fandrogyne: (unimpressed)
At the moment I'm reading an indie-published fantasy novel, involving a woman who ends up with the soul of the ex-god of chaos stuck inside her. Since I'm a fan of trickster gods and snarky comments, I figured I'd enjoy the book. Doubly so when I realized that the writing is actually pretty good. It's always nice to find indie and self-published books that break the idea that these kinds of books are badly written or not worth reading.

The problem is that after a while, it becomes obvious that the writing is good but the content is just painful.

The society the main character comes from is one in which males essentially own the rights to the females in their lives. If a man wants nothing to do with you, the rest of society sees you as a worthless unwanted person, and most women turn to prostitution to get by. Okay, possibly interesting, in its "beat you over the head with gender politics and misogyny" way.

But it pretty much results in the main character being called a whore by everyone she meets. Not just called that as some random insult, mind, but actually assumed to be some long-time whore of the guy she's traveling with, the man who's supposed to guard her now that she's carrying a god-soul.

This guy is attracted to her and her blonde exoticism. So too is a bed-hopping prince they encounter. Her guardian basically plays the possessive jealous role, wanting to cuddle up to her but not letting himself because he's duty-bound and all that stuff but wanting to rip off the heads of any other man who approaches her. The prince just wants to do her, until he becomes captivated by her innocence and then wants something more. But mostly still nookie. Which he tries multiple times to seduce her into despite her saying she doesn't want to.

The god trapped in her head? Is the worst. Effing. Part. I like snarky internal commentary, but he quickly goes from snarky to slut-shaming. If she finds any man even remotely attractive, this god starts piping up with comments akin to, "You're a prude who secretly wants to be a wanton wench! Your blush totally means you're a slut! Slutty slut slut slut!" And telling her that if she doesn't pick either her guardian or the prince to sleep with soon, one of them is going to make the choice for her.

This coupled with the fact that frequently men will literally pick her up to move her to places where they want her, just makes her come across like a very sexually-desirable object. She's the only woman in the story, really, aside from one minor unnamed character who lets a necromancer fuck her in order to avoid being killed. Everyone else is a man. Who wants her.

Or a god who likes to call her a slut and tells her to sleep with every person she comes across in order to get this supposed horniness out of her system.

A god who can also take over her body -- who has done so by halfway through the book, in fact -- and who likes to torment the guardian character with thoughts of sexytimes too. I have a suspicion that things are going to progress in that manner before the book is over, and how would that not be at least attempted rape?

It just hurts to read. If people aren't calling her a slut, they're treating her like an object. She has no agency, any strength she has comes from the god inside her. Oh, except for her natural magical talent (which she can't control) and her miraculous natural ability to be a master sword-swinger after only a week of training. This is the summary of her character. Vessel for a god that everyone wants to fuck while shaming her for possibly even liking the look of a man's face.

And all this is made even worse by the fact that the writing is decent! I want to like this story! I want to like it as much as I did in the first chapter, when the story was just beginning and all this horrible sexism hadn't come to light yet, but now the more I read it, the more I just want to yell at things because this isn't some satirical presentation of gender politics. It's not an inversion. It plays it all straight, and all this horrible treatment of women is either shown as "just the way things are" or played for laughs. You can argue that it's a fantasy world, that it's all fiction, but it hits way too close to home and there's so far nothing to redeem the content. I can't even say that the protagonist is a strong woman who rages at how the world treats her. No, she just sighs and gets on with it and tries not to be the whore they all assume she is because reasons.

Ugh. Just so much ugh.

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fandrogyne

December 2015

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