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REVIEW: Green by Jay Lake

REVIEW SUMMARY: A good book if you like character-driven works, not so good if you want more plot.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Green was bought to be trained as a noble’s wife, but her desire for freedom causes her to make ill-informed choices that change her future.


PROS: Vividly real world; mostly sympathetic protagonist.

CONS: Entirely character driven; unevenly paced.

BOTTOM LINE: Green is an interesting protagonist but not interesting enough to hold attention for an entire novel.

Green was bought from her father at a very young age and raised in another country to be a nobleman’s wife. Trained to numerous arts (cooking, sewing, music and more) it’s her dance lessons and the illicit classes of stealth, falling and climbing, and the mistress who teaches them, that offer her a taste of the freedom and choice she longs for. When the time comes for her to leave her training courtyard, she makes a choice that shows her that while you can choose your actions, it is their consequences that decide your future.

The world building in Green is fantastic; it includes people of different continents having different skin tones, languages, cultures, food preferences, sexual preferences, etc. The history of the setting was loosely done, though I got the impression that this was because Green didn’t know much of it and therefore it would have been out of place to add more, rather than because the author hadn’t considered this aspect of his novel.

Green is a book that will appeal to readers who enjoy character-driven action like that of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and Piers Anthony’s A Quest for Chameleon. And like the latter, the almost aimless wanderings and life of the protagonist have purpose, when seen in retrospect. The problem I have with character driven stories is that, as with real life, not everything that happens to a person is interesting. Plot driven stories typically skip over these periods quickly, but character driven stories can’t, leading to pacing issues where some periods are fascinating (like Green’s two periods of schooling), some action packed (her time as an aspirant and the ending), and some that are boring (her return home). Indeed, Green has an almost anti-climax halfway through the book, after which the protagonist wanders for some time.

While she’s a mostly sympathetic character, being a child taken from her father, her inability to grow up and realize that, despite the circumstances of her youth, she was better off in her new home than her old one, was annoying. Despite constant observations to the contrary she held to her mistaken belief that everyone else in the world got to choose their futures while only she had to face misfortune and a loss of freedom. She held to these beliefs even after she left her court prison and found that her own choices had trapped her; that being able to make decisions for herself wasn’t the same as being free. She was someone who held to an ideal that didn’t exist and refused to move on. She made uninformed decisions and wondered afterward why those decisions were wrong. So ultimately, Green herself is an interesting protagonist but not interesting enough to hold attention for an entire novel.

[See also: Karen’s review]

About Jessica Strider (102 Articles)
Jessica Strider worked at the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto for 10 years before it closed in 2014. Now she's got more time to read books, so check out her <a href="//">blog</a> for SF/F book reviews, movie reviews, posts about the middle ages, and more.
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