Green By Jay Lake

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Suggested for a more mature audience as it deals with physical adult relationships with both genders.

Green is not her real name.  Her real name was lost to her around the age of two years, even though she can’t be sure how old she was when her father sold her.  She keeps only the tradition of sewing a bell each day onto a piece of silk.  She is taken from Selistan to Copper Downs on the Stone Coast across the sea.  There she is not exactly a slave, but brought under the care of the Factor.  She is raised by Mistresses which raise her in various arts and educate her.  She spends all her time in the Pomegranate Court which has high walls to keep her inside.  She learns that she competes with other girls such as herself to win a spot serving the Duke who rules the city.  To be chosen is an honor, but she has little notion of the outside world.  All of her time is spent with the same women who treat her only as work.  Until the Dancing Mistress is called upon to teach her, she recognizes Green as wanting to escape and allows her the opportunity to learn about the outside world.  How will she repay those that have bought her and given her the best education money could buy while keeping her imprisoned?  Green tries to find her place in the world after being uprooted.  She also seeks her true name and her father and their ox, Endurance who protected her as her father worked in the rice paddies. 

WARNING SPOILERS

This novel surprised me.  I expected an entirely different sort of story.  However, the plot developments are logical.  I expected Green to end up working for the Duke, but she is tougher than I imagined.  The girl without a name transforms into a girl with a purpose to repay those that have wronged her.  The Dancing Mistress sparks her transformation from well-educated girl to determined rebel.  She lights the spark by taking her Below, the network of underground tunnels and sewers which are dark and require training to pass through unscathed.  She learns to trust her body and her instincts.  Green ends up having reason to return to Selistan to the large city of Kalimpura.  She joins a cult/religious sect that worships the Lily Goddess.  At this point Green is not innocent, afterwards there are numerous sexual encounters with both sexes although mainly women.  She learns of her culture and tries to locate her real home.  The book goes full circle with a large cast although most characters fit with the harsh life of Green.  They’re all realistic and tough each hardened.  This is not a story of whimsy.  Major themes are slavery, violent fighting and religion.  To be honest, I could take or leave the sex scenes they enhance her journey from girl to woman, but they don’t seem to drive the plot forward.  The ending was quite satisfactory and unknowingly sets up the sequel quite well, which upon writing this I have already read.  I think it’s a realistic twist to the underdog story that deals with the balance of power from yourself, cultures, politics and the gods.

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