New Material

I usually read while I eat, if I’m not obligated to make conversation with anyone.  But I wasn’t going to pick out a book to start today until departure.  You may have figured out by now that I’m not a fan of leaving things unfinished, so what could I possibly read in the short time breakfast would take?

If I didn’t do any rereading up to it, the newest issue of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

I remembered the last page of issue 8, so I figured I’d be fine reading the new one cold.  And I was.  And I’m grinning.  It’s super hard to talk about a single issue of a comic book without spoilers, but this new twist explains some things from a couple issues ago as well as heightening the tension and making me want to know more.

I picked this one up last Saturday when I was running errands.  I would’ve gotten the new issue of Pink but it wasn’t out yet, from what I could see.  And the cashier remembered me and asked if I was going to read the Power Rangers/Justice League crossover, which I probably will.  If only to giggle insanely at the very combination which, I think, is the point of most crossovers.  Don’t believe me, just watch the Power Rangers in Space episode with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Yes, this was a real thing that really happened.

So, today’s car ride featured Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions & Heretics by Jason Porath. I found this particular oversized hardcover in Barbara’s Books, the bookstore in the basement of Macy’s on State Street, and one of my favorite places to annually buy an obscure book or two. They don’t have a lot of space, even though the department store takes up an entire city block, so their selection tends to be a wee bit eclectic.

This particular book was on the staff selections shelf, and I was tempted by it, though my interest was tempered when I picked it up and felt the long scratch on the back. I still wasn’t certain I would buy it, but I asked if they had any other copies – without the flaw. The staff said no, but he offered me a 15% discount. Combine that with the visa gift card I had from my contact lens rebate, and I was sold. Unfortunately, this was when I was in the middle of rereading Safehold, so the Rejected Princesses would have to wait. I did sneak a peek as I debated it in the store, and was immediately convinced by seeing that the very first entry was Khutulun, the Wrestling Princess.

This is a story I am familiar with thanks to my favorite author’s penchant for fairy tales and folk tales of all sorts. Yes, Mercedes Lackey managed to incorporate Khutulun into one of her books. Actually, it wasn’t even as a fractured fairy tale, or part of the 500 Kingdoms series either. Rather, the legend existed as a true legend for the Mongols in Burdens of the Dead, which was also coauthored by Eric Flint and Dave Freer. The series, called the Heirs of Alexandria (hey, Hypatia’s in this Rejected Princesses book too!), is historical fantasy, but they do use a great deal of actual history to build it.

Anyway, seeing Khutulun, and getting an idea for how each entry would be set up, was what sold me. Each Princess has her name (or at least what she was best known as), a subtitle giving you a clue as to what she was known for, a full-color digital painting done by the author, and a precis of her story. There is a lot of detail cut out of these, with the shortest being a single page long. The longest can take several more, and can feature more than one princess. As for the writing, Porath writes his book much the way I write this blog, which I find quite accessible. Sometimes I think his commentary and references go a bit too far, but it’s bearable. To be fair, he does try to avoid getting into anything very specific and modern for the most part, but sometimes he lets his jokes or opinions get in the way.

Overall, I found this book to be relatively educational (remembering that the author is not a professional historian and that these are summaries for the most part) and a nice, easy read. Something a bit different from my usual in some ways, but I think you may have noticed by now that I do enjoy strong female characters. It is, on that note, worth noting that the author is male, but he shows himself to be very sympathetic to his subjects, which I appreciate.

Lastly, you might look at this book, with its format and illustrations, and think of it as a good storybook for a young girl. That is…somewhat problematic, but at least Porath has some aids for those who would consider it in those terms. He has a maturity rating for each story, ,ranging from 1 (utterly harmless) to 5 (might give a child nightmares). He also has tags denoting whether a story contains violence, abuse, sex, ,rape, or self-harm, in case an adult is reading to a child and would rather said offspring not hear certain types of tales just yet.

For the record, there are very few stories that earned a 5 on the maturity scale, and all of them deserve it. I have read few books with equitable content.

Khutulun was only the first of the princesses I had heard of previously, and I did know some of the other stories here ahead of time. Other women were mere names to me – names I had heard of, but knew little about. Most of the tales were new to me.

At the end of the day, I am pleased that I picked up Rejected Princesses. I may even investigate the author’s website of the same name, ,to see who else he’s put up since this book was published.

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