Green by Jay Lake
Synopsis from GoodReads:
She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name—her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan…and the skills of an assassin…she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke’s collection of beauties.
She calls herself Green.
The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke’s city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed.
Acclaimed author Jay Lake has created a remarkable character in Green, and evokes a remarkable world in this novel. Green and her struggle to survive and find her own past will live in the reader’s mind for a long time after closing the book.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book, so hang on because this might be a bit of a bumpy ride.
First of, the Goodreads summary is quite different from the summary that is on the book jacket of the copy I got from the library. In fact, based on the summary on the book (the summary I read first), I reached the climax at the end of the first third of the book. Or should I say the anti-climax. For something that was built up, it just…happened.
Secondly, this book was in first person. I normally hate first person. In this case, however, I didn’t mind it. I didn’t like it, but that was mostly because I didn’t end up feeling much of anything for any of the characters, but it didn’t drive me batty the way so many other first person narratives have in the past. But, again, I didn’t get any depth to the characters. It felt like most of them reacted the way they did because the plot demanded it and not because of any sort of consistency.
And speaking of characters, too many names got thrown around, especially in part two, without any attempt to really characterize them or differentiate them from each other, or at least that’s what it felt like to me. I couldn’t remember who was who and not a lot of time got spent on people who should have gotten at least a little bit more development.
Now for the theme. This book tried to some extent to talk about slavery, human trafficking, and sort of colonialism, maybe? Except that despite the main character thinking about these things and claiming to be motivated by a desire to stop the first two, nothing really seemed to get done about this other than her moaning over how horrible slavery and human trafficking and the selling of children is.
On top of this, in the city of Kalimpura women have no status. Supposedly. Except it is women priests who punish those who kill and get away with it, and everyone makes way for them and respects them. And this isn’t the only paradoxical happening, but it’s the one that stuck out the most.
That’s not to say this book was all bad, because it wasn’t. I enjoyed the settings and the discussions of philosophy/religion. I liked a lot of the ideas that went into this – cycles, conspiracies within conspiracies, the differences between cultures, the way a person raised in a culture not their own is affected. But I couldn’t connect to the characters, events happened too quickly without much of any emotional pay off, the characters did not act in consistent and believable ways, and quite frankly it just didn’t connect with me.
2 out of 5 stars and I will not be picking up the sequels.
Anyone else out there read this book? Thoughts differ from mine? Or did you feel the same way?