Autumn Princess, Dragon Child by Lian Hearn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Spoilers ahead . . .
Jokes on me! I skimmed the ending of book four to make sure Aki and Shika didn’t reconcile, and it looked safe to proceed, so I read volume two. In addition to being slower moving than volume one, I cared less and less about the characters as I went. Everyone was a scheming whiny asshole, and all the women kept getting screwed over, or reconciling with men who treated them badly. Before anyone pushes up their glasses and tries to say “well, actually” in my direction, I understand that the author is following traditional Japanese epics as a guide, and that everyone is probably meant to be a scheming, whiny asshole, but that doesn’t mean I have to want to read these books. This is not what I’m here for.
Aki had a rape baby, and then died at the end of the book. It was supposed to be a big heroic and sad sacrifice, and I might have appreciated it more if she hadn’t been raped, had a baby, and then considered reconciling with her rapist just before died. Also, the rape was unnecessary from a plot and character arc perspective, so . . . I’m done. I’m stopping here. This series will remain unfinished, and all four volumes are now in my giveaway pile.
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Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Really good stuff, right up until the end. Love the intrigue, the mysterious and unexplained magic, Japanese folk creatures, and interconnected characters and narratives. Every small win turns a corner into another disaster. As I read, I really started looking forward to the next three books, and how this twisty tale was going to unfold and resolve itself.
Now for the part that dropped my star rating from a four to a three. Spoilers ahead. CW: rape.
I am really upset about the rape-as-motivation for Aki to leave Shika and lose trust in him. I don’t care that he was magically manipulated/compelled by the Prince Abbott–Hearn has introduced the possibility that Aki is the woman Skika is meant to marry. I don’t like spoilers, but I actually flipped through the end of book four to make sure Shika and Aki didn’t reconcile and end up together because I am not here for rape apology, women marrying their rapists, rape as easy trauma, or rape as motivation. Writers can and should do better and be more creative. The Prince Abbot also magically manipulated/compelled Shika to attempt to kill Yoshi, which is motivation enough to make Aki feel unsafe and untrusting and leave him. Narratively, the rape is unnecessary.
I didn’t see any evidence that Aki and Shika reconcile by the end of the series. What I skimmed sounded as though they have been sundered forever and Shika regrets his assault on her for years to come. I’m hopeful that’s correct and I didn’t miss anything. If I encounter anything to the contrary as I continue reading, I’m DNF-ing this series.
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