Book 13: To Serve and Submit

TITLE: To Serve and Submit
AUTHOR: Susan Wright
STARTED: March 21, 2007
FINISHED: March 28, 2007
PAGES: 299
GENRE: Fantasy

FIRST SENTENCE: Do not suppose that I should be discounted because I as born a wild child of the fens.

SUMMARY: [From] Marja was born a child of the fens, young, beautiful, and free. Her days were spent working with her poor family and communing with the ethereal olfs-the playful spirits of the land-until Lexander, a procurer for the pleasure house of Vidaris, comes to her small village and purchases her from her father.

At Vidaris, Marja is schooled as a slave in the arts of seduction and carnal delight-and discovers her nature as a true submissive. But when Lexander grants Marja her freedom, she finds herself swept away in a torrent of betrayal and intrigue that threatens her beloved land. And Marja will have to use all her strength, skills, and cunning to survive in the war that is about to engulf them all.

REASON FOR READING: Seemed right up my alley.

THOUGHTS: This book has me evenly divided on enjoyment, yet leaning heavily one way. And, if you can understand that sentence, you can interpret anything I say - congratulations, you've now aced the course in Meghan Linguistics.

Anyway. When I started reading this book I thought, "Hmm, total Kushiel series knock off." The author's case was not helped by the fact that this book was published after the first Kushiel book. Wright's whole plot of girl sold to pleasure slave trader, submissive tendencies, country going to hell in a handbasket seemed right out of Carey's novels. Total knockoff, and a poorly structured one like that.

For the first half of the book, I found myself criticizing the poor character development and lazy writing. I'm fine with books taking ideas from others, but they have to have their own spin to stand on their own. This one did not seem to have any of that. Then somewhere around page 185 something clicked. I was enjoying the book, and it was beginning to take on a life of its own.

Wright's writing (no author's last name should be Wright, makes for awkward phrases) may not be stellar, but her imagination did shine through in the world she was building. The strength of this book is the way she has her main character, Marja, commune with the spirits of the world, namely the olfs. Wright infuses such character and detail into this aspect of the book that it actually begins to permeate the tale when Marja dwells deeper into her need to talk to the otherworld. Since Marja is the focal point her character touches everyone else, whether they believe in the otherworld or not.

Aside from the familiar plot structure, one character made me want to throw her against the wall. Silveta is the freya of Markland, and when her husband is killed by the big hulking oaf Birgir Barfoot, Silveta must flee her adopted homeland and raise a warband to reclaim her rightful position. When phrased that way, it sounds like Silveta is an intelligent, cunning, resourceful, and strong woman. Instead she is just another TSTL character who reaps the benefits of Marja and Lexander's hardwork. Those two should have dumped Silveta off the boat in the first scene. The woman does nothing but whine and sulk. And after she is restored to her rightful place, her thanks to Marja seems lukewarm at best. I just wanted to smack her.

While this is definitely a juvenile attempt to recreate Carey's series, I'll give the sequel a try.

MISCELLANEOUS: Why, oh why, do I have to get sucked into another series?

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back onto it goes
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]