Oracle’s Queen (book, 2006, Lynn Flewelling)

From SFX 146.

The Tamir Triad, part three.


Lynn Flewelling/Voyager/400pages

Fantasy cross-dressing taken to magical extremes

High fantasy stopped being fantastical such a long time ago that it feels like the name just hangs round out of habit, looking faintly sheepish and feeling out of place, like a once-favourite uncle at a teenage niece’s party. Apart from a few, mostly male, authors who books are so surreal they fall off the other end of the scale, there’s a whiff of predictable mundanity about the genre. It’s like theatre – you go to Broadway, you get musicals, you go to the Globe, you get Shakespeare. Never mind that a theatre is a space that could be used for so many other things, people only go to see what they want. And if people go to fantasyland, they want three fat books of soapy prose.

The only other certain thing is that it won’t be Shakespeare.

Judging this last part of the Tamir triad on these low criteria, it’s not bad. It’s yet another book featuring a princess of prophecy having to deal with great events of history, while at the same time coping with awkward, sexual feelings. Like Mills and Boone with swords, some of this stuff is, but at least Flewelling’s spin – that Tamir spent most of her life magicked up to look like a boy, is interesting, and she has a sure hand when trotting through the usual gamut of expository dialogue, courtly scheming, and civil war. It’s a soap, you’ll devour it, but your mind will go hungry, and you’ll feel guilty when it asks why you weren’t watching the fantasy equivalent of BBC 4.

Did you know?

Top fave trope with lady authors right now is the dispossessed ethnic group (here a Lap/ Aboriginal hybrid). Ursula Le Guin pioneered this in her sociologically innovative Hainish books, but now it pops up all over as a sort of Tolkienised eco-guilt.



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