Blood and Iron
& Whiskey and Water
form a duology by Elizabeth Bear. I intended to review the first one because it made me kick my feet in delight but couldn't quite manage it; it's difficult to review a book one really enjoys because one wants to convey the enjoyment of the book, but of course only the book could do that.
Interestingly, my first thought upon reading Blood and Water
was, "This reminds of a lot of bad books, only good!" Bear's books deal with Faerie, a subject that seems to hold an inexorable fascination for numerous authors, a small number of whom have actual talent. This is a good chunk of the mythology and folklore of much of the English speaking world, so naturally it exercises quite a draw. I consider the topic to have been covered to my satisfaction by Emma Bull, and now Elizabeth Bear.
Generally, one of the problems I encounter with books dealing with Faerie is that the mundane world is drawn too mundane. I live here, and I happen to know it's pretty quirky: so does Bear. I had never previously considered how the Fae would react to a body-modding otherkin. If you wish to know the answer to this important question, it is contained within her books. Her Faerie is just as solidly real as the mundane world, although not immutable, and only deceptively familiar.
Bear's Faerie doesn't blunt the nuance of real life; instead it spins binary into nuance, and gently and elegantly bends stereotype into corkscrews. Gender is bent, when it is not flipped, religion is refracted, history is played backward at 45rpm, and true love is unhelpful. Neil Gaiman wishes
he wrote this book. If I had to sum it up in a sentence, that sentence would be a quote from the book: "All stories are true." Bear means quite a bit by this.
Having read this book, I forced my mother to read it so that she might tell me what she thought of it: she disliked it. She complained to me that there was no one solid relationship that was not in some way damaged or untouched by ambition and betrayal. I, on the other hand, liked the fact that there was no one villain unredeemed by affection, or some form of altruism. Although Bear is working with archetypes, there are no two-dimensional characters.
This book is especially recommended to: jamjar
, and rubynye
, who I believe will find it emotionally satisfying, but I recommend it generally to those who love elegant writing, good characterization, a ripping yarn, and an exquisitely constructed world.( Fanfic which I wish people to read this book so they may write for me, possibly spoilery )