Jay Lake


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

November 4, 2009

thought I would like this novel more. But the plot of Green seems to wander without direction, it seems to be three interconnected pieces rather than one coherent tale.

The first third of this novel describes how a man purchases Green from her destitute father, takes her across the sea to be trained in all the arts and skills of an upper class lady in the society of Copper Downs. The training is described in detail - we learn about cooking, sewing, singing, dancing, etc. The training goes on for about hundred pages. It wasn't boring, but such a huge percentage of the story was consumed with this training regime that it seemed that Green was being positioned for a multi-volume fantasy epic - is this much background necessary for a character in just a single-shot novel? But I find no mention of Green being any thing other than a stand alone book. This meant that when Green had her confrontation with the Duke of Copper Downs, everything happened so swiftly that it seemed too easy. All that preparation for such a meager pay off?

A couple points bother me about the whole concept of Green being raised to be a consort at Copper Downs. First, how does Federo the slaver identify that Green has the potential to grow up to be a smart, beautiful consort? Green is just a 5 year old girl covered in mud roaming a farmer's field - she has never met Federo or anyone else from outside her tiny community. Yet Federo crosses an ocean, enters this foreign land, and picks her as a potential great lady for the court of Copper Downs? There is no explanation for why she is chosen. Another point that I wondered about: why is any of this slaving necessary? Aren't there beautiful young girls in Copper Downs, wouldn't their families gladly turn over a daughter to be the Duke's consort, hoping to win power or wealth in exchange? Jay Lake describes an entire structure - it is not just Green who is being trained, but a whole college of young slave girls are undergoing this rigorous training - it struck me as odd that the leaders of Copper Downs would all want well-trained slave girls as wives/consorts, rather than marrying the daughters of the other noble men.

After Green's brief confrontation with the Duke, she sails back across the sea to her native land, and eventually winds up in the service of the Lily God of Kalimpura. And there Green begins ANOTHER long sequence of training, but now she learns knives, and fighting and how to attack and escape. When the detailed training ends, there is another brief burst of excitement, and then Green sent off again for the final third of the novel.

In each third of the novel, Green interacts with an entirely different set of characters - only Federo the slaver and the creature called the Dancing Mistress appear in the first and third section, otherwise Green is the only main character to have any continuity in the novel. This is why the novel feels so choppy, as if each section was only mildly related to the other parts of the book.

The cover is nicely painted, but in the novel Green is described as having dark brown skin, yet she is depicted on the cover with almost albino coloring. Jay Lake makes a positive remark regarding the fine artwork in his acknowledgements, so why didn't he point out that her skin tone is wrong?

I thought this would be a better novel, that it would have more of an epic feel. In the final third of the novel Jay Lake finally gets to the most interesting material - about the interaction of gods and humans. Too bad he didn't focus on this subject from the start, and cover all of Green's training with a quick flashback or two.