BOOK REVIEW: This Crumbling Pageant by Patricia Burroughs

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantasy debut that works best when relying on its strengths of characterization, plotting and description.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Vibrant, complicated heroine; evocative description and language; well-crafted plot beats.
CONS: Unclear worldbuilding raises too many questions; execution of certain concepts need work.
BOTTOM LINE: A promising main character, good plotting and good ideas marred by a flawed execution.

Persephone Fury has a problem. Several of them, actually. In a world bound to and next door to our own, her Regency-era life is rather complicated. Her magical powers, rather than being a celebrated gift, are of a sort that are dark and threatening, enough that tisanes consumed to dull them are the order of the day. Her twin brother’s tutor is up to something, something threatening enough that Persephone is willing to pose as her brother to find out what her tutor wants. And the Season is opening soon. Persephone’s prospects are not good, and they cannot be allowed to damage the prospects of her very marriageable sister. Things get even darker and more convoluted, though, though, when the tutor’s machinations, a challenge to the ailing crown, and Persephone’s own conflicted desires and her awakening powers threaten to unmoor Persephone Fury’s life completely, and her world with it.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

While it is important to recognize women writers in genre, it is ultimately the characters in the stories and novels that we read that draw our imaginations. With that in mind, in what has been often seemingly a dominated field, strong female protagonists sometimes get short shrift. So let’s hear it for female heroes!

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: Who are your favorite female protagonists? What makes for a strong female protagonist, anyway?

Here’s what they said…

Jacqueline Koyanagi lives in Colorado where she weaves all manner of things, including stories, chainmaille jewelry, and a life with her partners and dog. Her stories feature queer women of color, folks with disabilities, neuroatypical characters, and diverse relationship styles, because she grew tired of not seeing enough of herself and the people she loves reflected in genre fiction. Her debut science-fantasy queer romance novel, Ascension, is now available in digital formats from Prime/Masque; the trade paperback will release in December 2013. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter at @jkoyanagi.

I look for agency in any protagonist—for example, bucking macro- or micro-level subjugation either through subversion or direct rebellion. Many of the female characters I’ve loved over the years developed into strong protagonists by rejecting the dominant culture and finding alternate paths to personal fulfillment. Others have taken more direct routes toward claiming their agency, or have worked on behalf of large marginalized groups.

Onyesonwu is the eponymous protagonist of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death–a woman born into a violent world, conceived of war rape. It’s no wonder, then, that her personality is less likeable and more powerful; that power is fueled by both anger and magic. Her decisions reflect her position as a biracial women in the midst of a genocidal war, and the effects of her violent conception ripple out through the entire novel. It’s through Onyesonwu’s strength that the book explores oppression and the inherent power of story.
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