BOOK REVIEW: A Glimmer of Guile by Mary Patterson Thornburg.
A beautifully written fantasy novel that doesn’t demean women.
I love reading both science fiction and fantasy, but one thing that irritates me about both genres is that women are usually marginalized, weakened by societal constraints, or put on a pedestal. Women are not usually known for their intellect, strength, or ability in these stories. Those that are intelligent, or strong, or able, are either punished for their impunity or described in equal (or greater) turns by their physical beauty and sexual appeal.
I’ve thought for a while that I needed to write a fantasy novel where women were strong without being man-hating or evil. As it turns out, I don’t. Mary Patterson Thornburg has done it for me. The book follows the story of Vivia, who possesses a great deal of Guile, which is more of an intelligence or deep perception than witchcraft, but which also allows her to manipulate the environment around her. She sets off on a quest to find a missing prince, and along the way she meets other Guilish women and must defeat powers stronger than her own. (The plot is more complicated than this – there are politics involved, complicated familial relationships, and back stories galore.)
Thornburg is a writer’s writer. The syntax and rhythm of her prose has a liquid quality to it. Her imagery has stayed with me in the weeks since I read the book. Her women are three dimensional and intelligent, and ultimately control the fates of the characters in the book. Romance is not absent, rather, it is on equal terms with the men. At one point, Vivia, the main character, feels the stirring of her romantic feelings. Rather than swoon, or worry about her appearance, Thornberg describes Vivia’s feelings this way: “Something happened inside me then, a kind of tremendous fluttering as if I were a tree full of birds that had startled up and then settled briefly, tense and quiet but ready to fly.” Isn’t that gorgeous? Describing one meeting between the parties, Thornberg calls it “[a] wrestling match disguised as a tea party.” Ah – haven’t we all been involved in those superficially pleasant battlefields at some point? What a concise and beautiful way of describing it.
This is a grown up book, though there is nothing in it that I wouldn’t let a teenager, even a young one, read. Since the supernatural genre is popular, I would much rather my daughter read about Vivia than most of the other, more popular heroines.
The Boy-Wolf is a short story that acts as a prequel to A Glimmer of Guile. It is worth the read, too, and stands completely on its own, though it would probably work better after you’ve read Guile than before, even though it takes place at an earlier time. Or maybe I’m just saying that because that’s what I did.
To buy the book, click the following link:
For The Boy-Wolf, click here:
Lori B. Duff is the author of the Amazon ‘Hot New Release’ Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza, a collection of autobiographical humor essays. The hard copy of the book can be found on Amazon & BarnesandNoble.com and select local retailers. The e-book can be found here. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.