An honest review of Lunasa Days, by Drew Jacob

http://roguepriest.net/2013/12/28/the-lunasa-days-paperback/

Lunasa Days is a book about majic, travel, and adventure. But not the grand adventure of Epic fantasy, the adventure of life on the road. Small majic is effectively used throughout to tell the tale of a small town in drought times.
It’s a well written book, but the mentality of the cis straight white male pervades. The attitude toward the female interest is a bit creepy, and very coercive. The love interest is nothing but a receptacle, for the attention of the protagonist, for the abuse of her boyfriend, and for the emotional abuse of her family.

The metaphor of the creative force of male and female coming together works, but at what cost?
And let’s just examine that trope for a bit, the creative force must always be a coming together of male and female, equal and opposite. There is much more than male and female in this world. This type of thinking harms us all, by enforcing strict gender roles, and more than that,  denying the possibility of non-normative relationships (including but not limited to same gender and poly relationships), or non-binary gendered folx.

Where the story works admirably well is developing the character of the town and the protagonist. The setting at once becomes a character and an antagonist.

7/10 Would read again, but heavy trigger warning for coercion.

Drew Jacob blogs at Rogue Priest and the book can be bought here.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “An honest review of Lunasa Days, by Drew Jacob

  1. Thank you for the review, Em. You come at the story with a very different perspective than my own, and I appreciate it.

    Your thoughts raise some big questions for me as an author. For instance, I tried to subvert a number of tropes with Lúnasa Days, most especially the way magic is usually portrayed. Does that mean I have to avoid all familiar tropes in the novella? And as a cis straight male who is supportive of trans and genderqueer people, but I’m not necessarily well educated on what your/their experiences are like, I wonder: is it my place to try to write that perspective, or would it just ring hollow? When I write a cis straight male character, I write from what I know and it resonates with people. How can my writing support and include a genderqueer point of view?

    But the most important thing I wanted to ask you was: what did you make of the fact that the male-female-fertility spell *didn’t actually work*?

  2. Hey Drew,
    Let’s take your points one at a time.

    For instance, I tried to subvert a number of tropes with Lúnasa Days, most especially the way magic is usually portrayed.

    I really did enjoy the subversion of the magic trope.

    Does that mean I have to avoid all familiar tropes in the novella?

    Not at all, but if I’m giving a review, I’m going to dissect all media, even that which I enjoy, for the things that reinforce harmful cultural norms. Tropes exist for a reason, to help tell a story with common cultural knowledge. The problem isn’t really the tropes themselves, so much as the culture we live in. I would say that everyone has a responsibility to think about what they are writing, and what it reinforces, but none of us are perfect, and we’ll all miss a lot, mostly because our own perspective is limited, especially when we are on the privileged, side of the equation.

    And as a cis straight male who is supportive of trans and genderqueer people, but I’m not necessarily well educated on what your/their experiences are like, I wonder: is it my place to try to write that perspective, or would it just ring hollow?

    A lot of people will give you different answers. Some will tell you never to touch anything outside your own experience. Others will tell you that you must be inclusive. Here’s my perspective. Would you write a woman character? Would you include a gay character? Would you include a black character? If so, then you can write a non-binary character. You can write a trans character. I do not say that you have to. And I would say, that if you are going to write a character outside of your own experience, that you need to damn lot of research, and also get feedback from the community you are representing as you write.

    I’ll say that you aren’t obligated to, but that you certainly can. You’re only obligation is to do no harm. And knowing that we all fuck up, you can only try. The best way to understand such things is to listen to the people that this stuff affects. For instance, you read my review, and now you are thinking.

    I don’t think your perspective is a bad one. It makes sense that your main character is someone you can relate to. But it does mean that not everyone will relate. I mostly read women authors these days because of that perspective.

    When I write a cis straight male character, I write from what I know and it resonates with people.

    Yes, it resonates with a lot of people, but not all. The majority isn’t the totality. And you aren’t going to get everyone. It isn’t that the character doesn’t resonate with me. The viewpoint of the entire story is filtered through the lens of the author. And cis straight men don’t really understand the world that women and queer people experience everyday. I certainly don’t grok PoC experiences innately. I’m sure that you don’t resonate with a lot of my poetry about oppression and trans experience. But you aren’t necessarily my target audience. You might with some of my love poetry. Or the stuff I write about self-care.

    How can my writing support and include a genderqueer point of view?

    1. Genderqueer is a rather specific label and doesn’t include all non-binary folx. I can get into specifics in an email exchange if you want to learn more.
    2. I’d say you don’t necessarily have to include that point of view. You don’t have to have all perspectives in every story. Your obligation is to not reinforce harmful cultural norms. And that comes from listening to criticisms people have. We all fuck up. We all have the obligation to do better.

    But the most important thing I wanted to ask you was: what did you make of the fact that the male-female-fertility spell *didn’t actually work*?

    Oh, I thought it did. Just in the way that majic, doesn’t work directly. I thought them getting the money from the Ad guy was the result of the spell.

  3. Thanks Em. I find your response really helpful & thoughtful. A couple points:

    “Yes, it resonates with a lot of people, but not all. The majority isn’t the totality. And you aren’t going to get everyone.”

    Right, but it’s more than that. I’m neither black nor female, but when I read Toni Morrison her black women resonate with me. A good character will resonate with people very unlike that character. And a big part of creating a good character is being able to “be” that character.

    But I do look forward to the challenge of trying to move out into new types of characters.

    “Your obligation is to not reinforce harmful cultural norms. And that comes from listening to criticisms people have.”

    Obligation accepted.

    “Oh, I thought [the magic did work]. Just in the way that majic, doesn’t work directly. I thought them getting the money from the Ad guy was the result of the spell.”

    A lot of readers take it that way. It was intentionally ambiguous. But throughout the story, we never see the results of most of Bailey’s spells, we only see him casting them. Then when it comes to the big finale where the hero and heroine are supposed to save the dying land, the land remains just as effed up as it was before. The only part that survived was thanks to irrigation.

    I aimed to write the kind of result that, in a real life situation, skeptics would hold up as proof that magic does nothing, while magical practitioners would say “you just don’t understand how it works” while still having absolutely no reason to believe it worked. Any characters – or readers – who believe the money was the result of the spell are essentially taking it on faith, or pure hope.

    So far (judging from the reviews) the majority of readers felt the magic worked, and only one person pointed out to me that it didn’t. But many of the reviewers so far are magic-friendly themselves. I’d love to see how a more neutral audience interprets the ending.

  4. If this had been something outside of fiction, I’d say, no, his spell didn’t work. Inside fiction, I’m willing to suspend disbelief a bit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s