Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power, by Rose Lemberg

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(High Fantasy; Birdverse) The Old Royal has ruled the desert for millennia from their palace where a star once fell, but the arrival of a young stranger brings chaos. (38,308 words; Time: 2h:07m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 229, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The world is very elaborate and well-thought-out. Dialogue and narration are flawless.

Con: The protagonist is so powerful that the plot suffers. For the first ten thousand words, we’re not even sure what it is that they want, and the story really drags. Even then, the only problems that they have seem to be self-inflicted. This makes this very long story a real slog to get through.

Beyond that, there are a few loose ends. For example, the whole problem of the dying stars seems to have been swept under the rug.

Finally, I found the graphic S&M scenes at the end seriously disturbing. “I want to open your skin.” “I think I am ready for the knife.”

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 229)
Rose Lemberg Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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10 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. As of 7/6/2017, this review misgenders the protagonist, the Old Royal, who uses gender neutral pronouns.

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    1. Where do you see that? It's often hard to figure out in a story with a 1st-person POV, and it's possible I missed something, but I'm pretty sure the narrator (a shape shifter) spoke of being male in the past but female at present.

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    2. Hi, Greg - aside from the use of "they" in the story, there's this passage: "I wanted to speak in Niyazi, for I now remembered the voice had spoken earlier that way, but the language of Niyaz lacked neutral forms, which I would use both for this person and for myself."

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    3. Good catch. Fixed. Thanks for letting me know.

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  2. I really enjoyed this. I listened to the audio narrated by C.S.E Cooney who really brought Rose Lemberg's beautiful words to life. I thought the background and the characters and their relationships were so well done.

    As for the dying stars, I think the Raker will probably become a star eventually. But it will be something he chooses from all his learning of star lore, instead of being led to it by his ancestor. This story focused on his relationship with the Old Royal.

    Regarding the scenes between Raker and the Royal, I thought they were very carefully done. And really helped me see it in a way I never have before. I also appreciated it showing a younger person finding an older one so desirable and beautiful.

    (You missed changing "her" in the beginning story summary.)

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    Replies
    1. Oops. I'll add that to the change list. Thanks!

      Rose's Birdverse is definitely a fascinating place, and their words are always beautiful. I just wanted a bit more action and tension.

      I had trouble thinking of the Old Royal as really being an old person, though. Their ability to change shape meant they could look however they pleased--as desirable and beautiful as they wanted to be. This just gets back to the character being too powerful--even in the bedroom. :-)

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    2. My impression was that a big part of the attraction was that they had both found someone equally powerful. I didn't have trouble thinking of the Royal as older. Wrinkles and other signs of age were mentioned. The guardian's reaction of shock to the idea of him wanting them. Their general thoughts of being older..."Ah, youth!" And, well, to me there was certainly lots of tension and enough action.

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    3. (Fixed the pronoun. Thanks again!) I didn't get the impression they were equally powerful. Did I miss something?

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    4. When the Old Royal is fully connected to their star, they're undoubtedly more powerful. But my impression is that they're not usually in complete contact. There is concern that he might be an assassin if not actual fear or real belief on their part. He has four deepnames which they thought impossible. They even thought it felt like he had more. It seems like it's unprecedented for them not to be able to see how many and what deepnames someone else has. Ranra believes he's powerful enough to be a star guardian. And he does accidentally hurt them rather significantly when they grabbed his arm unexpectedly.

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