My UF summer continues with Amazons.
Melanippe Saka is an unusual main character: she’s an Amazon, a tattoo artist, and also a single mother. She runs her own tattoo business with four employees.
The Amazons have a very strict culture away from the rest of the world. They move around often and they can’t talk about themselves to any one else. They use men only to get children and when a male child is born, he’s killed or given away.
Mel’s second child was a boy and she realized that she wanted to keep him. Unfortunately, according to Amazon traditions, that was not possible. He was a stillborn. However, the Amazon women are strong; the women and the infants don’t die in childbirth. Mel refused to believe that her son was the first exception. She believed that the high priestess had killed her son and so, she took her daughter Harmony and left. Mel’s warrior mother Cleo and priestess grandmother Bubbe joined her in her self-imposed exile.
These Amazons are a different race from humans: they live hundreds of years, are stronger than males, and all have one of the four gifts: a warrior, an artisan, a priestess with power over the four elements, or hearth-keeper. Mel is an artist and she does her best to try to blend into human society. She hasn’t even told Harmony about her heritage. Bubbe is some sort of scam artist/fortune teller but Cleo seems to stay away from humans.
When someone leaves a second dead Amazon girl on Mel’s doorstep, she’s near panic. She can’t take her body back to the Amazons because they would instantly draw the wrong conclusion and think that Mel’s the killer. At first, she just moves the body far away for the police to find it. However, she starts to think that Harmony could be in danger. Also, even though she doesn’t much care for the Amazons she wants to warn them that they might be in danger. So, she tries to warn them subtly. Instead, the local tribe turns up in her doorstep. Dozens of angry warrior women are determined to find out the killer, especially if the killer turns out to be Mel. They are lead by their queen Zery who used to be Mel’s best friend.
The police are also interested. A handsome detective Reynolds is asking difficult questions.
Even though Mel has left the Amazons, she still harbors a lot of prejudices toward males. So far, she’s only hired women but when a handsome and talented tattoo artist Peter Arpada applies for work, Mel decides to try to overcome her upbringing and hires him. When the Amazons camp in her home, she almost regrets her choice.
I found the Amazon culture interesting. They have a highly structured society where the warriors are the elite and the queen apparently always comes from the ranks of the warriors. The heart-keepers are the ones who cook, clean, mend, and do all the other boring chores, and just like in the patriarchal mainstream society, they get the least amount of respect. The women also don’t choose their class; they manifest their talents during puberty. They all have their power animals and belong to one of the twelve tribes. They are nomadic people by tradition but have some safe houses where they gather.
Mel’s grandmother Buppe is five hundred years old. Mel muses that it’s common for Amazon women to start having kids in their eighties. If so, it would seem that many of the Amazons would be in the 200-300 age range. Yet, at least the tribe that we see here is very quick to jump to conclusions and judge others based on prejudices and without any evidence. They’re also resistant to change and openly hostile to Mel for not sticking to the traditions. They also don’t seem to make any plans for future. This sound to me like young and inexperienced people.
The characters are entertaining but not very original. Most of them remain also quite distant. Despite the seeming closeness of Mel’s family, both Cleo and Harmony remain distant characters. Harmony, especially, almost functions as a plot device to spur Mel to action. Mel herself is quite stubborn even though she is occasionally open to new ideas, such as hiring a man into her business. Unfortunately, I don’t really like the whole “I don’t tell you anything for your own good”-thing. In fact, here it could have put Harmony in direct danger when she doesn’t know what is going on. Otherwise, Mel is a sympathetic character who is trying to escape a “cult” so to say and make her own way in the world. Although, for a small business owner, she did surprisingly little work. (I’m self-employed…)
Zery and her very hostile lieutenant where the most fleshed-out Amazons. Mel’s and Zery’s relationship was kind of touching; they had clearly been close but Mel had left ten years ago. Mel had been hurt that Zery hadn’t supported her when she left and Zery had been hurt by Mel leaving. It’s not easy for them to trust each other anymore. Later in the book, we are introduced to Dana who is a hearth-keeper and quite a contrast to the warriors. Unfortunately, her storyline isn’t resolved here.
Aside from Peter, the other employees were only seen at the start and then the sort of faded away.
There were some repetitive parts but all in all, I rather enjoyed the book. The pacing was good and I enjoyed the twist near the end.