Archive for March, 2015

This review will cover the entire Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce.

About the Series: As young Daine finds love and acceptance among her new friends, she comes to accept and grow into her powers—powers she must use to defend her new home, the freedom-loving kingdom of Tortall. High Fantasy; Children’s & YA; published 1992-1996.

This series was one of my favorites, growing up, and it’s still a great choice for children and teens today. With its complete worldbuilding, unique magic, medieval action and winning characters—including a relatable and sensible young heroine—The Immortals quartet is one of Pierce’s best series (in my opinion, of course). I reread it recently and decided it was high time to write a review.

Strengths: (1) The best thing about Tamora Pierce’s three earliest Tortallan series (which I’ve always considered her strongest), is that each book builds up the Tortallan universe. Following Pierce’s debut series “Song of the Lioness,” this later series takes place in the same universe and is improved by the author’s growing experience. It boasts more carefully crafted worldbuilding and (2) more nuanced enemies. The whole cast of this series, in fact, is even stronger than that of the preceding series: Onua the horsemistress, the animals and even relatively minor characters such as Maura of Dunlath are pleasantly complex, as compared to the simpler background cast of Song of the Lioness. Numair Salmalin is my absolute favorite Pierce character of all time (which makes the news of his upcoming origins series REALLY VERY EXCITING).

Weakness: As is usual in Pierce’s early work (I haven’t read much of her later work), the  plots are mostly contained in each book, instead of stretching across the entire series. However, being a character-driven reader, myself, I don’t mind; questions of character—such as the mystery of Daine’s father—tie the books together just fine for me. The openness also leaves room for further installments.

Overall: The Immortals series is one of my favorite female-driven fantasies of all time.

Recommendation: Good for anyone, including adults who enjoy fantasy—but especially great for children and teens.

FIVE STARS.

For those interested, here are premises and ratings of each of the four books:

(I) Wild Magic: Thirteen year old Daine learns how to defend her new home—and her new friends—using the wild magic that once threatened her sanity. *****

(II) Wolf-Speaker: New danger threatens Daine’s animal and human families, and she responds with greater powers than anyone realized possible. ***

(III) Emperor Mage: When the Emperor of Carthak threatens Daine’s kingdom and friends, she fights back with the help and vengeance of the gods. Along the way, she learns something important about herself and her “Da.” *****

(IV) The Realms of the Gods: When Daine and her teacher, Numair, are transported into the immortal realms during a fierce battle, they journey home through many dangers just in time to defend Tortall against Carthak and its allies. ****

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How To Be A Woman

One’s opinion of How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran will depend, for the most part, on one’s opinion of today’s feminist movement. (Although I will say that even ardently feminist critics varied in their opinion of the book’s style. Some liked the casual tone, some hated it.) When I began reading this book, I was on the fence about feminism. I really wasn’t sure what the movement was all about. And reading this book certainly shed some light on the modern feminist agenda–but it didn’t offer any proof. It probably won’t convince many to the feminist ranks; it primarily aims to please those already there. Despite its lively humor, it utterly failed to convince me that I am a feminist. Basically, Moran and feminists like her want women to have all the same opportunities as men without any of the “socially engineered” burdens of being a woman. Whenever a questionable situations arises, from burquas to bikini waxes, she questions, “Are the boys doing it?” Are the boys worried about pregnancy after casual sex? Are the boys worried about commitment in a relationship? Are the boys getting “slut-shamed” for sleeping around the office?

Characterizing Quote: “So here is the quick way of working out if you are a feminist. Put your hands in your underpants. A. Do you have a vagina? B. Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist” (Moran 75).

The problem I have with Moran’s statement, here, is that if you’ve read the book, you know that she is clearly not in control of her vagina; it is in control of her. *shudder* TMI, lady. If that’s what it means to be a modern feminist, then I’ll pass. For another example of why this book didn’t impress me, let’s consider Moran’s justification for porn and rejection of strip clubs:

“Pornography isn’t inherently wrong–it’s just some fucking” (165).

And, she goes on, f***ing is fun, right? So who cares!? There’s nothing wrong with it as long as everyone is having fun, right?Strip clubs, on the other hand, are bad because

“no one’s having any fun…The women hate the men,” and the men “don’t have kind feelings toward these [strippers]” (163).

Following so far? It’s justified as long as it’s fun. But wait. Does Moran actually think women enjoy being porn stars? Does she really think they’re having fun? ( “I’m in the Porn Industry and I Want Out” target=”_blank”>Article to the contrary.) Anymore fun than strippers have, anyway? Or how about the men and women watching the porn—does she think they enjoy being addicted and in debt to porn and strip clubs? If so, then she is uncommonly naïve. At the very least, her Hedonistic justification of porn makes no sense when viewed beside her rejection of strip clubs. This is just one example of several logical fallacies hiding out in Moran’s passionate manifesto/memoir. The author’s flip sophistication and foul-mouthed humor can’t overcome the many flaws in her book. I also was not impressed by her “proof” that

the world honors and is shaped around “the priorities, needs, whims and successes of men” (130).

There just wasn’t enough data in this book for me to believe that. I’ll be the first to say that women should have access to the same rights as men. But as far as I can tell, the law has already given us as much as it can (in the UK and the Us, at least; not so in other countries, which are notably absent from this book), and the rest is up to us. There may still be some issues with policy (such as a lack of paternity leave to facilitate alternative child-rearing options for couples). But that’s very different from Moran’s complaints that patriarchy is still oppressing us. When she says that, she victimizes our sex, making us feel powerless to succeed in two of the most privileged, egalitarian societies to ever exist on this earth. I mean, women do meet with some incivility in the workplace; but so do men. Women do have unique problems to overcome in the workplace; but, again, so do men. This is not socially engineered sexism. This is…the workplace. It’s not home, and it’s not perfect. We all just have to do our best. The quote below is one of the best passages in the book because it’s one of the most sensible:

Moran On Recognizing and Addressing Sexism in the Workplace: “simply apply this question to the issue: Is this polite?…Don’t call it sexism, call it ‘manners’ instead…‘I’m sorry, but that sounded a little…uncivil.’…It doesn’t need to be a man vs. woman thing. It’s just a tiff between ‘the guys.’ Seeing the whole world as ‘the guys’ is important…I’m neither pro-woman’ nor ‘anti-men.’ I’m just thumbs up for the six billion” (128-129).

There are all kinds of unfair office politics because jerks have to work, too. Moran’s suggestion is a fine way to handle uncivil comments- inform the offender that his/her comment was impolite, and move on. It seems to me that feminism of the kind espoused by Moran is practically synonymous with European and American liberal agendas—including, but not limited to, “women’s reproductive rights” (aka abortion to facilitate the casual sex opportunities available to men) and socialism. We should really call this book what it is: liberal propaganda. Moran’s book probably did more damage to my opinion of feminism than a more serious book might have. It sounded  more like the words of a whiny, rebellious teenager than of any leader I would willingly follow. As a result, I remain entirely unconvinced of the health or logic of today’s feminist movement. I may read some other “serious” feminist writings, just to make sure I really understand it. I’ve only read one other feminist book called “Where the Girls Are,” and it struck me as only slightly more serious than this one- it still featured the bantering, belligerent tone, but at least it had citations. I may read “A Room of One’s Own”; I would also really like a good American specimen and am open to suggestions by commenters.

1/5 STARS.