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Hidden Warrior (2008)

Hidden Warrior (2008)

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4.09 of 5 Votes: 4
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0007113102 (ISBN13: 9780007113101)
harpercollins publishers

About book Hidden Warrior (2008)

Um...Ms. Flewelling...may I call you Lynn...okay, Ms. Flewelling...if you ever see this review, I want you to know that this rating/review is a reflection of MY FAILURE and not yours. I don’t think this is a bad book and I don’t think there are serious flaws in its execution. I think the lack of happy units I gained from this read is because sometimes I suck as a reader and pick up the wrong book at the wrong time. What I am trying to say is that it's me....not you. Let me explain. For me (and maybe for a lot of us) my enjoyment (and subsequent rating) of a book can be significantly affected by external matters completely outside of the novel itself. By this I mean situations where our mood or environment makes us more or less disposed to one kind of book over another. Now there are some books *cough* Twilight *cough* Dead and Alive*cough* All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder, Volume 1 *cough* that I would hate even if I was reading them while getting the Deluxe Treatment at “Happy Endings” Message Parlor. By the same token, there are books I would love even if I was reading them in the middle of colonoscopy (e.g., The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Blade Itself). Then there are books that can just hit you at the right or wrong time and make an impact on you for good or for bad. For example, the first time I ever read The Dying Earth by Jack Vance I thought it was just okay, but not great. Why? Because I read it too fast. I had just finished a rather “brain draining” read and thought I was picking up something light and breezy that I could fly through. WRONG again!! Anyone who has read Vance knows that his books are not light and his prose can convey more info in a short paragraph than lesser writers could do in a whole chapter. Luckily, I eventually stopped reading it like a tool and allowed myself to be pulled into the story. The result: a massive man-crush on Jack Vance and The Dying Earth is now one of my all time favorite books. So, it happens. Simalarly, if you have seen my review of The Old Man and the Sea, you know that the circumstances under which I read it were as perfect as they could be and I absolutely fell in love with the story. Now, it is true that everything I loved about Papa’s fish tale is really there in the text, but if I had not been receptive to it, my experience might have been much different. So what I am saying rambling about is that a lot of things can influence the way we feel about a book. Mood (good or bad), setting (cozy and quite vs loud and uncomfortable), Energy (tired and groggy vs rested and alert), life situations (just got a promotion vs just lost your job), Distraction level (hungry or worried about project you need to finish vs satiated and relaxed because you just finished that big project). Maybe we’re sad and so that beautifully written but deeply depressing historical fiction novel just leaves us cold. Maybe we are pissed at the world and so the latest Discworld novel doesn’t generate the number of giggles it otherwise might. Maybe were drunk and so that pulpy SF story just goes down smooth. Maybe we’ve read too many stories lately with similar plots or characters and so the one we are reading now, despite being well written, feels too much like “same old, same old.” And maybe...there are times when you just need to take a break from a genre even if it happens to be one of your favorites. I think this may be where I am heading with traditional epic fantasy. I can think of no other explanation for my lack of interest in this book.Hidden Warrior is very well-written (Lynn...I mean Ms. Flewelling writes excellent prose). The characters are well-drawn, three-dimensional and the author genuinely breathes life into them. The plot takes on some very important and interesting issues regarding gender and sexual identity as it revolves around a main character who was born a girl but was “magically” transformed into a boy in order to protect her/him. In addition, there is a complex, detailed history, healthy amounts of political intrigue and a well defined and interesting magic system.Yet, for all of that...I COULDN’T EVEN BEGIN TO CARE ABOUT THE PLOT…...not even a little bit...50 pages into the story and I was screaming at myself for not reading something else. Plus, I am one of those morons who once I begin a book, I will finish it (no matter how much I might desperately want to). I also don't skim which only adds to my pain sometimes. So I struggled through this which was both a disservice to me and to your book Ly..uh...Ms Flewelling. Both you and your book deserved a better effort from me. Still, I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really like the story. Thus, I am forced to slap a two star rating on it as the best I can do at this time. I just wanted to explain my rationale because I think this MAY BE a much better story than my rating would suggest and is certainly superior to the other 2 star books on my shelves. I am going to put this on me list of “to re-read” and hope to come back to this story at some time in the future when I might be more receptive to the story. For now, 2.0 stars and one more heart-felt apology to you, Ms. Flewelling...

3.5 Originally posted at FanLit. Warrior is the second installment in Lynn Flewelling’s TAMIR TRIAD about Tobin, the rightful heir to the throne of Skala who is being magically hidden as a girl until it’s time for her to challenge the king. As this book begins, Tobin has just discovered the horrifying truth about himself, but he must still stay hidden until it’s time for the big reveal. He’s now living at the castle as a Companion to the prince. He’s nervous about the future because he genuinely likes his cousin, the presumed heir, and he is treated well by his uncle, though he occasionally sees glimpses of the king’s unpredictable bad temper and sees how he mistreats the wizards and others who speak against him or mention the prophecy about a hidden queen.As Tobin nears puberty, he still thinks of himself as a boy, but his gender identity confusion begins to increase. He is noticeably smaller than the other boys, lacks facial hair, enjoys making jewelry, and has no interest in girls. Even though he excels at fighting and battle tactics, he’s also sensitive and squeamish about the king’s harsh punishment of “traitors.” Worst of all, he’s falling in love with his squire, Ki, who has no idea that Tobin is really a girl. Though the gender identity issue is the big theme in the TAMIR TRIAD, it’s handled gently, without any sort of preachiness.Tobin has plenty of other things to worry about, too, such as Brother, who is becoming less controllable, the malicious man who acts as his guardian, and the scheming duke who is steward over his lands. There are other plots he doesn’t even know about yet, but that will surely affect him in the future. Meanwhile, the country begins to suffer from plague and there are murmurs about the prophesied queen who will set things right. The king and the prince show their cruel sides more often as their popularity wanes, and Tobin’s magical allies have had to go into hiding.Flewelling’s story continues to entertain me, mostly because her world and characters are so well developed and I’ve come to sincerely care about Tobin’s plight. The simple plot isn’t quite hefty enough to carry three books, so this installment’s pace lags at times, sometimes feeling a little like the infamous “middle book.” There’s also a lot of angst that doesn’t quite feel gratuitous, but does fill a lot of page space. In general, though, I feel very forgiving about the pace because I like the story, though I think it helps that I read Hidden Warrior while leisurely working on a jigsaw puzzle during the couple of lazy days after Christmas.Just like the previous book, The Bone Doll’s Twin, this one ends on an exciting cliffhanger. You’ll definitely want to have the third book, The Oracle’s Queen, ready to go. I’ve been listening to Victor Bevine narrate the audio version, which is very good.

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I enjoyed this book even more than the first one. In this second book we get to see Tobin struggle with the truth that has been hidden from her and what it means for all the relationships that she has formed. It was interesting to see her struggle with emotions and feelings for both Korin and Ki. She loves both of them a great deal but the truth of who and what she is will impact her relationships with both of them. This book also focused very heavily on Arkoniel as he starts to build a collection of wizards that will become the third Oreska house. For me this was interesting more for background on the Nightrunner series.While many focused on the gender identity of these books I didn't think about the story in those terms in this book and the first one. Although Tobin does struggle throughout the book on what it means for him to be a girl, it was also heavily tied into the politics of what that would mean. What will he do with Korin who will what to be King? How will people see him not just in terms of being a girl but being a Queen that will have to take over and maybe kill some of her friends and family to do it? It also deals more heavily with the lies he me tell and the lies that have been told to him. To me these were incredibly interesting to read about and see who Tobin dealt with them.

In this second book of the trilogy, Tobin struggles with the knowledge of his true sex and is finally revealed as Tamir, a girl child hidden away by magic to avoid execution by the cruel king. Will her Companions still accept her? Will her best friend Ki? This book is something of a cross between the classic Alanna series and Woolf's Orlando. We have a similar story about a young woman disguised as a man who wants nothing more than to be a warrior, but must challenge social mores to do so. We also have a similar gender flip, in exactly the same manner as Woolf's novel. In fact, I'm sure Flewelling took inspiration from Woolf's writing, especially as her prose invites the reader to think about how a simple pronoun change affects our interpretation of the main character- it's a good reminder of the deeply gendered nature of our language. I really liked many of the characters, though the villain was one dimensional, despite a feeble attempt by Flewelling to give us Niryn's history condensed in one chapter...I only had a few complaints about this book. One, there's a rather essentialist view about gender, embracing the notion that one has a male or female "soul." The warrior queen has tiny breasts and hips (boyish), while the scary witch is voluptuous....those are worn stereotypes, there. Basically, this classic tale of gender disguise needs a 21st century update that thinks deeply about trans characters in a way that avoids pure/impure dichotomies. Any takers??? Also, I felt sorely deprived of a loooove scene at the end. Seriously, all that slow buildup and no action? Sheesh! In any case, this is a really absorbing epic fantasy. The historical documents, or shreds of history seen from the point of view of scholars centuries later, were cool and strongly suggest a "next step" in this world for the author. I'll be checking it out.

I've finished the third book as well, and this review encompasses the entire trilogy without spoiling anything. This is a solid fantasy series, with a compelling hero/heroine, strong secondary characters, and a plot that pulls the reader along. The series has interesting commentary on gender issues, but I do not think it has that much to say about transgender issues. The plot sets up the resolution of the personal issues associated with the main character's transition too neatly; unfortunately, often switching gender presentations is a bit of a mess with those closest to you. The book also fails to adequately capture and explore the inner conflict of identifying with a gender other than one's natal gender. That said, it is a solid fantasy series and certainly worthy of four stars.
—Sophia Alexander

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