Reviews in Brief — Shadowlands series, Mortal Suns, Writing Magic

The Shadowlands series(made up of Silver’s Lure,Silver’s Bane, and Silver’s Edge) is… okay. I’d give this a solid C — interesting use of some tropes, neat inclusion of non-typical Maiden figures (a representation of Brigid as a young female blacksmith was quite nice), some all right sexin’ scenes, but points off for the demonization of queerness, essentialized gender roles, and somewhat predictable characterization. Basically, there’s a Silver Caul that protects Faerie and Mortal-topia from the evilness of the goblin hordes (who don’t… live in Fairy?) but it turns out the Caul is all jacked up because the original makers totally didn’t get that Faerie, the Shadowlands (that’s the real name for Mortal-topia), and whatever all have to be connected. Gloriana is the Faerie Queen who planned that, and you know her shit was all logistically incorrect because she took the holly and the oak staff for herself instead of sharing authority with her husband. Tropes include: preternaturally beautiful elves; mad kings who know too much; and symbolic interracial/mixed species couplings.  I enjoyed reading this more because of the structure than anything else — there are several key players, and while the end of the second book felt a little HEY DID YOU GUESS WE ARE ARCHETYPES?, I overall enjoyed the pacing of the big reveals and the quirkiness of some of the world-building (like the lack of a word in Faerie for Mortal phenomena like dust or rust). The homophobia fit (problematically) into the overall themes re: manhood/womanhood, and pretty clearly illustrated that common fantasy trope is that a man is a man because of what he does and a woman is a woman because of what she is. While it was nice to see a plot so driven by female agency and relationships between women, it was a bummer to see that agency was in part about these characters getting in touch with a mystical femininity always already lurking inside them.

Mortal Suns was all right. Like always, Tanith Lee has tight prose, eerie visuals, and some interesting world-building. At the same time, this felt like Lee sleepwalking. Like, in terms of plots, it’s pretty standard Lee — utterly pale  girl with disconcerting body movements is a great beauty, is consumed by lust for a hottie jalopy of a political/military leader who it turns out is batshit, and is eventually forced into a gods-endorsed servitude. There are creepy folks in masks and a subterranean chariot race, a mountain with a heartbeat, and a silver-faced goddess of ecstatic death. I liked this a great deal, but wish I could have read the sequel immediately after — it feels noticeably incomplete. However, Lee on ‘ludes  is better than most other writers at their best. Basically, Mortal Suns‘s semi-Greek setting, its child-bride of a footless heroine, and its amazing female characters are awesome. I mean, shit, unlike The King of Ys (yes, my loves, that ish still pisses me the frickity frack off) the multiple wives of a god-picked king talk about more than their omg wtf-ness over the king’s newfangled ways. They talk about ruling, directly influence political events, and poison fuckers who don’t know when they need to sit the fuck down and let a queen-consort do her thing. Also, there’s tons of allusions to that love that dare not speak its name as an acceptable thing interwoven in the fabric of daily life.

Now for something completely different!!

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly is the perfect gift for the budding young author you know who’s smart enough to talk to you about writing but young enough that you don’t want to give them a grown-up’s writing tome. It’s fun, cute, and approachable… plus, the tips it includes are a good reminder for an author of any age that the most important thing about being a writer is actually WRITING, not talking yourself out of it. <3 This was a gift from a dear friend who knew I’d been struggling with writing in graduate school, and it’s the perfect antidote to theory-inspired creative angst.


  1. says

    I give you credit for finishing those Shadowlands Books, I put them down after the first one. They seemed like a Romance authors first foray into fantasy in that the foreshadowing and inclue-ing was all very clumsy. And while I can’t remember exactly how, I seem to remember some really jarring elf/celtic references that seemed to just butcher loads of elfland/faerie tropes.

    Thanks for the Mortal Suns review though, I’ll check that out.

  2. Maria says

    I liked Mortal Suns — it’s not my favorite Lee, but it is kinda like a greatest kits album of some of her main themes and visuals. :)

    Re: Shadowlands… I have a problem with closure. Even though I might hate a book or a series, if the other ones are available, I have to finish them. That’s why I read so much Sweet Valley High.

  3. says

    Oh, I could teach you guys how to get closure without finishing a whole series! I mastered that skill right after I found couldn’t stop watching “Moonlighting” until it was over. I’m still scarred by that experience.

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