Ah, Segnbora, one of my first fictional crushes. She's a master swordswoman, a professionally trained bard, a skilled sorceress. She speaks with dragons. She has an affair with one of the male leads. She is Full of Angst.
She is, in short, the definition of the Mary Sue, and I could not care less
because she. is. awesome.
. . .why yes, I do still have a crush on her, why do you ask?
I would say, "but there's more to this book than Segnbora," but really, there isn't. It's a series of set pieces of Segnbora being awesome and more awesome, and I eat it up like chocolate ice cream every time.
Okay, okay, so there is a little more to the book, and what there is is good. I love the story of the battle-standard of the Darthenes, I think Glasscastle (and the Maiden with Still Hands) is quite possibly the creepiest place I have ever visited in fiction, I want my very own Skadhwe, and I find draconic culture fascinating. It's still a pretty episodic read, but it flows more smoothly than the first book. The characterizations are clearer, too.
So why, with all this praise, am I giving this book only three stars? Because of a little section--just a few pages--near the end. If you've read the book, you know the one. It's when the protagonist deals with the trauma of being raped in childhood by, by. . .
Well. Let me quote.
"'Balen,' she said, speaking the name aloud for the first time in her life.
He blinked in confusion.
'I seem to be getting a lot of practice at being others, these days,' she said. 'First Dragons. Then . . . Myself. I see this is what the practice was for. To see You for what You are. Just Her, in another suit. A tool to make me what I am, no less than the beautiful face and the ever-filled cup were tools. You were a little rougher on me that you might have been, perhaps. You were the sword. But my hand was on the hilt.'"
And I just. I just. Rape as character development is such a common trope for women in fantasy novels that I mostly grit my teeth and move on; if I avoided all the books that used it, I wouldn't have a lot of books left. But this is so blatant, it takes my breath away. It's okay I was raped! It was a growth experience! The Goddess meant it to happen! And, really, it was all my fault.
. . .yeah, you know what? Fuck that.
This would be a four star book if I could rip those pages out.