art was low-key, still representing the fantastic world of the Indranan Empire without being distractingly filled with a sky of nebulas and weird alien ships and hair blowing in the wind. All this added up to a book I was really hoping and expecting to like.
At the end of the book, though, the worldbuilding and the well-executed cover started to mean less and less as the clearly “PC” tones of Hail’s culture (and subsequently, Hail’s personal values and beliefs) went over the line in a really amateur and choppy way. While there were definitely allusions and straight acknowledgements throughout the novel to the fictional culture’s stance on LGBT relations, within the 3 core characters – Hail, Emmory, and Zin – there were no clear mentions of anything in this area. There was history that was repeatedly brought up in regards to Hail’s previous relationship with Emmory’s brother, which, in combination with their chemistry-filled relationship throughout the book, gave off a serious vibe of a potential future relationship between Hail and Emmory. As a reader I was so convinced of this possibility at least being a consideration for the characters, that I actually laughed when I read a line Hail gave to Emmory about “your husband being mad” or something to that effect. I read this as Hail poking fun at Emmory & Zin’s close bond. There was no mention of Emmory’s relationship status, and there was plenty of imaginative fodder within the many illusions the author gave to Emmory’s tragic backstory that was not yet fleshed out. So you can imagine my surprise when I went to look at the synopsis of the second book in the series and read the words “Emmory and his husband Zin.” Are you serious? There was little to no mention of this even being a future possibility for those two characters – and you want to tell me that they were married the whole first book and you never wanted to mention it? This felt like a cheap copout. The whole thing reeked of a last-minute inclusion of the ever-so-trendy YA homosexual relationship as an excuse to dim the well-placed sparks between Hail and Emmory because the author simply changed her mind mid-series, or did not feel like carefully working out that multi-faceted relationship when she could just take the easy way out and throw in some gay dudes so there was a distraction from poor long-term character arching.
As a reader, I felt completely betrayed by the author because she broke the #1 rule of the author-reader relationship: Cherkov’s Gun. What could’ve been a great series lost all of its appeal because the author betrayed my trust, letting me read the whole book believing it was night time, in anticipation of finally getting to see the sun rise, and at the very end realizing the sun was already up and it was daytime all along. As a reader, I should NOT have to GOOGLE the characters’ history to figure out what I missed. If you want characters to be in a relationship, WE SHOULD KNOW. WITHOUT A SHADOW OF DOUBT. But instead, I was given one brief mention, in the midst of a humorous, high-stakes conversation about battle, AT THE END OF THE BOOK. How could I not feel like reading this book was a complete waste of my time and energy? I had spent all 300-whatever pages adding lines and shades to these character sketches in my mind, and then, out of nowhere, had the author snatch the paper out of my hand and tear it up in little pieces right in front of me. And for some reason I picture her cackling with laughter while she’s doing this, so proud of her LGBTQ “inclusion,” when really the only inclusion she made was for stupid readers who care little about the craft of storytelling and just want to read about the whiny triumphs of trashy, foul-mouthed characters to make them feel better about themselves.
I’m renaming this book “Behind the Crap” by K(ay).B(e). QUIET. Thanks for attending today’s roast session, now get out there and buy any book other than this!