Night Shade Books
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Gwyneth Jones is a great writer, and I find her work in general very readable, even if a lot of the time they are only one time reads. (This is not the case with this book. I have read and re-read this book dozens of times.) Bold as Love is a near future science fantasy with a chilling motif that borrows heavily from the fairytale type where the king tries to marry his own daughter (such as Donkeyskin, Allerleiruah, and so on). In general, child abuse and child endangerment is a recurring theme with this book, and some of the scenes and situations are extremely disturbing. (This is your friendly warning.)
The story begins with Fiorinda, a singer who has arrived at a music festival being held to celebrate the Dissolution of the Act of Union. (That is, the UK is going to split up into its component countries.) She’s heard rumors that her father (a well-known and affluent musician) will be at the festival and she has plans to confront him. After overhearing a conversation, she assumes the speakers are talking about her father and that he’s at the festival but instead she runs into a guitarist named Ax Preston. Ax is a young man with big ideas and a desire to change the world for the better. Fiorinda is disappointed and goes to meet up with her friend, Sage Pender a performer who usually goes by the name of Aoxomoxoa.
These three are invited to take part in a “Counter-Cultural Think Tank” put together by the Home Secretary. The purpose of this think tank is to give the appearance that the government is listening to the concerns of the Counter Culture, whose representatives are extremely unhappy about the state of the world (such as worldwide economic depression, and environmental collapse). They take part in it, even though it seems to mostly be something that’s supposed to look good instead of do anything.Then a shock-rocker named Pig stages a violent coup, and Fiorinda, Ax and Sage are forced into a situation where they must go along with what the Pig wants. Sage and Ax are forced to play henchmen for the Pig while Fiorinda and other members of the former Think Tank are held hostage. (This causes considerable strain between Ax and Fiorinda, who had until that point been in a relationship with each other.)
One of the big reasons I liked this book was the relationships between the three main characters. Instead of doing a love triangle of sorts between Ax, Fiorinda and Sage, we have a sort of love-triad. Over the course of the story, Sage and Ax come closer together as friends and they both become closer to Fiorinda. I enjoyed watching the developing relationship between the three characters as they worked together, it was one of the brighter points of what is a grim, yet weirdly hopeful book.