“In a 1937 Photoplay article that reads like a Cool Girl guide book, Carole Lombard explained how, like a man, she never kissed and told; like a man, she paid her share; like a man, she maintained a sense of humor about everything. If women live by these rules, according to Lombard, they can be equal to men — but only if, above all else, she “keeps feminine.” In other words: Don’t give a shit, but be hot.”
Carol Lombard was on to something. Given it’s been nearly 80 years since that interview, you’d think something would’ve changed in regards to the perception of women, but I’m not entirely convinced it has. Consider what Gillian Flynn wrote in her 2012 best seller Gone Girl:
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
I’ll be honest, that’s pretty much the only part that stuck with me from a book I otherwise did not enjoy. Now, I am not hot and I am not a Cool Girl and although I would never want to be identified as such*, that doesn’t keep me from embracing (and relating to) several of the traits. I enjoy working and paying my own way, I like video games and
cheap decent beer, I love a good dirty joke, and I could go for a veggie burger at almost any time of the day. I take pride in my ability to defend myself from the average asshole – not that I’ve ever really had to – and still look decent in a dress. And honestly, what am I likely to get more attention for: my firefly pose or my knowledge of Latin? (I’ll give you a hint; no one has ever given a shit about my dead language skills.) Furthermore, do I deserve recognition for any of the aforementioned skills and preferences? No, and I don’t expect it either. Neither would Deviana Morris. That’s why when I come across characters like Devi, the heroine in Rachel Bach’s Fortune’s Pawn and Honor’s Knight, I practically squeal with glee. Not that I squeal, that wouldn’t be cool.
Deviana Morris is an ambitious armored space mercenary with big plans. She’s smart, she’s strong, she’s aggressive, she’s loyal, and she knows what she wants. She can drink whiskey with the best of them and she loves a good fight. That’s why she takes the perilous job on the cursed ship Glorious Fool. Aptly named, the Glorious Fool seeks out trouble and is never in short supply. If Devi can survive a year on the ship, it worth five years of experience anywhere else, but nothing is quite as it seems. Starting with the captain’s daughter and moving the seemingly innocuous cook, everyone is hiding something. The question is can Devi survive without knowing what endangers her? Or will knowing be what finally kills her?
Fortune’s Pawn and its sequel, Honor’s Knight, are the start of what promises to be a stellar military science fiction series. There’s action, exotic space locales, and while there is a smattering of romance, it doesn’t dominate the story line, it isn’t instant, and it’s acknowledged. Because honestly, nothing irritates me more than when two characters seemingly fall in love but can’t manage to admit it. You can be tough and love someone. Admitting it isn’t a sign of weakness. Ultimately, the novels feature a strong heroine (easily one of my favorite sci-fi heroines), mysterious aliens, and a frightening plague – the Paradox series is pure, action-packed entertainment (though it won’t exactly increase your literary standing with highbrow snobs). 5/5. Highly recommended if any of the above sounds interesting (with thanks to Bonnie for pointing me in this direction). Serve with Devi’s drink of choice.
It can be nice to read just for the pure pleasure of the story, which is what Fortune’s Pawn and Honor’s Knight are for me. It was a nice change of pace. How often do you read solely for the fun of it? Do you believe in the idea of the cool girl myth? And does everyone really want to be Jennifer Lawrence’s BFF (the current Cool Girl)?
*I am absolutely not fishing for a compliment, I’m just well aware of my own personality (flaws and all) and appearance. Furthermore, I would not want to be identified as such because it seems to be limiting. You can tough and independent, but not too tough or too independent. You can embrace jeans and t-shirts, but only if you have a flawless body and perfect skin and hair. You get the idea…
**I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
8 thoughts on “Fortune’s Pawn and Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach”
Hmm, sounds interesting, but I’m very wary about starting series that are unfinished. From the pattern of titles it seems like even if it’s not yet another trilogy, this series will have a set number of books (no more than six, I’d guess), so maybe I’ll give it a go in a few years.
I think it’s going to be a trilogy, but I have no idea. At least the author doesn’t have obnoxious cliffhangers, she earned some points for me with that.
I definitely recommend it if you come accross it at some point. It’s not widely available in libraries, which is a shame. Mostly because the ebook was hideously expensive (I’ve never in my life paid $10 for an ebook before, worth it, but damn…).
That quote from Gone Girl stuck with me too. I think the “cool girl” ideal can be destructive… However, these books sound like fun. Badass space mercenaries AND a plague? Sweet.
They were great. It’s nice to be reminded that reading can be just for fun too. I like blogging, but sometimes it takes a bit of the fun out of reading too (as in “oh, I should mark that down for me review” or “what can I relate this too”). These were a lovely diversion – plus Devi is my new fictional hero.
I think the only military science fiction book I’ve read is Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, but I really liked it and these two books sound really good to from your review. (Does Ender’s Game count as military science fiction? Then I’ve read two.)
I read that same Buzzfeed article just today. I liked that it (and Gone Girl) pointed that a crucial ingredient to being this idealized “cool girl” is that the girl has to be hot (but is either not aware of being beautiful / or downplays that aspect of herself.)
Huh, Ender’s Game… I don’t know if it counts. Maybe?
That Buzzfeed article is good, but very long. I agree, I think for women to be considered as part of the cool girl category, they have to act like their hotness is not the best part about the (which is usually true). I’m sure there are women who are really unaware that they’re beautiful, but I don’t know that I’ve met one. It’s hard not to be conscious of how you look in this era (photos and social media being so ubiquitous).
I’m so glad you loved this! I wasn’t quite sure this was going to be your thing but I’ve been recommending this, literally, to everyone that’ll stop to listen to me. Lol