Okay, so the library is sometimes my friend. Most of the time, however, it’s just reading filler, as the stuff available tends to be old and… not exactly to my taste.
Which sucks, cause we’s po’.
Well, currently I’m reading a book, and I can’t say I really like it. The writing isn’t bad, but several things just don’t sit quite right to me.
It’s nominally a romance/fantasy hybrid (released by Luna, for those who that means something. Essentially, it’s the “fantasy” arm of Harlequin Romance.) but the sex is fade-to-black, and the romance is… non-existent. I’m sorry, but “I think you’re hawt.” “I think you’re hawt, too, wanna fuck?” *implied sex, but it’s entirely fade-to-black’d* That’s not romance to me. Granted, the romance is probably ACTUALLY gonna come from some other guy brooding in the background, but currently the main character is just coming across as a ho.
It’s a fantasy about white horses who are actually god/angelic beings and their riders. I’m sorry, for all the issues I have with Mercedes Lackey’s writing, she just does that better. She does.
All the riders are men. They have to be because that’s how it’s always been. Even though these god-like horse beings choose their riders with a psychic “calling” from all over the world. Then the riders get to the school, and have to do a lot of tests to make certain that these gods picked the right people and dragged them out there for a month-long hike are right for them. The graduating class is picked by men. So the horses are gods, but they totally don’t know who their riders should be, so they leave that to a bunch of guys. This is my cognitive dissonance face. I’m totally not taking you seriously here.
So the main character is a chick. Who gets a calling. Which is stressed repeatedly and at great length never happens. Ever. But it’s okay, she can cut her hair and totally pretend to be a boy, and fight with the boys on their terms because she’s totally a tomboy and doesn’t like being a girl anyway. RAWR CHICK PRIDE.
WHY is this classified as a romance if the only sign of “romance” is the tell-not-show of “Oh I’m totally in love with Mr Dark and Brooding and that sucks! I’ll hop into bed with hawt barbarian prince instead.”
WHY does she pick the White Horses are Superior Psychic Godlike Beings if she can’t pull it off at least as well as Misty Lacky. Or hell, just say to herself “hey, this is something that’s already been done. There’s like a million Valdemar books already” and not try and take advantage of the large, fanatic fanbase.
WHY do these superior beings need random-ass old guys to pick their riders for them if they’re actually gods in control of fate and destiny?
WHY does a heroine only get to be strong and go on adventures if she pretends to be a boy, and IS PRACTICALLY A BOY ANYWAY?
I think it’s the last point that gets to me more, primarily because it’s less an issue with the story specifically, and more something that is endemic to the genre. But wouldn’t the story have been more interesting if, leaving everything else the same, it was the story of a girl going to the school and fighting her way in without sacrificing being a girl to do it?
This doesn’t have anything to do with girl pride rawr, or the like. But the minute you embrace the stereotype “girl fights her way into mens club by pretending to be a man, cause she’s boyish enough to pull it off anyway” the plot circles around the lie. Lies get caught, so the questions become “when will she be unmasked” dun dun DUN. It also reduces the impact of the character because.. she’s living a lie. There’s dishonesty there, and the lie cheapens your aims.
If you achieve your dream, but have to lie to do it, does it still count?
But “pretending to be a boy” makes for fluff because it avoids addressing the harder questions. It’s the easy route. It’s been done before (it’s also been done by Mercedes Lackey in her Free Bards series… I’m sensing a trend). It’s BORING.
I’m not putting the blame here on Harlequin/Luna. Sure, they published/released it. But the author wrote it. She wrote it using tropes established 20 years ago by another author. She wrote it using stereotypes and avoiding anything which would make it an actual interesting read. She wrote it because it would make money.