Phyllis Ann Karr,
Frostflower & Thorn
(Wildside, 2012)

The best part of Phyllis Ann Karr's Frostflower & Thorn is the world. Karr really thought it out -- the social classes, the magical systems, the theologies and the economics. It's basically a spin on feudal, but with the towns more independent. The prejudice against the sorcerers is rampant, partly because their theology differs from most (most are polytheists; the sorcerers are monotheists), and because of their power. The sorcerers are feared, even though they are utterly non-violent.

The sex/gender egalitarianism is also a surprise. ALL the soldiers are women; men are not seen as suited to that lifestyle ... and soldiers have a social status higher than that of merchants, etc.

So, the world is fascinating, and well-worth visiting.

The characters are distinctly drawn, sometimes in an exaggerated way, especially with the swordswomen. The plot hinges on choices various well-described characters make. However, some of the violence, and the carefully described tortures, were shocking. OK, maybe that's a good thing ... but it's not necessarily what I want to read unless I'm pre-warned.

Also, some of the action got repetitive. Escape from the pursuers kept going around in circles, and it felt stuck. Eventually things resolved ... but only after a LOT of static circling. Karr tried to raise the stakes each time, and did -- but it still felt static to me.

It's worth reading for the world, if you are prepared for the ugliness. (The ugliness was not exactly gratuitous, but I'm not convinced so much of it was necesary, either.)

book review by
Amanda Fisher

21 June 2014

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