The Bone Palace - Amanda Downum Downum's second book in her Necromancer series is okay. not bad. enjoyable. her virtues remain intact: determinedly gender-blind (mainly through the placing of women in traditionally male professions); pleasingly fluid and drama-free use of varying sexual orientations; a fascinating set of pyschic & entropic powers for our protagonist; and especially the continued use of almost-ambiguous villains with nearly-sympathetic motives. unfortunately, her flaws have intensified. an overuse of adjectives describing various scents and colors does not make the prose lush but instead rather repetitious. worse, Downum continues her regrettable interest in creating a world that i imagine she considers to be exotic but is instead intensely derivative of both fiction (Kushiel's Dart, A Game of Thrones, various novels by Tanith Lee and Elizabeth Hand) and our very own reality - the latter through the bizarre decision to use actual names and traits from actual cultures. if this world is intended to be an alternate or parallel to our world, then fine. but clearly this world is not intended to be a version of our world.

come on have really got to come up with your own original names and your own unique cultures. surely this can't be that hard for a fantasist? otherwise, when i read names like 'Cahal' and 'Alexios', i'm not going to think of your world, i'm going to think of ireland and greece. is this generic muddiness really what you are striving for? it really distances me from the world you are building.

overall, this would be an often fun, inoffensive, but forgettable 2-star adventure...except for the splendid use of a trans character as the second major perspective in the novel. refreshing! ding ding ding ding, special bonus star awarded for originality and lack of condescension.

after perusing reviews of the novel, i fear there may be something of a misunderstanding when it comes to trans identity. perhaps because my work currently involves assessing the needs of the trans community, i suddenly have a vested interest in clarifying what may perhaps be mystifying to some. so i will just put this out there:

a person of trans identity is simply a person who feels that they are not the gender in which they were born. therefore, a person with a trans identity can be pre-op, post-op, have no interest in ops whatsoever, and may or may not have interest in dressing like the opposite gender (whatever that may entail). for example, if i feel i am a woman in a man's body, even if i have no interest in altering my junk or even dressing or talking 'like a woman' (again, whatever that may even entail)...then i am a trans-woman. simple as that.