What's the name of this novel?
January 30, 2012 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a late 90's fantasy novel: borderlands, wild magic, female soldier, AWESOME.

I got this book from a secondhand bookstore, so it's entirely possible it was published a little earlier. Here are the deets:

A woman soldier (NOT a warrior -- she's part of an organized military/cavalry thing) leads a group of soldiers (mostly male) to what's her world's outback in what felt like an Old West-meets-medieval adventure. There, they encounter both wild magic and untamed magical creatures that burst around messing with the towns and stuff. What's interesting is that our lady (who's speaking in the first person) thinks of herself as being wildly different from other women because she's a soldier, but gradually learns that because this area is so rural that a lot of the townswomen she's meeting are secretly pretty bad ass. Plus, her male second in command (whose name I THOUGHT was Hekat, but it might've been Hewitt?) finally has the guts to make the move on his incredibly intimidating, bad ass leader. She ends up deciding to get stationed out there permanently because she's digging the overall vibe of relaxed social mores and the feeling that she's protecting civilians instead of enforcing the main kingdom's rules.

Scenes I remember:
1. She takes on one of the bad magical creatures in the middle of a ballroom/meeting room place. Afterwards, the ladies (who'd been herded into a safe) thank her, even though the mayor tuts at them.

2. Some of the women she gets really close to use their lap dogs and sheep dogs as quick, easy sources of yarn, and she spends an evening drinking ale with them as they card it.

3. Hekat/Hewitt reveals that when she punished him a few years ago for insubordination, the fishing trip he'd planned had actually been meant for the two of them.
posted by spunweb to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be something by Tamora Pierce? I've only read one of her books, but my wife has read a number of them, and it reminds me of some of the stuff she's told me about them.
posted by fings at 6:28 PM on January 30, 2012

Sounds like one of Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion books.
posted by 6550 at 6:52 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure it's not the Deed of Paksenarrion, although something else in that series could be likely. Paksenarrion is more or less asexual, plus I don't remember anything vaguely romantic in them.

I think I might have read this book tho, let me think about it some more.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:32 PM on January 30, 2012

Response by poster: It's definitely not the Deed of Paksenarrion -- while I love that series, Paks wasn't really about romance. :P

While I also <3 Tamora Pierce this wasn't one of them -- it was definitely not YA.
posted by spunweb at 11:58 PM on January 30, 2012

Can you remember anything else about the book? The name of a town, the cover art, the major villain?
posted by fings at 7:33 AM on January 31, 2012

This sounds like something Robin Hobb could have written (military, strong female characters, interesting setting). But I'm pretty sure I've read everything of her's and it doesn't ring any bells.
posted by AmandaA at 7:41 AM on January 31, 2012

Response by poster: The cover art was the main character in shadow attacking something -- so it was mostly black/dark with a green splash for the magic.

I THINK the major villain was a corrupt nobleman who was deliberately egging on the magic baddies because he wanted to own everything and make everyone either indebted to him or leave.
posted by spunweb at 10:44 AM on January 31, 2012

Response by poster: I think he was also kinda handsome, and flirted with the main character a lot, which pissed off Hewitt.

Another scene I remember is the main character talking about when she realized she was ugly: her village/town had a summer festival where all the girls arranged themselves in the middle of the square on blankets with a picnic. The guy who liked you was supposed to bring you flowers as the start of courtship. A few days before the festival a fairly handsome guy her age who she liked/was sorta friends with had, she thought, been implying he'd like to bring HER some flowers, so she got all gussied up for it, even though she was rangy/not particularly femme/had been planning to skip it, and went and waited for him at the square on a blanket her ma had put together for her. He, of course, never gave her a flower, and instead gave this other girl (who wasn't a bitch -- I remember that the narrator was really emphatic about that -- the other girl was just pretty, quiet, delicate, basically everything she felt she wasn't) an entire bouquet and walked off with her instead. The narrator was so embarrassed that she bailed -- she left home and enlisted.

I am EMBARRASSED that this scene of angsty adolescence stuck out more to me than the battle sequences OR THE PLOT, but if it helps someone help me find this book that would be great. This has seriously been driving me crazy for the last three years.
posted by spunweb at 10:54 AM on January 31, 2012

It would be super helpful if you could give us the author's gender. I'm looking at NoveList now and there's some promising things here (probably MORE promising if you were looking at them instead of me--you should check to see if you have access to it through your public library) and author's gender would be a great limiter to have.

Also, it would be helpful to know if this was the first of a series or the middle or end or whatever. Even general impressions would help.
posted by librarylis at 6:16 PM on January 31, 2012

Response by poster: This was a stand alone novel -- I think the author might have been a woman, but am not entirely sure.

Thank you for the link to Novelist!! I'll definitely play with it tomorrow when I hit the library -- lol the main reason I joined Metafilter was because there are a couple SF/F novels I've been trying to track down. :) Hopefully this will help me not waste questions. :)
posted by spunweb at 7:04 PM on January 31, 2012

Response by poster: Or rather: if there was a sequel, I never heard about it... It felt pretty complete, though.
posted by spunweb at 7:04 PM on January 31, 2012

Best answer: I hope NoveList will help! Here are a couple of additional points that may help you in your quest to find this novel and the others on your list:

NoveList requires a different search strategy than regular internet searching. If you do have access to it, definitely see if a reference librarian can help you get started (especially if you're not familiar with library research databases in general).

It's important to note that NoveList does *not* have access to the entire contents of a novel; each novel has some basic descriptors (genre, author, date, etc.) assigned to it and is given a basic summary but that's it. So details like the four scenes which you remember will not be helpful, whereas they would be very helpful in a general internet search. With NoveList, think more about the book's classification than the characters'.

If you can remember the protagonist's name, that would help any of your searches (internet or database). I would really suggest brainstorming a bit, immersing yourself in the memories of the book.

What kind of world do the characters live in? Standard pseudo-Western European? Anything unique, any 'borderlands' names that you can remember?

Do you remember the author as someone familiar, or as someone who might have achieved success later? Or is this someone who completely faded from your memory? It's sad to say, but there's an awful lot of SF/F that will never get cataloged by sources like NoveList because they made a tiny splash and the author never got the sales needed to keep going in the field.

First person narration is somewhat unique and will definitely help narrow your search (though you'd probably better work with a reference librarian to see what database terms NoveList uses to classify 'first person narration'). One reason Robin Hobb came up is because she does write in the first person.

As far as general internet searching, the male character's name and the details about the dogs look like the most unique details and that's what I would focus searching on there.

Proper nouns are a HUGE help, as you may have guessed. Author's name, protagonist's name, definitive name of that male character, name of place where they were stationed, name of world they lived in, anything will help.

Otherwise, your best hope is that someone has read the book before and can recognize it, as I'm sure you are also hoping for. I feel like I've read it before, which is why I'm chiming in with this epic, but can't quite get the details (it sounds like a mix of Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce's Kel series, and a little bit of Elizabeth Moon.)
posted by librarylis at 8:15 PM on January 31, 2012

I'm pretty sure I've read it too, and based on my general taste in fantasy, it's probably a lady writer, likely published in the mid-90s. Katherine Kerr, maybe?
posted by fiercekitten at 9:16 PM on January 31, 2012

Response by poster: 1. Thanks for the link!! License to Ensorcell looks fab!!

2. No, unfortunately it's not one of the Deverry novels -- lol no one's been reincarnated and AFAIK no one is working out their wyrd. :p
posted by spunweb at 10:56 PM on January 31, 2012

If you do manage to find out what it is, please come on back and let us know! I've never seen MeFi stumped on a book like this.
posted by AmandaA at 8:40 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: YES! Someone on LJ recognized it when I posted to the "whatisthatbook" comm -- it's Taming the Forest King by Claudia Edwards.

I seriously want to hug everyone on the internet right now: I've been trying to remember the name of this book for about 10 years.

Also: the main male lead's name is HETWITH, not Hekat.

http://www.lynmcconchie.com/new/?p=264 <>
Now, to obsessively buy EVERYTHING WRITTEN BY HER EVER.
posted by spunweb at 8:14 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

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