Friday, November 25, 2011

Green - Jay Lake

About the book
Her exquisite beauty and brilliant mind were not enough to free her from captivity. That took her skills with a knife, plus the power of a goddess.
She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name--her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan…and the skills of an assassin…she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke’s collection of beauties. She calls herself Green.
The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke’s city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed.
Acclaimed author Jay Lake has created a remarkable character in Green, and evokes a remarkable world in this novel. Green and her struggle to survive and find her own past will live in the reader’s mind a long time after the book is closed.
368 pages (paperback)
Published on: June 9, 2009
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage

Thanks to Tor for sending me a copy of this book to review.


Green is one of those books that people either love or hate. There isn’t much middle ground, here. After reading Green, it’s easy for me to see why people feel either way about this book. There is plenty here to love and plenty here to dislike. It’s an interesting mix of elements which people tend to react differently to.

The shining element of Green is Jay Lake’s stunningly eloquent prose. His writing style reminds me a bit of Jacequeline Carey’s, only less wordy. It’s flowing and lyrical and stunningly descriptive. In fact, the prose fairly cause pages to turn on their own. It’s easy to read Green to enjoy Lake’s incredible writing if not for any other reason. Despite its faults, Green is artistic due to the writing and, I should also mention, the beautiful cover art.

The first half of Green wraps itself around the reader as Lake introduces us to the young child, who later names herself Green. Readers are taking on a captivating journey as her father sells her and she is taken from her desert home to a far off land where she learns how to read, write and become a lady. Later, she meets her Dancing Mistress and she learns how to attack, defend and other skills of that nature. It’s after this point that Green falls apart. However, much of the first half of this book is so stunning and interesting that, when the book falls apart, some readers might not mind it. Others might find the second half of the book so jarring that it leaves a sour taste behind.

Green, herself, is an incredibly strong female protagonist. She is a woman who lost her heritage, and through rigorous training becomes more culturally comfortable in the land which holds her captive. Furthermore, she undergoes an almost unbelievable training program and refuses the name given to her by the man who runs her training program and instead names herself. In an impressive feat of rebellion in her struggle for freedom, she even physically maims herself to ruin her beauty so she wouldn’t be wanted for pleasure. Her struggles don’t end there. On her journeys and further struggles Green seems to grow and evolve, constantly challenged and constantly finding an inner strength to overcome these challenges. She is a strikingly deep character and incredibly memorable. Fans of strong female protagonists really should read this book, because Green might redefine the word, “strong” and she never once looses her depth.

Green lost me after Green’s last confrontation with the Factor. While the prose remained stunning and her characterization remained solid and well done, the plot took twists and turns that weren’t the least bit believable, and a few didn't even seem necessary. There were implausible plot twists and journeys that seemed to go on and on with no real point. The book seems to loose its focus and Green seems to travel helter-skelter throughout the world for no real reason. Interesting things happen to her and she does learn necessary lessons needed for the final events that take place, but much of the second half of Green read as filler, unnecessary, unbelievable events to fill pages rather than anything else.

Due to the strong first half of the book, this second half was a huge disappointment. The other major problem I had with Green was the ending, which was unbelievable due to the fact that so many implausible events had to come together to make Green the one person to which the fate of the city hinged on, which seemed a far too convenient way to tie up loose ends. 

Despite its problems, it’s easy for me to see why some readers absolutely love Green. Lake’s writing is absolutely stunning and Green herself is a fascinating well-wrought character with incredible depth. These two facts might serve to carry some readers through. However, for others, the unbelievable and endlessly dragging second half filled with events that seemed more filler than anything else will leave readers with a sour impression. In the end, Green left me wishing Lake had focused more on the character Green rather than endless journeys and odd happenings in foreign lands punctuated by a poor ending. However, regardless of my feelings, this book is still a solid three star read which may appeal to some readers and not others. There are things in Green that are absolutely stunning, which are nicely balanced by other things which may cause a few eyes to roll.

3/5 stars


  1. I completely agree with your review. I loved the first part of the book, but then the 2nd half lost focus.

    There's a sequel, "Endurance" I think it'll be out in 2012. I will read it, mostly because I love his prose, and I did care about Green and want to know what comes next. Well, I kind of know what comes next because my husband did the covers for both books and he's already read the second book :)

  2. Sounds like it could be an interesting novel, even with its flaws. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one; your review made me want to give it a try.

  3. Green is based on the novella with the same name published in Aeon - the novella was awesome, the novel so-so for the reasons mentioned above; I have Endurance which has been released recently but I have not yet taken a look

  4. Great review, Sarah.

    I've had my eye on this one for a while. The only Jay Lake I've read before is a short story in Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 - indeed, one featuring Green - and I adored it. This book has been singing me a siren song since, but now... now I'm not so sure.

  5. What a fantastic review, this definitely looks like one for me

  6. Wow sounds like a very interesting story and the review is good too. The cover of the book itself shows that this story is different from others. I will surely read this one very soon. Thanks for sharing the post.

  7. Thanks for this review. I've been thinking about reading this book, but it sounds like I would be one of those people who wouldn't like it because of the unbelievable plot twists. That's something that would bother me!

    Geek Banter

  8. I picked this one up from my local bookstore to browse through - and the blurb seemed pretty nice. However, now I got my doubts! Fantastic review by the way :) Have actually given you a shoutout on my blog when I first started reading book blogs. Had sat and straight read through your entire blog posts back to back!