Reviews in Brief: Size 12 is Not Fat, Territory, Rune of Unmaking

Size 12 Is Not Fat: A Heather Wells Mystery only makes sense if you realize that it’s not set in REAL New York. It, like the Dresden Files, is set in White City, where POC are fairly absent or caricatured and where other people are WAY too into your business. In this major metropolis of White World, people are constantly insulting your weight or career aspirations, and no man in the history of ever has even considered dating a woman larger than a size 2. If you’re into the kind of fiction pioneered by Bridget Jones’ Diary, where the hapless narrator insults both herself and other women in the constant pursuit of a cheap laugh, and where the funny pitfalls of modern life are exaggerated to the point of incomprehensibility, but find pesky things like a relatable heroine a distraction to your day, you might enjoy Meg Cabot’s new mystery series. Otherwise, don’t bother. We’re talking about a narrator who hates standing to shower. This is canon. While she’s supposed to be quirky and charming, she’s so lazy in canon that she resents having to stand to shower. This fat-girl=lazy-girl motif is appearing in an ostensibly body-positive mystery series. This is the first time in awhile I’ve been annoyed at myself for finishing a book. I’m bitterly disappointed at the existence of this series: SHAME ON THE UNIVERSE AS A WHOLE.

Emma Bull’s Territory is what The Tales of Alvin Maker could have been: a fantasy of Western expansion gleefully incorporating earth magic, blood bindings, and historical research. While I overall enjoyed the novel, I struggled with the lack of reference to people of African descent. Though I know Biddy Mason, for example, probably wasn’t in Tombstone, it seems historically unlikely she and her children were the ONLY black people in the Old West, particularly when Tombstone’s put up a monument to the Buffalo Soldiers. Plus, this work engages not at all in the vagaries of colonization (either of the indigenous population or of the Mexican via the Treaty of Hidalgo (which was a result of a conflict about slavery/land ownership, so uh, there needs to be more black people). Despite this glaring absence, this novel is refreshing because of its focus on the Earp women, and because of the use of Tombstone’s Chinatown as a site of magical intrigue. The narrators — Doc Holliday, Mildred Benjamin (a Jewish widow in the Old West!! <3), and Jesse Fox — emerge with distinct voices, each highlighting the effects of magic on both practitioners, victims, and witnesses.

Ahem.I’m gonna introduce this next series with a quote.

‎”When you meet Sinderian Faelloneos, observe her well, for then you will be privileged to see the most gifted young wizard of her generation… [Her teachers] let her go off at an early age to break her heart on the battlefields of Rhethun, leaving all her other talents lying fallow.”

Madeline Howard’s  Rune of Unmaking series is rapidly becoming the epic fantasy version of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger —  one of the major highlights of this series is the wizard/healer, Sinderian, described above. While she comes from a line of talented wizards, the wars dividing her nation have pretty much decimated a generation. She’s undertrained, over-powerful, and gearing up to save the world. Also, her dad’s been transformed into a bird, which is cool and all because dude BIRDS, but seriously is hampering her training. Madeline Howard (AKA Teresa Edgerton, who wrote the Celydon trilogy) is back — hopefully for reals this time. It will break my heart to not know the end of Sinderian’s story.

Comments

  1. says

    Re: Size 12 is Not Fat, how good of an investigator can you be if you are that lazy? Unless she’s good at her job and it’s just a reflection of how Heather feels about herself, with low self-esteem manifesting as disinterest in personal grooming. …But she seems pretty pleased with herself, from what I’ve read before quitting that book.

    Territory and Rune of Unmaking sound fantastic, though. Even though Territory is using an Anglo-American historical myth for its setting– guys, the French and Spanish not only brought a whoooooole lot of Black folks with them, they actively stole them from the English by being generally more liberal (though, you know, still incredibly messed-up) slave masters. Casta charts, which were Mexico-specific, feature a LOT of potential Black-White-Native mixes, including rich freemen and maroons; and part of the reason slave literacy was banned in SC was because there was interplantation communication among enslaved Africans and Natives to make coordinated escape efforts (like, stealing boats) to get down to Spanish Florida, where they promised freedom with four years military service and conversion to Catholicism (and Congolese slaves were already Catholic, BUM BUM BUMMM!). I mean, the French settled New Orleans. (Btw, Happy Mardi Gras, everybody!)

    Anyway but aww yiss new fantasy!! *bookmarks for later*

  2. says

    Too lazy to stand in the shower? I just don’t know where to start.

    Re: lack of black people in “Territory.” Do you think white authors just don’t even realize they were around? I mean, honestly, I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t seen the last two seasons of Young Riders where they brought in a young free black man as a character and explained how he’d been born free, but could legally be up for grabs for enslavement if he so much as set foot in a slave state. It was pretty fascinating to me, having never learned any of that in school. Then again, that was about 1990, so… I mean, when you don’t even need to go online to do the research because pop culture’s already done it for you, maybe research/awareness is not the problem. Maybe it’s just the usual white privilege making it comfortable to forget to include various sorts of people?

  3. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler: Maybe it’s just the usual white privilege making it comfortable to forget to include various sorts of people?

    See, I don’t tihnk it’s the forgetting that’s an issue: I think that it’s more that the plot only HAPPENS to certain groups of people. For example, there’s a Chinese magic user who’s besties with Jesse Fox. He dies, and kinda wills all his cases and commitments to Tombstone’s Chinatown to Fox, including the magical investigation of a dead Chinese prostitute… as well as the care for13 yr old Chinese boy (who’s actually a girl SECRETS GALORE) the old guy’s semi-adopted. So yeah, this looks like a plot involving POC, but they’re more objects getting moved around than subjects of the story. There’s also the occassional mention of a mulatto/a person doing stuff in the background, but there’s no in-text acknowledgement that hey, someone would’ve been reacting in some way to their presence.

    It’s like the characters of color are NPCs, and the PCs are white.

  4. says

    ….Um, I’ve always… preferred to sit down in the shower. It’s more comfortable, and I don’t like standing in one place for long periods of time. And now I’m in Japan, where at places like the public baths, sitting on a stool while showering is actually how you’re supposed to do it. I realize it was probably presented as being a sign of laziness in the book, but… the phrasing of this article and a number of the comments, omg she’s THAT lazy, is…. kinda making me uncomfortable.

  5. says

    Dejadrew,

    I apologize; in re-reading, it definitely sounds like I was saying “OMG, she’s THAT lazy? Gross!” in my comment. But what I was actually objecting to was the whole idea that a preference for sitting in the shower indicated laziness. Sitting can make leg shaving easier (in my brief experience with showers that had ledges for sitting). Or you might prefer a sit-down shower after a long day of working on your feet, which is many people spend most of their days. There are loads of reasons to sit in the shower that have nothing to do with laziness. Also I’ve never heard a lazy person complain about standing in the shower, so the whole concept as described from the book was just blowing my mind with the nonsense of it.

  6. Casey says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    True. I wish I had some kind of shower stool so I could use my pumice stone properly. It’s a hassle leaning against the wall on one foot (the ledge of the tub is too small and I’d slip and fall off).

  7. Maria says

    She actually doesn’t sit in the shower — she only takes baths. Now, baths are pretty fabulous, and they’re fun to take, but when the rationale offered in-text, repeatedly, is that she’s too lazy to shower? WEIRD. This comes up repeatedly, too. She’s also is catty about one of the other female characters because of both that character’s thinness and how that character’s probably one of those people who really likes showering and eating salads.

    ETA to add the weird food thing too

  8. says

    Dejadrew,

    Yeah, if Heather had phrased it as, “You know what, I prefer to sit because I’m more comfortable/baths are more fabulous/etc.” it would have been perfectly fine, but instead, the narrative voice went like so.

    Heather: “I would shower, but I am just toooooo lazy! What do I look like, a skinny girl? Like a skinny girl who eats seasonal produce instead of microwave pizza and plain bagels?
    Me: “…” (Keep in mind: this is New York City. There is no reason to snark on skinny folks for eating healthy, period, but if that’s the best you could come up with for unhealthy food on a budget + laziness = why I am fat, at a university in a major metropolitan area, even avoiding “ethnic” food, you lack imagination.)
    Heather: “I will be bringing this up every time I take a bath. Which is frequent. And then I’ll complain about how my clothes don’t fit, even my skinny friend’s maternity clothes, waah!”
    Me: *tosses book aside*

    So Maria finished it and I guess the book was just more. of. the same.

  9. Maria says

    I actually thought the cover was kind of cool looking, so I stuck the book in a vase I got from Goodwill, dropped some seeds into it and poured water onto it to see if I could grow plants in a book like in this art project: http://geekapolis.fooyoh.com/geekapolis_gadgets_camcorders/4788251

    It seemed to be going okay, but for three things:

    1. The colors went all funny from the water

    2. It looked dirtier than I thought it would

    3. I moved and tossed the project.

  10. Maria says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Have you thought about donating them? Even if they’re worn, many of the big donating bins you see around are affiliated with organizations that will sell old paper to recycling companies.

    I’m probably gonna try again, but with out the cover

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