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The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller
The Mirror Empire
Kameron Hurley
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire (Audio)
Jack Weatherford

Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor A number of reviewers have talked about how they struggled with how dark the book was; how difficult it was to read accounts of rape and genital mutilation and racial genocide. There would, I think, be something wrong with me if I didn't find reading about that sort of thing viscerally unpleasant, but all were integral parts of the book's world building, and while they may have made reading some sections an uncomfortable experience, they didn't detract from my appreciation of the work as a whole.

What did detract was the characters, or more specifically their relationships with each other. The main character's relationship with her parental figures is positive, but they're soon pushed out of the spotlight--not unsurprising, in a coming of age novel. That leaves us with her relationship with her teacher (who hates her) her friends (who continually mistrust and abandon her) and her paramour (who calls her "woman" instead of her name, tells her she's stupid, and orders her to shut up with distressing regularity). All are constantly fighting and rarely seem to like or care for one another.

The protagonist's romantic relationship was pretty much the breaking point for me. I felt like I was constantly being told they were passionately in love, and then shown a couple that was, at best, passionately in lust and violently abusive toward one another. And I simply couldn't reconcile Onye's actions toward Mwita with her presentation as a determined crusader against their society's misogyny.

The plot itself was fairly standard prophecized quest fantasy until the end, when it veered off into metaphysics that seemed unsupported by anything that came before. The world, in contrast, was unusual for the genre, and well-drawn. If the protagonists had been more pleasant to spend time with, I would have appreciated the travelogue experience. As it was, I had to grit my teeth to get through it.

I might try something else by this author, if I was promised characters who actually enjoyed each other's company, but it wouldn't be high on my priority list.