While other people rubberneck and drive five miles an hour through autumn-tinted trees, we here in the Wonderland Treehouse are finding our autumn color without the benefit of cars. Behold, it's finally here! A MORE DIVERSE UNIVERSE is organized and facilitated by twentysomething Chicago blogger Aarti. The purpose of A MORE DIVERSE UNIVERSE is to celebrate speculative fiction in color - all colors. Again, hat tip to Charlotte for giving me a heads-up about this tour; I think it's an awesome idea.
I don't necessarily read SFF/spec fic trying to find authors of color -- if I did, it would be awhile between books - but I do enjoy reading speculative fiction with characters who the author takes the time to delineate as real -- people with real cultural backgrounds, real ethnic traditions, foods, folkways, and the whatever other sociological words you can find. It doesn't take a writer of color to do that -- it takes a real writer. A good writer. A writer who embraces the idea that the world of tomorrow will not be all white, male, and hetero.
Reader Gut Reaction: So, here's the thing: I have become a believer in self-publishing. After the critical success of Zetta Elliott, Neesha Meminger, and Cybils award-winner Susan Ee, I began to actually poke around Smashwords and other sites, seeking out self-and-independent published works. After reading THORN, I know who I'm hoping to interview for the next Blog Blast Tour. (People: I call dibs.)
One of the many reasons I chose this book is because of the author's name which is unusual and falls melodically from the tongue. She even gives a pronunciation guide, which we'll get to later. For now... to the story!
Concerning Character: Alyrra isn't in a position of power -- ever. Alyrra is honest to a fault, unsophisticated, and real -- but that's not what's best in a princess. Her mother, the Queen, is scary and cold -- ever focused on the end goal of alliances and power, and not at all above using her daughter to further those ends. The Prince isn't just a typical brother who teases or torments -- no. He's the type who started out "bullying" by pulling the wings off of butterflies. The scenes he's in will raise the hair on your arms.
This is family: those who care for you and want your very best... not. Alyrra would have been in a lot worse shape, if it weren't for a friendly spirit -- or something -- in her corner. Counting on the unseen to help you out of a jam -- well, that makes as much sense as trying to whistle for the wind. Alyrra figures everything would be easier, if she just... didn't go to the huge new court, didn't marry the confusing, scary prince of Menaiya, and didn't try to do the things her mother wants her to do. After all, she didn't ask for the life she has... right? When she's forced into a new role - she runs with it.
But, running never solves anything.
Recommended for Fans Of...:THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson, THE BLUE SWORD, by Robin McKinley, and more stories of girl power, the likes of which are written by Kristin Cashore.
Themes & Things: Without giving away any spoilers,I think I summed up theme just a few lines ago: running never solves anything. Alyrra ran from her brother, her mother, and then her future. In many ways, she was right to run from her brother -- very right, because sometimes distance is the only sane alternative. But she eventually learns to strike before she runs - and that makes a difference.
Cover Chat: I love the top of this cover. The very top, with the bit of fabulous lace, and the strange eyes peering out of the blue. Love that. I don't also mind the trees and the grasses, but what doesn't work for me is the girl. Not only are there always girls on YA novels, which is not my favorite thing -- this one has blue eyes, fair skin, and brown hair. She could be ... Irish. English. Scottish. Canadian. She could be anyone, really, but a character in this story. She doesn't really look like a princess, even an impoverished one. It's not that she's not pretty enough - she's fine. It's just that there's nothing to say "Princess of of Adania," to me. I'm torn - I love the spooky eyes, but the girl looks a bit too pedestrian for me. I want my royalty to be a bit more ... something.
Authorial Asides: This is shamelessly stolen from the author's bio, but it made me laugh out loud, so I had to share it:
"Over the years, I’ve considered different occupations based on how my name, Intisar, has been mispronounced. There’s “Intistar” (Galactic Space Commander?), “Interstar” (Lowly Space Shuttle Captain?), and “Inastar” (Nuclear Fusion, here I come!), just to list a few. So how is my name really pronounced?
Pretty much how it’s written: In-ti-sar Kha-na-ni."
Born in Eau Clare, Wisconsin, this American author embraces her Pakistani heritage and has uses the subtle seasoning of food, tradition, and costume to reflavor an absolutely stunning fairytale of a story. And it is a fairytale - aficionados will realize this is the slightest bit of a spin-off on The Goose Girl.
Also? Because the author is made of awesome, a portion of proceeds from this book go to Heifer International. This is an author to watch, truly, and I'm really looking forward to her next novel. She worked hard on this one - those thirteen drafts really show. Publishers, take note!
A MORE DIVERSE UNIVERSE is a tour that runs all week. See the entire schedule here, and don't forget to check out all of the books that bloggers are suggesting!
FTC:I don't know the author, and purchased my own copy of the book. The review was unsolicited.
You can find THORN by Intisar Khanani at online retailers, or at an independent bookstore near you!