Friday, April 1, 2016

Grandmother Nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds, by Rose Lemburg

We have another offering tonight of an author I'm not familiar with, but the story is Nebula-nominated.  Grandmother Nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds is nominated in the novelette category--unfortunately for me the quality that stood out for it was that it felt like an entire novel.  Kind of a long one. 

The story has some promise.  The setting is vaguely North African, possibly as long ago as 4000 years.  Our protagonist is a girl in a trading family.  Magic is present and very useful, but she has none herself.  She has a brother who turns out to be developmentally disabled, thus is not accepted into the society of men (men live separately from women, doing scholarship, singing and making).  So he's assigned to be female and she cares for him.  Her grandmothers have a special item, a Cloth of Winds that fortifies those who touch it.

We get extensive descriptions of this social structure--multigenerational families of women that venture off to fight and trade, men that stay cloistered and veiled, and handling of transgender issues.  But there's vanishingly little to hold all of this social narrative together.  It ended up feeling like reading a very long lecture on some society's social customs.  There was a plot, but no real tension, for all the discomfort some characters felt. 

I give it two stars and hope the author will try again.  She can construct ideas pretty well.

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