In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded by D. Hart St. Martin takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen as Empir of Garla will affect the future of the Garlan people. After ascending to the throne, Lisen must make major decisions while facing her own physical and mental battles alone, especially when she’s captured by rebel Thristans for a period of time. On the verge of a devastating war, Lisen and the holders of Garla face the bloodthirsty Thristans in a battle that reveals the truth of the hermit’s prophecy and whether peace can ever truly arise between the two nations.
In Blooded, the concluding piece of the Lisen of Solsta series, Lisen becomes Empir Ariannas—without Korin at her side, though, she struggles with this new sense of authority. As a result, Nalin becomes a vital figure who assists Lisen with developing the knowledge and skills needed to rule over Garla, and he becomes even more important when Lisen is captured by rebel Thristans. Blooded also follows Korin’s return to his homeland, Thristas, and he experiences his own dilemmas, as he realizes his connection to Lisen is much deeper than he originally thought—in this world, where gender norms are shattered, men or women can carry a child, and Korin is carrying his and Lisen’s baby (unknown to Lisen).
Hart St. Martin’s impressive fantasy world construction throughout the entire Lisen of Solsta series kept me so absorbed in the story that I couldn’t put this last book down—I had to know how the series ended because I felt genuinely invested in these carefully-constructed characters. For example, along with everyone else in Garla and Thrista, Lisen resembles a human, but she has a flat chest, a furry belly, and a marsupial-like pouch. In Blooded, we learn more about the “unpouching” or birthing process in this world by witnessing two important “outcomings” or births. St. Martin makes these moments suspenseful and full of emotion by showing two birthing events from different perspectives.
While Korin is raising his and Lisen’s child in Thristas, Lisen faces her own mental struggles when she realizes that the Thristans are planning to go to war with Garla. This climactic moment in the plot, where Lisen and her Council devise a plan for war, showcases the dynamic development of both Nalin’s and Lisen’s characters throughout the series.
During Lisen’s abduction by the rebels, Nalin becomes a strong-minded, confident leader, commanding Lisen’s Council to make major decisions in Lisen’s absence. On the other hand, Lisen sets aside her typical sarcastic, sassy attitude and at times she reveals her emotional turmoil a bit more, as she feels overwhelmed by death piling up around her and the possibility of war. Bala, a significant character from Tainted, becomes instrumental to the plot of Blooded once she’s granted a spot on Lisen’s private Council—when the Garlans go to war, Bala shows her true colors as an assertive leader for her troops.
It’s rare to find a series of books that keeps your interest until the very end, and the end of Blooded and the Lisen of Solsta series left me feeling a great sense of closure. With characters that felt so real within a uniquely constructed fantasy world, this series captures the best aspects of the fantasy genre while also pushing the genre’s boundaries through constructing a gender non-conforming world.
Pages: 420 | ASIN: B00R8K8XXQ
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Witch Heart follows Jan as she returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion when several people are killed in unlucky accidents. What was the inspiration for this 3rd book in the Gray Girl Series?
The Gray Girl series (Gray Girl, Area Bird and Witch Heart) is mostly inspired by my experiences as a cadet at West Point from 1981-1985. Jan Wishart’s adventures are embellished, of course, but many of the events are authentic or realistic to what we experienced at that time. Being labeled a “witch,” for instance, certainly happened to some women then. Recently, we have seen examples of derogatory “labeling” used on outspoken and/or ambitious women.
The novel starts out at Army Airborne School in Fort Benning, GA. What experience do you have with the military. Anyone in your family serve?
Well, as stated above, I attended West Point in the early 1980’s. After that, I served five years as a missile maintenance officer in the Army. As part of our training, I attended Airborne School during the summer before cow (junior) year, which follows the storyline in Witch Heart. I wrote most of the Airborne School chapters based on memory. However, I cheated a little and looked at Youtube videos. I also consulted a few friends who went through Airborne training. One of my beta readers was stationed with the 82nd Airborne for a few years.
The book tackles the social issue of women serving in the military. How do you see women in the military and what is a common misconception you’ve come across?
Women have only added value to the military, as they have in all areas where they have been allowed to compete. One common misconception that seems prevalent is that standards had to be lowered for women to enter the military academies. What is surprising, however, is that ALL standards have gone up since women have been admitted. There’s probably a social-gender dynamic that might explain this reality, but physical and academic standards began to rise considerably with the admission of women cadets.
Jan is a well developed character. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for the characters development?
I wanted Jan to be a good person, but flawed. In other words, I wanted her to be authentic. I think hearing her internal dialogue (which is more prevalent in the first two books) is both an obstacle and an opportunity to bring a character to life. The reader sees her inner self, knowing her mixed emotions and the biases that she carries with her. You don’t really hear the inner voices of the other characters, but hopefully, using dialogue and actions, you get a feeling of the well-developed relationships and personalities.
Where does the story go in the next book and where do you see it going in the future?
Jan has to finish West Point. So, the final book in the Gray Girl series will be about her firstie (senior) year. She will encounter another major problem at West Point which can only be solved with the help of her friends and collaborators. This one, if I can pull it off, will involve international espionage—or something like that. I hate to say too much until it’s written because often times the book takes on a life of its own—and I never really know what’s going to happen until it does. It’s called writing.
“Jan Wishart starts cow (junior) year at West Point in Airborne School. Terrified of heights, she narrowly escapes an accident that later turns deadly for another jumper. With a third death in as many years associated with her, Jan returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion. Ominous signs left for her to find cause Jan to lose a precious and necessary requirement for survival at West Point: sleep. With her mental state in question, a masked intruder makes nocturnal visits to her room. Or is she imagining that? Events escalate to the point of no return for Jan and her two best friends. When they swear an oath of loyalty to each other, they have no idea how much it will cost to fulfill that vow. Leadership always requires sacrifice. So does loyalty. And sometimes, one virtue must yield to the other.”
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When an alien species detects the dissolution of a planet in a neighboring solar system, they send out a group of skilled teenagers to save what they can of the planet. This is an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
My goal in writing this novel was to attempt to describe this world from the point of view of outsiders – people who had not been born and raised on Earth; people not conditioned and tainted by the absurdities of everyday life on this planet. Aliens. As a vegan, an atheist and an anarchist, I am dismayed on an, almost, hourly basis by the irrational behavior of my fellow species. We call ourselves ‘civilised’ and ‘highly evolved’ yet we participate in practices so horrific that, when committed against humans, are, quite rightly, thought of as shocking and unlawful yet, when perpetrated against non-human animals, are considered perfectly acceptable – or, usually, not considered at all. We call ourselves ‘intelligent’ yet we homo sapiens, we self-proclaimed ‘wise men’, are, not only, allowing the very environment we totally rely on for our own lives to be destroyed to slake the greed of a tiny number of other human animals but we are blissfully helping them to do so by believing their lies and consuming their unnecessary and harmful products. Some would call us ‘enlightened’ but up to 95% of all humans truly, truly believe that they will be transported to some kind of paradise after they die! Why should they care if life on the physical world were to be destroyed? I suppose that could explain why we do not care about the destruction of the rain forests, the desertification of vast swathes of the land, the befouling of the atmosphere and the creation of massive dead zones in the ocean. Also, how civilised or evolved or intelligent or enlightened can we be if we are killing and being killed by each other for nonsensical reasons such as the ancient writings of those ‘Religions of Love and Peace’ or the greed-based ideologies of power-hungry politicians? There are countless other stupidities I could mention here but the divisions based on race, colour, gender, sexuality, ability, age and, yes, even nonsensical superstitious belief, spring to mind – all of which I do discuss in the novel. Obviously, I cannot mention all of those forms of discrimination without also mentioning speciesism which plays a huge role in informing the aliens and, naturally, the book. Did I achieve my goal? From a practical angle – that is, putting myself in the minds of total outsiders and viewing the world afresh – I like to think that I did pretty well. However, in other aspects of the work, I am not so sure.
the hell world is full of detailed characters and places. How long did it take you to imagine, draft, and write this world?
The whole process took about 2 years from conception to pre-publish and then about 9 months to get the novel out. There was a lot of research involved – all of the figures I cite as being facts, to the best of my knowledge, are actual facts – the sixty-billion non-human land animals slaughtered for food every year, as just one example. I did, perhaps, use some poetic licence when detailing some of the projections of the aliens – on predicted human population levels, where, I think, I suggested that the numbers of humans alive in 2050 would far exceed the predicted eleven-billion – but I do not believe I took too many liberties on their behalf.
Their are many animals on this hell world. Were these animals allegories for humans on Earth? What was your favorite animal to create and write for?
This is an area where I obviously failed in my writing because the portrayal of the dominant animals, the Kaahu, on the hell world was not allegorical – they are humans and the hell world is Earth. There were no metaphors, no cryptic clues; the novel was set here and now on this planet with you and I as players in the story – there are many, many pointers to this fact in the book! My favourite character is Hentanayre – she’s a bubbly, intelligent young female alien (an ap Vandan) who loves all animals (except, maybe, the Kaahu) and, just like me, is terrified of heights – we have a lot in common!
What is the next book that you are working on and when is that book due out?
I am in the planning stage of a new novel – again, written from the viewpoint of aliens… mainly. I do intend to intersperse the narrative with a human voice here and there. It will also be written, again, from a vegan, atheist and anarchist perspective – so plenty of anti-carnist, anti-god and anti-hierarchical stuff. My working title is ‘It’ but I have no idea when it may be finished or published – I am in no hurry.
the hell world is a work of fiction that seeks to highlight the absurdity of the human condition as seen from the vantage point of outsiders – an alien view. It is a critique of the now in the genre of science fiction; an attack on all of the ridiculous ideologies that have retarded, and continue to retard, the evolution of those, self-proclaimed, wise men (homo sapiens) of the planet. These nonsensical philosophies, be they socio-political, economic, military or religious, have all crippled human animal evolutionary development for millennia. But not just that. Of much more importance is the impact that just this one species of animal has had, is having and will continue to have on all other lifeforms of this beautiful world and on the planet itself – though, I fear, not for too much longer. An unthinkable, unmentionable, unconscionable number of individual, sentient beings are slaughtered for human consumption in their multiple-billion every single year. Habitats essential to other lifeforms have been, and continue to be, destroyed on a regular basis, affecting the very existence of thousands of species of animal and vegetable life – in itself an act of mass suicide for human animals as all of those other lifeforms are part of the cycle of life. All are interdependent – taking away one leads to a domino-effect and, albeit at first slowly, the whole structure starts to collapses. We have passed that initial, gradual degradation stage – it has long since gone. Also an environmentalist, n o o n e cannot comprehend the idea that human animals are nonchalantly destroying the planet – an action which can be likened to people steadfastly hacking away at the foundations of a borrowed house and constantly defecating in every room whilst kidding themselves that they can pass that house on to their children. Couple those atrocities to the insane befouling of all of the water and the entire atmosphere of the planet by this species, the unconscionable weapons of mass murder they possess, then add-in the sheer number of these human animals and their determination to increase that total without limit points to just one, inevitable conclusion: The total annihilation of, not only themselves, but of life itself on this one world in a million or billion or trillion or, perhaps, the only planet like it in the entire, vastness of the universe. We will never know because, the sad truth is, it is much too late for the human animal, much too late for other species of life and much too late for the planet.
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