Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Sleeping God (a review of the book written by Violette Malan)

If you're like me, you are going to adore The Sleeping God, a fantasy book written by Violette Malan and published in 2007.

I am an avid reader of fantasy genres which involve well-armed women.   I am always looking for stories with depth, philosophy, and novelty.  It takes more than witty one-liners from a sharp shooter to get me past the first chapter, and much more than a sweet talking elven love interest.

The Sleeping God did it, though the first chapter was touch and go.  I thought Violette Malan was going to use an easy plot - the main characters defend "magic" innocents against the big bad religious "corporation".   But the language was good; there was obviously more going on than just a self-righteous priest burning the house of a clairvoyant; and best of all, there were the main characters:  Dhulyn - a straight talking, fast punching woman who liked books and had PMS; and Parno - a more pampered but just as deadly, blonde-haired sweet talker. They were Partnered mercenaries.

If you're like me, mercenaries are one of your favorite character groups.  And you know that the vocation of mercenary is not a light-hearted, easy calling; nor is it necessarily an emotional one.  It is about death.  Not for country, or personal agenda, or even family, but fighting (and most likely killing) for money.  The Brotherhood of Mercenaries created by Violette Malan lives up to that pragmatism.  They are trained and bonded and, if they survive the schooling, go forth (like our heroes) to earn money doing amazing things until they find death, preferably at the hands of another mercenary.

I'm hooked.

Of course, if you're like me, a book cannot live on a the awesomeness of its main characters alone.  It needs a backdrop of history, culture, classes and philosophies - familiar enough to recognize, exotic enough to intrigue.  Again, Violette Malan came through.  The world of The Sleeping God is rich with culture; and the author uses conversations and observations to reveal that backdrop, as well as to paint the intricate design of motive and mystery which drive the characters and carry the reader to the intriguing climax.

What Violette Malan did not do was make the rookie mistakes.  She did not dump her characters' back story into a long agonizing chapter.  She did not baldly state the major hurdle of the story, nor the solution.  The villain was not immediately evident; and the characters were not oblivious to certain cues just to make the plot move forward.

Still, the part that made me love this book, the thing that gives this book 5 out of 5 stars, is the portrayal of the antagonist, and how situation is resolved.

So, I must include a slight spoiler - I can't help it. 

*****  If you're like me, the villain is the best part of this book.  He (to use proper English) is complex, unearthly, inhuman.  And the motives behind his actions slowly unfold as evil only from a certain point of view.  To me, this was  intoxicating.  Because, if you're like me, you know black and white are just colors, not guides to good and bad, and it is so rare to find a fantasy writer able to show this dilemma from all sides.  

Even more wonderfully amazing, the finale with the inhuman, unearthly bad guy was appropriate, even compassionate, and definitely befitting of the depth and character of the world created and the characters who enact it.  ************* 

end slight spoiler.

So.  We have mercenaries, good writing, great development, an interesting world, and an unexpected and totally righteous ending (if you're like me.)   As an added bonus, there were delicate homages to other worlds and authors I have read, which made me feel a kinship with Ms. Malan.

Yes, there are some flaws in the book.  Some of the cues and clues seemed too sparse, others a little too thick.  There is wordiness; and sometimes I was confused about who was talking, or what they were talking about.  Some avenues were laid out, but never fully explored.  And there are some formatting issues with the e-reader which made reading, um, interesting.  But if you're like me, you'll think The Sleeping God is  worth every awkward moment and you'll rush to buy to the next book in the series.

Sadly, if you're like me, you'll find the rest of the series does not live up to the glorious beginning.  Each book (there are 3 more) becomes progressively more "usual" in plot and action.  I read them all because the world is still fascinating, the inhabitants are ever more complex and interesting, and the writing is still good.  But for me, the first book of the Dhulyn and Parno series is the best book so far.

So if you are like me, read The Sleeping God.  Keep it in your "again please" pile or list.  And then join me in trying  The Mirror Prince, same author, same year, different world.  I have high hopes.

Thank you.  I hope you have a great day!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Witches & Bitches

I once heard someone use the word "witch" as an adjective for a woman who behaved in an unpleasant manner.  It was obvious the speaker meant "bitch", but didn't want to use that word in polite company.  Being a witch myself, I rather objected to the substitution.

Then I started thinking about it.  A witch is a woman who consciously claims power and works her will upon her world.  Likewise, the word bitch can evoke a feeling of empowerment, even a sense of pride.   In that light, is it really so far off to equate a witch with a bitch?

Online Etymology Dictionary places the origin of the word "bitch" in Olde English, and possibly even further back to Olde Norse or Lapp, and used to mean a female of the canine species.  The Dictionary says "As a term of contempt applied to women, it dates from c.1400; of a man, c. 1500, playfully in the sense of "dog"."   In the late 1900's, bitch became a term of subjugation, perhaps taking the place of the politically incorrect word "slave".  "I'll make you my bitch" was (and perhaps still is) a phrase of challenge and contempt, conveying the speaker's dominance.

In 2013, the word "bitch" covers a whole gamut of meanings including the dog and the slave.    You can call your friends bitches, and you can call your enemies bitches.  You can whip a bitch (meaning make a u-turn.)  According to the Online Slang Dictionary, to "sit bitch" is to be in the middle in the back seat.  To bitch is to complain; and of course, something that you don't want to do can be a real bitch.  And just yesterday I saw one of those Posters on Facebook with the words "if the shoe fits, lace that bitch up."

The word "witch" does not have as interesting a variation of meaning.  It has almost always referred to a person who works magic.   Interestingly, Word Nerd  states that the base word, wicca, actually referred to any male who worked with magic (c.890).   Wicce is the feminine form of the word.  Eventually, "witch" was relegated strictly to women; "in later use especially "a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts."" (Online Etymology Dictionary).  The modern definition of witch, as read on "A person, now especially a woman, who professes or is supposed to practice magic, especially black magic or the black art."

Of course, there is that second definition in "an ugly or mean old woman; hag".   Is this because the old woman refuses to bow to the social niceties anymore?  Refuses to pander?  Is she ugly because she is older, or because she says things no one wants to hear?  Likewise, how many women have been called bitch for actually accomplishing something?  For standing up and not being subjugated to another's desires?  For pushing ahead instead of giving up or giving in?

You'll notice I am not making a distinction between intention; whether witches and bitches act for reasons of goodness and light, or with desire to harm is not the actual point.  In fact, foul or fair is often a case of perception.  If one bitch gets a job instead of another bitch, someone's child still gets fed.  If a witch wins the lottery, others do not.  History is written by the winners; and, as we all know these days, mud-slinging is a favorite past-time.

Did witch become the "polite" way to say bitch because of the rhyme?  Or because of the perceived insult? And does it matter?  Today, for me, it feels true that witch and bitch are synonymous - women, or to be etymologically correct, persons who choose to stand up, stand tall, and move their own mountains, regardless (or perhaps in spite) of outside opinion.

My name is Lila and I am a witch.  And a bitch.  A witchy bitch?  A bitchy witch.  Whatever.   It's all good.

Thank you.  And I hope you have a great day.



  • Harper, Douglas.  Online Etymology Dictionary  ©2001-2013. Web. January 2014.
  • Kipfer, Barbara Ann, PhD. The Word Nerd. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc.  ©2007. 
  • Online Slang Dictionary  ©1996 - 2014. Web. January 2014.
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