I actually enjoyed this book a lot, but I wish the style had been more descriptive. I felt like it could have had some more texture that way, but that didn’t take away from the meat of the stories. The stories themselves were beautiful and interesting.
Despite the sparse descriptions, the author put in a lot of great world-building into it. The world was beautiful and interesting. I could read a lot more stories set in this world, if she were to write them. As it is, this book is comprised of two novellas that had previously been published separately as a series. The novellas are Of Oysters, Pearls and Magic and The Path of Kindness. The first novella has two “books” and is set up in an interesting way. There are “waves” and “branches” instead of chapters. There is also an appendix that consists of a few short stories, a commentary, definitions, and a full explanation of how the world works. It’s pretty well thought out and I loved the addition of those bits. Again, I just wish some more of the detail of that section had made its way into the stories themselves.
There were typos in the text which drove me a little nuts, but not so much that it would keep me from recommending this series.
The inclusion of a central character that is non-binary gendered in the last story was good, particularly because the first one had dealt so beautifully with other LGBT issues. In fact, the easy going way of having triads, couples and apart people gives me hope for a better way to see ourselves in the future. For things like this, the book was so exquisitely feminist that it almost hurt sometimes. It’s not that the book dealt with LGBT issues, but that it made them non-issues. These parts of the identity of the characters were not dwelt upon as if they were the biggest and main part of them. They were given whole human identities with many interests and opinions. They were not reduced to their orientation. They simply were. Our non-binary character didn’t get the exact same treatment but sar’s (pronoun used for this character in the book and even identified as the preferred pronoun by the character sarself) gender is presented as a new concept on the island and still readily accepted by other characters. Except when Kindness was mad at sar. Then she got a little crappy about it, which I thought was crappy but human. Again, though, sar was rarely reduced to only gender and given other characteristics so that sar had full humanity. At least, that’s how I felt about it. Maybe someone trans or non-binary would have a different opinion on how that character was treated. I’d love to hear their take on it, actually.
I appreciated that there was still some lingering gender roles, for no better reason than that even when gender roles change evolve, it seems likely that people will gravitate toward categorizing each other and all of our talents.
Overall, the story was great, the feminism was amazing, and the texture was lacking. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, especially if they like new worlds and feminist ideals. I’d also recommend it to any feminist who enjoys a little sci-fi.