REVIEW: The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

tbw intro picFirstly, a HUGE SHOUT OUT to the wonderful people that proofread and helped me edit this beast. I’ve even included some of their interpretations- because that’s what happens when we all READ the same text- we can discuss it civilly and have different interpretations, given the correct context.

Anti-SJW FAM (EDIT: it has come to my attention some people do not think SJW is a bad term- and it is not a bad term, the connotation associated based on the behavior of SOME SJWs has turned it into one it appears; it’s just the loudest and most seen SJWs have been honestly crazy. I’ve been called a Nazi and privileged and white (I’m not white….) by them and other terms simply for having a different opinion. Whenever i reference SJWs in this review, I am purely talking about the radical ones. I am not trying to generalize anything or anyone. So, if you fight for real social issues and did not suddenly jump on the bandwagon to 1 star this book, I am not referring to you, because you are a true social ACTIVIST. If you did, and have made other outlandish claims, I am referring to you.

My dear friend Attack Salmon told me about a Chinese saying where we put a bunch of chairs out, but we never say who would or could sit down. If you sit down, you paint your own image- you decide your own fate, so don’t be so appalled when people then judge you by the image you have projected, by the seat you sat in. Once again, I am referring to the lovelies who incorrectly judged this novel and spread a false narrative. If you’re fighting for real social issues and are an activist, not a keyboard warrior, I think you’re great and I’m sorry some people have ruined the image of your movement by sitting in the wrong seats):

Attack Helicopter who is really Zoom Zoomy but Creepy and Loser-ish too but she Likes Magic, so there’s That Too: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31066876-attack-helicopter

Attack Salmon the Savage Chocolate Eater but she’s Okay if you wanna call her OIL and she Shipped the Bad Guy in this Book so we don’t Like her: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/60459353-sal

Kjell the Fallen whom GR deleted because he’s Too Good for them and he likes to Destroy SJWs on Twitter and he Basically Started the New Wave of People Actually Reading TBW so props to him Yeah?

And…me… O_o I Like to Rant and I Can’t Sleep Well at Night (I am not wonderful, but I did obviously proofread my own work): https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6713906-kotyonok

Two of us are white (in the Netherlands and Australia), one of us is Asian (in Malaysia), and one of us is Middle-Eastern (living in America). 3 of us are women, 1 of us is a man. 3 of us are straight, one of us is gay.

hey, look diversity!

Seriously though, these guys are awesome.

(PAUSE: I hope there aren’t any typos left in this, but if there are, sorry, I tried my best :-P)

***ON THE CONTROVERSY:

In this day and age, apparently skin color is a validation of opinion and allows one person to speak more than another (it does NOT, anyone can speak as much as the next person. Because, you know, equality, right?). So for all you SJWs out there, this is for you:

I AM NOT WHITE. I AM MIDDLE EASTERN, A PERSON OF COLOR, AND I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.

Melanin 😉 aside, though I loved this book, if you read it and hated it- awesome. I respect that you READ it and formed an opinion. If you didn’t read it and are simply spouting the same review’s points, then your opinion is invalid (it’s not even your opinion…) and I have no interest in speaking to you and I will be deleting your comments– there’s really no point talking to you if, before or after you’ve read this, you still spout the same thing on a book you HAVEN’T read. It’s a wasted effort I believe.

We can debate racism, we can debate sexism, we can debate all that stuff, but there must be a basis for which the debate stands upon. Generally, there would be a list of facts agreed upon by both sides, and in this case, the agreement would be the book- specifically, that you READ THE BOOK, that way we are all working with the same text (with the right context of course). If you haven’t bothered to read the text, then this is a meaningless one-sided conversation where one party has their own ideas, and another is simply a sheep. End of discussion- if you haven’t read it, I’m not sure what there is even to discuss with you…other than you apparently don’t like forming your own opinions…

While we’re on the topic of opinions, I respect other opinions on this book, even negative ones, because we can all have different opinions and interpretations of a book- to a certain extent. The extent line is drawn by the context of the words written- meaning, if words are taken out of context, then the interpretation is invalid, and the opinion is based on fabrication. Context is “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.” Taking things out of context removes the essential setting and the words cannot properly be understood and assesed. No proper context, no proper assessement. End of discussion.

There is also the notion that some opinions are especially biased because some readers are “too sensitive”. Now I’m not about to tell you what you may or may not be offended by, but there is also a line to drawn by what is offensive and when one is simply grasping for anything that may be altered as problematic. The first option relies on applying the context of the words being written and detracting offense, if the words can be related back to you and blatantly misrepresent you, or if an author condones improper behavior (and many other circumstances) which is understandable. The second option relies on taking words either completely or mainly out of context to further a different agenda and slander the words being written. It may also rely on lack of critical reading to understand what the words mean and their purpose, and may disregard later words in the text that severely change the meaning of the original words. If you do the following in the second option, you lose credibility as a reader and reviewer and the opinion is invalid, for it is not textually true and it is too emotional of an interpretation (for example, if you get upset everytime you see a character described as ‘dark skinned’ and then claim the book to be incredibly racist, you are being too sensitive in your interpretation and do lack credibility if descriptive words offend you).

As readers, we should have some form of intellectual honesty when reading and reviewing (and of course rating) – a sort of checks and balances, even for books that we hate and that offend us. I don’t have a formula for this of course, and I have no idea how it will come into play, but I like to think we’d all give an author the benefit of the doubt first before jumping on the “everything is problematic” train. There should be some level of honesty when we read something we don’t like or that makes us uncomfortable. For while that one thing may trigger us, we don’t go back and say anything marginally related to that triggered us.

I have also heard through the Goodreads grapevine that this book is racist, that it does “not have marginalized people in mind” and that it is “dangerous”. Two things on that

  1. Saying a book is racist is misleading and incorrect because it implies that the book encourages racism. This is like saying a person is racist, and when we call a person racist, we mean that they hold bigoted thoughts on race. The book is about racism, which is vastly different- it means racism is not being promoted, it is being explored. Therefore those of you saying it’s racist because it is exploring racism are mixing together two different ideas. It is important that we talk about racism and continue to explore it (or should we get rid of history textbooks?)
  2. If you say something does not have certain people in mind, and it therefore should be censored, I respond to you with this:

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

EDIT: I just saw a great quote posted by one of my friends. So, with the quote above, I also respond to you with this:

“Everyone has the right to be offended. But it is important to know that just because you are offended, doesn’t mean you are right. Other people might not see the world as you do.”
-Philip DeFranco

Fiction is not meant to cater to your feelings, it is meant to cater to creativity.

Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of creativity do not end when anyone’s feelings begin. If and only if the words incite violence on a certain group of people, which The Black Witch most certainly does NOT, it may then be rightfully censored. If you are left emotionally drained from the book, then my condolences go out to you, but that does not mean the book should be censored. Your feelings do not get to decide what everyone else must abide by- because they are feelings, they are fickle, and they range in bias. The only thing you can do, if offended by certain books, is not to read them. You do not have the right to dictate what is allowed and what is not. As one of my lovely friends on GR said, “I’m an adult, I can decide what I want to read and what I don’t want to read.”- they know who they are if they’re reading this 😊.

For example, I am deeply disgusted by incest. Forbidden by Tabatha Suzuma sounds absolutely repulsive to me- so I am never going to read it. Some of my friends love it, and good for them- but I am disgusted by the topic it explores and severely uncomfortable with it. That doesn’t mean works that explore incest should be banned simply because some find it disgusting- there is an individual responsibility to also care for yourself– I reject it but I cannot control how others may respond to the work.

AND I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO RATE A BOOK I HAVE NEVER READ AND LOWER AN AUTHOR’S BOOK RATING AND STANDING. As another member of GR once said, ratings are for readers, not ignorant fools promoting a different agenda. If you haven’t read, I’m not sure how you can rate. That’s intellectually dishonest.

I have no respect for someone who lets others decide what they write- if you’re an author and are just trying to fit the mold, I have no respect for you and will not read your books. I have no respect for readers that think they have the right to tell others what they can or cannot write, what they can or cannot think (if words are an extension of thoughts). And if you’re still unhappy, do something productive: go write your own damn story.

If the story is as horrible as some say, then let the market reject it- people will read the book and hate it, right? There’s no need to specifically lower the book’s rating. So I see no point for censorship- the market will react based on the product, namely, because we are talking about books, when the market READS the product. However, The Black Witch has seen a rise in its ratings as more people actually READ the book, therefore perhaps it’s not as bad as a few reviewers claimed. Many readers have pointed to the writing and pacing and how the themes were explored, not the themes themselves, as reasons they hated this book, which is all understandable.

As for the opinion that started this all….as someone who extensively analyzed this book, I can without a doubt say that the infamous review, found here: http://b00kstorebabe.blogspot.com/2017/03/review-black-witch-by-laurie-forest.html (I refer to this person as the ‘Original Reviewer‘ in my review when examining certain aspects of their review) took things wildly out of context. Quotes were nit-picked specifically to further the agenda that this book was racist and there was a level of over sensitivity used (as I mentioned, there is a degree to which offense begins to become oversensitive and overreactive. We’ll get to this later) and disregard for later quotes that showed the purpose of those original quotes and that changed the meaning of those quotes.There was also a disregard for quotes that served as world building and broad conclusions were drawn with little to no evidence.

It is intellectually dishonest to do this.

I don’t care if you hated this book, I really don’t. But to take words out of context to further an agenda, to nit-pick and overreact….it’s just not fair. It is literary blasphemy, as one of my friends once said. You can hate the book, sure, and make an argument against it, WITH THE PROPER CONTEXT, keeping in mind the text as a whole. You can’t just pick out lines and claim they’re problematic! 

What happened to Forest’s book was completely unfair and uncalled for. And I am deeply saddened by how readers who claim to be enlightened and open-minded, would refuse to take part in an intellectual code of conduct when reading, refuse to take part in critical reading, and for some, not read at all!

“It’s a sad day when the readers of the world amass to completely undo generations of freedom of speech for the arts because of a fragile PC culture.” 

…..

Finally, I see reviews that say people of color would be offended and they need a voice. The irony in that statement is hilarious to me. If you claim to want to allow people of color to have a voice, why are you speaking for us? (And no I am not speaking for all POC right now, I speak only for myself as a POC). What would you know what we do or do not need? Why are you babying us? Do you think we do not have the mental capability to decide for ourselves what we find comfortable or not, what we want to read or not?

….are you censoring us?

Happy triggering.

***REVIEW (Spoilers Everywhere, I basically summarize the whole story):

Forest, Laurie. The Black Witch. Ontario: Harlequin Teen, 2017. Print.

~PART 1:

Races (in order of power structure):

Gardnerians– race in power at the moment. Classified by dark hair, shimmering skin and green eyes. Obsessed with racial purity.

Elfhollen– Half Elf and half Mountain Fae. Subgroups of them are Alfsigir Elves and Snake Elves. Known for rich music and artwork, and deadly archery.

Amazakaran– Horsewomen of the Caledonian mountains. Female warriors really, allow any women of any race to join them. Aversion toward men due to religious beliefs.

Vu Trin- only women of this race have magic, and are adorned in shimmering rune marks. They look Asian….

Lupines– wolf shape-shifters. Magic is ineffective on them. Superior sight and strength.

Kelts– some kind of peasant race, it’s really not made clear. They’re very open to intermarriage and are greatly mixed.

Urisk– servant class, skin ranges in color.

Icarals– some kind of dragon/ demon race with wings. Some control fire. Can be born into any race.

 

Our protagonist is Elloren Gardner. She is a Gardnerian, both her parents are dead and she is being raised by her uncle in a secluded town named Halfix with her two brothers. Her grandmother was this powerful witch named the Black Witch who, as we are told in the beginning, helped liberate the Gardnerian people. It is expected a new Black Witch will arise. Elloren’s uncle is, for all intents and purposes, a reasonable and kind man. It has been argued by the original reviewer that this uncle, Uncle Edwin, is not as kind as he seems because he “did nothing to teach Elloren about the racism of her people.”

Forest does not mention anything about Uncle Edwin talking about the racism of the Gardnerian people. There is no mention of Uncle Edwin’s opinion on the Gardnerian race and their behavior toward other races- to draw the conclusion that he is not a very kind man and that he “did nothing to teach Elloren” about racism is false because there are simply no words in the text to support this idea, no words that he did nothing. This is picking at what is not there to begin with, and then making an accusation- there are a number of things that can then be pulled to slander any character based on what is not there.

What is mentioned, implicitly (reading between the lines, critical reading) concerning race and Elloren’s upbringing, is that Gareth, Elloren’s friend, due to the coloring of his hair, is not a pure-blooded Gardnerian and is a bit of an outcast among Gardnerians. However, he “…stoically endured the teasing and often found solace with his father at sea. Or here, with [Elloren and her family],” (Forest 2017, p 22). We can infer that Gareth was welcomed by Elloren’s family, meaning herself, her brothers and her uncle. This would actually support the idea that Elloren’s uncle is not particularly concerned with “pure-bloodedness” and taught her to be quite open minded. There is still the knowledge that Gardnerians want to be pure-blooded, but the acceptance of Gareth can be interpreted that her family is not strictly in line with their race’s harsh views.

There are few other references we have that can be marginally linked to Uncle Edwin and his views on race; one is when he is speaking to Aunt Vyvian and she mentions Marcus Vogel, a very racist man who is running to be the High Mage of the Mage Council.  Uncle Edwin’s reaction to Vogel being elected is the following:

Aunt Vyvian: “The Verpacian Council is full of half-breeds. As is most of the University’s hierarchy. They mandate an absurd level of integration and quite frankly, it’s dangerous”. She gives a frustrated sigh. “Marcus Vogel will clean up the situation once he’s made High Mage.”

Uncle Edwin: “If, Vyvian,” my uncle tersely counters. “Vogel may not win.” (Forest 2017, p 23)

As we can see from this exchange, Uncle Edwin does not immediately jump on the wagon that Vogel would be good for the Council. Therefore, his interjection may be interpreted as dissent to Vogel, and subsequently the harsh views he represents. It should also be noted that Elloren later on mentions that she never particularly paid attention to politics, implying Uncle Edwin sheltered her (for what reasons Uncle Edwin did to shelter her, perhaps it has something to do with the prologue when she sets a whole forest on fire at a young age, but it really isn’t mentioned any further so this just speculation based on what we marginally know). One part that possibly alludes to the reason why Uncle Edwin did not talk about these things with Elloren is when Elloren recounts how all Urisk males were killed in the Realm War. She thinks,

“It’s a horrible thought though- the Urisk boy babies being killed. It’s a subject I’ve never been able to discuss with Uncle Ewin, as he becomes visibly upset if I try to broach the topic once to the point of tearing up and clutching at his chest.” (Forest 2017, p 74).

The fact that Elloren can sympathize on some level perhaps shows that linkage of humanity Uncle Edwin has instilled in her, further proof her upbringing did make her subservient and that Uncle Edwin did raise and teach her the kindness he holds in his own heart.

This, of course, raises the question where Elloren’s prejudice started, if Uncle Edwin is so decent. Well, even in a secluded town, culture has its way of seeping in. When Elloren sees her neighbors’ sons playing a game consisting of Icarals, Gardnerians, Elves, Vu Trin, and Lupines, she thinks, “They’re characters from the storybooks and songs of my childhood, as familiar to me as the old patchwork quilt that lies on my bed,” (Forest 2017, p 15).

There is also the Gardnerian holy book, where I believe many of the prejudices the Gardnerians hold come from. A copy of The Book of the Ancients is given to Elloren by none other than her AUNT.

tbw2 (2)

Apparently, Uncle Edwin does not like religion, and the fact that Elloren has to hide the holy book shows he would greatly disapprove of her having it- perhaps he banned them from his house? The book states that the mark of the First Children, the Gardnerians shimmering skin, was “set down [upon them] by the Ancient Ones above, marking us as the rightful owners of Erthia” (Forest 2017, p 31). We can infer why Elloren has taken root in her religion- for comfort in the absence of her parents, and due to these strong emotional ties, she is susceptible to the story the holy book tells. It seems to me Uncle Edwin did every indirect method to shield Elloren from the racism of her people. I’m not sure what he could have done to tell her about racism- she lives in the middle of nowhere for crying out loud (you gonna tell a child about racism only in theory? Maybe, but I don’t know how that lesson sticks in…), and even the few neighbors they have, such as the Gaffneys, who appear quite strict- well, they can’t very well shun them.

So though she is sheltered, she does hold some prejudice, but since she’s almost always been in that town, there has been no situation where she is seeing this racism and prejudice or enacting on it- it’s mainly all theory for her. Which is why I think her Uncle’s kindness and honesty had a great effect on her, because that is not theory- it is something she sees and experiences and has a much longer, lasting effect. That is what she was raised with and what gives her the power to recognize true racism later on and to overcome her own inklings of it. 

What Uncle Edwin does firmly take a stance on is the sexism in the world they live in. Uncle Edwin is said to be:

“[…] always grousing about how unfair the Gardnerian power structure is to women, and he’s right. Few Gardnerian women have wand magic, my powerful grandmother being a rare exception. Almost all of our powerful Mages are men, our magic passing ore easily along male lines. […] But Uncle Edwin thinks of people take this all too far: no wands for women, save with Council approval; ultimate control of a family always given to the eldest male; and our highest position in government, the office of High Mage, can only be held by a man. And then there’s my uncle’s biggest issue by far- the wand-fasting binding of our women at increasingly younger ages.” (Forest 2017, p 19)

As we can see, yes the world is indeed sexist, just as worlds in other historical settings are sexist as well- the real world’s history itself has sexism! Therefore, I do not see why this is a complaint. Sexism in a historical fantasy world? THE HORROR! I hate sexism as much as the next sane person, but to condemn this as a fault of the book, that the world is immediately set up to be sexist, is a double standard held up against The Black Witch compared with literally almost every other historical fantasy world where there is sexism (The Kiss of Deception, Flame in the Mist, Throne of Glass, Red Queen, the Bitch Planet comic series, and many more all have a world set up to be sexist).

Uncle Edwin, the man who raised Elloren, clearly takes a stance against this, raising Elloren with these egalitarian ideals- she even admits “and he’s right”- she agrees! She does not like the sexism of her world. This is quite similar to society where, because boys are physically stronger, they were looked to as natural leaders- this mirrors the Mage world, where boys are magically stronger and are looked to as natural leaders. As many people today agree, this type of natural physical strength should not be the sole determinate of a person’s position in the world- because it’s judging someone by an enumerable quality they had no control over.

However, despite the sexism, the Gardnerians anxiously await the coming on the next Black Witch, an extremely powerful female Mage, while other races fear and dread the coming of this powerful woman. This is an interesting rip in the veal of sexism, for while women are looked down upon, one woman is being held above all else.

Is the world sexist overall- yes it is, but that’s the point- it needs to undergo change, that society. This isn’t any different than reading about sexism in a textbook to me- there’s nothing offensive in seeing people’s bigoted thoughts. As long as we know they’re wrong, which Edwin and his family clearly do, then we can find the solution. And change begins with the smallest unit- the individual, and Uncle Edwin has most assuredly rammed this idea into Elloren’s head- that she is an individual first, a scholar first, before she is any man’s wife; he urges Elloren to get an education before being tied down to a man.

Why don’t people like this again? THIS IS A GOOD THING. A GOOD LESSON FOR YOUNG GIRLS (and boys too of course).

And this is a repeated trope in YA- the liberation of girls to first think for themselves, then let someone in.

So if you’re going to condemn sexism in this world, let’s look to the full context, and when we do, we see The Black Witch addresses sexism as countless other fantasy books do– so why not go complain about those books? This book is virtually no different than others books that explore racism and sexism- perhaps in the way it is done, which I can understand why some people will not like it (too simplistic, too one-dimensional…in my opinion it is set up this way to show it is ultimately wrong). If you want to attack this book for that, well then be consistent and attack other books.

Essentially what happens next is Elloren gets to go to University to study to become an apothecary. The night before she leaves, she sees the Gaffney’s lost daughter, who disappeared after she went to the University. Her name is Sage and gives Elloren a white wand (Forest 2017, p 38-42). Elloren’s uncle adamantly tells her, as previously mentioned, to get an education before committing to a man, or wand-fasting to him (Forest 2017, p 35). Aunt Vyvian is mad about this, as she lives in the olden ways of wanting girls to fast young, so she refuses to pay Elloren’s University tithe, and later uses other methods to pressure Elloren into fasting, but Elloren’s resolve remains. She refuses to fast to a man simply because it is societal expectation- another important lesson for young girls, and boys too, that the book is trying to convey- you should not be forced into marriage to please those around you- you should do it because you want to and when you feel you are ready.

THIS IS A GOOD MESSAGE FROM THE BOOK.

(PAUSE: one of the amazing people who proofread this for me (Attack Helicopter), brought up an excellent point when I mentioned Aunt Vyvian and her love for girls to fast younger. They said that in a way, we can view Aunt Vyvian’s thoughts as an example that women are the worst perpetrators of sexism. It’s an interesting contrast: we have Uncle Edwin who abhors sexism and arguably is standing up for women’s rights in that world, while Aunt Vvyian takes the reverse role and is arguably degrading women. I think this shows that there is more than one vessel for sexism to be enhanced, even if the sexism is directed on women. Though the system in that world favors men more, it’s not the men we see committing the sexism- it’s women like Aunt Vyvian and Fallon Bane (I have not mentioned this character yet, but spoiler: she’s horrible and enjoys being mean to others, especially Elloren) who pressure and bully Elloren on issues concerning men while men like Uncle Edwin and Elloren’s brothers encourage Elloren to be careful around men and not fast young. (I’m sure people would say that’s ‘internalized misogyny’, right? Relax my trigger-bunnies, we’re just dappling with this idea.)

Aunt Vyvian really wants her to fast to this big-shot named Lukas Grey, and when she takes Elloren under her wing she introduces her to these other Gardnerian girls, one of which is Fallon Bane (Forest 2017, p 55-65). Fallon has been described as a one-dimensional bad character with no depth or redeeming qualities. And to an extent I agree with that.

That brings to mind something my past history teachers used to argue about: whether a person knows deep within if they are bad, if something is wrong with them or how they do things, or whether they block it out completely and embrace who they are, for to admit fault is to shatter the specter they’ve created for themselves. The optimist in me goes with option 1 and says if you suck as a person, when you look in the mirror at the end of the day, you know it’s wrong what you’ve done. The pessimist in me goes with option 2 and believes that some people might have no humanity left within and actually don’t see a fault in their ways. The realist in me thinks either it’s a little of both, or really doesn’t know.

But back to what I said about Fallon being one-dimensional- I can see how you could call her that and criticize the book for that….but I’ve also met Fallon Banes in real-life, and honestly, I’d have the same reaction as Elloren does to Fallon: hatred. I’ve hated the Fallon Banes I’ve met- they were cruel and rude to me for no apparent reason that I could see. I fucking hate the Fallon Banes of the world because yes they do exist, I think they are option 2, that they have no humanity and don’t see that treating people like shit is wrong. It has become so engrained that they think they’re right in what they do. The only way to prove option 1 is to see in Fallon’s head, which we don’t, and this is another justifiable criticism- it would have been interesting to see this through another’s eyes, especially a villain’s, even briefly. But Forest clearly paints the hard-core racists in this book (Fallon, Aunt Vyvian) as BAD because racism is bad.

(PAUSE: again, one of the great people who proofread this for me (Attack Helicopter I’m looking at you again) mentioned that when Fallon does something terrible, people laugh and don’t condemn her for it at all, so how is she ever really supposed to know she’s doing something bad if she’s never told it’s wrong? She’s treated like she is the next Black Witch, since Elloren apparently has no magic, and I have no doubt she believes it, but this platform that she is put on makes her a prime suspect for option 2- that these ways are so engrained a person thinks it’s right. Of course, this is just theory, since we never see into Fallon’s brain, but based on what we do know and her behavior, perhaps we can see why she’s so ‘one-dimensional’.)

Another criticism Fallon has arisen is that the book has classic girl-on-girl hate.

I do not understand this criticism.

When I came across the evident dislike Fallon had toward Elloren, and Elloren toward Fallon, I wrote the following in a status update:

I’m not understanding the girl-on-girl hate people keep complaining about. So she hates Fallon and maybe Echo? She likes Paige and Aislinn. Girls doesn’t have to love each other just because they’re the same gender- sometimes personalities don’t match, as is the case with the bitchy Fallon and gentle/growing-a-back-bone Elloren.

This isn’t a big deal. It’s realistic- girls are bitchy sometimes. So what???

I still don’t get it.

Girls do not need to love each other just because we have the same sex organ between our legs. I know it’s important for girls to stick by one another, and I love seeing that, for both men and women, or better, men sticking up for women and vice versa, but sometimes people just don’t click- it’s the sad, realistic truth. I mentioned I’ve encountered Fallon Banes in my life before, so I can relate to Elloren’s dilemma with Fallon- some girls are just catty and rude. I know, I know no one wants to admit that anymore, we need to be all “hoorah-we-are-women-hear-us-roar!” but dammit I can’t stand side by side with you if push me down with a glance, with a toxic word, with a cruel sneer of your lip- you call it girl-on-girl hate. I call it reality.

I call it life.

If you’re a girl and you’re reading this and you’ve made that criticism, have you never disliked a girl in your life? Never? If no, well then Mother Teresa come bless me, because I’ve hated girls and girls have hated me- preach to me how to escape this reality, please.

I’d also like to point out Elloren has had no female companions she grew up with (the only one was Sage, she was wandfasted and sent to University, but then she fell for a Kelt and had a baby Icaral, Forest 2017, p 42-46, and of course only briefly returns to give Elloren the white wand and then is never seen again for the rest of the book)- she didn’t even have a mom to raise her, it was only her uncle. So this makes her susceptible to her aunt’s fanatical ideas, or any ideas n general really, because she wants to be accepted by a powerful woman like her aunt, as she says and thinks on page 64:

Status Update:

tbw1.jpg
(Forest 2017, p 64)

– it could also explain why she’s not particularly good with interacting with girls- or anyone different than her really, because, as she says, she has “no experience in society”.

None of this seems outrageous to me- you have a sheltered girl that was raised with some pretty good ideals and just wants to fit in…not finding offense in any of this.

And I just remembered this: she hasn’t really formed an opinion on anything yet- she’s kind of just observing all that’s around her, the harsh views her aunt has, what she knows about her own lineage and world (and I’m sure her surroundings will influence her later on, but if anything that does not prove she is a cold-hearted racist, or that the author promotes racism or whatever the hell people were moaning about- it proves how important nurture is, how a person’s environment and the society they grow up in can change them- and no it is not easy to just shake that off and unlearn these things in a few months).

She’s very naïve; take the part with the Selkie, which the reviewer that started this all of course only mentioned Elloren’s aunt’s reaction to seeing a Selkie in a cage, taking out the context of the scene. I remind you all again, Aunt Vyvian is made out to be aloof and racist and clearly BAD. Elloren is observing and reacting:

Elloren’s reaction the Selkie locked up:

‘“Aunt Vyvian,” I cry, my voice strained and high pitched, “there was a woman! With…gills! In a cage!” I point to the window on the side where she had been, my heart racing.

My aunt glances quickly in the direction of the window, her expression one of mild disgust. “Yes, Elloren,” she says sighing. “It was hard to miss the screeching.”

“But, but…what…” I can barely get the words out.

“Selkies, Elloren, it’s a Selkie.” She cuts me off, clearly not wanting to discuss it further.

I’m stunned by her nonchalance. “She was in a cage!” I pint again at the window, still not believing what I just saw

[Aunt Vyvian explains the nature of Selkies]

“She…she looked so terrified,” I say, upset.

[Aunt Vyvian then vaguely tells Elloren she believes Selkies shouldn’t be in cages (omitting the fact that is later revealed that she wants Selkies killed) and Elloren naively believes her…because she knows no better and knows nothing about the proposals her government has made in regards to how to handle Selkies. However, unease remains…]

“[…] the face of the Selkie stays fresh in my mind, and I can’t shake the chill I now feel for the rest of the ride.”’ (Forest 2017, p 52-54)

As we can see, which the initial reviewer who mentioned this scene naturally left out key parts that show Elloren’s humanity and sympathy for others, Elloren is deeply troubled by the sight so much that she readily believes her aunt’s solutions, because to believe a solution is better than accepting you can do nothing to help (and as we know she i suscpetible to what her aunt says because, at the moment, she looks up to her- she needs her). However, there is obvious lingering doubt with Elloren’s final thoughts as she feels a chill and still sees the Selkie’s face in her mind. This is the first awakening Elloren has into the harsh reality of her world, and it leaves doubts in her mind as she is exposed to these types of things for the first time.

The scene evidently shows her benevolence toward others, regardless of race, therefore this scene ultimately cannot be chalked up to racism– by looking at the context, we can infer the purpose of this scene is the cracking fracture of the beautiful world Elloren believes her people live in. It is the beginning of doubt, the beginning of the journey to unfurl the racism and prejudice around her. This is a vital scene that should be interpreted critically, not chalked up to simply racism because we want to find problematic elements to condemn in this book.

Critical reading people. It’s a thing.

There are several other quotes the initial reviewer who made this book famous pointed out as “problematic”. I said at the beginning of this review that “There is also the notion that some opinions are especially biased because some readers are “too sensitive”. Now I’m not about to tell you what you may or may not be offended by, but there is also a line to drawn by what is offensive and when one is simply grasping for anything that may be altered as problematic”. This brings me to a lovely quote I saw from a goodreads user, saying: “You can’t just take random lines just to claim something is problematic. There is the context within the text and world building.”

All these quotes lack the context they were placed in, therefore to pull them out and brand them as racist is an invalid interpretation- in fact, there was no interpretation, it was blind exploitation for the fact that many people reading the review would not have read the book and would see the finely picked quotes as racist.

With the proper context, we see the purpose these quotes were used for- not for black and white racism, but to show world building, and later on, an evolution (I will explain this).

For example, the quote pulled on Lupines:

‘”Lupines don’t ever marry, did you know that? They simply grab whomever they like and mate with them in the woods.”

“Like animals,” Echo chimes in, with great indignation.”’ (Forest 2017, p 71)

This is said in a discussion between Elloren, Fallon, and two other Gardnerian girls, Echo and Paige. Fallon is taking advantage of the situation that Elloren has virtually met no boys outside her family and knows basically nothing about the outside world. She begins to tell all sordid tales about the Lupines. Elloren is naturally appalled because she’s a naïve little twit that knows nothing (Forest 2017, p 70-74). Now this is just gossip and they are outlandish claims- Forest clearly paints them as an exaggeration but their overall purpose is made later on. The ultimate purpose is revealed by a Lupine named Jarod, who tells Elloren how Lupines truly mate, and that it is not too different from how Gardnerians fast. The Gardnerians have misconceptions on Lupines due to a Garnderian who went to visit the Northern Lupine pack and saw a man take a woman into the woods to mate (this man is Aislinn’s father, a character that has not been introduced yet, but her family is very, very conservative). Jarod explains the man who saw this twisted the circumstance– what was a beautiful thing in the tribe, akin to marriage and fasting with Gardnerians, was altered and skewed by this man’s prejudice (Forest 2017, p 402). This prejudice became a nasty rumor to slander the Lupines because this situation was taken OUT OF CONTEXT.

Therefore, by itself, the scene of gossip with Elloren and the girls seems judgmental. But with its counterpart scene, Forest is clearly showing us how if a person wants to see prejudice, if they want to see bad things, if they only want to find something problematic, then they will twist what they see to further a different agenda.

The same is what was done when this quote was merely put under the “racist” list, with no background or context or critical reading applied to understand the overall purpose of the scene.

Therefore to simply pull this out, without explaining the full context, goes beyond finding something offensive, which may be understandable. It is merely looking for problems to condemn and it loses you credibility as a reader and reviewer (the second option I mentioned at the begnning of this review).

There are several other quotes mentioned in the original review that are branded as problematic with no analysis of why or context given to illuminate their purpose. Majority of the quotes are spoken by Aunt Vyvian and Fallon, who are clearly made out to be the villains in this story. They are portrayed in a haughty, negative light. As the story goes along, Elloren learns she wants to be nothing like Fallon or her aunt because they are a prime example to her of what needs to change. These quotes serve the purpose to show how demented Fallon and Aunt Vyvian are, because the world they live in is so demented (and they have subsequently embraced their environment). They are so caught up in their prejudice that to a sane sounding person they sound horrible- that’s the point. They serve the purpose to build the world they live in, to better explore racism for the remainder of the book.

These quotes are not problematic- that’s the world she lives in! We see it from 3 perspectives- naïve Elloren’s, who is shocked; racist Aunt Vyvian, who is power hungry, and Fallon Bane, who is a cruel bitch. There is a significant tone change when Aunt Vyvian is speaking about these things than when Elloren is; Elloren mainly says things as an observation or fleeting thought- it is the truth she has learned. And in this story she is unlearning these things, while Aunt Vyvian and Fallon say many things with derision and high-handed haughty attitudes.

To chalk up any reference to half-breeds and Kelts and Urisks as racist and problematic is to miss the point of those quotes and the purpose of the book: from the truth we have been told to discovering the truth by ourselves. Elloren learns the truth about the Selkie by herself.

She learns the truth about Lupines by herself.

She learns the truth about the slavery and the pain Kelts and Urisk go through by herself.

She ends up living with two Icaral demons, protecting one at one point and befriending the other, and comes to the conclusion they are not evil, by herself.

She ends up learning that no one’s blood is pure, that the idea of keeping “pure-blood” intact is a myth! She learns these truths for herself, and the quotes this review pulled, claiming racism, are the exact opposite of what this book’s message is- to show how to overcome racism by FINDING THE TRUTH FOR YOURSELF.

CONTEXT MATTERS. CRITICAL READING MATTERS.

Now it has been often said that Elloren does nothing nice till 300+ pages in. This is false. While the most direct form of her helping someone comes much later on in the book, she does help others of other races indirectly in the beginning (it is to the extent in which she can help them), showing, again, her sympathy for others, regardless of race.

For example, when in a clothing shop with Fallon and two other Gardnerian girls, Fallon is particularly nasty to an Urisk girl. She is so cruel and wields her power to frighten the child, and IT IS CLEARLY SHOWN AS BEING WRONG, (Forest 2017, p 78). Then Fallon basically tries to sabotage Elloren’s dress, but Elloren grows a backbone and remains firm in the cloth she wants her dress stylized in. She thinks, “I know it’s a mistake to say more. But I think of her treatment of the little girl and can’t help myself,” (Forest 2017, p 81).

Elloren then proceeds to give Fallon a well-deserved diss. As we can see, Elloren was perhaps going to reign in her temper, but thinking of the cruelty Fallon portrayed on a small child of another race, Elloren’s resolve hardens and she roasts Fallon. Perhaps this is not the FU some readers want her to give a racist like Fallon, but keep in mind, this is her first outing with other girls, her first time meeting other girls outside her secluded home, her first time interacting with the harsh racists of her people. She is slowly hardening her resolve here, growing a backbone- this is not girl on girl hate, it’s slowly coming to understand justice and standing up for yourself, and others. What does it matter if it was a girl she dissed? Wrong is wrong and we should condemn it regardless of the gender of the other person. And that is exactly what Elloren did- she gave someone a slap of reality that they needed, she did not cower to the bully.

When Elloren meets Lukas Grey at a party her aunt throws, it is the insta-love of all insta-loves 😉 (Forest 2017, p 101-115). Despite that, she refuses to fast to Lukas Grey because she does not know him. Why Lukas wants her of all people is never explained…if you’re criticizing that plot hole I get that. I mean he does mention that he and Fallon were incompatible because he likes fire and she likes ice, while Elloren like woods and wood goes with fire (Forest 2017, p 277)…but that still doesn’t explain why he wants Elloren of all people (he can’t find another girl that likes fire or wood??). Like I said, if you’re criticizing the book on this point, I get it (that isn’t to say that if I disagree with you it then it makes me right and you wrong, and only when I agree with you then you are right- to be right you must back things up with TEXTUAL EVIDENCE that is IN CONTEXT and it’s honestly a mystery why Lukas wants Elloren of all people. No offense Elloren XD ). I think the purpose of this simplistic insta-love is so that it may be compared to the later on more developed relationship with Yvan, a Kelt that Elloren meets at University.

This shows one should not choose someone to fast or marry simply because others would approve and that that person is of their race. One might find they like people of other races, that a well-developed relationship is far more beneficial and far healthier. That is the reason I believe we see this infatuation Elloren and Lukas have for each other- also to show that a girl shouldn’t just go with the first guy that looks at her.

A girl has the ability to say no (and a boy has the ability to say no too, I’m using specifically female pronouns because…Elloren’s a girl (duh) but these lessons can be applied to boys as well)- she does not wait to be chosen, as Lukas chose Elloren. Elloren decides to make the choice for herself and says ‘no, I’m not ready.’

And I applaud her for that and I assume many people would too, no?

We learn the origins of the Gardnerian people from The Book of the Ancients (Forest 2017, p124-126). I’m lazy to write it so I’ll just post the pages:

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Then Elloren gets attacked by Icarals in Valgard (Forest 2017, p 128-131), a terrifying experience for a sheltered girl. She’s being attacked because of her family and because she looks like her grandmother, the Black Witch, and is presumed to be the next Black Witch as foretold in this prophecy. It’s understandable then why she’d have some harsh views on other races later on, especially Icarals, considering her first interaction with them was them trying to kill her. Now I’m not saying her harsh views are justified or correct in any way, but we also need to be fair and examine objectively how this came to be and why, to better understand why she does what she does later on, and how this works with the book’s message as a whole on racism and prejudice.

However, even after the attack, Elloren doesn’t turn into a total racist. She has valid reservations, but does not jump to needless conclusions:

Oh, Uncle Edwin, I anguish, why did you leave me in the dark about what might be out here waiting for me? Did you have any idea? Why didn’t you protect me?
He didn’t know, I realize. It turns out that my sweet uncle is dangerously naive about the world, cooped up in Halfix, isolated amidst his beehives and violins and childish good intentions.
As much as I love Uncle Edwin, I’m forced to consider that he’s not only dangerously ignorant, but he may actually be wrong, too. About so many things.

And Aunt Vyvian might be right.

I resolve to find out the truth for myself.” (Forest 2017, p 136)

After Elloren gets attacked, Lukas does not baby her afterward. In fact, he tells her, “…you do not need to be coddled!” (Forest 2017, p 134) and “You are equal to this Elloren” (Forest 2017, p 135). Readers often complain how women are portrayed as the weaker sex, the fragile sex that cannot handle anything- and here we have, in this apparently sexist world, a man telling a woman she is equal to the traumatic circumstance- that she can handle it and does not need to be coddled.

He acknowledges her strength.

(PAUSE: this is perhaps further proof it is more so the women in this world that perpetuate the sexism rather than the men, for even power-hungry Lukas encourages Elloren to embrace her strength)

…this is problematic? When I was reading this I was shaking my head in disbelief- this is arguably very empowering for a girl, it’s breaking down sexism, it’s showing the faults in it. So why are people calling this book sexist again?

Oh wait, I forgot 700 people didn’t even read it and the reviewer that made this famous never bothered to mention these passages…because it breaks the narrative that this book is dangerous.

It is not dangerous- it is important.

Now when Elloren goes to University, it has been said she is racist against every person of a different race that she meets.

THIS. IS. FALSE.

~PART 2:

When Elloren goes to university, she encounters a Vu Trin sorceress. If you look at Laurie Forest’s Pinterest page, you can see the Vu Trin appear Asian.

I don’t know why this is a problem to people….they look nice….

Anyway, while at Orientation, Elloren sets eyes up the moody broody Yvan Guriel, a Kelt. And she thinks this:

“The Kelts are not a pure race like us. They’re more accepting of intermarriage, and because of this, they’re hopelessly mixed.” (Forest 2017, p 163)

This quote got a lot of controversy. My status update when I read this explains it the best:

This infamous line was quoted in the infamous review that started it all, casted as one of the most racist things in this book.

I’d like to take a moment to just say that that review took it wildly out of context.

Bear with me.

Elloren doesn’t say this with any sort of contempt or snobbish high-handed regard her aunt or Fallon would. She says it as an observation. It’s a fact for this world, or as much as the reader and Elloren know, it is fact that the Kelts are not a pure race. Why are they not a pure race? Because “they’re more accepting of intermarriage”, another fact. The last part, where Elloren says “they’re hopelessly mixed” is a result of her culture, her upbringing where she was taught that her race is pure and to maintain being pure they must not mix with other races. Elloren was shielded from this world, but still knew of these things. Therefore when she says things like “hopelessly mixed” she is reiterating what her environment has told her.

So we have fact, fact and then the resulting impact on culture for how those facts have been implemented (i.e. separating races).

The next part right after this, which the reviewer, of course, failed to mention, or perhaps didn’t want to notice, says, “I notice the Kelts clothing is varied as well…These are work clothes, homespun garb best suited for farm chores-the type I wear at home for comfort,” (Forest 2017, p 163).

Here we can see Elloren finds herself relating to the Kelts based on their clothing. While she originally describes them as “hopelessly mixed” she finds herself relating to the clothes of the hopelessly mixed, feeling “weighed down […] by [her] expensive layers of silk. [She misses] Uncle Edwin and the comfort of [her] home” (Forest 2017, p 163). This implies she’s not very comfortable with certain things her race prizes, she’s not used to it, and she may even doubt it, as she says “I resolve to find out the truth for myself”(Forest 2017, p 136) on matters concerning the world. She has more in common with Kelt dressing than the dressing of her own prized race, implying, perhaps, a sense of home and comfort may be found outside what one has originally known.

Now we’ve taken this even further and see the Kelt’s mixed clothing, representative of their mixed line and blood, has oddly brought Elloren a sense of comfort and nostalgia- not exactly the line of thinking you’d expect from a die-hard racist that says things like “pure race” and “hopelessly mixed” right?

My point in all this is Elloren is a lot more complex than certain reviewers gave her credit for. She’s observing things based on the facts she was raised with, but also trying to reconcile these facts with how she is feeling now, how she is growing now. 

Things like this don’t just fade away in a few weeks or months. Especially with someone like Elloren who has been locked away from the world for some time, and now she’s been thrust into the midst of all this. These things take TIME, so don’t just go yelling buzzwords before we look at the context, at the character, and how all this plays into the story.

This is very subtle of Forest, and to understand this you have to be a critical reader. NOT the type of reader that is looking for any statement on race as an excuse to jam out the racist-stamp, but the type of reader that actually tries to read between the lines, with proper context.

There you have it folks. Moving on now.

“This Yvan Guriel doesn’t even know me, I lament, glaring resentfully at him out of the corner of my eye. He has no reason to be so hateful.” (Forest 2017, p 169)

This quote has been criticized. Naturally, Yvan does not like Elloren too much- he flat out hates her. Why does Elloren not understand this? Because she’s a sheltered little twit and a naïve violin-maker that has just been exposed to different races and just seeing the tensions between races before her own eyes. No one has ever judged her this way because she’s literally lived with her family and a few neighbors in the middle of nowhere. Is it so hard to believe she would be shocked he hates her? Hell, I’m not sheltered and I’m still upset when someone randomly hates me. It just sucks to be disliked.

The infamous original review also calls out a scene where Elloren works with other races in kitchen labor, which apparently exemplifies Elloren’s prejudice…again, out of context, and specifically nit-picked to further an agenda. When Elloren first enters the kitchen, she watches the Urisks and Kelts working, and thinks this:

“As I continue to watch the warm scene, relief washes over me.

To think Aunt Vyvian imagined working here would be so terrible. This is work I truly welcome. Peeling potatoes, washing dishes, pleasant people.” (Forest 2017, p 173)

DID YOU READ THAT WITH YOUR OWN TWO EYES?? She called them pleasant people, she was ready to work with them. She’s so damn naïve that she doesn’t even think they might hate her because she represents their oppressors.

Then she sees Yvan and she’s reminded of how much he hates her, but then, THEN, she sees him be very gentle and kind with a small Urisk girl and thinks the following:

“For a moment, I can’t take my eyes off him, and I imagine what it would be like to be on the receiving end of such a smile.

It’s all so wonderful. Friendship. Cooking. Children.

And, the icing on the cake, a large, gray cat walks across the floor.

It reminds me of home. And I know that once Yvan gets to know me, he’ll see that I’m not a bad person.

Everything I going to work out just fine.” (Forest 2017, p 174)

RACIST RIGHT?? THE HORROR THAT SHE LOOKS FORWARD TO WORKING WITH THESE PEOPLE, THAT SHE WANTS THEM TO ACCEPT HER, TO HELP THEM, TO LET THEM GET TO KNOW HER AND DVCFQEBIHDPOI IM SO MAD RIGHT NOW THAT PEOPLE TOOK THIS BOOK OUT OF CONTEXT, THIS BOOK IS FILLED WITH THESE MOMENTS GAH I NEED TO STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER NOW BEFORE I SAY THINGS I WONT BE PROUD OF LATER.

THIS BOOK IS NOT FUCKING RACIST GET THE FUCKING CONTEXT RIGHT

….

……..

I don’t give a shit if people hated this book, I really, really don’t, but dammit if you’re going to make an argument on racism, at least have the decency to put things in context and not give faux-interpretations. This is not an attack, but I’m sure some of you will still interpret it this way. Right now, I don’t give a shit.

Then, Elloren gets beaten up because of her race and who her family is (Forest 2017, p 179-181).

‘”They’re all the same”, Bleddyn agrees. “Bunch of black Roaches.” I flinch at the racial insult. It’s a horrible name that mocks the black of our sacred garb.” (Forest 2017, p 180)

Original reviewer: ‘“I’m gonna stop and unpack that one a little bit. Bleddyn and Iris are Kelts that work in the kitchen. The first time they meet Elloren, they trip her and beat her. This only serves to further her prejudices against the Kelts. Additionally, .” Here’s a great real-life response to this. And yes, I know and understand that this is supposed to be a fantasy world, but since Elloren is supposed to be coded as white, it’s important to mention.”’

First of all, there is no evidence, either from Laurie herself in a statement or the text that Elloren is “coded-as white”. Just because her skin shimmers doesn’t mean she is directly connected to white people today…it’s a fantasy world. I mean we can make real-life connections based off the ideas, but I don’t know how you can connect the actual characters to actual groups in the real world- they have shimmering skin and blue hair and wings (can I be a Kelt? Because Yvan ❤ ❤ <3)…..Second of all, Bleddyn is an Urisk woman and Iris a Kelt. They are cruel and harsh to Elloren when they first meet her, despite her attempts to try and show she’s a good worker. I understand Iris and Bleddyn’s hatred- it is to be expected but not condoned. The reviewer has chalked up their beating Elloren to “[serving] to further her prejudice against the Kelts”.

….

…I don’t know how you draw this conclusion. This is like the Uncle Edwin argument, where there isn’t enough information, but we draw a conclusion anyway- there isn’t even any implicit meaning to be drawn, no deper message to critically attain. Elloren did not say anything like “oh I knew those Kelts are bad” after this happened. She didn’t really have prejudice against the Kelts to begin with, she merely observed what was around her and stated the truths she has known, for as I mentioned before her tone is one of observance and shock, while Fallon’s and Aunt Vyvian’s are one of cool dislike and cruelty. She has said nothing with derision toward the Keltic race. It seems as if the reviewer is justifying the racial slur Elloren was given….or trying to take away an injustice being directed toward Elloren.

But there is no proof to that argument. There isn’t a text in that scene that says “I knew those Kelts were bad!” Unless you can read Laurie Forests’ mind when she wrote this, we can only conclude things based on what is written or implicitly implied.

From a humanitarian perspective, I think we can all admit that beating someone based on their race is wrong. It’s wrong what Iris and Bleddyn did, and anything Elloren does thereafter to any race is wrong. THESE THINGS ARE WRONG- YOUR RACE DOES NOT EXCUSE YOU- WHETHER YOU’RE MARGINALIZED OR THE DOMINANT GROUP, WRONG IS WRONG.

(PAUSE: Attack Helicopter has brought up a good point that “this so-called racial slur is something akin to calling a white person “mayonnaiseis incorrect. They write that the slur “black roach” is a blasphemous slur akin to making fun of someone’s religious dressing (like if someone made fun of a Muslim woman’s hijab) because the phrase has more religious motivation. While I previously said Iris and Bleddyn do this because they are judging Elloren based on her race, I think this interpretation narrows it down further- specifically, they are degrading the religion the dominant race follows. Therefore, I do agree to call a white person “mayonnaise” is an incongruent statement to what is a happening- it’s deeper than that.)

Let’s look at the lovely definition Mr. Dictionary provides us with my darlings:

RACISM:

  • prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

“a program to combat racism”

synonyms: racial discrimination, racialism, racial prejudice, xenophobiachauvinismbigotrycasteism
  • the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

RACISM, at its root, is a belief- albeit a bigoted one, but a belief nonetheless. Iris and Bleddyn exhibit this when they push and judge Elloren, presuming her to be like the rest of her race. MAYBE they hate Gardnerians because they are their oppressors, and their outright rejection of Elloren is a result of their environment, the world they live in that has shaped them to be hard, to be cruel. If anything, I see this book as an important lesson for the role the environment has on someone.

Take Elloren, a pretty gentle girl, who ends up angry and hard for some time due to recent events: when she was attacked by Icarals in Valgard, when Bleddyn and Iris beat her and when Ariel, a character coming right up, torments her. Her environment begins to shape her, hardening her, which I will go into more detail later with lots of quotes, so bear with me.

Overall, racism of any form is wrong- any sane minded person can see this, that to judge someone by race is wrong.

It only repeats the cycle of hate.

Then when Elloren arrives at her lodging, the North Tower, Ariel, an Icaral, tries to kill her. Honestly, imagine this happening to you and then tell me you wouldn’t come out affected at all with some hatred:

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As a result of the shock of reality Elloren gets, the reality that people hate Gardnerians (rightfully so), Elloren goes to Lukas saying she wants Ariel and Wynter gone, but he tells her they are easily managed because they cannot hurt her under University rules, lest Ariel be sent to a sanitorium and Wynter somewhere else (Forest 2017, p 200-207). On the topic of Iris and Bleddyn however, Lukas accompanies her to the kitchens.

In perhaps the most conflicting chapter “Balance of Power” (Forest 2017, p 208-214), Lukas threatens both Iris and Bleddyn and their families, then the whole kitchen staff that if they so much as brush against Elloren, there will be serious repercussions.

Up until that point I had shipped Lukas and Elloren, and I think part of Elloren was shipping herself too, but seeing (in my case reading) Lukas act this way, an obvious abuse of power and cruelty, shifts things in her eyes (and mine).

We know that at one point the other races oppressed the Gardnerians. Now the Gardnerians oppress those races. Then those other races (Iris and Bleddyn) oppressed a Gardnerian (beating Elloren) and then the Gardnerians oppress the other races (Elloren enlists Lukas to help her, and Lukas tramples on them). Do you see the pattern, the problem?

This cycle of dominating is the problem. It’s doesn’t solve anything; it just breeds more hatred.

Elloren notices this is wrong, that it’s going too far:

“A cool unease pricks at the back of my neck.” (Forest 2017, p 210)

[…]

“Guilt pricks at me.

But they hit you, I remind myself. They beat you and threatened you. And Fernyllia did nothing to stop them.” (Forest 2017, p 211)

[…]

“Thank you,’ I say, my voice stifled. I feel sick as I watch [Lukas] leave, my mind in tumult.” (Forest 2017, p 212)

[…]

“I find myself withering under [Yvan’s] hostile stare, my shame spiking when little Fern is quickly ushered out of the kitchens, countless worried lances cast my way.

I plop a pile of sticky frosting down on the sheet of cake and begin to slather it around as tears sting my eyes.

I wish Lukas hadn’t threatened everyone so mercilessly- especially the child. I wish he hadn’t threatened to harm their families.

My sickening shame stiffens my movements as I work, Fern’s terrified sobbing fresh in my mind.

But what’s the alternative? To let them bully me? To let them kick me and slap me and threaten me with further violence? No, it’s better to make idle threats, if they now fear me.

I may be devoid of magic, but I’m Carnissa Gardner’s granddaughter, Vyvian Damon’s niece and favored by Lukas Grey.”” (Forest 2017, p 213)

You cannot logically say Elloren felt “entirely justified in the way Lukas threatened an entire scene of workers”, as the original reviewer did. The evidence right before your eyes clearly says otherwise. She does not feel justified– she tried to justify it. There’s a difference.

To feel justified is like the second option I gave in the beginning of this review, that my pessimistic side believes some people will look in the mirror and see nothing wrong with themselves because they have justified their hatred and cruelty in their mind. Trying to justify means you have the lingering doubt in your mind, the unease the first option I mentioned brings, that when you look in the mirror you know what you’ve done is wrong. And Elloren knows it is wrong.

Have you guys never been so mad you do something so bad and then doubt creeps in but you push it down, you rationalize it? And then it slams full force later on when you’ve calmed down?

IT’S REALISTIC, ELLOREN’S REACTION.

IN THE END, SHE DOES NOT FEEL JUSTIFIED. HERE JUST LOOK AT THE WHOLE SCENE

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IT WAS, ON A WHOLE, CONFLICTING. IT WAS NOT BLACK AND WHITE.

In case you didn’t bother to read those pages (cause yeah I know most of you won’t), here you go:

“My mind spins, almost dizzy with conflict.” (Forest 2017, p 211)

AND THEN:

“For the rest of my shift, I try to cling to my roiling fear and anger to bolster myself and justify Lukas’s actions, but it’s impossible to hold back a fierce wave of sickening guilt.”(Forest 2017, p 214)

CASE CLOSED. The argument that this scene proves her racism and that she felt justified or happy or whatever is completely invalid. The words of the book clearly state otherwise. This why I mentioned earlier in my review that you can have any interpretation to literature- to an extent, that there is a line to be drawn on acceptable interpretations. The context of the words and later words that a expand upon the meaning of the work as a whole is the line. To move beyond it is an invalid interpretation.

LOOK AT THE WHOLE SCENE. LOOK AT THE CONTEXT. LOOK AT EVERYTHING. As one of my friends on GR once said, this is ‘literary blasphemy’. It is not fair to Laurie Forest or this book’s reputation to nit-pick and falsely generalize a whole scene and spread these alternative interpretations (alternative interpretations= LIES).

Lukas’s behavior is clearly shown in a negative light as he unjustly uses his power in the situation. What he did was terrible. We can admit this is terrible, that this is wrong, without condemning the whole book guys.

…..

The next scene is after Elloren is still reeling from the horrid kitchen scene. She sees Ariel and Wynter eating cake and flips out. When I read that I literally wrote in my book “ TF ” because I thought it was really stupid- like Elloren, you’ve lost it that much that you’re throwing their cake on the ground just because you iced it?

In case I haven’t made this clear, I do not approve of any point when Elloren treats someone harshly. I do not like what she did here, because I thought it was mindlessly embarrassing two people. At the same time, I can see why she did it- literally everyone has been rude or physically cruel to her at the University so far. Does it make what she did right? HELL NO. Just like I can understand why Iris and Bleddyn and Yvan hated her on first site- I get it, a representation of your oppressor right next to you. Does it make their treatment of her right? HELL NO.

This is something to be recognized in this book- I think it accurately portrays the conflicting interactions on the road to liberation. Both sides do shitty things. While actions like Aunt Vyvian’s and Fallon’s are painted clearly as WRONG, it is actions of those like Elloren or Wynter or Yvan that are gray, and it is this gray road that we need to journey upon to reach actual peace and equality- you have to get through the bad and the good and sort your way through. That’s what I liked about this book- it felt real to me. It has ups and downs for Elloren and her interactions with people of other races, so many tensions and healing moments but so many wounds as well…it was realistic to me.

Was it uncomfortable at times? Well, for someone like me who feels bad for anyone, it wasn’t uncomfortable per say…but sad. It heartened me. That doesn’t mean this book is dangerous and needs to be censored- not everything can be sunshine and roses and sweet moments and kumbaya. Sometimes it’s the hurt, uncomfortable hurt, triggering hurt, that helps heal. Because you see what’s wrong. If we never see what’s wrong, never know what’s wrong, never experience or acknowledge what’s wrong, then we never fix the problem because we never even see the problem! We’re so sheltered from it.

That is where this book is at this point- Elloren experiencing the wrong and doing wrong. It’s like she’s sucking in the bad from her environment and unleashing it back out (as I’ve said, a person’s environment has the great power to change a person greatly- anyone who’s ever experienced life can attest to this). After this comes the acknowledgment, and the solution.

We’ll get to those folks.

Oh and Elloren talks to Lukas about the kitchen fiasco:

“Was it…was it necessary to threaten the child?”

He narrows his eyes. “I just did them a favor, Elloren.” He gives a quick look around to check if we’re mostly alone, then, seeing that we are, he turns back to me, his voice going low. “The child’s here illegally. They need to do a better job of hiding her.”
“Oh,” I say, chastened. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
But what about when he threatened Iris’s family and Bleddyn’s sick mother? He certainly wasn’t doing anyone any favors there.
“Elloren, you have to choose what side you’re on,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s always been that way. It will always be that way. Dominate, or be dominated. Those are your choices. You saw what happened to you when everyone thought you wouldn’t fight back, that you couldn’t fight back. How much compassion did they show you?”
He’s right. Of course he’s right. But I just can’t shake the image of little Fern crying.
“She was just so scared of being sent back to the Fae Islands.”
They’ve been part of Gardneria since the Realm Wars. We let the Urisk settle there and provide them with homes and work to do. So why was little Fern so scared?
Shame tugs at me over the part I played in her terror. Yvan’s sharp, accusatory glare flashes to mind.
Unsettled, I wrap my arms around myself for warmth, the chill of encroaching autumn creeping into the air.
(Forest 2017, p 220)

The parts I have bolded clearly show her lingering doubt as her conscience nags at her. Again, she has been sheltered with sweet old Uncle Edwin, and then she’s being thrust into all this, attacked and judged and hated. She naturally reacts angrily and there is an attempt at justification of these things but then comes the aftershock post-anger, when her conscience takes root and doubt creeps in. Therefore, again, you cannot make the argument she feels entirely justified about what happened.

Lukas’ quote, “Dominate, or be dominated” I believe is very important for the story as a whole and I will later elaborate on. So keep it in your mind.

Next is Elloren’s dream, which the initial review that slandered this left out because it breaks the narrative that this book is all-out racist, or maybe they just didn’t care to analyze it, who knows… The dream goes as follows:

“In my dream, I’m strong and fierce and feared by everyone around me.
My name is Mage Carnissa Gardner.
I’m locking a large metal cage in the bottom of a dark dungeon, a ring of black keys heavy in my hand. The only light comes from some dim Elfin lumenstone hanging on the walls at intervals, casting a swampy, greenish glow over the scene.
In the cage are Icarals: Ariel, Wynter and the Icarals from Valgard. Iris from the kitchen is there, too, and Bleddyn Arterra.
I hear a sharp snap as the internal metal hooks engage each other. I’m just about to turn away, relieved they’re all safely locked up in prison, when I hear a child cry. I squint at the far corner of the cage. Little Fern and the Valgard Selkie are cowering on the floor. The Selkie looks up at me, her ocean eyes full of sadness.
I motion for her to approach and put the key back in the lock. “You two can come out,” I tell them, fiddling with the key, having a hard time with it.
The Selkie doesn’t move. She remains there on the ground, her arms around the sobbing child. “It’s too late,” she says mournfully, “you’ve already locked it.”
I break out in a cold sweat, the other creatures in the cage having disappeared, only the Selkie and Urisk child remaining. “It can’t be too late,” I insist, straining with the key.
But the lock won’t give.
It’s a mistake. It’s all a mistake. I hear a noise behind me and turn.

A Watcher, perched on an outcropping of stone, white wings glowing in the green light. Its avian eyes full of sorrow.
I turn back to the Selkie and the child. “It’s not too late,” I insist. “I’m going to get you out.”
For the rest of the night I struggle with the lock, but try as I may, it refuses to give.” (Forest 2017, p 225-226)

Elloren dreams she is someone else, someone stronger and feared, for everyone she has met so far has been stronger and made her afraid. Naturally, her desire to fill in larger shoes manifests itself in her dreams. But she is not herself, interestingly enough, she is someone else, alluding to the fact of what her grandmother did so long ago as the Black Witch- oppressing other races.

But unlike her grandmother, Elloren retains some sense of right. This dream I believe also reflects her conflicting feelings- the need to protect yourself and having become hard because people have wronged you manifests itself, but also the innate sympathy and humanity for those that have done you no wrong.

(PAUSE: Now I understand there is an argument to be made that Elloren is bad because she’s only nice to people who are nice to her or who haven’t wronged her- well when you have no experience, when you have been sheltered, and you’ve been attacked by Icarals and judged constantly how you look, I’d say it’s pretty hard to remember to like people who aren’t nice to you. For those of you who say this, can you honestly tell me you wouldn’t do the same? It’s just not that simple to chalk it up as ‘she should be better, she shouldn’t just be nice to people who are nice’- I agree with you in theory, but in practice, it’s really not that simple.)

It’s like what I mentioned earlier when I talked about Fallon Bane and the two types of people in the world- the first kind that has humanity and knows they’re shitty at the end of the day and the second kind that has no humanity and doesn’t see they’re terrible at the end of the day. Elloren’s grandmother is the second option. Elloren is the first.

She insists, “It’s not too late”, and if this dream is to be analyzed as a manifestation of herself and her own struggle internally, this “It’s not too late” can be turned on her- that it’s not too late for her to change, that she can get herself out and set herself free from these prejudices.

Because it starts with the individual. First the individual must, as I said before, experience the problem, know it, then acknowledge it and then find solutions. Right now we’re still scratching the surface of the acknowledgment part.

It’s a long struggle.

I’m just lazy to paraphrase this next part so here you go:

Original reviewer: “I watch as Damion [Fallon’s brother] grabs the arm of a passing Urisk serving girl and jerks her backward. She lets out a startled cry of surprise and nearly drops the large basket of muffins she’s carrying. Damion smiles unkindly and leers at her as Fallon and Sylus pick out some muffins, the two of them chatting and ignoring the girl completely.” 

This is a cafeteria scene and there manages to be 2-3 different racist things all in one short scene. Fallon trips Wynter, the other Icaral girl that Elloren lives with. Her brother Rafe goes to help her. An Elf yells at him for touching her and tells him to leave her alone.”

Me: I fail to see the 2-3 racist things here…it’s wrong, it’s cruel, yes. I was so saddened when I read this. I felt so bad for Wynter, I could just picture it and I hated it. Fallon and Damion do something shitty and it is painted as BAD and WRONG.

LOOK:

tbw14
(Forest 2017, p 232)

 

I mean I get if you’re condemning Damion and Fallon, they’re literally talked about as Satan incarnate, but Rafe? Cael (Wynter’s brother)? That’s not racist…so I only see one form of racism…which is depicted as horrible and wrong…the author does this time and time again- she depicts these things as WRONG. RACISM IS WRONG, THAT’S THE POINT OF THIS BOOK.

Original reviewer: “Miffed that he was berated when he was trying to help her, Elloren says “I guess that’s what you get when you try to help Icarals” 

Everything in this scene leads up to this conclusion by Elloren, “‘It’s best to stay away from non-Gardnerians.'”

WRONG. WRONG. NO. OUT OF CONTEXT. SPECIFICALLY NIT-PICKED. THE SCENE GOES AS FOLLOWS:

“I instinctively move to get up, aghast at Fallon’s behavior, the memory of how she tripped me stark in my mind. Falling in front of all those people- it was frightening and humiliating.

But..that horrifying night, when Ariel attacked me…Wynter made no move to help…” (Forest 2017, p 234)

Look. When you’re still sore from a blow, from someone who is supposedly your enemy, would you help them up? I know it’s wrong, it is, but it’s also…understandable, Elloren’s reactions. They’re conflicting and complicated, not outright racist- because that’s what’s happening, her world is being shook upside down.

She’s struggling.

THEN Rafe goes to help Wynter. And then Cael reacts like ‘go away, away from my sister’. It is AFTER SEEING CAEL’S REACTION THAT ELLOREN SAYS, ‘”I guess that’s what you get when you try to help Icarals’” (Forest 2017, p 235), NOT BECAUSE SHE’S MAD RAFE HELPED THE GIRL, BECAUSE OF CAEL’S REACTION.

Rafe then says,

“[…] the girl’s brother is rude…but his hostility is not completely unjustified.” (Forest 2017, p 235)

Like with Yvan, Elloren is too naïve to understand why races aren’t getting along, it’s her first time seeing these tensions, and due to her experiencing two near death experiences by the hands of other races, yeah, she’s a little irritable.

It’s realistic. It is also wrong, but to chalk it all up to racism is simple-minded and missing the point completely- ISSUES ON RACE ARE COMPLEX. THIS BOOK EXAMINES THEM.

Then Rafe explains that even though Wynter did nothing to help Elloren the night Ariel attacked her, Wynter is an outcast among Elves and Gardnerians, and Kelts, to some extent. He says,

“’Her brother’s just trying to protect her.’” (Forest 2017, p 236)

THEN:

‘”It’s best to stay away from non-Gardnerians,” [Elloren comments] bitterly.

“Rafe and Trystan shoot me looks of alarmed censure.

[…]

“They hate me” I defend myself to him, feeling lost. “They all hate me just because I look like our grandmother.”’ (Forest 2017, p 236)

FEELING LOST, she was sheltered and now she’s thrust into all these tensions and nobody fucking likes her because of how she looks- because of her appearance.

Is it right of her to be bitter and mean? No– but it’s realistic, it’s a part of the damn process of liberation and enlightenment.

Also if we examine the way Rafe and Trystan react, they are clearly surprised Elloren has said this. We can infer she has never made such a racist statement before- because her environment is changing her. She’s going through a bad time and is morphing into something bad.

CRITICAL READING PEOPLE. CRITICAL FUCKING READING AND FUCKING CONTEXT.

THEY. MATTER.

And to make matters more complicated, Elloren’s uncle is sick and she cannot go visit him because the Icaral who attacked her in Valgard is still on the loose. So she thinks,

“Icarals. It’s all their fault. If it wasn’t for them, I could visit my uncle, and I wouldn’t be living in nightmarish lodging.

[…]

I barely hear her as hatred flares inside me, searing any speck of compassion I might have felt for Wynter Eirllyn and rendering it to ash.” (Forest 2017, p 239)

Okay, so my mom’s a single mom. If I found out that a certain race was after me and my mom was sick and I couldn’t go to her because of said race, I would be fucking livid and curse that race till the ends of the earth. It’s my mom.

It’s her uncle.

She’s hardening, she’s growing bitter, and her environment is changing her for the worse. After what happened in Valgard, what happened in the kitchens, what happened in the north tower, and now this- she’s becoming harder.

I get it. I can relate. And I think a lot of people, both the ones who gave this 1 star without reading and those who read it, can relate too.

She wasn’t born this way, she wasn’t raised this way, but her environment made her this way- I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.

As the awesome Joker would say, “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”

In case you don’t believe anything I said and think I am nit-picking, here is the whole scene (and if anyone thinks I’m ever nit-picking or altering anything, send me a message and I’ll personally send you pics from the book to prove my points, anytime):

tbw15tbw16tbw17tbw18tbw19tbw20tbw21

Original reviewer: “I’m braced for more hatred when I enter the sunlit lecture hall built just of the Gardnerian Athenaeum—braced for ice magic and eviscerating stares and yet another well that Fallon has preemptively poisoned. 

Instead I’m immediately enveloped by goodwill—solitary scholars and convivial groupings slowly realizing who I am, blinking, murmuring and then blessedly smiling warmly at me. 

It’s all Gardnerians here, no hateful Kelts. And no Gardnerian military apprentices.”

The first time she feels comfortable in this school is when she’s surrounded by people of her own race. That is incredibly telling. Her professor is Priest Mage Simitri.”

*deep breath* No– because people had been mean to her all day and now people were nice to her; if the kitchen people had been nice to her, which she hoped they would be, she would be comfortable. But literally everyone has tried to kill her or hurt her to the point she even BRACES herself for more abuse, not just from the other races but from her OWN RACE ASWELL, as she says,

“I’m braced for more hatred when I enter the sunlit lecture hall built just off the Gardnerian Athenaeum-braced for ice magic and eviscerating stares and yet another well that Fallon has preemptively poisoned.” (Forest 2017, p. 248)

Forgot to mention this quote didn’t we, hmmm? You cannot make the argument she feels comfortable only around her own race- she was clearly expecting it from ANY ANGLE, which is very sad when you think about it. So sue her for finally being happy when someone is nice to her. Is it right to treat people well only when they’re nice, or feel comfortable only when they’re nice- NO, I’ve talked about this before. But you’re taking out the character now, the horrific experiences she’s had, her exposure in such an environment. I sound like a broken record but it makes sense why she’d feel relief- so far the interactions with other races have been they’ve a) tried to fucking kill her b) beat the shit out of her and c) treat her like Satan incarnate.  

I think there’s a definite struggle in Elloren, due to her environment and how she’s been treated, that battles her natural to help and sympathize and be kind. See:

“Unease pricks at me over the subtle, collective dislike of the [small Urisk girl who comes into Priest Simitri’s class] but I remember my own harsh treatment in the kitchen and push the feeling away.” (Forest 2017, p 250)

And this is skipping ahead but this is further proof she does not feel comfortable completely with her own people: at one point when she removes her fancy Gardnerian clothes Aunt Vyvian buys her and puts on her old clothes from Halfix (I’ll explain more when we get to this part), she thinks:

“I look more like a Kelt than a Gardnerian. But I feel like myself again.” (Forest 2017, p 361)

And as we already saw, she looked at Keltic clothing and it reminded her of home, further proof she doe snot indeed feel comfortbale with her own people (Forest 2017, p 163).

Incorrect interpretation excluding character experiences up till that point, and later words that disprove such a conclusion. Incorrect. AND she does try to feel comfortable with others. For example, when she meets Diana and Jarod, the Lupine twins.

“Maybe she’s arrogant, this girl. But her brother was kind to me. Maybe these Lupines aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. It’s not ideal to be forced together like this, but perhaps it makes sense to make the best of things and try to get along.” (Forest 2017, p 259)

SEE? She wants to get along, she doesn’t want trouble, but it’s not too easy to do that when people keep judging you family and you. Yet she still says this when she meets a new race. ENOUGH with the “she’s so racist and bad blah” bullshit, she’s NOT, she’s just hardening because everything is getting so complicated…I don’t know how to explain this without repeating all I’ve just said 100 more times…

Next.

This next quote got some controversy. That the only girl that was nice to Elloren was this ugly chick, and that there is girl-on-girl hate. First of all, it’s normal if people don’t like each other, as I’ve already established. Second of all, it’s not the only girl that was nice to Elloren, Ailinn, and later Diana, form strong bonds with Elloren. As for the ugly girl, Tierney Calix, she hates Elloren on sight. She does not like her as much as Fallon doesn’t or Yvan or whoever else has hated Elloren up until this point too. Then Tierney is nice to her as they bond over their mutual feeling of hatred toward Fallon Bane (Forest 2017, p 265-268). And it is later revealed the reason Tierney is so ugly is because she is a water Fae, and if found out she is an existing Fae, who should all be dead, she will be executed and so will her brother and Gardnerian family that takes care of her. So she was made very ugly to ensure no wants to fast her (Forest 2017, p 556-557). THAT’S why she’s ugly- it’s camouflage, not some conspiracy theory the where the author is trying to say only pretty girls are mean or that Elloren is only friends with ugly chicks. If we pay attention to the words later on, we see the meaning of Tierney’s ugliness- Elloren does not know anything about Tierney at this point, and she judges her on the outset. When she gets to know her and comes to care for her, she learns the reason why. Once again, you can’t just pick any old quote and say that’s a problem- you need to look at the whole to understand the importance of the individual parts.

Then Lukas takes Elloren on a date to see this fancy violin, and they start kissing, and then they both feel this like powerful force between them and Elloren gets all shocked and then this:

“Lukas holds on to me, his eyes full of surprise. ‘I don’t know,’ he says, his voice deep and ragged. ‘I’ve never felt anything like that before.’ His expression shifts from shock to hunger. He lunges at me, claiming my mouth, and pushes his body hard against mine.

I try to move away from him, to push away from the black fire, but he tightens his hold on me. I wrench my mouth from his.

‘Lukas,’ I force out. ‘Stop. I want to go.’

He pulls back, just barely, and gives me a look so feral that it fills me with serious alarm.

My eyes dart nervously toward the exit.

Abruptly, Lukas steps away, eyes predatory.” (Forest 2017, p 278-279)

Some have interpreted this as assault.

Is this assault? Honestly, I’m not sure. He did stop. I think he was lost in the amount of power they were sharing, because I think Lukas is power hungry and kind of evil. But assault? I think that’s jumping ship way too quickly. It’s still WRONG, don’t get me wrong, it IS WRONG, BUT she said STOP, and he did stop.

It’s conflicting.

Original Reviewer: Wynter’s brothers, two Elves (Named Rhys and Cael), are waiting for her at her tower. They ask Elloren to have some compassion for Wynter, as she is mistreated by her own people. Elloren refuses, because when Ariel was taunting her that first night, Wynter did nothing to help. 

“Cael stiffens and anger flashes in his eyes ‘I should have known better than to expect compassion from a Gardnerian.’

My blood boils at his words. ‘You should have known better to expect that I would roll over and play dead when abused by Icarals.'”

This defensiveness, this absolute belief that nothing Elloren ever does could possibly be wrong, this never changes. Once she starts learning not to be racist (remember y’all, we’re 280 pages into this book and her redemption arc hasn’t even started) she still gets personally offended when anyone questions her motives. 

FALSE!

After Cael explains Wynter is actually very nice and is an outcast, this is Elloren’s thought:

“I hesitate, momentarily conflicted. But then I remember where weakness got me. I can’t afford to be weak.” (Forest 2017, p 282)

  1. She actually hasn’t done anything wrong up until this point. People have just attacked her and she’s reacting.
  2. It is not an absolute belief, she very clearly is conflicted and struggling. We’re nearing the redemption arc, it’s the arc of conflict now, because, I hate to break it to you, overcoming these things isn’t simple sweetie.
  3. Does this excuse anything reactionary Elloren does? NO. IT’S WRONG, but we have to be able to see where this is all stemming from, to observe from afar to understand what causes the problem and how to get to the solution. There must be some sort of objectivity as readers before we jump on the “everything is problematic” train.

Then Elloren goes up to her room and sees a chicken. Yeah, a chicken. And Ariel and Elloren butt heads and call each other names. Ariel calls her a Gardnerian pig, to which Elloren responds, “Shut up, Icaral,” (Forest 2017, p 283).

And the following happens:

“Wynter winces at the word, her wide, silver eyes now peeking out above her wing wrapping. Shame pricks at me as I watch Wynter cowering, but anger and fatigue override my conscience.” (Forest 2017, p 284)

I really question the people who get offended by this and go back and turn this all on Elloren. Have you never experienced this where you’re so mad and confused and it clouds your judgment? No?

Okay Mother Teresa, bless me and tell me how I follow you in your sainthood.

Then there was this, the claims of ableism when Ariel harms herself:

Original reviewer: “Every night Ariel hovers protectively about her chicken. If I even get near the animal, she screams something unintelligible about cages and setting me on fire. She’s completely unhinged, and I catch her doing mad, confusing things, like listlessly taking a knife to herself, slowly pushing the blade into her flesh until blood comes, adding to the rows of long scars up and down her arms. If she catches me looking, she hisses and screws her face up into a frightening scowl before throwing the knife on the floor and turning herself over to face the wall, her rancid wings lying on the bed like rotting, wilted leaves.”282

The idea that self-harm makes you dangerous is so incredibly damaging, harmful, and ableist.

I don’t understand why this was even included. Ariel is already established as a “scary Icaral,” why bother making her “crazy” as well?

Okay. I don’t see anywhere Elloren says that because Ariel hurts herself she is dangerous. She says she looks crazy and does crazy things like randomly cutting herself. She never says that because Ariel hurts herself she is dangerous. I don’t see that anywhere. Let me read it again. Nope. I don’t see it. Do you, person who is reading this now? Do you see it? How is this ableism?

Ableism /ˈeɪblɪzəm/ (also known as ablism, disablism, anapirophobia, anapirism, disability discrimination, and handicapism) is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities.

Elloren doesn’t ever discriminate on Ariel due to her disability- WAIT Ariel doesn’t even HAVE a disability!!! How is the term ableism even being used here then????

This is why words lose meaning- when we just throw them around when we find something we don’t like. It’s like the word racism and sexism nowadays.

Not only does context matter, but DEFINITIONS and HOW THEY ARE USED matter.

We later find out that Ariel has had a hard life, she was sent to a sanitorium and locked in a cage when she was just two and that the berries she always eats are actually a sedative, a drug she is now hooked on (Forest 2017, p 305 & 412). Ariel is presented as the culmination of all the worst the world has thrown at her- she is hurting and angry because she is so mistreated. My heart goes out to her. It really does.

Elloren’s dream (Forest 284-285): Elloren dreams the Selkie is following her into the woods. Elloren looks all powerful but the Selkie is desperately trying to tell her something “in a language I don’t understand, that I have no interest in understanding,” (Forest 2017, p 285).

The Selkie falls down and Elloren refuses to look down at her, ignoring her.

At the end, she thinks,

“As the dream fades to black, I’m left with an uncomfortable gnawing sensation that by refusing to slow down and look at her, really look at her, I’m missing something.

Something of vital importance.” (Forest 2017, p 285)

This is the gnawing of her conscience, the problem with racism and prejudice. THIS is the message of the book- that when we are blinded by these things, we miss something so essential to our humanity and lives. This is why we need to see the faults, the mistakes. It’s why we study history, to understand the past and not repeat it. It’s why we need to read books like this, to keep talking and about race and the like, really talk about them in all respects, so that we don’t repeat history.

This book shows that perfectly. The Gardnerians have merely repeated the Oppression Cycle by oppressing other groups. Just as Iris and Bleddyn seek to oppress Elloren. It’s a cycle of hate that can only be broken when we look down, when we see each other, when we coexist.

THAT is why I love this book- because it talks about the problem, the road to recovery and the true solution- look down. See it. Read it.

“The softening of [Yvan’s] vivid green eyes spark a powerful ache deep inside me, and then a sudden, fierce resentment of him and Iris and how they all belong.” (Forest 2017, p 294)

I think this is another part of Elloren that makes it difficult for her to just up and get rid of her prejudice- what she’s experienced so far and what she desires- to belong. For people to stop judging her by her family and her looks and just accept her- is it so hard to understand? Haven’t we all gone through this?

Basically what happens next is Ariel’s chicken wrecks Elloren’s portrait of her parents so Elloren lets the chicken loose outside, which she does with guilt and unease and attempted justification (Forest 2017, p 294-295). Ariel then burns Elloren’s quilt, the last trace of her mother (Forest 2017, p 296). So Elloren tells Lukas and he kills the chicken and then Ariel beats Elloren up (Forest 2017, p 299-300).

The original reviewer has mentioned that Elloren received no consequence for her actions: pg. 304. “Something irretrievable has broken between us. It was too much, what he did. I don’t think I can ever forgive him.”

These are pretty words that don’t actually translate into what happens. She convinces herself that this is the truth however, and therefore feels absolved. She steals another chicken to replace the one Lukas killed, and apologizes, not to Ariel, but to Wynter. She forgives her, even though she has no right or authority to do so. Again, Elloren receives no consequences for her actions from any of the people she’s wronged.

  1. she got beat up, I’d say that was a consequence
  2. I’m not sure what consequence you expect considering Icarals have no power in that world and anyone would believe Elloren, a Gardnerian
  3. There was also an emotional consequence as Elloren finally sees what her hate has done to someone, how her hate has inadvertently almost made someone go mad.

Original Reviewer: “So after having her kindred killed, when confronted by Professor “ethnic cleansing” Simitri, she lies, and says she simply tripped.”

Annnddd of course we’re completely downplaying how Elloren lies to protect Ariel. To protect her enemy, who she’s realizing isn’t really her enemy at all. Of course, we must down play this. Gotta stick with the narrative of course. It seems to me this reviewer downplayed and minimalized anything good Elloren did and took everything to be problematic- this is literary manipulation.

Nothing about this book is simple. Nothing about Elloren’s decision to protect Ariel is simple. In fact, after getting beat up, Ariel seems to enter this sort of trance, and Wynter is attempting to stop her from Turning, which I guess is how an Icaral loses all sanity and goes berserk.

Seeing Ariel this way, Elloren thinks later on:

“Ariel singing to her kindred at night, petting it lovingly. Ariel being laughed at and ridiculed wherever she goes. People everywhere turning their heads away, refusing to look at her.
In a month’s time, unlike me and even unlike Wynter, Ariel has never received a letter or a visit from a family member, never heard a kind word from anyone save Wynter and Professor Kristian.
She’s an Evil One, a voice inside me insists shrilly. There is nothing good in her.
But the way she cared for her bird, the bird that’s now dead and staked to the door. She was so tender with it; so loving.
The question forces itself to the surface, even as I struggle to keep it down.
Is she really completely evil?
I realize I don’t know the answer, and staring into the sad, soulful eyes of the Watcher, it suddenly seems vitally important to find that answer before sealing Ariel’s fate.” (Forest 2017, p 302)

This was not SIMPLE. To say this is and to simply jump to Elloren covering for Ariel is taking away a vital part in Elloren’s character growth.

Then Elloren goes to Lukas, confronts him that what he did was too much, then takes the blame for Ariel (Forest 2017, p 302-304).

Original Reviewer: “She steals another chicken to replace the one Lukas killed, and apologizes, not to Ariel, but to Wynter. She forgives her, even though she has no right or authority to do so.”

WRONG. LIES. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG!!

OUT OF CONTEXT BUT MAINLY JUST PLAIN WRONG.

Ariel is like passed out trying not to turn into a monster, she’s not even in the right mind and Wynter is trying to soothe her. Elloren says, “I never meant for this to happen” and Wynter says, “’I know…it is my curse to know. This is not all on your shoulders, Elloren Gardner. This is but one terrible cruelty in an endless string of terrible cruelties stretched out over all her years.’” (Forest 2017, p 305).

Elloren silently prays for dear Ariel to return to herself (Forest 2017, p 306).

Elloren doesn’t just avoid Ariel and turn to Wynter. And Wynter doesn’t accept an apology on behalf of Ariel- she explains to Elloren why it is all so hard for Ariel. Elloren does not apologize to Wynter instead of Ariel, she apologizes herself to Ariel on page 345:

“‘She continues to stare at me as her eyes take on a glazed, pained expression. “I still hate you, you know.

I swallow and nod. Of course she does. I deserve it.’ (Forest 2017, p 344)

THEN:

“I don’t expect you to ever stop hating me,” I finally say with effort. “But I want you to know…I’m sorry for what happened to your kindred. I didn’t know Lukas would do that…I didn’t think….I was so angry at you. I’m sorry” (Forest 2017, p 345).

ELLOREN DOES APOLOGIZE TO ARIEL SHE DOES SHE DOES SHE DOES. SHE DID. READ THE BOOK AGAIN!

THEN, when Ariel says she wishes she (herself) was dead, and Elloren tells her not to say that about herself, Ariel then wishes every scholar was dead, except Wynter:

“And, oddly enough, I feel, for the first time since I’ve come to the University, a small sense of peace blooming inside me.” (Forest 2017, p  345)

Found with Icarals, peace found with Icarals. She is learning and growing.

As I said before, Ariel bears the culmination of so much abuse and hurt. And this is a lesson for Elloren: don’t judge the book by its cover. She didn’t know how badly it would hurt Ariel, she let her anger and prejudice blind her and she almost really hurt someone.

That chapter was so intense. I think Forest is a great, engaging writer. So what if she doesn’t write all happiness and snowflakes? This is a dark book exploring dark themes and I think she did a great job on it. I feel so much for Ariel…

Original Reviewer: “Now that Elloren has taken the first step into being not-awful, the cruelty by other Gardnerians increases. This adds distance from Elloren’s own racist actions in comparison to the other people of her race.”

No? We’re delving deeper into the world now, so naturally we will see more of their cruelties. As Elloren sees these cruelties, and her own anger fades from her circumstances (as we have seen in the passage I quoted on Ariel how she is questioning things), and new circumstances take place, naturally there is a discrepancy between what Elloren does and what others do. To chalk this up as a way to make Elloren seem not so bad because everyone else is becoming worse might just be because you’d rather not admit Elloren is learning and growing so we have to take away from her, right? Well, the only to know anything for sure would be to read Laurie Forest’s mind, but unfortunately, we can’t, so we must use the context of the words and character thus far.

“Aislinn turns to me, her silver Erthia sphere necklace catching the light, her expression riddled with conflict, as if faced with a world suddenly turned clear in its head. ‘There’s been a mistake. There has to be some mistake.’ Her eyes flicker to where Jarod stands with his sister. She looks back to me and shakes her head, but her gaze is full of certainty. ‘Elloren, it’s impossible to be evil and uncivilized and love the poetry of Fleming. I’m sure of this.’” (Forest 2017, p 313)

Okay, Aislinn annoys me. She says the above quote in reference to Jarod. Aislinn annoys me because she said she really, really needed chemistry as a class…then proceeded to just read poetry the whole time. You said you needed the class! Why you goofing off? THEN she suddenly thinks Jarod can’t be evil because he likes poetry.

That’s just stupid. But hey common interests and all, bringing people together.

Still. I’m not past the part where Aislinn said she needed chemistry and freaked out that lupines were in the class and then, having Elloren as a partner, proceeded to not pay attention in class. Makes no sense Aislinn you idiot.

(PAUSE: Attack Helicopter made the following point on Aislinn: “She only needed to take the class to graduate. She didn’t have to do well. She only had one year left to her degree and if she didn’t take this class she couldn’t graduate. So she had to have it but she didn’t need brilliant marks  She only had that year because afterwards she had to wandfast and had no other option.”

Well now don’t I feel shoddy for making fun of Aislinn now….you see what happens when we calmly discuss literature guys? One person says one thing, another person says another thing, and in the end, maybe one person (me) will expand their horizons more on a character. You see what happens when we READ the book and then discuss it calmly and not just randomly put 1 stars? So much more productive. I didn’t think about that for Aislinn, in

I didn’t think about that for Aislinn, in fact, I actually forgot to mention that altogether: Aislinn is going to be fasted to this guy named Randall right after graduation. While she wants to be an Archivist, due to her family’s demands, she will fast instead. Therefore yes, it is true that it really didn’t matter how well she did in the class. Her main concern when seeing the Lupines is that her father will find out and pull her from the class, because, like I said, her whole family’s super conservative. All in all, Aislinn’s concerns are not unwarranted, and she did indeed not have to do great in the class- she just needed to take it.

I stand type corrected.)

At this point in the story, the Gardnerians begin to wear white armbands to show support for Marcus Vogel. Noticing that more and more Gardnerians are following behind Vogel, Elloren thinks, “The thought of Vogel as out next High Mage fills me with a powerful dread I can’t explain,”(Forest 2017, p 316).

Then Tierney tells Elloren she needs her help getting vials from her room. Tierney rooms with Fallon (ew), Echo (sheep 1), Paige (sheep 2) and Diana (yay). When in the room, Elloren sees that Fallon has her own exclusive bed away from the other girls. She goes in and sees that Fallon has a portrait of Lukas Gray (talk about obsessed….) and Elloren accidentally breaks it (sly as a fox that one).

Then Fallon returns suddenly and decides she wants to teach Diana, who is sleeping naked and is altogether disgusting to the other girls, a lesson by cutting her hair. Naturally, being the daughter of an alpha, Diana senses Fallon and gives her a nice scare that she needed. Lupines are immune to Gardnerian magic, and so Diana breaks Fallon’s wand (Forest 2017, p 323-325). I was very happy this happened to Fallon- she needed a reminder that she’s not the most powerful, and even if she was, she has no right to treat people this way. But apparently, since Diana thinks her race is superior, this angered some…

Original Reviewer: I don’t understand why every single person in this book has to be racist somehow.  After this scene, Tierney tries to confess being a water Fae to Elloren but she cuts her off and tells her not to say anything.

  1. That is the nature of this world, as I’ve said like 100 times. It’s a book that explores racism- I’m not sure how you didn’t understand this by now…everyone’s a little racist because that’s how they were raised (as we learn about the religions of other races later on, which I will talk about, we see that the Lupines, like the Elves and Gardnerians, have religious beliefs that signal out their race as the superior race). It’s especially hard to ignore in the Lupines’ case because they are naturally superior. I mean, even magic doesn’t work on them, so if anyone’s claiming total strength, it should be them. That’s not racist- that’s really just fact that they have superior abilities. Facts are not offensive or racist.
  2. Then, when Elloren figures out Tierney is a water Fae, and is glamoured as an ugly Gardnerian to protect herself so no one will want to fast with her, Elloren tells her not to say anything, because this is dangerous information if it gets out. When Tierney is hinting at her true nature, Elloren thinks:

“No, I finally admit to yourself, the crushing truth settling in. She’s Fae. She’ll be sent to the Pyrran Isles if she’s discovered.

And she’s done nothing to deserve any of this.” (Forest 2017, p 326)

There is still clemency, there is still mercy, there is still good in Elloren- as I said before, now that the worst has basically passed, her conscience can take full force. And now that she’s gotten through all the problematic shit, she is LEARNING, HEALING, and understanding what is happening is wrong, that Marcus Vogel is NOT the solution, that being horrible to Ariel is NOT the solution, that prejudice and racism is NOT THE SOLUTION.

SHE IS LEARNING.

Aside from the uncomfortably brunt questions about mating, I have a sudden feeling that I would actually like Diana’s people.” (Forest 2017, p 341)

YOU ALL READ THAT RIGHT? SHE SAID SHE’D LIKE THE LUPINES. RACISM? HOW IS THIS RACISM? SHE’S LEARNING, SHE’S OVERCOMING IT and all that nonsense Fallon told her at the beginning to scare her.

THEN:

“You know Elloren” Aislinn says, her voice tentative, “talking to Jarod…it just makes me wonder if…if our people might be mistaken about some things.

I settle back, catching sight of a familiar constellation through the branches. “I know what you mean.” (Forest 2017, p 343)

SHE IS LEARNING.

I know it takes a while, it takes a while to unlearn years of prejudice and beliefs you’ve been raised with, to shake off near-death experiences by the hands of other races and everyone hating you based on your appearance- sorry if she’s not moving mentally quick enough for ya. But it’s a journey. It takes a while. For everyone, the length will be different. To condemn the length it takes her is to condemn the process- to want it to have gone faster is to risk the process not being as effective.

That’s life- it’s a climb, a struggle- and I think Forest paced her struggle very very well *applause*

We see others like Aislinn and Yvan and Ariel also struggle to shake off their own prejudice. As we saw before Aislinn’s voice was tentative, almost hesitant.

In case you needed more proof that she is growing and feeling conflicted all at once:

“We’re supposed to be Gardnerians, the Blessed Ones, the First Children, blameless and pure. And all of the other races are supposed to be the Evil Ones, the Cursed Ones. But more and more it seems as if life has the disturbing habit of refusing to align itself into such neat columns.

It’s all extremely confusing.” (Forest 2017, p 347)

Then on the notion of how Rafe, her brother, is spending more and more time with Dana, a Lupine.

“My worry spikes. Rafe can’t become interested in a Lupine. He’ll bring the wrath of two powerful races straight onto his head. And hers, too.” (Forest 2017, p 347)

As you can clearly read, there is no mention of how she is judging Diana because of her race, that she thinks that race is lower and that’s why they shouldn’t be together, but because it would bring hell upon earth when the races mix. The races, Gardnerians and Lupines, are in no position ready to mix- they need to talk first, and they haven’t even gotten around to that.

She’s simply worried for her brother. There is nothing racist about it. Things are tense right now and they’re too different at the moment. Hence she thinks,

“There are things I’m growing to truly like about Diana, admire even, but I push them roughly to the back of my mind. I know I’m being wrongheaded, and I’m ashamed of my words even as I say them, but this is a road that could lead to disaster.” (Forest 2017, p 348)

Original Reviewer: She does this consistently. She says horrible things, but since she feels “bad” about them, she feels absolved.

I’m not sure where people get this ‘absolution’ Elloren grants herself after she thinks something “bad”’ from. First of all, what she’s thinking isn’t bad- she says she likes Diana, she does and her actions prove that, but this road, the grandson of the Black Witch and the daughter of an alpha, both practically royalty, would lead to disaster for the state their races are in. The Gardnerians want to attack the Lupines. It is not a good timeà “’I mean, she’s the daughter of an alpha, and our people aren’t exactly on the best terms with each other,’” (Forest 2017, p 438).

THEN, THE PROCLAIMED “HOMOPHOBIA”

NOT A TRIGGER WARNING BECAUSE IT’S NOT HOMOPHOBIA

The Gardnerian race does not like homosexuals. We have seen this a lot in other stories- if you’ve ever read any historical fantasy fictions, the world sometimes does not accept homosexuals. This is unfortunate and wrong. But it is a part of the world. People in the world hold these prejudices and so do people in real life.

Elloren has no disgust when Trystan tells her he thinks Yvan is beautiful. She is WORRIED ABOUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HIM:

“’Holy Ancient One, Trystan, does Yvan know?’
Yvan can’t know. No one can know this.
‘I think so,’ Trystan says stiffly. ‘Maybe that’s why he’s so careful not to undress around me.’
‘Oh, Trystan,’ I breathe, panic clamoring at the edges of my thoughts, “this is really bad.”
‘I know,’ he admits tightly.
‘The Mage Council…they throw people in prison who…’
‘I know, Ren.’
‘You can’t be this way. You just can’t. You have to change.’
Trystan continues to stare rigidly at the book. ‘I don’t think I can,’ he says softly.
‘Then you can’t tell anyone,’ I insist, shaking my head for emphasis. ‘No one can know.’
‘Don’t you think I know that?’ His voice is still calm, but I can hear pain breaking through. And an edge of anger.'” (Forest 2017, p 351)

EVEN TRYSTAN REACTS WITH ELLOREN’S LOGIC that no one can know. The Gardnerians are too powerful, too racist, too judgmental. The Original Reviewer even admitted we’re seeing the Gardnerians’ cruelty expadning- now that she is learning the full extent of her people’s prejudices, of couse she tells her brother to hide his sexuality- who knows what the Gardnerians will do to him! Like Diana and Rafe’s and Tierney’s situation, it just isn’t safe right now:

“I rub at my aching head. “Oh, Trystan,” I say, stunned. My religion has just been turned into a weapon. Aimed straight at my brother. “They’ll see you as one of the Evil Ones. If anyone finds out…”
“I know.”
I shake my head, feeling dazed. “I seem to be collecting them these days, you know.”

“Evil Ones?”
“Icarals, Lupines—” A hidden Water Fae. “—and now you.”
Trystan shrugs slightly in response, suddenly looking very tired.
I gently nudge his foot. “I know you’re not evil, you know,” I softly tell him.
He nods back at me, seeming momentarily at a loss for words.
I sigh deeply, pressing my head back hard against the wall, staring up at the play of shadows on the ceiling rafters from the flickering fireplace and lamplight.
“I’m beginning to think it’s all hogwash anyway,” I tell him. “All this stuff about Evil Ones. But that doesn’t change the fact that everyone else seems to believe it.” I swivel my head on the wall to look at him with concern. “Trystan, I’m really worried about you now. I can’t…” Tears prick at my eyes as an unbidden image forms of Trystan being taken away, thrown into prison somewhere. A fierce urgency wells up inside me, accompanied by a very justified fear for my brother’s safety. “You’ve got to keep this secret.”
“I know, Ren,” he says softly.
“I’m not kidding. This is very dangerous. Promise me. Promise me you won’t tell anyone.”
“I promise. I’ll be careful,” he assures me, and I know he’s being serious and humoring me at the same time. But it will have to be enough for now.”(Forest 2017, p 352-353)

I HOPE YOU ALL READ THAT LAST PART- “I’m beginning to think it’s all hogwash anyway,” I tell him. “All this stuff about Evil Ones. But that doesn’t change the fact that everyone else seems to believe it.” It’s not that she believes this- It’s that other people do. She’s crying for him, she’s worrying for him- she has no fear or disgust toward him, the definition of homophobia, so once again a word has been tossed around mindlessly.

This is how words lose meaning.

Elloren later on, which I will quote when I get to it, asks Yvan not to tell people about Trystan because he’s a good person, because she wants to protect him. AND she hangs out with Trystan several times after this, speaks to him normally. SHE IS NOT HOMOPHOBIC.

FOREST IS EXPLORING THIS THEME IN HER WORLD (it’s not really not a theme actually, it’s more like a side plot).

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

Yvan: “You don’t know. None of you want to know.” (Forest 2017, p 356)

Sounds fitting for both the Gardnerian race that doesn’t want to see the truth, that wants to be blinded by prejudice, and for the people who rated this 1 star without reading it.

You guys don’t want to know the truth for yourself. You don’t want to form your own opinion.

Shame.

Then, Yvan sees Elloren’s lovely dress and says the dress was made by Urisk workers who are treated as slaves on the Fae Islands (Forest 2017, p 356). When she goes to Priest Simitri to ask him about this, he gives her an Ironwood tree seedling in a glazed black pot, saying it is to cleanse her room from the “demon stain” of the Icarals (Forest 2017, p 357).

After he calls Ariel and Wynter simply ‘Icarals’, Elloren thinks,

“I inwardly stiffen. They have names, I think. Ariel and Wynter. But I don’t voice anything to indicate my newfound change of heart. “Thank you,” I say instead, taking the small tree from him. It’s heavy in my hands. But as much as I love seedlings, I don’t want it. Not if it will make Wynter—or even Ariel—uncomfortable.” (Forest 2017, p 357)

She cares for them, and as she grows to know them, she is seeing them not as Evil Ones. Now you may ask why she does not out rightly defend them- because while she has changed herself, the world around her has not changed, has not begun to change, and because she has relatively no magic and is hated by many, her defense would have no effect really. Elloren at the moment had no power to shift the chess pieces- she is still a pawn learning the board game.

Priest Simitri:

“The world is full of rumors, Mage Gardner. It is wise to seek out the truth of the matter.” (Forest 2017, p 357)

After Simitri gives her a biased account practically in defense of slavery, Elloren goes to Professor Kristian, a Kelt, who tells her the truth about her clothing, that they were indeed made by slaves on the Fae Islands (Forest 2017, p 360). After she changes into her old clothes she wore at home, she thinks,

“I look more like a Kelt than a Gardnerian. But I feel like myself again.” (Forest 2017, p 361)

As you can see, she changes into her old clothing after realizing the oppressions and slavery that made her other clothes. She even feels more like herself, as she is beginning to realize the lavish world she wanted to be a part of in the beginning of the novel is full of lies and treachery and prejudice. She feels happier and safer in her old clothes of her sheltered life, which, ironically, actually identify her more with the Keltic race, therefore showing she is arguably more, as teens would say today, “woke”. That is an interesting discrepancy- her old clothing, those that symbolize her sheltered upbringing, reflect simultaneously two opposite ideas now- it means a return to her old sheltered self, but she is far more awake and aware now. She is now wearing the clothes of her old self, her old appearance, but within she is significantly changed, showing appearances can be quite deceiving to what is inside a person.

That is an interesting discrepancy- her old clothing, those that symbolize her sheltered upbringing, reflect simultaneously two opposite ideas now- it means a return to her old sheltered self, but she is far more awake and aware now. She is now wearing the clothes of her old self, her old appearance, but within she is significantly changed, showing appearances can be quite deceiving to what is inside a person.

Now for the famed History chapter, where YES ELLOREN IS LISTENING AND GROWING. SHE IS.

My status update said this better than I ever could. And if you want further proof, I will be posting pictures of the discussion to give you the FULL CONTEXT OF THE DISCUSSION.

STATUS UPDATE:

Okay now I’m really excited because I LOVE THIS BOOK and I’m also really amazed some people actually missed the message of this book. 

If you hate Elloren, cool. If you hated the writing, also cool. All understandable.

But this book is vehemently against racism and prejudice and bias.

I have proof. This is gonna be a long one. But fuck it this is what critical reading truly is. 

So Elloren seeks answers first from a Gardnerian professor on where her clothing was made, and this Professor, Priest Simitri, gives a religiously obsessed biased account in favor, basically, of oppression (Forest 2017, p 258). Now before you get your panties twisted, let me put this character into perspective: he is a very nice old man, very calm and passionate about his subject and welcoming as far as the story goes. But he also harbors racist inclinations, to the point he justifies the oppression of other people.

This shows, yes, even the kindest of us can hold bigoted views. Because if that is what we are raised with as truth, then that is the truth we raise above all else. Even the kindest, like this professor, are hurt, are hindered by their own views, to the point where they do not seem perturbed but elated by these views- he justifies them. Does this suck? Yes.

But dammit there are people like this, yes there are views like this and the only way to confront these views is to first learn them, to understand them before we tackle them apart and search for solutions. The first part in finding any solution is to acknowledge the problem, to find the problem, even if it hurts us in the process. Yeah I know, we have to be a little uncomfortable sometimes. Not everything can be rainbows and snowflakes.

And that is exactly what Elloren is doing- she’s starting first with trying to understand the views, to discover the facts. And the only way she does this is by going to another source: a Keltic professor. This should be a lesson for all you people that 1 starred this book- go to another source, a different viewpoint, before jumping to conclusions. I think Elloren is a lesson for all you people that saw one review and jumped on a bandwagon. Why not read a different source, a source by someone who LIKED the book, who analyzed it differently– fuck, why not just read the book??? But that’s another story for later 😉

This Keltic professor, Professor Kristian, tells Elloren the truth about where her clothing came from (Forest 2017, p 360), and she later returns to him and he tells Elloren the true history of Gardenia (Forest 2017, p 363-376)- it is a history the real world is familiar with- the endless story of oppression. This group oppressing that group and then when one group comes into power, they later oppress their former oppressors and the cycle continues. Literally, every culture today has at one point oppressed another group, and if we just want to get on the bandwagon of “paying reparations for past injustices” well then every group is going to owe another group something. Make no mistake, we should recognize injustices, but to punish another group is undoubtedly a rhyme of past injustices.

After all, history doesn’t repeat itself, but is sure does rhyme. 

This cycle of “dominate or be dominated” is the story of history. Elloren realizes this. To which the Professor responds:

Professor: “Much of history IS like that” he agrees. “But perhaps there is another way.”

[…]

Elloren: “Like what?”

“I don’t know Elloren Gardner. I don’t know […] But for me life would not be worth living without at least having faith in that one thing- that there is another way, a path to justice, if you will. And that there is at least a very small sliver of hope that this path will one day be discovered.”

“So you think there’s hope for something better than all of this fighting? Some other future that’s possible?”

“A future of fairness? A future of justice? A future where resources are shared by all peoples instead of fought over? Yes, think it’s possible, but I think it will all come down to the choices of individuals.”

“Even powerless individuals?”

“I like to think so, yes.”(Forest 2017, p 374-375)

Holy shit I cannot believe people missed this part of the book- I LITERALLY CANNOT EVEN-

THIS IS THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK- to find the truth people! Even if it means confronting some awful truths, even if it means, yeah you might be a little uncomfortable, even if it means getting out of your damn safe space once in a while. IT STARTS WITH THE INDIVIDUAL.

My old history teacher once said, “We’re digging for something in the past to make the present better. We’re digging for something in the past, because we cannot go to the future. We’re digging.”

THIS is why we look at history, we look at accounts from the darkest parts of our country, because “…life would not be worth living without at least having faith in that one thing- that there is another way, a path to justice, if you will” and the path to justice is surely not found by one person’s review, it is not found by censorship- it is found through enlightenment, to break that fucking safe space and discover truth. 

Likewise, Professor Kristian proceeds to give Elloren 5 books of History by 4 different races, 4 different perspectives.

HE GAVE HER BOOKS TO READ- SHE HAS TO FUCKING READ BOOKS.

HMMMM SOUNDS LIKE THE PURPOSE OF THIS SITE AND THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT HAPPENED WITH THIS BOOK- by this book’s standards, those of you who rated this 1 star without reading are ignorant, and you refuse to see truth, because you have not done the individual work- now I’m not saying you need to read this book specifically to know truth, but the point is TO READ TO DISCOVER, NOT TO RATE AIMLESSLY, NOT TO JUDGE ON THE OUTSET- FUCK THAT’S WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT- NOT JUDGING ON THE OUTSET.

Professor Kristian: “You will have to find your own answers, Elloren Gardner.” (Forest 2017, p 376)

In other words, BREAK the mob mentality, break the fucking mold, read things yourself, do the research, form YOUR opinion, acknowledge the past and look to the future- don’t repeat it, learn from it and CHANGE IT.

THAT’S THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK. 

I feel like this should just be my review, because that was literally only based off 22 pages in this book. Imagine my review based off 600+ pages of this book o_O
YES, ELLOREN WAS LISTENING AND LEARNING. YES, SHE WAS.

But 700 people don’t know this because: Original Reviewer: Her grandfather, Styvius was incredibly powerful and overtook the Kelts, then committed mass murder on all the Kelts in the village and surrounding villages. Her grandfather became a religious zealot and claimed that they were Chosen Ones and began the years and years of oppression and genocide.

She hears this and thinks “This has to be a biased account.”

She’s not listening. She’s not learning.

WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG OUT OF CONTEXT WONG OUT OF CONTEXT WRONG ALTERED WRONG OUT OF CONTEXT KLCNFS;FNWSDPHF;KEWPIHDV;SNVLCK SYSTEM ERROR WTF NO

KWRFBWLIRODSHFNK;RKHTGFVK;IPFHCSXL

OUT. OF. FUCKING. CONTEXT.

ODWJNCFLJVWODSBFN LKWEDNFLKVENFVKLKLFL

SHE SAYS THIS BECAUSE PROFESSOR KRISTIAN SAYS:

“After a drawn-out battle.” Professor Kristian pauses to pour himself some tea, asking with a hand gesture if I want some, as well. I nod, and he pours me a cup. I sit back and sip at the bitter tea. “The Gardnerians had to cede some of the land they had annexed,” he tells me, “and my people reclaimed about half of what had been taken from them.”
His people, I note smugly. This has to be a biased account.” (Forest 2017, p 369)

She says this because he said “my people” and she sees this as a sign of bias, because he is claiming a group as his own.

And, she calls Priest Simitri’s account when she asked him about her clothes a BIASED AS WELL “I thought you might give me an honest answer. I went to Priest Simitri, but his answer seemed…biased.” (Forest 2017, p 360), so it’s not like she’s only calling Kristian biased.

And the fact that she even went to Kristian, saying she wants to see the factual history of Gardneria, because her history textbook is only the Gardnerian history of Gardneria, shows she suspects the bias in the textbook (and the textbook was written by PRIEST SIMITRI– so she thought he was biased too!) (Forest 2017, p 363).

And just because you acknowledge bias doesn’t mean you’re not learning- we’re all biased, we all tell biased accounts, some of us try to be more objective, and some like to be too subjective.

And that’s literally not even what she takes out of the whole conversation! THAT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CONVERSATION.

IF I SEE ONE MORE THING OUT OF CONTEXT IN THAT ORIGINAL REVIEW IM GOING TO EXPLODE.

IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME I HAVE POSTED THE ENTIRE DISCUSSION BELOW.

I URGE ALL OF YOU WHO THINK THIS BOOK IS HORRIBLY RACIST TO 1) READ THE BOOK OF COURSE OR 2) READ THESE PAGES, THEY SUM UP THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK:

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In case you didn’t read those pages and missed it (most of you didn’t right?):

“I know I should put in an hour or so memorizing cough remedies. Especially after spending so much time with Professor Kristian—time that should have been spent studying.
I sit in my dim North Tower room, my Apothecarium text open on the desk before me, dawn soon approaching. I need to get at least a few hours of sleep, and I’m running out of time for study. But I can’t seem to focus. Professor Kristian’s tower of history books seems to be quietly waiting for me, and I find it hard to resist their forbidden pull.
Simply possessing these books feels like a traitorous thing. Especially the Keltic history. The Kelts oppressed my people for generations. How can I read a history book written by one of them?
But then I look to Ariel, passed out with one of her chickens. And to Wynter, asleep with threadbare wings wrapped tight around her thin frame. I think of Olilly—how poor she is, and how afraid of me. And of Yvan’s use of my first name, for the first time.
I decide to do the dangerous thing, not the smart thing.
I push my Apothecarium text to the side, pick up Professor Kristian’s history text and begin to read.” (Forest 2017, p 382)

AS YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE, SHE TOOK BOOKS HOME, AND SHE BEGAN TO READ. THAT IS WHAT SHE TAKES OUT OF THE CONVERSATION, SHOWING THAT

SHE

IS

LEARNING.

CASE CLOSED.

CONTEXT. MATTERS. TELLING THE WHOLE STORY MATTERS.

Now I need to take a break because I’m so fucking mad this happened to this book, that all because one person took basically EVERYTHING OUT OF CONTEXT,

Forest’s book took the brunt of it.

This is ridiculous guys.

~PART 3:

Now we are nearing the end of the story (thank God I’m getting tired).

More proof that Elloren herself is not homophobic; this world, as many other fantasy novels portray and parts of the real-world exhibits, does not like homosexuality:

After Elloren broke Fallon’s portrait (I skipped this whole part guys but basically what happened was Elloren took the pieces of the portrait with her and then Fallon thought it was the Urisk servant who stole it so she sent her brother, Damion, to harass the Urisk girl one time. Elloren sees this and is going to attack Damion with a pan but then Yvan shows up like super fast with super strength and saves the girl. Elloren returns the pieces of the portrait to Damion,(Forest 2017 p 377-382), then Fallon saws Elloren’s violin in half. This is the violin she made with her uncle and because her uncle is now sick, she probably will not be able to make another with him).

Elloren marches straight to her brother’s lodging. Despite the fact that one brother is getting involved with a Lupine and the other is gay, she still goes to them- it’s not them she hates, it’s not their choices or nature she is judging, she hates the situation they’re in and how problematic it is for their lives in this type of world.

“Soon after I found my destroyed violin, I marched straight to my brothers’ lodging.” (Forest 2017, p 397)

(PAUSE: why then, pray I ask haters, would she go to her brothers for comfort if she was so disgusted by them, if she had rejected them summarily? Oh yeah, because she didn’t reject them- she accepts them still (Forest 2017, p 397-398).)

“People see what they expect to see,” [Jarod] says sharply. “Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.” (Forest 2017, p 402)

The greatest quote in this whole book. I believe the original reviewer who made this all start saw what she wanted to see in this book. I believe the people who rated his 1 star without reading saw and believed what they wanted to believe.

In my opinion, it is a hatred for anything outside the neatly defined safe space. Well, I hate to break it to you, but life will never follow in the neat lines of a safe space. If anything, Elloren should be an example to all of you what happens when you are too sheltered and then you’re then thrust into situations you are not ready for and are left reeling and conflicted. Because total shelter has been proven more harmful than exposure. It builds the threat in your mind. We see that with several of the Gardnerians especially.

Later on when Elloren gets a visit, for the first time, from Aislinn and Jarod:

“’You’re visiting me!’ I cry, inexplicably happy by the sight of a Lupine, a conservative Gardnerian and an Elfin Icaral bunched together in such a calm and peaceful way.

Aislinn shrugs. ‘I’m finding that I like meeting new people,” she says quietly. ‘People different than me. I’m tired of being afraid of everyone.’

[…]

‘Just let me throw my books on my bed,’ I tell them, unable to contain my excitement at the thought of so many new friends coming together. (Forest 2017, p 406)

Prejudice, racism, it just hurts you in the end. You’re afraid of everyone. And now Elloren and her friends are becoming less afraid, more open, starting with their little group, their little microcosm that is a good example for the rest of their world.

It starts with the individual. She is learning and she is growing. They all are.

Now after this Jarod and Aislinn end up kissing and Aislinn has like a meltdown- pretty melodramatic in my opinion…and stupid- Elloren is later talking with Jarod about this. Elloren thinks:

“Our people hate each other.

No, this isn’t good. This is a road best not traveled down- a road leading straight off a cliff.” (Forest 2017, p 415)

Like the case with Trystan and Rafe and Tierney, it seems like a hopeless situation because while Elloren may have changed, while her group has integrated, the world hasn’t even begun to. There are still so many differences. It just makes her worried for how hopeless it seems. She’s not disgusted, she’s not racist toward the situation….she’s just grave about it. Hence she says,

I turn away from them both, tears filling my eyes over their hopeless situation.” (Forest 2017, p 416)

Elloren notices that Yvan is very fast and strong (as she saw how he saved the Urisk girl from Damion), and sees him walking into the woods from the North Tower. She decides one day to follow him. Of course they start arguing and Elloren says,

I know I look a lot like my grandmother, but I’m really not what you think I am, and neither are my brothers, for that matter.” (Forest 2017, p 446)

…how is Elloren homophobic and racist again? She’s defending her brothers….

ho·mo·pho·bi·a

noun

dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.

….now, call me biased, because I loved this book, but this sounds like the exact opposite of homophobia. She still loves her brother unconditionally and defends him.

Then:

“An unfriendly grin plays at the corners of Yvan’s mouth. ‘Yes, your brother Trystan does present a bit of a dilemma for your illustrious family, doesn’t he?’

A cold dread twists itself around me as all of my bravodo evaporates. ‘Trystan’s a good person,’ I say, my voice low. ‘Please…please don’t make trouble for him.’

The anger in Yvan’s face dissipates as he takes in how deeply his words have affected me. ‘I won’t’ he says, his voice uncharacteristically kind.” (Forest 2017, p 446)

Once again, I sound like a broken record, but the original reviewer who called this homophobic nit. picked. this. scene. and. took. it. out. context.

THIS. IS. NOT. HOMO. FUCKING. PHOBIC.

ho·mo·pho·bi·a

noun

dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.

Once again:

A cold dread twists itself around me as all of my bravodo evaporates. ‘Trystan’s a good person,’ I say, my voice low. ‘Please…please don’t make trouble for him.’

The anger in Yvans face dissipates as he takes in how deeply his words have affected me. ‘I won’t’ he says, his voice uncharacteristically kind.’ (Forest 2017, p 446)

THIS. IS. NOT. HOMO. FUCKING. PHOBIC.

If anything, we can argue Yvan got perverse pleasure in the fact that Elloren’s family is breaking Gardnerian law and is not as illustrious as they once were. He may be happy that they now have to struggle as well, that they too may be rejected as so many other races are rejected. It’s not about Trystan being gay. There isn’t evidence for that, that Yvan is judging Trystan’s sexuality- he’s judging the circumstance! It’s about the idea of a problem for the Gardner’s.

Then there’s the part where Elloren saves the Selkie from the horrible University Groundskeeper. Now, if the abuse the Selkie sustained hurt you, my deep condolences. The parts where Ariel was rejected (Forest 2017, p 310) and what happened to Wynter (Forest 2017, p 233-234) made me so sad I had to put the book down. It was hard for me to read because it’s so WRONG to treat people this way. But that’s the world they’re in. It’s a DARK world. The Selkie’s treatment is dark (Forest 2017, p 450-454).

I understand if you’re uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean the whole book itself is defined by this moment. Forest clearly paints the scene as WRONG, that what’s happening to Selkie is wrong and University Groundskeeper’s treatment of her is wrong. A book cannot solely be defined by how it made you feel, for feelings are fickle. We can rely on some feelings, some subjectivity, to an extent, but we must also maintain some objectivity, the ability to view this from afar and critically dissect the purpose of such things and what the book is trying to say- that way we have both a valid, credible opinion that is in context and true literary analysis.

This scene shows how deeply troubling this world is- how deep the prejudices of the Gardnerians go (the Original Reviewer mentions they don’t know why such a scene was even included….even though they previously admitted that the Gardnerians cruelty is increasing. Doesn’t that expalin why this scene was included then? We’re seeng the extent of the Gardnerians’ cruelty. Nice job answering your own question). There is a lot of work to be done, hence why Elloren feels hopeless about Trystan’s circumstance and Rafe’s circumstance, and even her own. That the simple integration, the feeling of comfort she has from so many different friends should not allude her to what’s on the horizon- deeply unsettling prejudices. I don’t think you can chalk this scene up as a set up merely for Elloren to save her. That’s just a way to negate anything good Elloren does as having a different agenda, to be interpreted as problematic (which the Original Reviewer does time and time again. This is what I mentoned in the beginning of the review- when you’re altering things so much that you lose credbility, when you pick at things so much you lose credbility because it becomes obvious this is beyond finding offense- this is over sensitivity). That is such a grasping at straw mentality, looking to degrade any good Elloren does, looking to trump any of her growth, because some would rather not admit Elloren did grow.

There are conclusions to be drawn, and then there are broad conclusions, and then there are grasping at straws conclusions. The conclusion that this scene is to show Elloren’s good is a grasping at straws conclusion because it’s not based off anything explicitly said or implicitly implied in the text- it is unsubstantiated and the only way to know would be to read Laurie Forests’ mind when she wrote this. We do not have the ability to do this darling.

She DID grow and learn. Her growing and learning has manifested itself into these actions. To chalk this up to “to make Elloren look good” is then something that can be applied to any book character- was that scene in Harry Potter where Harry tries to save his friends underwater or something (Goblet of Fire, I only saw the movie) also made to make Harry look good? Was Nick Calloway arranging Gatsby’s funeral also only to make Nick look good? Was Atticus Finch defending Tom Robinson also done only to make Atticus look good? The conspiracy theories could go on and on and on. This is why we draw a line at the context of the words. We can only make conclusions based on what is on the paper.

Why can’t we just admit this is part of the good-nature of the character- to do good, because they ARE good, and once they get their shit straightened out and grow and learn, they perform good, because they have acknowledged the bad and are looking for solutions- to alleviate pain any way they can.

THAT is what is happening with Elloren. She couldn’t save the Selkie when she was with Aunt Vyvian, but she now can. And she does.

Then there was this line that the reviewer quoted, and of course, provided no context:

“‘According to them, this mad did nothing unlawful. Repugnant maybe, but not unlawful. You two, on the other hand, have broken multiple laws. Do you really want to throw murder on top of that?'”(Forest 2017, p 454).

Again, this is the world they live in. This is a part of the world building, how their actions will be viewed in the eyes of the unjust justice system.

At this point in the scene, Diana wants to either kill the overseer or explain to the university what happened, self-assured that once they see how the overseer was treating her, that they will understand why Diana killed him and Elloren stole the Selkie (Forest 2017, p 459). THEN Rafe says this, for, again, this is the world they live in. It’s sad, but it’s truth for that world. Rafe clearly is trying to find a solution within the realm of their abilities and power that will result in the least trouble for them all.

Original Reviewer: “I’ve stolen a selkie. Yvan’s plotting to steal a military dragon. Both Rafe and Asilinn are in love with Lupines, and I’m becoming increasingly close friends with a shunned Elfin Icaral.

“Why, if she’s so enlightened, does she still refer to everyone by their race?”

I DON’T FUCKING KNOW. Why do people who claim to be so enlightened and free of any prejudice choose only to read books by POC? Why do they us an author’s skin color to determine whether the book is worth their time? Why do people get angered that their required reading list in school has any white authors- if they’re so enlightened, shouldn’t they look to the ideas being presented, not the color of the writer’s skin? The list could go on and on of people who claim to be enlightened, yet go back and use race to define someone, use race as an excuse, use race as the determining factor.

When I go down the street and I see a black guy, it’s kind of hard to miss his race because it’s his skin color– everyone notices race, it’s on the person’s fucking face! I don’t think it like ‘hey he’s black!’ I’m just…aware of it. I just notice it. And since this book is told from Elloren’s perspective, from her thoughts, we read what she recognizes and notices. I do not think I am racist at all, but yes I notice race. Noticing race doesn’t make you racist, it doesn’t mean you’re less enlightenedIF YOU JUDGE BASED ON RACE, THEN YOU’RE RACIST We can’t NOT notice race, that’s like ignoring the issue- we need to see it all. The key is to not let what you see become an organ for your hatred, to not judge based solely on what you see. The key is to see the differences, both physical and mental, and embrace them, as Elloren says about her group, made up of, “people with a large variety of gifts and skills” (Forest 2017, p 516):

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(PAUSE: Sal, my wonderful rant buddy who proofread this, said she thinks Elloren puts emphasis on race to show despite their differences they can work together. It’s interesting how in the beginning of the novel Elloren classiffies people by race with shock and observation- now she is clasifiying them based on race as akowledgement and acceptance, as there is no tone of shock or alarment anymore. Race just is– we can notice race (race is a fact, we can’t not notice the facts) and not be racist.)

Then Diana runs off into the woods so she doesn’t go all Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the Groundskeeper, and later on her and Rafe meet up and profess their love for each other (Forest 2017, p 463-464). At the end of the chapter, after seeing them kiss, Elloren thinks about how both Aislinn and Rafe are in love with Lupines, how she’s stolen a Selkie, how Yvan is planning to steal a military dragon and how she is getting closer to Yvan, a Kelt. She thinks,

“I’ve stolen a selkie. Yvan’s plotting to steal a military dragon. Both Rafe and Asilinn are in love with Lupines, and I’m becoming increasingly close friends with a shunned Elfin Icaral.

This has actually gone way beyond a mess. We’re all treading on increasingly dangerous ground.” (Forest 2017, p 465)

Once again, this is why she reacted that way with Trystan, with Rafe and Aislinn and Tierney, because it is dangerous. Because she’s worried.

Then Elloren finds out that her aunt wants all Selkies shot, and she thinks back to the first conversation with her aunt, where Aunt Vyvian said there were more humane ways to deal with Selkies (Forest 2017, p 54). Naturally naïve little Elloren had no clue she meant shooting them. Evidently, “The world is so much worse than [she] ever imagined” (Forest 2017, p 467). Again, while she has significantly improved through this novel, it’s still difficult to encompass in her mind the state her world is in. How conflicting everything is after she has been blind for so long.

So for those of you saying she didn’t reach enlightenment quick enough or it’s too slow- have you never met someone from a religious background or someone with deep prejudices? It’s not easy to get rid of these things overnight BUT SHE IS TRYING. SHE IS LEARNING. AND SHE IS GROWING. I cannot emphasize this enough. I don’t know how many times I need to repeat myself.

Then there’s this really interesting part that no one has really touched on that I want to get into- so one of Elloren’s professors, Professor Volya, is Amazakaran, or Amaz for short, and the Amaz believe the Great Mother created the world and she made the first people, the Three Sisters. Then from a bone of each of the Sisters’ fists, she made the First Men. The First Men were not grateful for all the Great Mother had done for them and convinced the sisters to slay the Great Mother, so they could rule over all of Erthia. Only one Sister refused to do such and warned the Great Mother of the plan and the Great Mother sent a curse down on the others but named the loyal Sister First Sister Amaz (Forest 2017, p 469).

Professor Volya:

“…from the beginning of time, men have been untrustworthy and only interested in cruelty and domination.” (Forest 2017, p 470)

When Elloren speaks to Andras, who saw Elloren with the Selkie, and who is also Professor Volya’s son, about this, he says it’s ironic his mother believes this nonsense when she’s a brilliant scientist. He says, “I’ve never once had the slightest urge to raise my fist against a woman, contrary to what the Amaz creation myth says about men,” (Forest 2017, p 471).

It’s interesting how Forest took, what I presume is the story of Adam and Eve, (which, if you know anyhting about European history, some have used as an excuse for misogny, arguing Eve made Adam fall, that the woman fell first- basically saying women are weak), and flipped it around on the men this time who made the women fall (in this case I suppose it is an excuse for misandry by the Amaz. Again, we see the women as the perpetraitor’s of sexism, an interesting angle not normally presented in books, except this time turned on men. So we have some races, like the Gardnerians, that are sexist against women, while the Amaz are sexist against men, but in both cases it is really the women acting on this sexism. This is such a fascinating tidbit to me, I love the dynamic Forest created in her story- so much depth). It’s also interesting how Andras’s mom, though brilliant, believes such hogwash, showing there’s all types of fanatics, so much odd belief, even in the smartest of us. Like with Priest Simitri- a genuinely nice man, he seems, but holds deeply racist beliefs- to the point he doesn’t see it as wrong but is genuinely pleased with these beliefs. The same with Professor Volya. They are both brilliant in their own ways, they seem nice and decent but then they have this nut-case part of them. It’s nice to have religious beliefs, but to let them dominate rational thought or rational humanity is a problem.

This is one of the issues with this world, how deep racism and prejudice is imbedded. We see it in Simitri and Volya best. It’s not just in the Gardnerians, it’s in all the races, including Diana, which we will get to, and the Lupines who believe the world was created by Maiya. All these races hold messed up thoughts on religion and race and superiority- it’s a problem they all harbor. Anyone is capable of racist thought, of prejudice thought, and I think Forest’s portrayal of different religions, and the blind belief their believers have in it, is an enteral part of understanding why the book has all these racist characters and dark themes- it’s imbedded and often used as the justification for why one group should rule over the next.

Now Elloren has been sheltered, so she has escaped some of that nut-case-ness. Part of it is still there, because her religious book directly says that Gardnerians are the chosen ones, but she is working to loosen and alleviate herself from this. She is learning. For those of you who say it’s taking too long, or it’s too slow- you’re saying she’s slow and she’s been sheltered, imagine if this was Professor Volya’s story, or Priest Simitri’s- it would be even longer. I think Forest paced Elloren’s evolution quite well, given her sheltered upbringing and several bad incidents when she first got to the University.

As for the Diana part, when discussing what to do with the Selkie, Elloren, and her brothers (if she’s such a homophobe, why’d she let Trystan come? Why does she still talk to him huh?), Yvan, Wynter, Wynter’s brother (Cael), Cael’s second (Rhys), the Lupines and Andras have all gathered together to help the Selkie (in a chapter fittingly called Allies, 483-491). Aislinn is with the Selkie.

So Wynter mentions her own race’s fanatical belief that the creators of the world, as said by the Elves, are the Keepers of the Inner Sanctum. Diana disagrees, saying Maiya, The Great Mother, created the world (Forest 2017, p 486). At this point it’s obvious, given the way each race has painted the way the world in a way to favor their own race, that no one there knows how the world was created.

Rafe makes the point that the Gardnerians would say they are the most powerful due to their strong military, proof the Ancient One has blessed them, that the Lupines think they are the best due to their superior skills, that the Elves think they are blessed by the Shinning Ones due to their rich art, music, and culture- EVERYONE THINKS THEY’RE RIGHT. It really goes to show you- what are you really believing in? And to what extent do you let that govern you- do you become a happy dappy racist person like Simitri, or a man-hating scientist like Volya? Or like Lukas who just doesn’t believe in any religion at all XD.

Everyone harbors superiority thoughts- not just the Gardnerians. I think this is why history, in that world, has repeated itself so often (and in the real world too….)- oppressors becoming oppressed then becoming oppressors then the cycle continues. Everyone thinks they need to rule the world– they’ve taken their religious beliefs to such an extent that they believe they can rightfully CAN own all else and everyone else (maybe that’s why Uncle Edwin doesn’t like religion much, as we saw earlier in this review…while of course the bad Aunt Vyvian gives Elloren their religious book). As I said before, you can have religious beliefs, but to let them dominate you is a problem (make no mistake, I am religious and I love my religion- it’s not really the religion that’s the problem, it’s more what people in that world have done with religious beliefs) and this world is a prime example when, fueled by religion and other factors, races turn on one another. The cycle of dominate or be dominated continues.

To break it, one needs to get out of the group think for a second. Perhaps be surrounded by different options. To think for themselves. Ultimately, I think is the major message of the book- think for yourself. Ironically, 700 who 1 starred this chose not to, the exact opposite of this book’s message. Like the races in this book that think they are right, those readers honestly believe they are right too. That they did not have to read to know (also ironic because you’re on a book cite…the purpose is to READ BOOKS). Apparently forming their own opinions was too great a challenge. It is far easier to stay in the safe space. Be accepted by the group. Seeing only what you want to see.

“People see what thy expect to see,” he says sharply. “Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.” (Forest 2017, p 402)

Elloren’s got you sheep beat btw. SHE’S BREAKING HER SAFE SPACE RIGHT OPEN.

WITH THE PROPER CONTEXT, on different races, she’s breaking free.

…..

Anyway.

Again, for you lovelies saying Elloren doesn’t change, isn’t learning, YET ANOTHER PIECE OF EVIDENCE STRAIGHT FROM THE TEXT. Elloren is moaning she has nowhere to fit in, but Diana tells her she can have a place in her pack and should spend next summer with the Lupines. Elloren reacts by thinking:

“My tears subside at the improbable thought of spending the summer with Diana.
What if she’s right? What if her people do accept me? Would I truly be gaining family when Diana and Rafe become a mated pair?
Diana and Jarod have mentioned their little sister, Kendra, on more than one occasion. Would she become part of my family, too? And Diana’s mother? Maybe she would become my friend.
A little bit of hope takes hold inside me.
Her hand on my head is so comforting, so kind. It’s so good to be touched, and I feel myself letting go of some of the stress roiling inside me.
“You didn’t hesitate to help me,” I tell her. “You didn’t hesitate to help the Selkie. Thank you.”
Diana nods slightly in acknowledgment.
“I’d be very happy,” I tell her, “to have you as a sister someday.”
I realize, with warm surprise, how deeply and genuinely I mean it
” (Forest 2017, p 478).

Integration:

“Over the next week Marina the Selkie slowly begins to shed her fear when she’s around Diana, Wynter, Aislinn and me. And new friendships have been formed—Rafe, Cael, Rhys and Andras have fallen into an easy camaraderie and are now hunting together. There’s even been tentative conversation between Yvan and my brothers when they’re discreetly in their lodging.” (Forest 2017, p 492)

THEY’RE ALL LEARNING AND GROWING 😃

Once again, saying it takes a while before they do, because we have like 100 pages left now, this is NOT an argument against their growth- growth takes time, especially when it’s been embedded and left to fester. It really doesn’t matter how long a person takes to get there, as long as they get there and make the right choice in the end. The journey is just as important- for some it could take years, for Elloren it takes place in months. For some it never happens at all. But if it happens, whenever it happens, that is the most important thing. Better late than never right?

So basically what happens next and what sets the rest of a book into a spiral till the end: the current High Mage ends up dying suddenly. And instead of waiting to vote in the spring, the Mage Council made a referendum that morning and chose Priest Asshole Marcus Vogel as High Mage. Tierney starts freaking out because she knows Vogel will close the border and make fasting mandatory. In a response to her friend’s dilemma, Elloren implores “Let me help you!” (Forest 2017, p 503).

Elloren, after learning about Vogel, goes to her brothers. After Rafe says he has an impending draft notice to the military, and if drafted he will be part of the force set to attack the Lupines. He leaves angry and says he wants to join the Lupines (Forest 508-509). Then Elloren is left alone with her brother, Trystan.

NOT A TRIGGER WARNING BECAUSE THIS IS NOT HOMOPHOBIA!!

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She’s worried about her brother so she wants him to hide it his homosexuality because there’s no telling what will happen to him now that Vogel is in power. While she and her group have changed, the world around them has not.

Now that Vogel’s in power, all Icarals are required to return to their countries of origin after their University studies. Work papers and Guild admittance will no longer be permitted for Icarals (Forest 2017, p 512).

Elloren’s reaction:

“My sickening dread begins a rapid slide into rage. I curse and hurl my bag at the wall.” (Forest 2017, p 513)

She has grown and learned and is clearly angered and worried for Ariel and Wynter’s safety. She wants to protect her friends.

SHE HAS GROWN AND LEARNED.

We have less than 100 pages left now. Elloren decides she wants to use Yvan’s dragon to fly her friends and family to a safe place. She goes to Yvan and tell him she wants to help him free his dragon. They start arguing (Forest 515-524).

“I know my grandmother did a lot of terrible things,” I finally say with no small amount of effort. “Since coming here, I’ve learned that my people do a lot of really terrible things. But don’t you think it’s possible for someone to be different from everything you’ve heard about their kind? Even if they look…like I do?”
Yvan takes a deep breath, his eyes intent on my face. “Yes,” he says, “I think it’s possible.”
I let out a long sigh and slump down on a hay bale, defeated. “I’m trying, Yvan,” I tell him hoarsely. “I really am. I want to do the right thing.” (Forest 2017, p 517)

MY STATUS UPDATE ON ELLOREN’S GROWTH:

NOBODY tell me she didn’t learn anything in the end, that she didn’t change at all, that’s she’s still this racist bitch:

“Since coming here, I’ve learned that my people do a lot of really terrible things. But don’t you think it’s possible for someone to be different from everything you’ve heard about their kind?” (517)

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry I was so ignorant…and wrong when I first came here.” (547)

…I’m not kidding, the bullshit this book got is completely uncalled for. SHE DID FUCKING LEARN. 

Is she perfect- NO, but guess what?- we all still hold some prejudices deep within, and dammit it’s just been a few MONTHS to unravel the years of racism ingrained and around her. For only a few months, I’d say she did pretty fucking well in changing and becoming more accepting.

Sorry she isn’t Mother Teresa- I think a lot of people are overestimating the mental effort it takes to change, to admit you were wrong, that your people were wrong.

Then again, given the criticism this book got by people who never read it, that goes to show how difficult it is for people to change their views.

SMH

I come from an especially religious and conservative family, and it took me YEARS to unlearn some of those prejudices and stereotypes- and yeah I still do have some that come every now and then, but I am trying. Compared to the main character, I’m a snail and she’s a cheetah 😛

I’m just really saddened by the judgment the book community passed on this book from the outset- I thought this MC would be stoic and stubborn from what I heard, but she’s pretty dynamic and I find her growth realistic and impressive given she was sheltered and then suddenly experienced all this exposure.

I would think this book would be a lesson for how hindering holding so many prejudices and stereotypes are- and how difficult it is to let them go, but some people hold this unrealistic view that sudden exposure and integration will lead to an easy-kumbaya-lifestyle. It’s not that simple. Like our lives aren’t always a path in progress- some experiences digress us while some push us toward justice. To believe that a few months around new people will lead to ultimate liberation is just foolish- there’s still so much to experience in life.

It’s this ludicrous expectation that doesn’t take into account personal flaws and experiences and past and upbringing and a number of other factors that vary in degree for every person.

It’s very ironic and sad what happened to this book 😦

Then there’s this scene where Fern, the little Urisk girl Lukas threatened in the beginning, falls out of a tree (Forest 2017, p 543-544). She breaks her leg and Yvan somehow heals her. Elloren is deeply unsettled how Lukas did this and, when she returns to the kitchens, she sees Fernyllia with Fern in her lap (Forest 2017, p 546). Elloren apologizes to Fernyllia, ‘“I’m sorry…I’m sorry I was so ignorant…and wrong when I first came here’” (Forest 2017, p 547), and naturally the reviewer that started this all had a problem with scene, saying Elloren was forgiven too quickly.

Do you not see that we need to move on from these things? To hold things over someone’s head is going to just keep you in ignorance and never solve the problem. Elloren learns this- she let go of her anger for Ariel and Wynter, and now cares for Ariel and is close with Wynter.

We could spend all day going back and forth over who wronged who more, who has the right to be angrier longer, who needs to earn forgiveness and get nowhere, because it’s just continuing the cycle of oppression, of hate, or holding prejudice and hanging onto anger.

Fernyllia’s acceptance of Elloren comes after her growth, after she has made significant improvement, so you can’t make the argument it was unearned, that it was so easy for her. She worked hard to get some respect, and even then she’s still hated by Iris and Bleddyn and other Gardnerians. So she hasn’t “gotten off easy”- and keep in mind Fernyllia seems like a kind-hearted woman, who doesn’t want much trouble. Take into account the character doing the acceptance before jumping on the bandwagon of “it’s problematic, it’s wrong, it’s bad”.

Original reviewer: “Diana walks into the bathroom while Elloren is naked. She’s angry and yells at Diana to leave her alone. Diana tells Elloren that her family has reservations about her visiting them. Elloren gets personally affronted and is unnecessarily mean and cruel to Diana. I hate this girl so much.

“‘It’s not possible to be close friends with Diana,’ I tell Aislinn stiffly. ‘She’s just so…different. She’ll never understand what it’s like for us.'”

Once again, essential context has been left out.

Previously to that discussion, Elloren actually urges Aislinn to give a relationship with Jarod a chance, telling her friend that her happiness matters too, not just what her family will think (Forest 2017, p 551). Then Elloren tells her she misses having her around because Aislinn is one of the few people Elloren can be honest with (Forest 2017, p 552). Aislinn mentions that at least Elloren has Diana, AND THEN, Elloren bitterly thinks of how Diana walked in on her.

Yes, Elloren is personally upfronted, but it is not completely unjustified. Due to her interaction and friendship with Diana and Jarod, and her own people’s rejection of her and other races hating her on site, Elloren looked forward to belonging somewhere.

She wants to belong, as we can see by this interaction she has with Yvan:

“Yvan’s face darkens. “You look exactly like Her, Elloren.”
I bristle, stung by the accusation in his tone. Hurt by it. “Really, Yvan?” I snap, my traitorous voice breaking. “I had absolutely no idea.”
His eyes widen a fraction, then he gives me a close look as if taking my measure.
I inwardly slump, the impenetrable wall between us laid bare. I suddenly and fiercely wish I could be on the other side of it. Somewhere I could truly belong.
If only I looked like Iris.
I immediately regret the thought. I harshly remind myself that I’m not a Kelt. And I can’t be having these thoughts about a Kelt. He shouldn’t be so focused on me, either. It’s a stretch for Yvan and me to even be friends, and it would be impossible for us to be anything more. But I suddenly wish with surprising force that we could at least be friends.” (Forest 2017, p 442)

And she thought the Lupines would be different

She is NOT unnecessarily mean and cruel to Diana. She’s disappointed. She wanted her as a sister.

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And when they go to rescue Naga, Yvan’s dragon, Diana and Jarod are still part of the group. She had one fight with her friend. I’m not sure how that shows Elloren has back tracked and is a total racist now….

And when they escape to a cave after setting way more dragons free, and she doesn’t see Diana or Jarod:

‘“Where’s Diana? And Jarod?” I ask, my eyes darting around the cave and quickly lighting on the Lupine twins’ clothing piled up against one wall.” (Forest 2017, p 585)

She obviously still cares for both Diana and Jarod. Nit-picking one quote to show Elloren hasn’t learned anything is, as I’ve stated repeatedly, an invalid interpretation and literary manipulation. It does not have the text in mind, the scene in mind, or the critical reading necessary to understand this, in mind. Pulling out a random quote proves nothing if you disregard the context and other words spoken in relation to this.

Basically what happens till the end, because I’m getting fucking lazy writing this now, is Elloren asks Professor Kristian about the Fae. He gives her an old account, a book that was most likely censored by the Gardnerians due to its appearance,

“Professor Kristian rubs his fingers along the side of his mouth as he sizes me up thoughtfully. He gets up, walks to the edge of one bookcase, pulls out a pile of texts and reaches behind them, sliding out a thick volume set into the case with its spine against the wall. He moves back to his desk and hands me the book.
I look at the stained, scuffed leather cover, the title scraped clear off the front and spine. My brow raised in confusion, I glance at Professor Kristian as he gestures with his chin for me to continue.” (Forest 2017, p 558)

Also,

“At the end of the Realm Wars” Professor Kristian says, his voice low “the Gardnerians came in and purged the archives of certain texts they deemed ‘Resistance Propaganda.’ (Forest 2017, p 559)

….well doesn’t this sound like some people who want to censor this book and the like….

Then the original reviewer mentioned a trigger warning for Holocaust Imagery is used when Elloren is reading the book Kristian gave to her.

“They shackled the incoming Fae in Asteroth copper, the metal strong enough to sap them of their strength and power. Then they herded them into huge, stone island fortresses and locked them inside.

And then they rained iron shavings down on their heads.” (Forest 2017, p 559)

Are we not allowed to talk about the Holocaust? Are we not allowed to reference it in some way??? The Hunger Games alludes to the American Revolution, a time when the USA owned slaves- should that book have a trigger warning as well? The Winner’s Kiss has aspects of Colonialism- should that have a trigger warning as well? Should those books be banned?

Should we ban history books next?

….I don’t understand why this is a complaint. Authors use actual historical references in their fictional works sometimes. I don’t know why this is a problem….

(PAUSE: I just finished Pierce Brown’s Red Rising: Son of Ares and came across this:

holo

Doesn’t this count as ‘Holocaust imagery’ too? Is this not allowed either? Should we all censor Red Rising comics next- the story also mentions half-breeds and a scene where, in a cafeteria (like The Black Witch) the MC is bullied due to his flawed appearance (ableism right? Look how much I learned from you guys….)

able

I’m guessing that’s a trigger avalanche for some you, so do we ban those next? Do we ban the Red Rising books??? This is like what I said earlier in my reivew, that other books use similar themes and styles, so why are you all only picking on The Black Witch– it’s not even that original when you think about it! 

The shit that was thrown this books way was UN.CALLED.FOR. Absolutely ridiculous.)

So there are some Fae alive, Yvan is most likely some kind of Fae, perhaps a fire Fae but it’s not particularly made clear. I presume in book 2 more things will be cleared up.

Then Fallon the Bully has come to get revenge on Elloren again (Forest 2017, p 562-572). After Fallon broke her violin, Lukas sent Elloren a new violin. Now Fallon is back for blood. She tries to attack Elloren and go up to the North Tower, thinking Elloren is hiding the Snake Elf Professor who fled after Vogel came into power. But then these assassins attack, assuming Fallon is the next Black Witch, and Fallon is deeply injured (call me cruel, but I say she deserved it- karma keeps receipts honey).

The gang goes to free Naga, Yvan’s dragon. Trystan is the only level 5 mage so he uses Elloren’s white wand, given to her by Sage Gaffney at the beginning of the story, to freeze the iron lock of the cage, but at first it won’t work. When Elloren touches Trystan suddenly all the locks freeze so much, on all the cages, and then they all shatter, setting about a hundred dragons free. Then the gang frees Naga, there is chaos as all the other dragons attack the guards and the gang, and fly toward their dragon master in Valgard: Damion Bane.

Then Elloren takes Tierney to Professor Kristian to help her, because she’s worried about Vogel and all, and then the Vice Chancellor, who seems like she hated Elloren in the beginning, comes in and it is revealed she was part of the resistance the whole time.

“Welcome to the Resistance, Mage Gardner” (Foster 2017, p 601)

And that is the end of the novel as we know it.

I am dead.

….

***CONCLUSION:

I am still dead.

As you can all hopefully see now, this book is adamantly against racism, sexism, and homophobia (ableism is a far-fetched, unsubstantiated claim and is invalid imo). It shows the problems of a society run by these things.

As far as I can tell, you cannot make a contextually true arguemnt that this book is racist, that it promotes racism, in any such way (and if you think you can, send it to me, really I’d love to see that, I’m at 30.075K right now, this book is a part of my soul, I WILL KNOW IF YOU TAKE THINGS OUT OF CONTEXT OR DISREGARD LATER PORTIONS OF THE TEXT. But go for it yeah?)

There isn’t anything offensive to a particular group reading this, this was not written with only one race in mind, nor was it written for one race only (more unsubstantiated, far-fetched claims). It describes the journey of a sheltered girl who is suddenly exposed to such horrors. The most important thing, I think, to take away from this book is, as I mentioned before, to think for yourself, and to discover the truth on your own.

To discover such truth, we need, as Elloren needed, different sources, different accounts and different perspectives.

No one race is allowed to speak more than the other. No one race is allowed to silence another.

No one group is allowed to decide what is acceptable and what should be banned.

No one person is allowed to deem what is dangerous and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not, what is and is not allowed to be published, what is and is not allowed to be said.

No one person should think for you, because they then censor not only your words but your thoughts.

To censor speech is to censor thought, because what I say reflects what I think. And now we’ve reached a point where some members of society feel they can tell people what to say and what not to say, or what to think and what not to think. If “I think therefore I am” is true and you take away my speech, you take away part of my thoughts and to take away my part of my thoughts is to take away part of who I am. 

Stop censoring people. Stop calling people bigots before listening to them. Stop accusing everyone of being a Nazi when you probably don’t even know what a Nazi is or what nazism or fascism is. Just stop and…let them speak. And then do the most important thing, what this book urges us to do with each other- actually listen. 

I MAY DISAPPROVE OF WHAT YOU SAY, BUT I WILL DEFEND TO THE DEATH YOUR RIGHT TO SAY IT. 

 

Cheers bastards.

 

P.S. I may add things to this review- like if I think of new interpretations or quotes to prove a point or whatever reason I feel because it’s my review and I’ll change it if I want to so I have no idea why I’m justifying myself right now…..

o_0

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