#REVIEW: Queen of the Unwanted, by Jenna Glass

So, if you’re going to make a series switch from hardcover to softcover after the first book comes out, which already guarantees the books on my shelf aren’t going to match, and then you’re going to compound not-matchiness by making sure that the cover design changes radically from the hardcover to the softcover editions, the least you can do is make the softcover editions awesome. And I have to admit it: this has me considering buying the first book again in paperback just so that they match, since the new versions look so Goddamned good.

This is one of the tricky ones. If you look at Goodreads reviews for either this book or the first book in the series, called The Women’s War, you’ll notice that they’re … we’ll say messy. The basic premise of this series, boiled way down, is that a group of women, forced into prostitution when their husbands chose to divorce them or they were deemed unnecessary in other ways, manage to make a fundamental change to the way magic works in their world to give women more agency. To wit: among other things, sexual assault now causes little bursts of magic to be released that can kill the man performing the assault. Magic is explicitly gendered in this series, and without going too deep into the weeds there is women’s magic, men’s magic, and ungendered magic, and while women’s magic has historically been suppressed and devalued, this spell also kicks women’s magic into much higher gear, also creating a wellspring of feminine magic in the middle of what was formerly a wasteland that quickly becomes a feminist kingdom. The main characters are all royalty of some stripe or another, although several of them are former royalty who have been forced to be Abigails (their word for the prostitutes,) one way or another this book is not especially concerned with regular people.

It’s also not especially concerned with gay people, or trans people, or people of color (but more on that bit in a moment,) and two of the three most evil people in the series are the only fat person (we are reminded, Bomber-like, of his fatness every time he is mentioned) and a woman with a facial disfigurement. There is also a blind woman who is One of the Good Guys, but it’s made clear very quickly that she’s not only Not Really Blind, but she’s quickly offered a cure (which, to give some credit, she doesn’t take.)

You can probably imagine that this has caused some controversy, particularly for a book that is pretty explicit about being about high-fantasy feminism. Like, when you tell me that whether you’re male or female can not only affect what kind of magic you can perform but what kind of magic you can see (magic, in this world, is performed by combining “motes” of what are basically magical elements that float around in the world, and so certain kinds of magical motes are easier to find in some places or another, and part of what determines your skill as a mage is how many different kinds of motes you can perceive in the first place,) I’m going to immediately start wondering about how trans people fit into your world, and I’d almost rather you terf it out and go strictly biologically than completely ignore that trans people exist.

And even laying aside the identity and representation concerns, there’s a persistent feeling throughout reading this book that Jenna Glass really didn’t bother thinking super hard about the aspects of her worldbuilding that she wasn’t interested in. For a book that is all about shifting alliances between rival kingdoms, a book where the phrase trade agreements shows up on nearly every page, she doesn’t seem to have much of an idea of how trade works, unless her various principalities and kingdoms are unimaginably small. One of her kingdoms is repeatedly described as the sole source of iron and gems for all the surrounding kingdoms, for example, and you get the feeling that the “trade agreements” between these countries are sometimes over a few pounds of metal. It’s surprisingly low-resolution compared to how well she brings in the political implications of, say, marriages between warring families. But trade? Just say “trade agreements” on every page or two and let the audience fill in the details. At one point after a book and a half you find out that two of the countries speak different languages, and I swear to you that she decided that on the spot so that she could have one character not quite understand what was going on around her. I’m not going to reread the first book to confirm that multiple languages hadn’t ever been mentioned, but they certainly hadn’t come up in the second until it was convenient. Stuff like that.

The thing is, though, IF you can get past all that– and I absolutely would not blame you for a single second if you declined to even try— the book that is here is pretty fucking compelling. What Jenna Glass does really well is write characters, and she’s done a good job over these two books of filling her pages with characters with competing and overlapping sets of interests and national cultures and setting them against each other. It took me forever to get the second book ordered and then to actually pick it up once I had it on the shelf, but now that I have, I feel dumb about taking so long and want to quickly order the final book of the trilogy, which is already out. So it turns out to be one of those books that I can’t really recommend, because of the various bits of sleeve and sloppiness, but I can accurately report my own reaction to the book and let y’all decide, right? So, yeah: I read this, and I enjoyed it, but it’s a mess, and it might be worth it for you to check it out and maybe it might not, so make your own call.


Let’s talk about the race thing for a second. It is interesting to me that the only characters in this book who the book takes care to describe physically are people from Nandel. Nandel is in the north– it’s the iron-and-gems country– and it’s the most openly misogynist of all the various cultures that exist in this book. Nandelites are also repeatedly described as being blonde, blue-eyed, and pale. Over and over again, in fact, and any time anyone else is referred to in terms of their skin color it’s always a shade of brown, although frequently Glass also tosses in a reference to working outside or something, so you never know just what anyone is supposed to look like. I’m going to point out real quick that a world where only whiteness is considered interesting enough to comment on might be a world where brown skin is the default, and then also point out that if everybody is brown except for these handful of characters (none of whom are primary POV characters) then Glass could certainly have been a hell of a lot clearer about it, as this is roughly akin to J.K. Rowling suddenly claiming that Hermione was always meant to be black because her hair is curly.

I will leave it as an exercise to the reader whether that makes any meaningful difference. I suspect not, but YMMV, as always.

A brief statement on Warren Ellis

TW: Sexual misconduct, not directly described.

No one has asked, and I’m certain I would be just fine were I not to say anything at all, particularly anything I’m treating seriously enough that I’m calling it a Statement, but:

I have, on many occasions in the past, recommended Warren Ellis’ comic book and novel work in this space and others. He was, for many years, my favorite comic book writer, and I have a ton of his work in my house. I consider several of his comics to be among my favorite series of all time. His newsletter was the direct inspiration for my book Skylights, and he is mentioned in the introduction to that book. I have at least two books he has autographed and may well have more, although I have never met him in person.

In June of 2020 Ellis was accused of sexual misconduct by what eventually ended up being dozens of women; far, far too many to make it remotely reasonable to question or investigate any of their stories. Eventually nearly a hundred women came forward with some sort of story involving Ellis and emotional or sexual indecency, misconduct, or assault.

Ellis responded by publishing a brief statement in which he … well, didn’t quite deny all of the allegations, but certainly denied the context in which many if not all of them took place, and issued an apology that was rapidly deemed insufficient by, as far as I can tell, everyone involved. He then closed his mailing list and his Twitter account and went away for a while. While his statement mentioned making restitution for his behavior, he has not done so in any way that anyone involved has noticed.

Image Comics has recently announced that Ellis and artist Ben Templesmith will be collaborating on a revival of Fell, a series the two worked on in the early 2000s. While I am aware that there is no one out there calling out for my opinion in this matter, and other than a vague feeling of possibly unjustifiable betrayal I am absolutely not one of the people Ellis has harmed, I will not be purchasing or reading any of his work in the future until his half-assed apology is replaced with actual definable action steps to rectify and heal some of the trauma he has caused. If you’d like to see what that might look like, I’d recommend looking at the statement from So Many Of Us that is on their front page.

Until that has happened, I am done with him and any of his future work in any medium, and I will continue to not recommend his past work either, regardless of my feelings about it at the time it was released.

A Christmas abortion story

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this terrible show. If not, well, it’s fuckin’ terrible, and it’s on Hulu, and you should probably watch an episode or two because it is terrible in a uniquely addictive way, like, I hate it but I can’t get enough of it.

Anyway.

The wife and I have started season 3. She has somehow already watched all five (Five? Sure. It could be as many as twelve; I have no idea) seasons already and is rewatching them with me. At the end of Season 2, one character found out a woman he’d recently had sex with was pregnant. I believe his entire reaction to this news was the single word “Fuck.” And then the season ended.

And do you know what happened at the beginning of Season 3?

She told him she’d had an abortion, and he was cool with that, and that was the end of the storyline. It was barely a three-minute conversation, with not a trace of remorse on either one of their parts. It has not been mentioned since.

And I gotta be honest: it was fucking refreshing. Because with any other show this would have been a half-season fucking ordeal, and there would have been endless conversations about it, and then it probably wouldn’t have happened.

But this one? Yeah. Season 2 cliffhanger, done and dusted four minutes into Season 3.

I approve.

In which I provide examples

I had the distinct displeasure of encountering this ignorant piece of pigshit earlier today:

If you find naming five women you admire a “challenge,” you need to not only have the fucking sense to not say that on the internet where God and fuckin’ everybody can see it, you need to re-evaluate literally every single aspect of your life, because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, you done fucked up. You done fucked up and you are fucked up, and fuck you double for putting this ignant shit where I’m gonna find it during a week where I’ve got enough bullshit weighing me down already without your dumb ass.

You can’t come up with five women you admire? Here, motherfucker, have a list of a hundred women I admire, drawn almost entirely from living women (a few forced their way onto the list anyway; you’ll know them when you see them) and exclusively from women you should have heard of. It took me maybe fifteen minutes. If I included people I know who aren’t famous, I could easily fucking double this. If I took a few hours to do it and think about it carefully rather than creating it quickly, I could triple it.

Stupid fucking bastard. I hate men.

One hundred women I, Luther M. Siler, personally admire, sorted by first name. If you don’t know who they are, look them the fuck up.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alfre Woodard
Alicia Keys
Alyssa Milano
Amanda Marcotte
Angela Bassett
Angela Davis
Anita Sarkeesian
April Daniels
Aretha Franklin
Ava DuVernay
Ayanna Pressley
bell hooks
Betty White
Beyoncé
Bonnie Raitt
Bree Newsome
Brooke Bolander
Cardi B
Carrie Fisher
Charlize Theron
Cherie Priest
Chloë Grace Moretz
Chrissy Teigen
Christa McAuliffe
Cicely Tyson
Claudette Colvin
Claudia Gray
Daisy Ridley
Danai Gurira
Elena Kagan
Elizabeth Warren
Emma Gonzalez
Emma Watson
Erykah Badu
Eve Ewing
G. Willow Wilson
Gail Simone
Hannah Gadsby
Hillary Clinton
Ijeoma Oluo
Ilhan Omar
Imani Gandy
J. K. Rowling
Janeane Garofalo
Janelle Monáe
Janis Joplin
Jodie Foster
Joy Reid
Judi Dench
Kamala Harris
Kameron Hurley
Kate McKinnon
Kathy Bates
Katie Bouman
Kelly Sue DeConnick
Kyrsten Sinema
Lauryn Hill
Laverne Cox
Leslie Jones
Linda Tirado
Lupita Nyong’o
Macy Gray
Mae Jemison
Maisie Williams
Malala Yousafzai
Maxine Waters
Mazie Hirono
Michelle Obama
Millie Bobby Brown
Ming-Na Wen
Missy Elliott
Mother Jones
N.K. Jemisin
Nancy Pelosi
Nnedi Okorafor
Noelle Stevenson
Oprah Winfrey
Patricia Okoumou
Queen Latifah
Rachel Caine
Rachel Maddow
Rashida Tlaib
Rivers Solomon
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Sally Ride
Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Day O’Connor
Serena Williams
Sigourney Weaver
Sonia Sotomayor
Stevie Nicks
Tammy Duckworth
Tatiana Maslany
Toni Morrison
Uma Thurman
Uzoamaka Aduba
Viola Davis
Wanda Sykes
Zoe Saldana

On Al Franken

Al_Franken,_official_portrait,_114th_CongressI’m not at work today– I woke up with my head swimming like crazy, a condition that, seven hours later, hasn’t really gotten any better– and I probably ought to be doing something, anything other than sitting in front of a screen.  But seeing as how things like walking around or moving in general aren’t exactly easy at the moment (the decision to call in was made moments after realizing I needed to sit down for my morning piss, and then needing to take a second to not pass out after I did) I’ll just write a shorter version of the post I had in my head anyway because staring off into space until bedtime doesn’t sound super exciting.

So, yeah: screw Al Franken.

I really could make that the entire post, and be done with it, honestly.  There’s been a lot of yammering in Democratic circles over the last couple of weeks– I am paying no attention to what the other side thinks, because fuck them– about whether Franken resigning after multiple credible accusations of sexual harassment, at least some of which Franken admitted to, was going to be a Good Thing for the party or not.  Franken, if nothing else, is at least a reliable vote in the Senate for Our Stuff, and has managed for the most part to buck the trend of former-entertainers-turned-politicians being useless buffoons.  I myself tossed the idea of him running for President around a couple of times,  an idea that I’ve mostly shot down because I’m really dead tired of voting for white men for President and don’t want to do it anymore.

And I dunno.  Maybe I’d feel different– I suspect not, but maybe– if Franken was from a state that didn’t have a Democratic Governor, and maybe I’d feel different if the current lead candidate to replace him wasn’t a woman.  But the idea of keeping a predator in the Senate because he’s currently useful to us is not a look I’m especially happy with.  Oh, you don’t like the word “predator”?  Too fucking bad.  Dude shoulda kept his goddamn hands to himself.  It is actually not hard to not grope people.  In fact, not groping people is easier than groping people!  There’s less to do!

“But the Republicans aren’t about to ask the shitgibbon to resign!  And they’re voting for a pedophile for the Senate right now!”

So?  Fuck them.  They’re assholes, every last one of them, and I don’t want to be like them.  I want every single one of these sex-assaulting shits removed from whatever public role they hold, and I want each and every single fucking one of them replaced in whatever positions they held by women.  And honestly, I’ve seen a few prominent feminists on Twitter posit that they aren’t especially chafed by the idea that a few genuinely innocent men might get caught up in this, and I’m starting to come around to their side of things.  Blow the whole shit up and start over.  I don’t care if Franken gets tossed to the wayside in the process.  Motherfucker shoulda kept his hands to hisgoddamnself.  He didn’t.  Bye, Felicia.

And now my head’s swimming again, so I’m going to go back to lying around and not doing anything.  If anybody else gets busted for sex assault while I’m gone, assume I want them done and dusted and don’t bother telling me about it, OK?  Cool.