Ass kicker. I was going to wait until I was finished with this book before I blogged about it, but it's about 1,000 pages, and I'm only at 677. I'm reading slowly, savoring. I'm already getting panicky about what I'll read next, when I'm done with this, that won't taste like table wine after a fine claret, Lone Star after Guinness.
Wanting to read stories about tough broads with swords doesn't leave many choices for the library shelf. There are cute broads with swords, romantic broads with swords, religiously devout broads with swords. But a woman mercenary set in medieval times? Delightfully yummy. And it turns out that Ms. Gentle herself is an expert swordsman with a Master's in War Studies.
Mary Gentle's writing is as brave as her heroine. She takes chances, and most of the time, she's spot on. The narrative has made a few turns to some very dark places, maybe a few that I wish I hadn't gone to, having two small babes at home. But the writing is pheonomenal. Ash won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History in 2000, and has received consistent critical praise since then. The themes are complex and the characters beautiful and terrible.
I probably need to read all of Ms. Gentle's works.