I’m not tagging this as a #review for reasons that are probably going to become obvious pretty soon. For starters, it’s fuck o’clock in the morning. I was asleep an hour or so ago but for some fucking reason I’m WIDE THE HELL AWAKE NOW THANKS and got rapidly tired of tossing and turning in bed so now I’m in the living room and angryblogging on my laptop, because that is a wise decision.
I blew someone some shit on Twitter earlier today for starting a Tweet with the words “everyone will shit on me for saying this, but…”. I feel like if you’re starting to say something with those words, that’s your brain telling you that you’re probably wrong and that you should probably listen to it. Listening to my own advice apparently isn’t one of my strong suits.
So, with that in mind, let’s write an intemperate post about Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey. You may recall my review of River of Teeth, her first book, which I wanted to be fond of but really wasn’t. I ended that review by saying I was disappointed but I was still in for the sequel– the premise, remember, is basically cowboys riding hippos, which covers for a lot of sins– and having finished Taste of Marrow tonight before briefly going to sleep I think I’m officially out. The sins of the first book are all still there, from the sidelining of the hippos to that one character’s annoying accent to, again, the dude who is apparently the bad guy randomly getting eaten by hippos in what is probably the single most deus ex hippo ending I’ve read in a book in a long time… to Hero.
Hero moved from an annoyance I was able to put up with in River of Teeth to something that actively pissed me off in this book. Hero is again consistently referred to with plural pronouns for the entire book, by every character. Hero is also still never once described. I think at one point Gailey says that Hero is wearing a shirt, which they must open in order to examine a scar. That’s as far as it goes. Gailey goes out of her way to never have any character who isn’t part of the core cast mention or speak to Hero, because those people presumably wouldn’t use Hero’s preferred pronouns and would at least guess at Hero’s gender. At this point I’m not even willing to describe Hero as a nonbinary or trans character; Hero isn’t a character in this book so much as a little game that Gailey is playing with her readers. For all I can tell from everyone’s behavior in the book, the most reasonable conclusion is that Hero is a cis straight woman who the author is just playing the Pronoun Game with for no fucking reason at all.
I feel compelled, again, to point out my pronoun bona fides, insofar as such things exist; the next book I’m reading is Jy Yang’s The Red Threads of Fortune, which postulates a culture where all children are referred to with plural pronouns until such time as the children themselves announce their gender, which sometimes takes years; Yang themself prefers the plural also. I’m a couple of weeks away from writing my 10 Best Books of the Year post, and a series with a trans main character is going to be very high on that list. Elves in the Benevolence Archives, my series, are genderless and referred to with custom pronouns. You can look far and wide in the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written on this blog and not see a single word complaining about pronouns other than the two posts relating to this series. It’s emphatically not the singular “they” I have an issue with, it’s the fact that this author is deliberately fucking with her readers with this character and that Hero’s nonbinaryness, if in fact Hero is actually nonbinary, feels like the “what’s in Hero’s pants” guessing game is exactly what Gailey wants her readers doing. Which is bullshit.