I’m happy to report that I *finally* finished a Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. This endeavor took me well over a year! What I’m not happy to report is that the book didn’t live up to the hype.
As usual, I’ve been more laissez faire with my DNFs this year. Here’s what I’ve been up to in June with my reading:
- Deathless – Catherynne M. Valente – 4 stars | Review
- The Ship Beyond Time – Heidi Heilig – DNF/1 star/probably gonna finish it out of spite and plus I own it. | Review
- Sky in the Deep – Adrienne Young – DNF
- A Darker Shade of Magic – VE Schwab – 2.5 stars | Review
- The Vanishing Throne – Elizabeth May – DNF/Will get back to it
- Silver Phoenix – Cindy Pon – DNF | Review
My current June reads:
- The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
To be honest, I side-eyed this book because I heard the advertizing posed it as a “Mulan retelling” which is a dishonest assessment of this book and misconstrues what the story of Mulan means and merely uses a kickass Asian story about family honor and filial piety to ellicit a Pavlovian response from consumers in order to sell a story with a white MC that has little to no connection with the actual ballad of Mulan and one that is definitely culturally divorced from it. The book has more in common with the Disney animated version of Mulan, as the beginning of the book borrows from the matchmaking aspect of the movie. I’m sure whoever came up with the idea to advertize this as anything related to Mulan never watched past the Bring Honor To Us All sequence. I think the other tagline “Jane Austen meets espionage” is a more accurate description of this book. As to whether it’s white-washing, well if we establish that this book is in fact NOT a Mulan retelling or Mulan ANYTHING… it is not. BUT I certainly fully feel the same rage as reviewers like Aila do. It’s stupid that y’all think you can just slap the name Mulan onto this loose whitelandia remix and make big bucks from it, and do not care about the culture or people theyre borrowing this idea/story from. It is gross that people think that they can pull this, but unfortunately publishing cares about the dough and if eliciting a response from consumers by merely UTTERING THE NAME Mulan works, they will do it. It was never about our culture; it is always about the profit. Whoever did this probably did not have the conscious intention to basically say this, but actions like this just propogate the idea that POC stuff is cool and valuable (only if white ppl do it tho), but f*ck the people who actually came up with it. It’s small and might not matter to a lot of people in this specific example, but it’s a byproduct of orientalism that is ingrained into Western society.
THAT whole spiel aside, the descriptors of people of color in this book are just awkward and/or weirdly worded. There’s an overuse of “dark” and “darker” to describe non-Demoran peoples e.g. the Astrielans (who are technically Demoran, but differ in appearance) and Kimisarans, and the writing itself uses the pale/coded-white Demorans as a reference for normal to be compared to. So far, I’m sure there is an in-universe shadism and/or colonialist dynamic going on. But, the writing lacks finesse in this department wrt describing “darker” skin tones and I wonder if Beaty should have considered using a sensitivity reader for this if she already hasn’t. I would understand it more if the Demorans called the Kimisarans “dark and foreign” and commented on their accents IF we indeed got the Kimisarans’ or Astrielans’ POV of these lilywhite Demorans. So far in the book, it appears one-sided, as we are mostly seeing from the eyes of Demorans. Yes, Quinn and ?? Rob?? are described as being “darker” than Sage because of their Astriel heritage, but so far they only have generic military procedure going on for them.
2. Jade City by Fonda Lee
This was initially a slow start for me, but once I got past a few chapters, I knew I was ready to inhale-read this book! I don’t know why it took me so long to hop on the Jade City wagon, but I’m so glad I picked this up. I had no idea it would center so much around family and honor – I didn’t read cover tagline, ok? That’s my shit right there. I love that stuff. I say this only after reading 30 pages of this story. I’m trying to figure out what era this is supposedly set in. I have a feeling this is what I wished Legend of Korra were like. And if you’ve chatted with me about Avatar for any amount of time, you would know exactly where I stand with the state of ATLA and LOK and Bryke and all that business.
*cracks knuckles* that’s a wrap for now.