“Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night
The Surun’ do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.
Set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse, The Four Profound Weaves hearkens to Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. In this breathtaking debut, Lemberg offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity in a hostile world.”
I got an ARC of this book and am part of the blog tour hosted by Tachyon.
There are very important details about me that must be declared to make my review make sense. I am trans. I am living in a city where I did not grow up and have lived in big cities where I have known no one else. I have taken weaving lessons on a rigid heddle loom. I have also seen demonstrations on spinning (and own a drop spindle, but have been too intimidated to use it). What does all of this have to do with this book? A lot, you will see.
The cover! That cover is so wonderful. The birds, the colors, the BONES. I live for covers like this, covers that get more powerful as the story is read. Covers that are only fully appreciated after a book is done. A cover that fully encompasses a story perfectly. I would love to stitch this cover, but I don’t think I could do it justice.
The two main characters are both changers, which seems to be the Birdverse word for trans. So I was very easily sold on reading this book. Trans MCs? Sign me up! The book gets better though. This book is about these older changers, they are in their sixties. I so rarely see older trans people in any form of media. It is like older trans people are not allowed to exist. So seeing this and seeing them be the heroes is something I needed so desperately. The perfection of having elderly trans heroes is just beyond my ability to form words. I want to be a trans elder like these two are. Strong, caring, and not willing to back down from my own truth or an adventure. I understood so much of the feelings the nameless man had about wanting to fit in at home, despite not being at home any more. The desire to be loved for who you are and the pain and anger at being forced to stifle yourself. Well written character and the pain was so deep and yet so soft at the same time. It was aged pain. It was wonderful.
The plot followed a very nice path. The book is split into four sections and the way they ran matched with the four profound weaves, which just felt like it was a great detail choice. It made the book feel so cohesive and well thought out. The plot never rushed and it never slowed down. Each detail was so necessary and vivid. The book does not hold your hand when you read. You are dropped into this world and it is sink or swim, which I think added to the appeal for me (also meant I have already looked up the other Birdverse works so I can learn more). So I don’t understand the magic of this world fully, but I also feel like that didn’t matter. I started here and I am happy here.
The focus on weaving and the magic of weaving was unexpected (I was calling this book The Four Profound Waves for months!). Weaving can be very intense. The weaving seminar I took was three days and I barely even started weaving. My first project, a scarf, took me over ten hours to weave. Building a loom, depending the the loom, has to be incredibly precise or your project will have to be manually corrected constantly to have the appearance you are going for (my partner and I got plans for a loom and then did not build one, because it was scary). Spinning is similar. It looks deceptively simple. I have watched spinners spin alpaca, they talked and looked around like they weren’t doing anything special, but their feet and hands were making yarn. It was beyond my comprehension. So the images of spinning and weaving in this book felt powerful to me, the way that the magic entwined with the crafting just fit so naturally in my mind. I am curious how the spinning that happens in the last bit of the book happened. Did she make a drop spindle? A full on spinning wheel? Was this magic spinning so I am making this more complicated than it needs to be?
I loved the idea that this crafting could be the main focus of a story. So much of crafting is written off, because it is not “art”. There is a whole lot of information about devaluing women’s work and calling what women do crafts instead of art. If you look at quilts and things that have been woven, they are gorgeous and take a tremendous amount of skill and effort. Yet, it will be called craft. While art is painting and sculpture. I will very much go on a rant about the merits of quilts and the history of quilts if I don’t move on quickly, so just know that the power being in weaving and spinning is something that made me love this story so much.
The ending and the themes throughout the book are pretty perfect. I really don’t have a bad thing to say about this book outside of my normal complaint of transphobia being used much too often in books with trans characters. It was more mild and cultural in this one, but there was a longer plot of control and abuse that has transphobia pretty near the middle of it. Not every trans character had that plot, so that we helpful, it was just so incredibly painful to read when I identified so heavily with the character it happened to.
The winning for the giveaway has been selected and will receive an email in the next few minutes. Thank you all for entering. I hope to do more giveaways in the future!
5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book.
You can buy the book here.