2009 Re-read Challenge (November): A Brother’s Price

December 2, 2009 at 8:43 pm 14 comments

A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer

I blew through the re-read of this book, but writing the review took me a bit longer than I thought!

Even though it’s only been a little less than 2 years since I’ve read this book, it was at the top of my list of books I wanted to re-read for this challenge. The world is very original, and I knew that there would be plenty that I would glean from a 2nd reading.

Here’s the description:

On an alternate Earth, where the population is ninety percent female and a man is sold by his sisters to marry all the women in a family, Jerin Whistler is coming of age. His mothers are respected landed gentry, his grandfather a kidnapped prince, and his grandmothers common line soldiers blackballed for treason, trained by thieves, re-enlisted as spies, and knighted for acts of valor. Jerin wants to marry well, and his sisters want a husband bought by his brother’s price.

A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer

Here are some things that really stood out to me upon re-reading A Brother’s Price:

I’m a sucker for original world building.

I’ve never read a book with a world quite like this one. The switch of many gender-roles, the historical feel (pre-technology world with steamboats and frontier-like setting, an elite ton-style society) yet no magic, which, for some reason, I would expect in a book like this, all made such an impression on me when I first read it. And, on re-reading A Brother’s Price, the world remains the most interesting part of the book.

I love having my mind blown when I read.

Every time I thought I had a handle on my own preconceived notions about men/women, masculinity/femininity, alpha/beta heroes or heroines, something would happen in this book to shake those expectations up. Some of this was due to the role reversals. But also, because the world was not only a matriarchal society, but one where men are such a rarity (only 10% of society), the world was impacted in unexpected ways.

For example, a young man’s sisters choose whom he will marry, not his mothers. This is because their future is completely dependent on what happens to him. If they are able to trade him for another young man in an arranged marriage with another family, they will be able to have a husband and eventually children of their own. But, if they do not have a brother, or their decision about their brother ends badly, or he dies, their future (and their family’s future) is equally doomed to a bad end.

Also, because of the scarcity of men, female prostitutes dress in the male style of dress, and role-play as men, since most women never get a chance to interact with men, let alone have sex with one. This totally surprised me when I read this, but made perfect sense once I thought about it.

I’m willing to overlook minor flaws if a book captures my imagination.

Now, this book was more “fantasy-lite” and not as complex or dark as some of my more recent fantasy faves (Shadow Magic, Doctrine of Labyrinths series) and I think there was more originality than there was depth. I would have like more exploration on the rights of the men (or lack thereof) that didn’t happen.

And, what I really noticed the second time around with A Brother’s Price was that the romance part of this book was the weakest part of the book. I think that when I read it the first time, I was so busy absorbing the setting and Cinderfella-type story that I overlooked how slight the romance was. Jerin and Ren (and her sisters) seem to fall pretty quickly in love upon seeing each other, and even though culturally it is expected/hoped that a man will love all the sisters in a family, it was more on the insta-love side of things. Circumstances were what provided the action of the story rather than their own relationship dynamics. I think I would have enjoyed a little more woo-ing and relationship/character growth to happen.

However, this book is such an interesting and enjoyable read for me, that I was much more forgiving of these drawbacks than I might have been if it had been a straight-forward romamce.

Final thoughts:

I’m really glad I re-read A Brother’s Price, and for the most part it stood up well to a second reading. I’m sure I’ll read it again, and it remains in its place on my keeper shelf.

I really wish Wen Spencer would return to this world, and explore it a little bit more. However, I saw on her blog that at this time she has no plans to re-visit it. This bums me out, since I think that there are issues (men’s rights), characters (Captain of the Guard, Raven and Cullen) and aspects of the world which would be so interesting to explore further.

I think if you are looking for a really interesting, but light read that will keep you thinking after you finish reading it, and like to have your expectations challenged, A Brother’s Price is worth checking out.

  • Wen Spencer’s site.
  • Excerpt for A Brother’s Price.
  • An excellent review of A Brother’s Price by Amy at Romance Book Wyrm. (can’t find the link-but will add it as soon as I find it!)
  • My Best of 2008, part 2 (A Brother’s Price review is at the end of the post.)
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Entry filed under: 2009 Book Challenges, 2009 Re-Read Challenge, Sci Fi Romance, Speculative Fiction. Tags: , .

November 2009 Read Books Rainy days and Monday mornings*

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LesleyW  |  December 3, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Funnily enough I can see this book from where I’m typing. 🙂 I’m a big fan of Wen Spencer. I don’t think there’s a book so far of hers that I haven’t liked. (Though I haven’t yet read her last book). I think I agree with most of what you said in the review :), I think I would definitely need to re-read it to see if my ideas about it had changed any. I think I’d probably come down exactly as you did as regards the suddeness of the love. But I from memory I think I felt that Jerin was always much more ‘in’ love with Ren. I also wish she would revisit the world at some point in the future.

    Reply
  • 2. AmyC  |  December 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Excellent review. Brought me back to when I read it and how I loved it based on its originality. It is ‘fantasy-lite’ as you put it, has more of an alternate reality…what if our male population dwindled down to only 10%? That is a wild thought, and I think how Wen worked things around that happenstance worked perfectly to create an interesting story.

    Reply
  • 3. Leslie  |  December 3, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Wow – this sounds so interesting. I’ve never heard of this author but am fascinated by the premise. Adding to list. Great review Renee!

    Reply
  • 4. Renee  |  December 3, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    LesleyW: Cool! I read Tinker, but haven’t read the second in that series. I haven’t read her other (Ukiah) series though. It’s good, huh?
    Yeah, it just felt like Ren didn’t know enough about him to feel love as quickly as she did. (Lust, yes, but not love.)
    After I finished re-reading ABP, I looked and looked to see if she was planning anything new, and here’s what she said on her blog:
    “One possible future project is a novel set in the world of TINKER. So far I have no plans to do more with Ukiah or Jerin. The other projects I’ve been working on are with new worlds and new characters.”
    It sounds like she’s gone through a lot of personal struggles lately, and had taken a bit of a break from writing, but now is starting back (hopefully!).

    AmyC: Thanks! 🙂 The light feel actually reminded me of the Kathrynne Kennedy series.
    Yes, I just love that kind of food for though!

    Leslie: Thanks, Leslie! IDK how I stumbled across this book, but until I did, I hadn’t heard of her either. 🙂

    Reply
  • 5. orannia  |  December 3, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you Renee! I think it was Tinker I tried to read last year, but I must have been in the wrong mindset. This sounds interesting…

    Reply
  • 6. Renee  |  December 3, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    orannia: YW! I liked ABP more than I did Tinker. It’s definitely a story that stayed with me!

    Reply
  • 7. Hilcia  |  December 4, 2009 at 4:58 am

    Renee, I’ve never heard of this author or this book. The world building sounds really interesting. I’m definitely going to write this title down. Loved your thorough review. 🙂

    Reply
  • 8. LesleyW  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Renee – I really like the Ukiah series, though it’s closer to science fiction than fantasy. My favourite is the fourth book though as the story is continuous you really need to read the previous three books first.

    Reply
  • 9. bookdaze  |  December 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Like Lesley, I really liked the Ukiah books. It’s been a while since I read them, but I remember reading the first one, and then ordering the next three from Amazon.

    ABP – agree fantasy-lite but the role reversals make you think! And I’ve read the first Tinker book, but the second (and her latest – Endless Blue?) are in my TBR pile. Not quite sure why they’ve been languishing there for so long…

    Li

    Reply
  • 10. Renee  |  December 4, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Hilcia: ::dusts off hands:: My work here is done! 🙂
    Thanks!

    Lesley and Li: I think I’m going to have to check out the Ukiah series! I’m intrigued by the “raised by wolves” thing!
    Lesley, I’m quite compulsive about reading in order, and I would much rather a series get better as it goes than the reverse.
    Li, I do that all the time. I buy the books and think, “I’m going to read it immediately!” And, then they just sit on the shelf.

    Reply
  • 11. nath  |  December 5, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    sounds interesting and very different, indeed. Is this part of a series, Renee?

    Reply
  • 12. Renee  |  December 7, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Nath: I wish! Unfortunately, she’s only written one book in this world, and at this time doesn’t plan on writing any more. 😦

    Reply
  • 13. jill sorenson  |  December 9, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    What an interesting premise! I really want to read this now. Thanks for the great review.

    Reply
  • 14. Renee  |  December 9, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Jill: Your welcome! This story concept is such a rich one. Hope you get a chance to read it.

    Reply

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