Monday, 20 October 2014

Review: You Are Mine by Janeal Falor

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370 pages, Published May 6, 2013 by Chardonian Press

Goodreads synopsis:

Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.

Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.

4 Stars

I wasn't sure what to expect when I received a copy of You Are Mine from the author in exchange for a review. The premise made me wonder if it first it was some kind of "Fifty Shades of Grey" clone type book. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was completely wrong in my initial assumption.

Serena is a young woman from a large family (she has many sisters) living in a society where women are owned by men. As she is unmarried, she's owned by her father who pretty much terrorizes her and holds deep resentment over his own inability to produce male offspring. (It is seem as a bad thing to have daughters.) He takes this out on Serena and her sisters and mother.

Serena comes of age and is tested to see how much magic is in her blood because the more magic, the more valuable she will be to basically sell off to a warlock who will then become her new owner.

A fiancé is chosen for her and he is as despicable as one would expect (think sort of Guildford Dudley in the film Lady Jane only older and more gross.) As luck would have it, he is thankfully taken out in a tournament and a young man from another land suddenly is given possession of Serena. He "inherits" her as property along with everything else her former fiancé owned.

Zade is a different sort of man, and Serena's rebellious sensibilities are allowed to flourish under his ownership. Still, she is property and doesn't forget it. As she is accustomed, she continues to act submissively but her own fierce will is kindling brighter every day. It's exciting to see Serena grow and become more bold, more free, as the story progresses. Aside from Zade's extremely progressive philosophy (which prevents Serena from being punished for having her own thoughts and feelings as the men of Chardonia would usually have it), he is not really a huge catalyst in Serena's awakening. I enjoyed how the focus was on her and not on a romance (though there are delicate touches where romance appears).

Serena has a couple of her sisters by her side for support and makes a good female friend of one of the outcast females known as the "tarnished". The treatment of the tarnished reminded me a bit of the way the Amish would shun someone along with thoughts of the Avox in The Hunger Games. The tarnished dress differently from others, are hexed to be barren and branded with tattoos. They are segregated from the rest of society, and at times Serena asks herself if being tarnished is really as bad as being owned by a warlock.

The world in which Serena lives is a truly patriarchal society and I haven't really mentioned much of the fact that not only are the men pretty brutal, but they're warlocks. They can HEX women just for their own fun. Serena's father was not above using hexes on his children if they didn't obey him or even if he imagined they'd erred in some way. Even after Serena is no longer his, her father does not stop trying to reclaim her because he can't stand that she isn't being punished constantly.

If there's any flaw in the story, I'd say I would have loved to have the character of Zade fleshed out just a bit more. He is seen as a barbarian but is the most fair and true of all the men. His goodness has infuriated the warlocks of Chardonia and there is a price on Zade's head. He handles his political position as Councilman well despite some truly horrifying shenanigans that take place at Council meetings. He doesn't seem to know what to do with Serena but as time goes on, he develops feelings for her and it's very gently revealed that she feels the same. The romance aspect is light and fluffy -- a few sweet kisses and telling gazes.

There are two more books in the series at the moment, Mine to Spell and Mine to Tarnish and these feature new protagonists (Cynthia, Serena's sister is the main character of Mine to Spell and Katherine, Serena's tarnished seamstress friend head up Mine to Tarnish which is actually a prequel).

The world Janeal created will have any feminist seething with anger at the incredible injustices that take place, but that's a point to her for good storytelling.

Overall You Are Mine was intriguing, original, well written, and enjoyable. Serena is a likable heroine who faces serious dangers but isn't turned into a superhero or Miss Perfect in order to combat her troubles. She uses her wits and brains instead (imagine that!)

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