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Book Review: Heathen, by Natasha Alterici

I accepted a review copy of The Complete Series Omnibus Edition of Heathen by Natasha Alterici (author/artist/colorist), Ashley A. Woods (Illustrations), Rachel Deering (Letterer) and Morgan Martinez (designer). The graphic novel was also featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight. So, you can hop over there for author/artist information and Rockstar Book Tours‘ tour schedule.

WOMAN. WARRIOR. VIKING. HEATHEN. OUTCAST. 

THE GODS MUST PAY…

Born into a time of warfare, suffering, and subjugation of women, and exiled from her village for kissing another woman, the lesbian Viking warrior, Aydis, sets out to destroy the god-king Odin and end his oppressive reign. She is a friend to many as she is joined by mermaids, immortals, Valkyries, and the talking horse, Saga. But she is also a fearsome enemy to the demons and fantastic monsters that populate the land.

my review

I enjoyed the heck out of this and, my goodness, could it be any more timely, with it’s ‘throwing off the oppressive yoke of the patriarchy’ theme? At one point, a character even explicitly says, “Each one of us is the person she is because we reject the authority of men.” And let me tell you Odin (the representation of male authority here) does not give that oppressive authority up easily, nor the insistence that it’s actually benevolence.

I also loved the art style. I’m admittedly picky about what I like and don’t like in the graphic part of a graphic novel, but I like this a lot. I did find all the female flesh on display an odd choice. I’m not necessarily bothered by it—and sure woman can enjoy it too—but all the…I’m gonna call it fan-service…has always seemed very male-gazey to me. And that just felt out of place in a graphic novel that so explicitly was addressing female liberation (sexual and otherwise) from male dictatorship and control.

I also thought the last volume felt far more rushed that the previous ones and therefore the ending was a little anti-climactic. All in all, however, this was a winner for me.

heathen photo


Book Review of Stray City, by Chelsey Johnson

I won a copy of Chelsey Johnson‘s Stray City through Goodreads.

Description:
Twenty-four-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.

Review:
I really wanted to love this, but I simply didn’t. The writing is lovely and I adored how strongly you could feel the late 90s, Portland lesbian scene. I liked that Andrea had a strong female friend base and that there was quite a lot of diversity in the book.

However, for a book about a lesbian, half the book is dedicated to her single heterosexual relationship; and I didn’t even understand why she had that. Sleeping together the once, sure, in the context of the book I could see that. But she didn’t particularly like it, so I don’t understand why she kept going back to him.

Then, between one chapter and the next a decade passed and we went from a fetus-in-utero to a ten-year-old child. Past the halfway mark, the POV broke from Andrea for the first time, introducing the POV of two other characters. And Andrea was given a lesbian happily-ever-after that felt like an after thought.

Add to all this the fact that I didn’t feel Andreas parents payed their dues and that Ryan got some sort of free pass on his behavior, and I just ended the book on a solid, “MEH.”

The Armored Saint

Book Review of The Armored Saint (The Sacred Throne #1), by Myke Cole

I borrowed a copy of The Armored Saint, by Myke Cole, from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.

Review:
If I think about the fantasy YA storyline that I feel like I’ve read the most often, it would be the one where some teen, who is just a little smarter, or kinder, or more talented, or outspoken than everyone else somehow inadvertently challenges the overbearing authority of the land and then, in a desperate attempt to rescue the people they love, save the world. I swear I’ve read this story a hundred times and we find the exact same one here. So, this is not breaking new ground. But it does at least manage to place it all in an interesting world and the writing is good.

My problem was mostly that almost every horrible thing that happened in the book happened because Heloise did something objectively stupid. Yes, they lived under a cruel regime. But that regime would have never noticed Heloise or her family if she hadn’t REPEATEDLY done stupid things to draw their attention. She seemed to have no impulse control at all and people died for it. But she still got to be the hero in the end. Meh.

Lastly, I appreciate how loving and involved fathers were with their daughters, but I was left wondering why mothers and women in general were so left out (as usual). This is just one more fantasy world in which women only exist quietly in the background. This is always especially galling when the main character is a girl.