I posted about reading Kalimpura by Jay Lake before, but since I’ve now finished it I can give a little more informed response to the book. Overall, I greatly enjoyed it and will certainly be seeking out the two prequels, Green and Endurance. Throughout, the style of the narrator Green is reflective, as she looks back on the events of her youth from great age. She alludes several times to events which happen later in her life, some of them seeming interesting enough to hope that Lake is not yet done with Green.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this third book of Green’s story is not well marked as such, and I’m afraid that does it a grave disservice. Without having read anything else by Lake, I still enjoyed it. But I know I missed some significant points throughout it, as I do not yet have the frame of reference provided in the prequels. For instance, I’m certain the very end is a reference in some way to the beginning of the first book. The context implies this, but as I haven’t read that book yet, the significance is lost on me. Still, I’m not sorry I continued reading.
Kalimpura opens with Green having recently given birth to twins, a girl and a boy. Green is a fighter, and evidently quite young and brash, so the enforced idleness of pregnancy and post-partum grate on her sensibilities. But the story is ultimately about her internal journey from that impetuous youngster to a more stable and thoughtful adult. Along the way she performs miracles, speaks familiarly to gods and Titans (the parents of the gods evidently), and strides through rivers of the blood of her enemies.
Green’s enemies have stolen her friend and fellow Lily Blade (a sect of warrior-women dedicated to a goddess of women) and another friend’s only child. Soon after the birth of her own children, she sets out to recover the hostages and defeat her enemies. At this point the plot becomes more complicated and confusing, involving several enemies all working together against Green. I think my confusion is mainly due to not having the appropriate context from earlier books, but it’s difficult to tell. However, it seems that nearly everyone wants to kill or capture Green for largely unspecified reasons. She manages to stay one step ahead of them, barely, and win allies for herself in the process. Eventually she succeeds and returns to living in the temple of her Lily Goddess.
There are several big themes in the book that I really like too. First, Green is a bad-ass queer woman of color. Her story isn’t about any of those aspects of her, they just are facts about her. Sometimes those facts contribute to her interactions with other characters and sometimes they don’t. This is so important. Especially because Green is young and brave and flawed and impetuous and foolish and special all at once. She’s an individual, not a stereotype, and we need more of those depictions of queer women of color in our literature.
Another theme in this book, though one that is rather lightly touched on, is the femininity and it’s nature as well as its relationship with masculinity. There is a sub-plot involving a sect of god-killing assassins who seek out and destroy goddesses in the name of masculinity or something. This is one of the things I would like to see expanded on in a later book(s), as I felt this thread was left a bit dangling. But, folded in with this exploration of femininity was some exploration of motherhood and what it meant to be one. Green herself is a mother, but her close friend Ilona is also a mother. The two are very different, one a warrior steeped in violence and the other a quieter sort, more scholar and priestess I think. Lake holds both up as examples of motherhood. This is another important portrayal. It’s rare to find a depiction of a woman who is simultaneously a mother of young children and an active fighter.
I’m glad I picked Kalimpura up on impulse at the library those weeks ago. I’m glad the cover drew me in and introduced me to an author I’d not yet read. I just wish there had been mention of the prequels so I could have checked them out at the same time! Still, this means there’s a library trip and new books in my near future, and those are always enjoyable.