July 15th, 2005

satyr, drool you bastards, bosom

Archangel, by Sharon Shinn

Rachel was born on a farm, but then her village was destroyed so horribly that Rachel can't remember it, and she was adopted by the local nomads. When she was 20, her band was massacred, and the few survivors were herded off into slavery. Rachel lived as a slave in an aristocratic household in yet another culture, where her spirit was wild and unbroken, and where, despite being a low-born slave who grew up speaking an entirely different language, she has the accent and speech patterns of an aristocrat. God chooses her to marry the angel who is going to rule the country, even though she hates him and he hates her. She has masses of luscious golden hair and a fabulous singing voice.

Except that you're not getting the full impact of the story. You see, the nomads she grew up among, the Edori, are Special. They're the only religious dissidents on the planet. They believe living in harmony with the animals, the plants, and the weather, and they think that anyone can speak directly to God, not just God's chosen representatives. (They're nonhierarchical.) They don't believe in marriage or have marriage rites. Unlike every other nomad band known to humanity, they have no set circuits; they wander where they like, their whole lives an endless round of freedom and ooh-what's-over-there? They are harmless and gentle. They are oppressed. And they sing.

And sing.

And sing.

Unlike the rest of the world, which mostly keeps its mouth shut and lets the angels do the singing. The angels sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing. At their eyries, they organize in two-hour shifts so that there's always someone hovering over the hold and singing. Every year, they gather on the Plain of Sharon and hold a huge mass (that Rachel has to lead) and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing, and if they don't sing, GOD DESTROYS THE PLANET.

So you see.

The Edori do their own singing, and their own communing with God, and are generally the most free-spirited, untrammelled, open-souled bunch of slavemaster fodder you ever did see. They're so wild and free that even after Rachel has been a slave for five years--most of her adult life--and acts and speaks exactly like her captors, she reacts as though the entire episode happened last week.
So the story actually reads:

Rachel was born on a farm, but then her village was destroyed so horribly that Rachel can't remember it, and she was adopted by the local Edori. (They're kindhearted!) When she was 20, her band of Edori was massacred (All the Edori were dead!), and the few survivors were herded off into slavery (Edori should not be slaves). Rachel lived as a (Edori) slave in an aristocratic household (The Edori don't live in houses) in yet another culture (where she was a SLAVE!), where her spirit was wild and unbroken (because she was Edori), and where, despite being a low-born (Edori) slave (SLAVE!) who grew up speaking an entirely different language (Edori), she has the accent and speech patterns of an aristocrat. (SHE WAS AN EDORI SLAVE!) God chooses her (an Edori) to marry (the Edori don't do marriage) the angel who is going to rule the country, even though she (an Edori) hates him (not an Edori) and he hates her (and can't forget that she was a SLAAAAAAVE! An Edori SLAAAAAAVE!). She has masses of luscious golden hair (unlike the Edori, who are dark) and a fabulous singing voice (which she used to use at the Edori gatherings). She has to sing at a mass (the Edori write their own masses) or God will DESTROY THE WORLD! (but she really just wants to wait a little while so He'll destroy the parts of the world that enslave the Edori.)

She also founds an orphanage, which has no real purpose in the plot except to teach her that if she lets God rain fire down on her former (non-Edori) captors (she was an Edori! SLAVE!), a bunch of street kids will also die.

I'm at around page 100, and I just want her husband to rain hell down on the Edori, throw Rachel off a cliff, and go marry ANYONE ELSE. I'm sticking with the book because her husband is marginally interesting and because I know from flipping ahead that that last hundred pages are OMG cool. (Rachel is stuck in a cell and her husband has to carry the action. He is not an Edori. Or a slave.)

Also, this Sueriffic (Sue is an Edori name) masterpiece won awards. The entire judging panel couldn't have been on the bad crack... could it?

(The judges are not Edori slaves, either. We don't know whether they believe in marriage.)