Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Northern Girl

Elizabeth A. Lynn
Completed 7/14/2018, Reviewed 7/14/2018
4 stars

This is the third of a trilogy, though the books somewhat standalone, similar to Lois McMasters Bujold’s World of the Five Gods series.  I read this book because it has lesbian content although it is fairly low key.  It turned out to be quite a good fantasy, mostly for its political intrigue.  The storyline of the title character is not nearly as exciting, although she is a good character.  I liked the book a lot, finding myself plunged into the drama of the city where it takes place, even though it is not really an action driven story.

The are really two plots to this book.  The first concerns the title character, Sorren.  She is a far-traveler.  That is, she has visions of events from far away places.  Specifically, she has visions of Tornor, a keep in the north, from which her family came generations ago.  She hides this gift because it means she would have to join the White Clan, which consists of witches who have similar magical gifts.  So she stays quiet, working as a bondservant to the Lady Arre Med, cleaning, shopping for the household, and acting as a personal assistant to Arre.  She has a lover, Paxe, the Yardmaster of the Med guards.  Sorren longs to go to the Tornor after her bond service is up when she turns eighteen.  She’s also a drummer, often playing at festivals and for Isak, Arre’s dancer brother. 

The second plot follows the political atmosphere of the city where Sorren lives, Kendra-on-the-Delta.  The Lady Arre is one of the city council members of Kendra.  She discovers that swords, which were banned in the city by the White Clan, are being smuggled in.  This is not only illegal but threatens the stability of the city.  It is already tottering on chaos, with massive brawls occurring with more frequency on the docks.  Arre must find out who is behind this smuggling before the city returns to its violent past. 

I normally don’t like books with political intrigue.  I often find there to be too many secondary characters who I often lose track of.  But I found myself drawn into it easily.  I have to say the world building was great, even though I had not read the first two books in the series.  There was enough description of the city, its races, religion, and social structure that made this book stand alone well. 

I also liked the characters.  The leading characters were all women, some of whom like Arre held positions of power or like Paxe were city guards.  Most especially, I enjoyed the Kadra, a ghya, or hermaphrodite, who was an alcoholic who dreams of returning to the sea.  Sorren befriends her, because she is also a mapmaker, drawing for Sorren a map of the route to the Tornor Keep.  Kadra also acquires a bow for Sorren to help her learn how to shoot, a skill at which the northern peoples are supposed to excel.  While only a minor character, Kadra is fascinating and one of the few people from the town Sorren likes.

The narration of the book is also interesting.  It is told third person from Sorren, Arre, and Pax.  At first, I was a little annoyed by it, because, after all, the book is entitled The Northern Girl.  I thought it should be told from Sorren’s perspective exclusively.  But after I got into the rhythm of the book, I found it flowed very well.  Changing the point of view helped move both plots, giving you the different perspectives from the three very different characters.

I have to say I did not think I’d care for this book when I first picked it up.  It’s rather long, and I thought it would be boring based on the blurbs I’d seen.  But I really enjoyed it, finding it well written and interesting.  I give this book four out of five stars. 

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