This month I have the pleasure of announcing that author Ellis Morning‘s novel Blood’s Force is the August Book of the Month. Blood’s Force is book one in the “Sword and Starship” series. The story is set in a corner of a universe where technology is demonized, spaceflight is fast becoming a lost art, and interplanetary politics have dissolved into fiefdoms. Ellis Morning’s blending of sci-fi and fantasy is reminiscent of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern universe, sans dragons.
Here’s how the anthology stood up to the HerStoryArc Scale of Inclusivity:
- Not offensive to women: 1/1 points
- Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character: 2/2 points
- Passes the Bechdel Test: 3/3 points
- Artistic and/or entertaining: 4/4 points
- Above and beyond general media: 2/5 points
Total points = 13/15 or 87%
Blood’s Force opens with a spaceship piloted by Drea and Jessamine, two errant knights, on a quest to the planet Gules. The non-romantic relationship between the two women is a driving force in the story, frequently motivating the main protagonist, Jessamine, as she makes decisions. The entire story is told from Jess’s point of view. Both she and Drea are trained in space flight, hand to hand combat, sword play, and science. The latter item was one of the most interesting facets of the author’s world building.
As I already mentioned, the scientific method (and all it’s accoutrements) are against the popular religion of the “unseen”. Despite this fact, knights are taught rudimentary information in multiple scientific fields: biology, herbology, geology, agronomy, etc. I must admit that at times I had to intentionally suspend my disbelief in how adamantly against science the general populous was. While the author did not explain how the world became the way it is, my personal theory is that the original settlers of these planets intended to live a deindustrialized life, but the message has been distorted with each generation until it warped into a religious obsession.
In the face of such antipathy Jess tries to fight for logical solutions. Forced to “play along” with each planet’s superstitious beliefs, she subverts ignorance with a mix of white lies and lesson giving. One scene that comes to mind is when she instructs two young soldiers how to treat a concussion. Frequently called a “witch”, it is a relief to have Jess’s scientific knowledge be a source of confusion rather than the fact that she is a knight. While I wouldn’t call the fiefdoms explicitly patriarchal in this world, it was clear that military groups and seats of power were predominantly male. Despite this, Jess’s skills with a sword are not questioned. She handles herself well in moments of struggle, and keeps a cool head in the face of seemingly impossible objectives.
There is romance in the story, but it serves as a personal growth narrative and does not drive the overarching plot or Jess’s goals. Jess has romantic attachment to two characters (no, it’s not a love triangle, and no, it’s not polyamory), and for the sake of not spoiling the plot I will say no more. However, one of the reasons I am not giving the book full marks in our last category “Above and Beyond General Media” is due to the nickname one of the male love interests gives Jess. The nickname is “Goose”, and my personal opinion is that poultry derived nicknames are infantalizing.
The second reason I am not giving full marks is due to the back story of Jess, where it is unclear at what age she began a romantic relationship with a much older man. While it is foolish for me to say that such things don’t happen in real life, I would have appreciated it being more clear that she was “of age” (i.e. 18 or older). Psychologically I feel it is important for understanding the character, and if the author’s intention was for her to be underage, I think that should have been explored in a nuanced way.
Where the story does very well is in exploring the ramifications of scientific denial. The role of the “Adepts” in the story is interesting. Adepts are essentially priests who are unknowingly applying scientific knowledge to practice their worship of the unseen. However, their sanctioned science is only taught to Adepts; the general population are denied both sanctioned and unsanctioned scientific knowledge. One good example of the Adept’s poor grasp on the technology they worship can be found in how they treat space ships that no longer function. Considered “dead” the out of order machines are left at the last place they arrived at, and festooned with flowers and other funerary charms. No attempt to fix the ships is allowed to be made.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi/fantasy genre blending. I absolutely loved the interplay between “magic” and misunderstood science. The way Jess manipulates ignorance in others to accomplish logical goals was engaging to read. I am definitely reading book two when it is finished! Book two, entitled “Harbingers”, is due to be released by the end of the year.
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