starlady: Anna Maria from PoTC at the helm: "bring me that horizon" (bring me that horizon)
[personal profile] starlady
Johnson, Alaya Dawn. The Summer Prince. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.

This is one of, if not the, best books I will have read this year. It's beautiful, amazing, wonderful--a triumph.

The Summer Prince is the story of June, the waka daughter of a very politically powerful couple in the city of Palmares Tres, the jewel of postapocalyptic Brazil. It is the story of Gil, June's best friend, who falls in love with the Summer King of Palmares Tres, Enki, whose one-year reign is preordained to end in his death, and his selection of the city's ruling Queen.

Palmares Tres is uneasily divided in many ways, class and age being the most obvious. The ciy's aged but technologically youthful grandes are wary of the energy and rebelliousness of the young waka, and the election of Summer Kings is an acceptable outlet for dissatisfactions. At the beginning of the story, June doesn't much care about any of this; she cares about making art, and after meeting Enki, she cares about making great, confrontational public art with Enki, showing the grandes what they would rather not see.

There aren't words for how much I loved this book. It's so amazing on so many levels--on the level of worldbuilding, as the history and society and culture of Palmares Tres feels so believably complicated and tangible, on the level of character, as June's struggles and eventual hard-won wisdom are sympathetic and engrossing, and on the level of story, which is never predictable and which I couldn't put down. There are so many things to talk about--the culture, the food, the dancing, the absolutely unremarked status of bisexuality as a norm, the difficult subplot involving June's father's death and her mother's decision to remarry one of the city's highest-placed Aunties. It's also a really compelling portrait of the process and attraction of creating art, and also an interesting retelling of the story of Gilgamesh, in which the titular hero of that poem is devalued in favor of the much more interesting points of the triangle. Although Enki arcs into her life like a comet, this is June's story, and it's utterly amazing. Read this book.

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Date: 2013-06-11 05:57 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] shveta_writes
Yes, yes, and yes!!!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-11 13:45 (UTC)
aria: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aria
Okay, you already had me at the first paragraph, and then you said that it was a retelling of Gilgamesh, and I don't think I've ever requested a book from the library as fast in my life. :)

Thanks for mentioning Gilgamesh

Date: 2013-06-11 13:47 (UTC)
okrablossom: (Default)
From: [personal profile] okrablossom
I'm glad you mentioned the bit about retelling Gilgamesh because I just couldn't decide myself, when I read the book. The names were such a give-away, and the threesome, but the plot of their relations was so different, I wasn't sure. And I was unclear about why Gilgamesh's story: just the starting over of the world? Did you have thoughts on that, too?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-11 14:00 (UTC)
juniperphoenix: Fire in the shape of a bird (Default)
From: [personal profile] juniperphoenix
Ooh, this sounds good. *adds to reading list*

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-11 14:04 (UTC)
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellen_fremedon
Yes! I read it last week, and YES, to all this.

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