March 28th, 2011

more Elantra, Michele Sagara

_Cast in Silence_

In which Kaylin, Tiamaris, Severn journey into Barren to figure out why the fief is falling to Shadow. They time travel, meet up with a much younger Nightshade (before he had his fief) and visit the Tower in the neighboring fief known as Illien (when Tiamaris first visited it) and Barren (when Kaylen spent 6 months there after running away from Severn in Nightshade when she was 13.

_Cast in Chaos_

In which Kaylin and Severn flit back and forth between the Halls of Law, the Library and the Imperial Palace, the High Halls, Castle Nightshade, the Tower in Tiamaris and, most importantly, Elani Street and the Garden of Elementals. All because they need to deal with an incoming Fifth Element (really!).

People have some issues with this series, which I'm going to summarize, badly, and then explain what I think is actually going on with this series.

(1) How come the relationships don't progress? Aka, no sex? What do mean, no sex? This is _Luna_. If there isn't sex, there should at least be a clear relationship/family formation.

The relationships are not progressing because Kaylin Neya's experience of her sexuality to this point is probably 4-6 months of rape by the Fieflord of Barren as part of jumping her into his gang. Since that's REALLY not what readers are looking for, this is presented so elliptically as to be completely invisible.

(2) Okay, so she isn't capable of associating sex with happy, good feelings. So why isn't she working on learning _how_ to make that association?

Well, she kind of is. Nightshade actually kisses her, and that's okay because apparently Barren raping her did not involve kissing. But there's not a lot to work with, because as soon as they've got body-length content -- even through clothing -- she goes rigid. And she's asked Severn why he takes care of her. The no-sex thing is because of the rape. There is also, however, a major attachment disorder. Sagara has chosen to depict this in part by making Kaylin unable to keep track of _anything_, which is really more an ADHD thing, but I'm willing to accept the connection because I know people Just Like Her (ADHD + attachment disorder). The attachment disorder is complex: mom died when she was quite young, which she might have recovered from because of the close connection between with Severn. However, she also attached to Steffi and Jade and Severn killed them, which pretty much blew up her entire world, particularly since the motive for killing Steffi and Jade was to protect Kaylin.

Sagara has sort of constructed an insoluble life for Elianne/Kaylin: she cannot simultaneously believe in Good Things and Good People and also Love Herself/the people in her life.

(3) Bad God(dess), so why I am I reading this series?

Because Sagara is using the intractable tragedy that is Kaylin's life as a base for sending Kaylin repeatedly out in search of friends/family/love/anything to make sense of the chaos that is her and her life. Specifically, because Kaylin is a complete wreck with nothing to build on and no rules to live by (with any validity, anyway) -- since all the work rules and legal rules are clearly malleable in the face of her own inherent magic -- she can Talk To Anybody. Since this is a world in which lots of people are NOT talking to each other, she forms a bridge across racial groups. And it turns out that's a fairly interesting story.

(4) Right, but by book 6, isn't it a little ridiculous that this one teenager/young 20 something year old is so frequently at the center of Saving the World? To the point that when she connects to the Tha'alaan, a little kid says, hey, does this mean the world is going to end again?

Yes. It is ridiculous. It was ridiculous when it was ST:TNG and it was Wesley Crusher. It was ridiculous when it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Etc. If that bothers you, you should not be reading this.

On the other hand, _she was introduced_ as a goddess (almost) incarnate with those runes all over her. At least the theme is consistent, and no one is pretending she is "just" a teenager/Hawk/whatever.

The structure of each book in this series is relatively consistent: Meet This Race, Learn Another Chapter of Kaylin's Horrifying Past, Kaylin Is Rescued (possibly iterate) by some Hot Guy Who Realizes Her Basic Unavailability, Kaylin Struggles to Save the World By Better Understanding Herself (and Others). After the world has been Saved, logistical problems are addressed and Kaylin is Threatened with More Classwork. The next book will start when things have been calm for a few weeks and Kaylin is cranky and does not know why (possibly her skin itches). Over the course of the series, the people around her have gotten really good at recognizing These Signs, altho Kaylin is still somewhat oblivious to them.

I will continue to read this series; I'm curious, at this point, how Sagara is going to handle the sexuality, since Kaylin's problems in this area are finally being (very obliquely) acknowledged.

ETA: What was I thinking? Oh, yeah. This most recent book was a not even thinly veiled argument in favor of letting refugees immigrate.