Review – Gravity’s Revenge by A. E. Marling

Gravity’s Revenge is the third book of the Enchantress series, and continues the development of Elder Enchantress Hiresha, Tethiel the Lord of the Feast, and others.

This book is by far the most straightforward of the three, following a basic fantasy quest/action storyline.

Premise
The story opens with Hiresha escorting the daughter of her maid, Janny, up the magical Skyway to the Academy of enchantresses. On their way we are treated to both explanations and demonstrations of the Academy’s gravity-defying design. Hiresha also witnesses its failure as she sees the form of a young enchantress hurtle past to her death.

Just getting the other Elder Enchantresses to acknowledge the possibility of a failure of the college’s enchantments is Hiresha’s first problem. The Academy’s design is attributed to the Opal Mind – the Goddess of Intellect and Creativity. Despite the fact that they know how the magic works, suggesting the possibility of its failure is tantamount to heresy.

Before anything can be done about the possibly failing magic, another wrinkle is added to the tapestry – Bright Palms have ascended the cliffs and intend to take the Academy hostage in order to force concessions from the government. In short order, Hiresha is cut off from her stash of gems, her Spellsword bodyguard, and most of the rest of the academy.

The Final Step to Independence
Because Hiresha is so thoroughly cut off from her normal sources of support, she is at her most active and independent. This completes a character arc that began in Brood of Bones where she is almost entirely dependent on her maid and spellsword to accomplish anything. In the middle book, she has cast off many of the comfortable and confining trappings of pomp and title, but still leans heavily on her maid and spellsword. In Gravity’s Revenge she is forced to rely on herself to overcome both physical and mental obstacles.

The Theme of Moral Ambiguity
All three of the Enchantress books ask us to consider the nature of goodness, and what it really means. Like in real life, there are no wholly good or evil organizations in the Lands of Loam. Few characters present as wholly positive or negative, either. Gravity’s Revenge tackles this question head-on. The Bright Palms consider themselves the protectors of the innocent, but their methods can be callous to the point of villainy. The Academy is a center of learning and progress, but it’s hidebound and elitist. Even the Lord of the Feast, patriarch of a family of monstrous predators, finds himself acting on behalf of the greater good.

Gravity’s Revenge is a an excellent book, with a strong heroine and disturbing villains. Marling’s command of the language continues to mature, and the writing in this latest outing is solid – lyrical in places, without being stilted or obtuse. If you like action-packed adventures and books about characters trying their best outside their comfort zones, this one is for you.

Rating: 4/5

A More Diverse Universe, and Engraved on the Eye

I’m way late for this party, but you should know if you don’t already: a group of bloggers has organized a blog tour event to celebrate and raise awareness of minority authors in speculative fiction. It’s called A More Diverse Universe, and you can read the gritty deets over at BookLust. I didn’t find out in time to sign up to be on the list, but the concept is pretty simple. Read a work of speculative fiction by a minority author and review it.

Though my participation is unofficial, I want to draw your attention to Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed. I read that earlier this week, and it was a blast. Saladin is an Arab American from Detroit, and this perspective gracefully informs his fiction. I had already read Throne of the Crescent Moon, so I knew I was in for something good.

So, here’s my review of Engraved on the Eye, originally posted in my Goodreads account.

This collection of short stories offers a departure from the usual science fiction and fantasy fare. Saladin Ahmed brings his unusual (for sf/f) viewpoint as a practicing Muslim and Arab American to the party and serves up a delicious buffet of refreshing stories.

The stories vary pretty widely. There is the tale of the first case in which the characters Adoulla Makhslood and Raseed (from Throne of the Crescent Moon) work together. Another story set in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms deals with the internal politics of the Lodge of Dervishes. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the story of a cybernetically augmented Lebanese soldier trying to keep his wife alive in a post-war world. There is also a historical fantasy set during the Abbasid Caliphate. One story is set in a secondary world and gives just enough detail about it to be intriguing.

My personal favorite is “Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride.” It’s a Western starring people you don’t see often in Western stories. Mister Hadj and the narrator (O’Connor) are working as bounty hunters on the trail of some seriously bad men. Mr Hadj, an immigrant from the same area as O’Connor’s Pa, has a knack for making things happen when he sings. How it all plays out is more than I care to share here.

Engraved on the Eye at Amazon.com
Throne of the Crescent Moon at Amazon.com

So, there you have it. An excellent book by a talented new author. Please visit the links above, and check it out. Visit Saladin’s site and take a peek at his blog and twitter. In addition to being a good author, he’s a pretty droll Tweep.

For most of my life, I haven’t paid that much attention to the details of the people writing the books that I liked. Because of that, sheer statistics meant I ended up mostly reading books by Caucasian men. But as I have gotten older, and started paying more attention, I have come to appreciate the differences (some subtle, some less so) that arise from reading an author of a different background. That’s one very good reason to support an event like A More Diverse Universe.

Another is that those statistics can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We mostly have white writers is SF, so white writers get more sales. Add in people avoiding non-white authors for racist reasons, and the disparities get bigger. Then the money-driven corporate machine looks at those numbers, confuses cause and effect, and decides that white writers are the way to go. So they buy fewer books from non-white writers, spend less on marketing for the ones they do buy, etc. And the snake eats its own tail. (This assumes that the companies is question are not racially motivated themselves, which I can neither confirm or deny, but you can see the obvious additional problems that would cause.)

Once we create a machine that minimizes the diversity of viewpoints, we narrow our scope of people that will identify closely. Or we annoy members of the groups being marginalized. And so our SF fandom and pool of future writers doesn’t grow the way it should.

So, friends and neighbors, what SF books by minority authors have you read recently? How did you like them? I’m always open to new recommendations!