Spirit's Chosen (Princesses of Myth)

Spirit's Chosen - Esther M. Friesner I don’t know how to even begin to express my distaste for this novel. There’s too much wrong with it. So many little details and annoyances, so many logic holes, so many obvious gaps in research. The fact that she thought looking Japanese counted as a setting and not a whiff of culture need be included. The fact that “chieftain” is an actual thing and cannot be traded willy-nilly with “king.” The brain-bashing questions of how that wolf clan conquered anyone. (Seriously, you don’t just fuck people over and then say “okay, we’re leaving, see you next year! BTW, we’re like a month’s travel away and not leaving behind any governors, messengers, or outposts, so you’re totally on your own to make alliances/refortify your village/just up and leave/set traps/really whatever you want.”)All of that’s bad enough, but what made me really rage? What made me put this book down?The book’s cavalier, coy attitudes about rape.Oh, not that you’ll get the book to admit that’s what it was talking about. It never says the word. But we all know what’s going on.Look, if you want to have a book that doesn’t include rape, fine. Excellent. More power to you. If you want to have a book that includes war and slavery but still doesn’t include rape, okay. I can handle that. But don coyly nod in the direction of rape and highlight the fact that you’re leaving it out. The book starts off on the wrong foot by pointing out that the invading army’s leader had expressly forbidden his army to rape their conquests. It was awkward and unnecessary and just drew attention to the subject, but I could at least live with that. However, a few hundred pages later, Himiko gets captured by said leader and turned into a slave.And then things went to shit.Right off the bat it’s made clear that rape is on the table. One of her guards is practically salivating at the idea of getting his carnal pleasures and has to be talked out of it. A side character shows up already pregnant and her comments make it clear she’s carrying her rapist’s baby. All this serves to show that the beloved main character is in danger of having her virtue sullied, but events conspire to leave her “pure.” I cannot express how disgusted I am when a book uses rape as a threat to show a character is in danger, but then has her avoid said danger through…nothing. Bullshit NOTHING. She’s threatened with it, and then…*poof* doesn’t happen. It’s even worse when that fate is cavalierly visited upon side characters without so much as a guilt trip, as if to say “well, she just wasn’t worthy of authorial protection” or “well, it’s already happened to her, so she’s sullied and there’s no point talking about it.”I hate, hate, hate that this main characters are held above the muck just to preserve their virtue. It leaves behind the bad taste that she’s spared just because we can’t have a main character who’s “damaged,” but it’s okay to toss out that threat for a bit of cheap thrills.Rape should never be cheap thrills.But it gets worse.Not only is Himiko spared any serious threat or – heaven forbid! – any actual consequences, whenever the issue is brushed against, Himiko gets out of it by just saying no. She even goes on about her “right to say no” and how she’d defend said right with her “words” and “prayers.” Look, that’s a well and good story to be telling, BUT NOT IN A BOOK WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER IS A FUCKING SLAVE. She is CONSIDERED PROPERTY BY A CLAN THAT HAS NO PROBLEM MURDERING THE FUCK OUT OF HER. You can’t walk into that story and just blithely say “oh, well, all I have to do is say no and I’ll be spared the indignity of having to sleep with you. You’ll respect that, right?”FUCK NO. Why is that so terrible? BECAUSE IT DOESN’T DO JUSTICE TO THE REAL-LIFE HORRORS OF RAPE AND SLAVERY.IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THE BRASS GENITALS TO ACTUALLY SHOW THIS SITUATION PROPERLY, THEN YOU SURE AS HELL HAD BETTER NOT HALF-ASS IT WITH THIS KIND OF BULLSHIT RIGHT HERE.It completely waters down the message and presents a disgustingly sanitized view of rape and sexual matters. It’s bad enough that this book won’t even openly acknowledge the victims as being victims, no, it has to also send the message of “saying no is so easy! All you have to do is spit it out and then you won’t be raped. That preggo girl? Yeah, she must have asked for it.”