Chantress

Chantress - Amy Butler Greenfield See this review and more at Whitley ReadsMy Reaction: While many of the concepts and settings were interesting, I found the overall execution in this book to be bland and lacking. The characters were dull, the plot straight-forward, and the set up entirely too convenient. While not a technically bad offering, it still lacks the daring and creativity to do anything truly impressive. It also hit a few of the common problems in stories about female-only magic, which I’ll cover below in “Rants and Raves.”Highlights:• The system of singing for magic and the descriptions of Wild Magic vs Proven Magic were very nice. It was an interesting concept and fun to play around with. I also enjoyed the idea of the limits on the magic, even though Lucy is *ahem* conveniently freed from such limits. But it’s a fun idea to think about.• The Shadowgrims made for an interesting opposition, and the descriptions of their effects were well done. However, like most of the book, they weren’t used to their full potential.• The characters were all…average. There’s nothing bad to say about them, except to damn them with faint praise. None of them really stood out for me as being particularly…anything. Even the bad guy was just there.• The romance was downplayed and not a driving part of the book, but still had a presence, which I liked.• The plot involved a lot of telling. People told Lucy about her magic, people told Lucy about the situation, people told Lucy about Scargrave’s evilitude. It was a narrative sort of telling rather than a writing sort of telling, but no less irritating.• The bad guy’s name is “Scargrave.” It’s one step up from naming him “Lord I Am The Villain.”• Much of the initial set-up was very…convenient. Lucy just happened to show up in time to eavesdrop on plot-relevant stuff, she just happened to hide out in the right person’s house, they just happened to be the leaders of the underground rebellion, they just happened to know everything that needs to be known. Lucy showed up, and the plot was already laid out for her, without her having to do anything except sit quietly and do as told.• In fact, that’s pretty much the whole book. Lucy shows up and does what she’s told. Everything’s already arranged and figured out, so all she has to do is listen to the story, practice her magic a bit, and then defeat the bad guy at the end. Though the story was very interesting, receiving it third-hand was less than impressive.Rants and RavesThis book has two major things that have always bothered me in books: female-only magic that has no cultural effect, and women-in-power being shown as inherently evil.In this book, Chantresses are all women, and they can do great feats of magic. Well, they used to could. Now they can do small-to-medium feats of magic. But still, they can do MAGIC. Real magic. And what effect does this have on women’s rights?Jack all nothing.At least, one assumes so. We don’t really get to see much of the setting in this book, as Lucy spends a large chunk of it hiding in a basement. (Riveting stuff, that.) But the bits we do see, such as Helaine’s assertion that Chantresses would keep their talents hidden from husbands even before they were outlawed, suggest that not much has changed. Basically what this book is saying is that culture looked at women, said “get in the kitchen, don’t vote, don’t participate in government, don’t own property, and be subjected to the orders of your husbands” and these Chantresses went “okay.” Why? Why would anyone say that to a woman who can literally split your head in two by singing? Why would a woman with that power go along with it?There’s a lot of things that went into making our patriarchal society patriarchal, but I’m pretty sure that if women have been doing magic since the beginning of history, and if men haven’t, that would have some sort of effect. Leaving it that way gives all sorts of nasty implications, like “even with magic at hand, women are still the weaker sex” and “this is totally just the natural order of things, not something that came about for actual reasons that can be changed.”And of course, there’s Lady Helaine. Lucy’s godmother who teaches her magic. She’s supposed to be teaching Lucy the spell to destroy this ubersuper magic book that is the root of the villain’s evil reign. But, in a ~*~*~shocking twist~*~*~ the spell will actually make Lucy control the book!And this is…bad.Mind you, this spell is the only one they have. It’s not like Helaine could have destroyed the book and just decided to teach Lucy to do otherwise. No, it’s the only choice they have. It’s this or let Lord MustacheTwirl keep imprisoning and killing people. (Which he’s doing by the thousands every single day.)But Lucy is just aghast at the idea of having the power of the book in her hands. She can’t even fathom it. And Helaine is given the borderline-evil treatment for her ambition of actually having some measure of power. Oh, the horror of a woman wanting to have power after watching all of her friends and family brutally murdered. How dare she want to restore her craft and gender to prominence after watching them be hunted to near extinction? The only thing that saves her from complete evilness is the fact that she dies at the end.I’m really sick of seeing every woman in YA with ambition being treated as evil. I’m sick of watching as female heroes will only depose a villain, but male heroes get to depose the villain and then become king. Girls having too much power is treated like a horror. Oh, it’s not blatantly said, but the trend is there. And this book comes as close as any others to just saying it. Lucy is literally horrified at the idea of taking control of the powerful book, even though doing so would literally save the lives of thousands of people. The mere idea of a girl having power – she doesn’t even have to use it and could, in fact, save the day by taking it and not using it – is worse than letting Londoners die in droves. People can we please get over this idea that it’s somehow horrifying to be a female and have lots of power? Can we give up on the idea that absolute power corrupts vaginas absolutely? Boys have at least a 50/50 chance of being good kings, but it seems like girls can only be good if they fight the good fight and then get out of the way.