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Green

by Jay Lake

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Green {Lake} (1)

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3782753,136 (3.34)29
In a world of political power and magic, and of Gods and mortals, a courtesan and trained assassin who calls herself "Green" finds intrigue and adventure, and many enemies, in the Undying Duke's city of Copper Downs.
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» See also 29 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I was just talking about this book with Kate--who, like me, saw the cover, read the copy, and wanted to read it--and realized that I hadn't yet posted my thoughts!

This was definitely a superficial grab at free book day. I mean, just look at that cover--what person with my reading interests would be able to resist the gorgeous touch of the character's face and long, dangling hair on the spine?

The story that I was expecting to read based on the cover copy didn't disappoint--though it ended less than half the way through. Usually I might call that a criticism, but in this case it was a pleasant surprise. I think I've said it before, but I have a weakness for good world building...and this book offered at least four full-fledged cultures, plus snippets of wonderfully diverse people, to keep me rapt.

Which was a good thing, because for some reason I didn't really connect to the story emotionally. I was fascinated, interested, but I didn't particularly care about the characters, which removed my concern for their well-being and my ability to be surprised by the book's "twist."

Maybe it was a bit like reading mythology in that way; I've never been particularly moved when reading myths, just interested, but that hasn't necessarily decreased my enjoyment--I still get a lot out of it, just like I got a lot out of this book. Despite the fact that the characters always felt a step or two further removed than I'm used to, I never once considered giving up in the middle.

This book earned a lot of brownie points in my feminist heart...even if it also ruffled a few feathers. Among the pros:

Attention is paid to the diversity (and lack thereof) of people populating the world, and not just the one non-human race that's mentioned--the people themselves are multicultural, a rare find in fantasy these days. Green has remarkable strength of character, a good balance of believable characteristics...including a tendency to think about the ways she'd like to kill someone when each death makes here feel great remorse. For some reason, that contradiction really rung true to me--there's a lot of casual violence in our culture and media, but when it actually happens, it can be far more devastating than we would expect of our supposedly desensitized emotions. And while Green mocks the uselessness of her education as a courtesan, she doesn't abandon it--instead, she uses her knowledge of womanly arts in practical ways that her instructors didn't originally intend.

The things that I would consider cons are spoilers, but they didn't make me like this book less, so if you've gotten this far and are intrigued but don't want spoilers, go ahead and give it a try.

The biggest issue I had was that there was a lot of sex...and (despite the cover illustration) Green ends the book when she's only 15 or 16 years old! And she first has sex when she's 12! I don't know why, but it seems like waiting even one more year for Green's first intimacy might have made it a bit more bearable. Thankfully it was all consensual in the full definition of the term--not what you'd expect, given her upbringing--but it still seems awfully young to have an active, adventurous sex life of the kind I wouldn't expect most fully-grown adults to have. Given Green's significantly-less-than-legal age, I couldn't help being a bit extra skeeved-out by the fact that the book has a male author.

On the plus side of all of this, consent is highly valued in the text, sexualities are fluid without question or even much comment (a refreshing change of pace!), and unusual/not-vanilla sex is treated with understanding rather than villainized. In light of this enlightenment, it surprised me that a woman supposedly exceptionally well-informed about sex would laugh at the idea that someone could get pregnant after having sex for the first time. Um, hello....

One major, last-minute downside: mystical pregnancy trope
. Ew.



Quote Roundup

(15) Can you imagine what it means to lose your name? Not to set it aside for a profession or temple mystery, but simply to lose it.

(28)
- "Who made [letters] up?"
- "I do not know a name, girl. I do not know. Much like fire, the gods gave letters to men." His smile was crooked. "Some might say they were the same gift."
- We had no gods back home, not really. ... If I had a god, that was Endurance [the cow]. But he was as real as me, while gods were more of an idea. Like letters, really.
- "What if the gods are in the letters?" ...
- "Your mind is a jewel, child. Hoard it well. Others will be jealous of the way your thoughts sparkle. Mark me--" he waggled his finger "--play the dullard a bit and you will live a happier life."

(60) The lesson was clear: Anything could harm, if used in a certain way. Food. Words. A Length of silk sewn into a tube and stuffed with sand. Even a person.

(69) "Is it a manly game?" he asked, for while men are ruled by their loins, those loins have two small brains each no larger than an olive and thus do not think well.

(85)
- "Truth may be hard, but I do not call it rude. We each pace against the bars that cage us."
- "Your cage is the world," I said in frustration.
- "Everyone's cage is the world. Some worlds are smaller than others."

(94) I cried that night, so hard, the sound slipped from my mouth until I overheard Mistress Tirelle stirring. She made such noise that I found a way to stop. After a while, I realized her groaning had been purposeful. She had spared me another beating to leave me to my tears. Was that a form of love? The question made me cry all over again, this time in shuddering silence.

(153) I had taken no bells when I'd left the attic back in Copper Downs, probably because I hadn't thought to live beyond that morning. Though that moment was only days in my past, it already had the unreal remove of some other life's memories. Like something read once, and later misrecalled as if it has happened to me.

(169)
- "Indulge me in a question." His voice was low with my closeness. "I have already guessed you were raised alone, across the sea. You are like a tiger born in a cage. You know nothing of hunting, or other cats, though your claws and teeth are mighty enough. But tell me this: Are you a boy at all?"
- "Does the Death Right apply to women?"
- "Well..." Little Kareen smiled broadly. "You may live awhile after all, Green. Oh yes, it does not apply to women of our city."

(177-178)
- "A goddess is a tulpa grown large."
- Still bent to face me, she shook her head in dismissal. "Tulpas. Country superstition. Little spirits who are being worshipped by ignorant farmers and disingenuous monks.
- I had thought them more like larval gods. Or very ancient ones worn to nothing. Fragments, like in the oldest stories.
- Mother Vajpai continued. "No, Green. A goddess is the sum of all her believers, all the prayers and hopes and curses and despair ever uttered in her name. ... The hand of the Lily Goddess upon my heart is my own hand, multiplied a thousandfold. We server Her as She serves us. We are Her, and She is us."

(243)
- He looked impressed, then laughed. "You are being a great fool, whatever else you may be."
- "I am the one it takes a dozen archers to keep at bay," I said quietly. "And I cook very well."

(245) "Trade is not like a snake. You can cut the head, even gut the body, burn all the ships and warehouses. Someone will come along on the next day and begin it anew. You cannot kill trade. Not at the point of a blade, not with all the fire in your heart."

(245-246)
- "I am not a trade. I am a person."
- "People are traded everywhere. Apprenticeships, betrothals, the swearing of soldiers and the hiring of sailors."
- "They chose their fates."
- "Green." Her tone grew pitying. "How many brides select the many they marry? How many apprentices looked across the trades of their city and decided which they would pursue? Most people never choose anything. They are chosen for, or they follow what is left to them after their choices have been eaten away by time, by ill fortune, by their own actions and the deeds of others."

(261)
- "It will be good to get out of the rain."
- "It is just water." I tried to smile. "I've been told that washes away sin."
- "My people do not believe in sin. There is only circumstance, and choice. Green, you had neither circumstance nor choice when great harm befell this place."

(273) I watched the mirror as we moved to the center of the room. The reflection was delayed slightly, the way an echo might dally to follow after a noise.

(297)
- Groaning, I sat up. "I will cook."
- "That is not a only a woman's duty." He looked down at the small pan before him.
- "Dolt, I'm good at it. You manage the horrid beasts, I'll make dinner. We each have done our part that way, yes?"

(307)
- "A god indeed," I said.
- "Very good, for a priest."
- "It takes no talent to see a miracle like this." No faith, either. This was godhood for the unbelieving. ( )
  books-n-pickles | Oct 29, 2021 |
Had a lot of travelogue feels to it. I like the theology. And green is a good character here. ( )
  codykh | Jun 28, 2021 |
I felt icky after reading this. [will update review later.] ( )
  treehorse | Nov 7, 2019 |
Giving up on page 365 of 490 of my digital copy.

I really didn't want to give up on this, because it's very nicely written. Every sentence is well turned, and the world is replete with interesting facets and aspects. It's full of non-European traditions and experiences, which are shown as just as valid and civilised if not more so than the Europe-analogue. It's full of hard questions and interesting angles. It's got girls carving their own fates against a hard world that would deny them that (instead of girls living in a world where they're equal and don't have to fight that fight).

But it's also kind of boring. The pace plods, the telling too measured to skip along, and the details weighing it down, perhaps because the first-person narrator is a little too self-aware of the storytelling. And while the overall plot arc no doubt describes a marvellous three-act structure with significant rhetorical underpinnings, the movements of Green's life didn't really hang together with any sort of inevitability that drove her inexorably into the next part of the action - I found waiting to see what happened next an entirely passive experience, and it made things pass even more slowly.

In the end, I liked it, I did, and I think it has solid merit, but I find myself sitting here on a day perfect for snuggling up with my cat and reading, and I am not reading it, so it's time to call it: reading this is not fun, and I am going to stop. ( )
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
I can't decide between 3 and 4 stars... But I did enjoy most of it. A young girl is sold by her father into slavery that includes education as a high class concubine to a mysterious undying duke. She remains angry and rebellious but learns discipline and violence. It reminded me a bit of Kushiel's Dart, only a little less fun. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
At times unsettling but always compelling, Green abounds with intrigue and adventure. A feminist fable lovingly written with a father's hope and concern for his daughter's future, Green is the story of a strong-willed young woman trying to find her place in a world that would rather ignore her. Green will not be ignored.
added by PhoenixTerran | editio9, Chris Hsiang (Jun 9, 2009)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jay Lakeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dos Santos, DanielCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The book is dedicated to my daughter, whose story it is. Someday she may choose to reveal which parts are true and which parts were made up by her dad.
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The first thing I can remember in this life is my father driving his white ox, Endurance, to the sky burial platforms.
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In a world of political power and magic, and of Gods and mortals, a courtesan and trained assassin who calls herself "Green" finds intrigue and adventure, and many enemies, in the Undying Duke's city of Copper Downs.

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She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name—her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan…and the skills of an assassin…she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke's collection of beauties.

She calls herself Green.

The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke's city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed.  [retrieved 12/6/2016 from Amazon.com]

Acclaimed author Jay Lake has created a remarkable character in Green, and evokes a remarkable world in this novel. Green and her struggle to survive and find her own past will live in the reader's mind for a long time after closing the book.
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