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Brown Girl In The Ring (1998)

by Nalo Hopkinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1725216,649 (3.71)79
A fantasy novel of urban decay whose heroine turns to Afro-Caribbean magic to help a boyfriend escape gangs. The gangs are enforcing a contract to produce a human heart for transplant, even if the boyfriend has to kill for it. The setting is a futuristic Toronto.
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» See also 79 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Octavia Butler Recommends.
  VillageProject | Jan 18, 2024 |
3.5. Brown Girl in the Ring is a classic work of urban fantasy, or perhaps mythic horror, and I'm glad I read it. Hopkinson writes with grace and control, and her evocation of a near-future dystopian Toronto where Afro-Caribbean magic has turned a family dispute into a battle of epic proportions is fascinating and richly textured.

This novel is the best (perhaps only good?) SF portrayal of traditional Caribbean religion that I've read. While the antagonist's black magic is gruesome, the spirits themselves are the most memorable characters of the book, benevolent and full of personality. It's a welcome change from urban fantasies that feature spooooky Voodoo practitioners. The near-future setting is also memorable, and I'm a bit disappointed that there isn't a followup series where Ti-Jeanne and her neighbors solve magical crimes in inner-city Toronto.

I did think the characterization could have been stronger, or the storytelling better suited to such archetypal characters. I liked a lot about Ti-Jeanne's character, but the prose style created a distancing effect and I didn't feel fully invested in her fate. I suspect Hopkinson was trying to find a compromise between contemporary prose and her book's folktale antecedents, and for me she didn't hit quite the right note. ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
In a post-riot Toronto that the rich and privileged have fled, barricaded, and left to crumble, the inner city has had to rediscover old ways: farming, barter and herb lore. Now the monied need a harvest of bodies, so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and a tragic mystery surrounding her family and bargain with the gods to save herself. My husband read this for his Caribbean Folklore class he took this term, and he’s been insisting that I read it ever since, even though I really didn’t think I’d like it that much. I was right: The dialect in this book was really difficult for me, but the traditional folk-tale structure of the story revived a lot of it. There were notes of African folklore, Anansi stories, and even a little bit of Neil Gaiman’s storytelling structure present. Not really for me, for the most part, but I can see why it was so well-loved. ( )
  lyrrael | Aug 3, 2023 |
Pretty certain that [book:Shadowshaper|22295304] can trace some of its roots to this book. This is the not-so-YA version, darker in substance, but ultimately much more hopeful than I expected.

You can get the shape of the story from the first ten pages: Toronto's city center has been abandoned by anyone privileged enough to leave, but now they've found a use for the citizens who remain: organ "donations" are in demand. And then there's Ti-Jeanne, a new single mother who's trying to figure out a lot about family and love, and is tormented by unwanted visions of others' deaths. That would be an interesting enough tale, but there's a lot more to the story that follows than what those details sketch out.

Clearly I need to read [book:Ti-Jean and His Brothers|6471136] now too. And I want to know how the folk songs in the epigraphs go---I couldn't begin to figure out the rhythms, but there was one I did know and I realized the raw lyrics didn't suggest how it went, either. ( )
  caedocyon | May 8, 2023 |
This is an interesting setting: it's Toronto, in a dystopian future where it's been abandoned by the government, but nearly all the characters who matter practice Jamaican Obeah religion. I wasn't sure what to think about the story at first; there's a whole lot of people being awful to each other. But it's got a good satisfying ending that surprised me, and more people lived than I expected.

(Minor note: there is a fleeting transphobic comment from the POV character early on; otherwise, everyone in the book is cis/het. It's the 1990s.) ( )
  lavaturtle | Apr 21, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
The plot took on an intensity that literally propelled me through the pages. I struggled over the first fifty or so, but read the next two hundred in one sitting. When I closed the book, the patois of its voices went on speaking in my head for days...I can only add my own voice to the chorus already proclaiming it to be one of the best debut novels to appear in years.

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hopkinson, Naloprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Messier, LindaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puckey, DonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to my father, Slade Hopkinson. Daddy, thanks for passing on the tools of the trade to me.
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As soon as he entered the room, Baines blurted out, "We want you to find us a viable human heart, fast."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A fantasy novel of urban decay whose heroine turns to Afro-Caribbean magic to help a boyfriend escape gangs. The gangs are enforcing a contract to produce a human heart for transplant, even if the boyfriend has to kill for it. The setting is a futuristic Toronto.

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