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An Apprentice to Elves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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An Apprentice to Elves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear [Oct. 15th, 2015|05:41 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Review copy provided by Tor Books. In addition, both of the authors are personal friends of mine for some years now.


Are reviewers allowed to write “NOW–THE TRIUMPHANT CONCLUSION,” or is that only for marketing copy?


This is the third in its series, and the trellwolves and their humans are still–mostly–at the center of its stage. But not in the same form: the new main character, Alfgyfa, is a young woman who has apprenticed to the svartalfar smith, Tin. (Smithing! Smithery! Hurrah!) While she can sense the trellwolves–while her sense of the wolfpack turns out to be relevant to her future as well as her personality and personal history–this book gives all sorts of angles on the surroundings and support of the trellwolf pack. It lets Alfgyfa explore the twists and turns of a space shaped by the other species around her–and a self shaped by a childhood among those species.


In addition to Alfgyfa’s adventures, we hear quite a lot from Otter, adopted daughter of the wolfheall, finding her way among the annoyances of tithe-boys and the joys of a newish-to-her society. Otter watches details. Otter notices people, even the wolf kind of people. Two kinds of alfar, trolls, wolves wild and domestic, humans….


Humans. Humans are the problem. Humans are only part of the solution, but they’re really pretty much all of the problem in this book. Monkeys, we say in my house, are a lot of trouble, and empires that do not understand the cultures they are trampling are even more trouble than individual monkeys. The resolution of both this individual book plot and the intercultural/interspecies weaving that has been going on all trilogy is so satisfying that I emailed the authors, “YAWP,” about it. Highly, highly recommended. Great fun even for those less Viking-influenced than I.


Please consider using our link to buy An Apprentice to Elves from Amazon.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-10-15 03:45 pm (UTC)
The previous books in that series were quite interesting. I think I heard somewhere about their having some parodic or satiric intent, but I read them as straight alternate culture fantasy and they made sense that way, though they were often grim. But then I like the alien culture trope; one of my very favorite SF novels ever is Courtship Rite, for example.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-15 03:51 pm (UTC)
I think I would say deconstructive rather than satiric, and I think the best deconstruction builds its own thing rather than just tearing down something else.
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-10-15 05:33 pm (UTC)
I can see that, as a principle; Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis does a beautiful job of it. The deconstructive aspect didn't jump out at me with this series, but I may simply not be familiar with what it was deconstructing. The internal logic did come through strongly.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2015-10-15 05:55 pm (UTC)
In short form, the deconstruction is of the "telepathic animal companion" sub-genre, especially the Pern specimen thereof. McCaffrey rather frantically dodged the consequence of her own logic, which is that if human riders have no choice but to get it on when their dragons do, and the male dragons usually have male riders but so do the female green dragons, and greens tend to mate with lots of other dragons when they go into heat . . . A + B + C = telepathic-animal-companion-mediated homosexual gang rape of all of your green riders. (Also rape of the women who ride queen dragons, but that got depicted as the romance trope of "they didn't ask for this but it turns out to be wonderful." McCaffrey was deeply uncomfortable with admitting her manly dragon riders were sodomizing one another at all.)

But yes, what Mris said: if these books were only here to point out the <cough> hole in Pern's worldbuilding, they'd be pretty shallow. They took that as their starting point, but went on to do a lot of other things, too.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-15 05:59 pm (UTC)
I will note that this most recent volume has moved on more or less completely from that particular piece of deconstruction.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2015-10-15 06:05 pm (UTC)
It's been a while since I read the earlier books, but my recollection is that it was really only a focus in the first book.

Which is good. Because really, a whole trilogy focused on buggery among wolfcarls would probably need to be shelved in a different genre.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-15 06:50 pm (UTC)
I thought about putting "this book is not about the buggery" in the review, but that would have made the review too much about the buggery. "This book is also not about several other notable distracting topics!" Um.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2015-10-15 06:54 pm (UTC)
Heee. Yes.

EDIT: I am trying to prevent my brain from finishing the tag line "come for the buggery, stay for the --" It's done enough damage already. >_<

Edited at 2015-10-15 07:01 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-15 08:06 pm (UTC)
STAY FOR THE SPACEWARPS
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-10-15 08:40 pm (UTC)
I had wondered if that was what was being referred to. But I haven't read any of McCaffery since The Ship Who Sang; I didn't spontaneously think of Pern.

I'm kind of reminded of a time many years ago when I glanced at the first few chapters of Katherine Kurtz's novel about British witchcraft during World War II, and asked the book's owner, "so the prince and this other guy are lovers?" She said no and I thought, "Well, that's the difference between Kurtz and Bradley. . . ."

Edited at 2015-10-15 08:48 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-10-15 08:48 pm (UTC)
In any case, I've now added it to my pull queue at the city library, where it joins Hell's Foundations Quiver and The Shepherd's Crown. I'm really interested in the theme of interspecies relationships and misunderstandings; it's a major focus of my current fantasy campaign. And the writing on the first two volumes was satisfying to read.
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