// Genre & Themes: fantasy, political

// Publisher: Black Rose Writing

// Trigger warnings: sexual assault [mild\graphic], description of violence [mild], brief talk of genocide [minor]

// Rep: None lol

Synopsis

Two women. Opposites in personality and status. Divided by the breadth of the world. Identical in appearance.

Vale, bastard daughter and officer of the Helmsguard is trapped within the machinery of her father’s Empire. Elyn, a fearful young woman from a remote corner of the Outer Wild, lives an insular and lonely life.

Over centuries, the gods have slowly abandoned their people. The world is now torn between the last two who remained. If the war between them is to be stopped, Elyn and Vale will need to understand the secret which binds them together and the terrible sacrifices it will demand.

— Received from BookSirens in exchange for an honest review


This wasn’t my cup of tea. I found the characters flat and I didn’t empathize with them or their story. The plot also seemed to drag and wasn’t really engaging me like I wanted. But the writing style was fine. I didn’t hate it. It was a solid three-star read if I had ever seen one.

But Eleanore, you say, why did you rate it one-star if it was just fine?

Because it displays an intolerable amount of misogyny and bias.

I left this book throughly disgusted by the mistreatment of women. This might be a little disjointed, but I’m going to go into some examples and show excerpts from the novel.

“Slut”, “bitch”, and “whore” are used freely when talking about women. Almost every man used one of these words to talk about a women or women as a whole. And no one pushes back against it – not even the two women who were the main characters.

At one point a barkeep is flirty with Elyn while bringing her more drinks and then she goes over to the bar and flirts back. That’s completely fine! But then he has the audacity to point to a group of women and say:


“Good,” he whispered in a conspiring tone. “I’d hate to see you grow up like them.” He jerked his head toward a group of three middle-aged women behind him, all of them laughing a little too loud and acting a little too friendly with another group of men sitting at the same table. The women were dressed in a vulgar attempt to reveal certain body parts, as if this would compensate for their lost youth. and the similarly aging men were looking at them with an undisguised, selfish lust.”

In the Wake of Gods, page 154


Notice how this paragraph treats men and women differently. The women are demonized for wanting to sleep with men and flirting with them, even though the men are clearly also interested (and the MC is doing the same thing right now?).

And the sentence “The women were dressed in a vulgar attempt to reveal certain body parts, as if this would compensate for their lost youth” makes me want to throw up. It’s so goddamn ugly.

Another quote:


“You just want to get back to some whores,” Walt said with a smile. Edward offered a dignified shrug.

“A man has his needs, and they certainly ain’t filled by sleeping on frozen rock every night!”

“Well, it’s been so long for me that a frozen rock is starting to look pretty good.”

Both men laughed at the collegial sharing of desire that was a hallmark of male friendship.

In the Wake of Gods, page 183/184


A man wants to sleep with women and uses degrading descriptors? He’s showing a collegial hallmark of male friendship.

A woman wants to sleep with a man who’s also interested? She’s a whore and trying to compensate for her lost youth.

The same text that condones dehumanizing talk and ideals also condemns women for agreeing to have sex with the men who…want…to have sex? If the men are interested and so are the women, then why are the women being treated like shit?

I don’t mind reading about sexism in my books, but I DO mind when it’s just a natural part of the text that isn’t challenged (even by the WOMEN who lead the story). There’s nothing in the novel that ever challenges this disgusting behavior, and that’s despicable.


Additional notes:

Uses “Strange, almond-shaped eyes” to describe an East Asian-coded female character.

Elyn has no personality, drive, or interests. She’s just there to react, and be told what to do by men and various side characters. In one scene, she’ll said something akin to “I’m done keeping secrets. I don’t want to anymore and I won’t.” and then she won’t do a damn thing about it until prompted. Her best friend is exactly the same.

Elyn’s “best friend” has no purpose. In our first introduction, Elyn introduces her as being soooo pretty…much prettier than me 😦 and she wishes she got the same attention. And nothing else. And then she’s written out of the novel and appears at the end and does absolutely nothing.

Elyn acts like they’re so close . . . but she hasn’t been there the whole novel? And when she was there, Elyn did nothing but push her away, dismiss her, or ignore her. So I don’t buy it.

Elyn gets SA-ed multiple times and it’s pushed aside for no reason. The encounters border on mild and graphic depending on your line in the sand. Personally, it made me physically uncomfortable and ill to read. The first time it happens, her best friend sees it and when Jason wants to step up to defend Elyn, just gives Elyn a “knowing look” and says not to worry about it.

What the actual hell was this supposed to convey? Because what I saw was that her friend doesn’t give a fuck about her wellbeing, and that SA should be brushed under the rug? The book doesn’t ever give an explanation as to why Elyn doesn’t do anything about it, or why she doesn’t defend herself, or why her friend dismissed it and then acted like they agreed on it.


Overall, I didn’t like the book and I gave it one star. I have firm plans to never read anything from this author or publishing house ever again.

I almost feel bad writing this review, since the author said it took him fifteen years to write the book. I don’t want to be aggressive or destroy the author’s feelings . . . but you took fifteen years to write a book that tells women that they’re less-than and aren’t allowed to have the same feelings as men.


Photo by Jerry Zhang | Buy on Bookshop.org | Find it on Storygraph

Disclaimer: the bookshop link is an affiliate link. I make a small commission when you buy though button.

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