The Hammer and the Blade

The Hammer and the Blade

Read February 2014
Recommend for fans of classic buddy fantasy
 ★   ★   1/2

Mr. Kemp, forgive me. I enjoyed your book. Buddy sword and sorcery, against the odds, grit and luck, fun time.  It reminded me of an updated Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, or a more interesting Riyria Chronicles. It entertained me during a slow night shift when I needed to be entertained and to stay awake, so it was working against gravity, as it were, and it still worked. Kudos.  I completely would have given it three and a half stars if it wouldn’t have been for one major plot-point:


SPOILER–a women-victim thing going on here with the ultimate threat of a woman being made to conceive and carry a demon child.

WARNING: apparently I haven’t gotten enough sleep, because my language filter is broken.

It could be recent events in my life (1) (2), but I’m in one of my moods where the convention just annoys the fuck out of me, and it’s about time I say it.  I have a bone to pick with you all, authors, especially you fantasy and science fiction writers. You know–the fields that play with reality, imagining worlds, societies and creatures that haven’t been dreamed or encountered yet. So, why, why, why must you write the (female) rape threat into your book? The (female) rape scene? Is this really the only place your imagination can conceive the threat of domination?

Sadly, I feel fairly confident that you aren’t trying to bring awareness to an all-too-common female experience, since there’s a fat lack of representation of female roles in the rest of the story. Oh wait–whores–check. Mothers–check. Barmaids–check. We’re covered, fantasy guys! Write on!  Because you show you respect women in those roles, it’s totally okay!

Statistics vary somewhat (CDC stats say about 1 in 5 women have been raped and yet U.S. Department of Justice says only about 1.8 in 1000 in 2005 have been sexually assaulted/raped, but you know, their sample is done with people that live in the same location for three years, which is initially the most problematic thing that jumps out at me), but it’s pretty fucking certain most of the women you know have been sexually assaulted in some way at some point in their lives. There was a Booklikes discussion (initiated and hosted by Moonlight Reader) a few months ago where women shared how distressingly common, how very ordinary sexual harassment and assault is, and how often we don’t even bother telling anyone because (3). So when you use it as a, you know, story point, you better be damn fucking sure you use it with intention and thoughtfulness, because it’s going to feel a little close to reality for your readers–a reality, I might argue, that some are hoping to circumvent by diving into the depths of fantasy and science fiction.

It’s not fucking liberated writing if our only role is in the text as a sexual/violent object. You aren’t “standing up for women” if our only representation is dependent upon our sexuality, even if we are rescued by your male hero before it happens. Even if you indulge in a revenge fantasy on our behalf.

My dear male writers who want to include sexual assault against women, I have some advice. First read The Sparrow. It kicked my ass and made me cry for a whole bunch of reasons. If you can do that with your theme/plot/scene, you have my blessing.




(1) You mean I really have to say “no means no” to get you to stop touching me? This is not you “expressing yourself.” This is you violating my space, asshat.

(2) Recent reads: Broken Angels, Woken Furies, Codex Born, The Merry Misogynist, The Hammer and The Blade, Rise Again: A Zombie Thriller, Pump Six and Other Stories, Blackbirds, The Summer Tree, blah, blah, blah.

(3) Because of a whole bunch of reasons, none of which need any fucking justification.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, Epic fantasy, fantasy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Hammer and the Blade

  1. stephswint says:

    Thank you! You can say that again! This is my major beef with Game of Thrones and why I quit reading after the first book and can’t stand the show. I’ve periodically tried to watch 5 different episodes just to see if I was being unfair but every, EVERY episode of the 5 had violent sex in it. I don’t get it. It’s not historical. It’s fantasy – so why the hell are we recreating such a base world – what is the value? I guess I just want an explanation or purpose, at the very least, if it is a piece of the world building

  2. Pingback: The Twelve by Justin Cronin. Meh. | book reviews forevermore

  3. I was brought here by your review over at Goodreads because I wanted to know what your ‘rant’ was about. I am so glad I did because without hearing what you had to say (and reading the spoiler, which I didn’t at Goodreads) I probably would have bought the book. Honestly, you compare it favorably to Riyria Revelations (and someone else was reminded a bit of Hadrian and Royce) so I thought, right up my alley. Honestly though, I am so sick of the female abuse/rape in fantasy books that I cannot even stand the thought of reading another one where that crops up. Sad too, how quickly a scene like that can destroy all enjoyment I have reading a book.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I am appreciative to this review/rant. I wish more reviewers would address these topics in fantasy and sci-fi (this way I’d have a better idea what to avoid).

    • thebookgator says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Amy. Quite honestly, the lack of feminist/humanist voices in urban fantasy, fantasy and sci-fi reviews has often spurred me on. I look for those sorts of reviews and don’t find them nearly as often as I would like, especially in UF.

  4. Casey says:

    I found your review on the goodreads page as well, and I have to say, I agree wholeheartedly. I felt the same way. I was seriously unimpressed with the female characters. We had standard tropes for all of them, and although you can argue that the sisters saved themselves by using Egil and Nix, they still had to physically be saved. Literally throughout the entire book they were drugged or helpless. I also knew exactly what the ending was going to be. Overall, it was a flat read.

    • thebookgator says:

      Thanks for following me here, Casey. Ugh, so much rape trope in fantasy. I was unimpressed as well–fine, go ahead and write the fantasy equivalent of pulp fiction, but can we at least have a woman with agency? I never did continue with the series.

  5. Bert Thurston says:

    Yes they had to be saved because they were drugged,,,but they were smaqrter than any of the males in the novel and used that intelligent to come out on top in an almost insurmountable situation.
    Also you seem to forget tht both the main characters find the act of forcing sex on women loathsome and they both go out of their way to save the woman /mind mages even thouigh they are ricking their lives to do so.
    also there is a main section of the novel that you forget to include …that if the main characters turning the tbles on the cruel and loathsome main bad guy who is trying to keepo the family pact with devils…in which they trade the ability of the males to produce offspring in return for the devils to mate/rape with any in their family to produce offspring.
    Thje non human looking offspring get kept by the devils and the human looking get kept by the human family.
    But at the end the main characters Egil and nyx transform the main evil guy .head of family who has kept the only 2 females of breeding age who will have to go through this as every females had had to endure for hundreds of years drugged so they will have no choice in the matter…but Egil and Nyx use a transmutation wand to turn the male head of house hold into a woman so he will have to endure the very horrible torture that he has has forced so many of his sisters and other members of his family to endure for years…
    So yes…it is used as a tool of the story but in this case they no only save the mind mage woman from theit fate but also make the man who was going to force them to be raped by devils to have to go through the very same torture that he has forced on his own family ..sisters aunts…daughters etc.
    So yes It is used as a tool but it is also shown in no way other than a horrific thing and the man who would force this horrible fate on his own sisters is instead forced to undergo the very same torture he would inflict on his own family.
    So imo its a very different tool than is used in Game of Thrones. which makes it seem like an everyday event that no woman can stop and something that every woman just has to deal with on a regular basis.
    So imo its a much better use of the situation and in the end karma is used to give the man who so much deserves it the horrible fate that he has had coming for years.

    • thebookgator says:

      Interesting, Bert. You’ve clearly given this a lot of thought. Honestly, I never made it through more than a few chapters of Game of Thrones, because it’s one of those things that I recognized wouldn’t end up being a good fit for me. Here’s part of the problem, which you so helpfully illustrate in your comments: “but Egil and Nyx use a transmutation wand to turn the male head of house hold into a woman so he will have to endure the very horrible torture that he has has forced so many of his sisters and other members of his family to endure for years.” In other words, the ultimate revenge torture is to force the oppressor into taking the place of the women he tortured… as a woman. I think that was the part that offended me the most, because it essentially continues to condone the situation of abuse and to justify it by saying ‘turnabout is fair play.’ I’ve read another couple of stories that used that device, and I think it is both extremely simplistic (think to what you tell four year olds: “how would you like it if so-and-so hit you?”) and extremely offensive. Replace ‘woman,’ with ‘gay,’ or ‘black,’ or ‘slave,’ and maybe you’ll start to understand why the exchange is so offensive. So rape is okay as long as the person deserves it? This is what the author was conveying to me. Truly revolutionary writing would be to say, no, not okay in any person’s case, for any reason. We don’t rise above the mentality of the oppressors by condoning their methods. Add to the fact that the women are given no agency–a man solves the problem for them–and it irritates me even more. Wow, I’m thinking now I’d given it negative stars if I could.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.