Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green - Jay Lake

I read Mainspring by Jay Lake, after reading some enthusiastic reviews, and while I liked his writing well enough, I wasn't terribly drawn by the story and had to force myself to finish. Green had me from page 1.

It is written as a retrospective account by the main character after all the action is finished. She tries to go back and explain the world as seen through her own eyes, beginning at age 3 when she is sold as a slave. It is so beautifully written, the book doesn't spend any extra time clubbing you over the head with explanations of how the world is, and why people do the things they do. The story unfolds very simply and lets you see the world through the eyes of a very intelligent, very well-educated girl, who is looking back over her whole life and trying to make some sort of sense of it all. She is "rescued" from her life of abject poverty by being sold to people who train her to be the consort of a king - but while this new life gives her access to much better food, clothing, and education than she would otherwise have had, all her freedom has been taken away from her, and along with that, any form of love or even affection. She sees this as horribly evil, while most of the other characters in the book seem to think they have made a dramatic improvement to her life. Mixed in with the varying viewpoints on the treatment of children, is a fascinating examination of religion.
This is not a simple book. There is no black or white. There are no right answers. The writing is beautiful, and the story is fascinating.

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