14 October 2020

Book review/recommendation: The Four Profound Weaves

I bought an e-copy of RB Lemberg's The Four Profound Weaves, and I had a chance to read it last night. It's about an old man and an old woman who go on a journey - a quest, even - to find the old woman's aunt, from whom the old man wants to receive a name and the old woman wants to learn the final Profound Weave: to weave a cloth from death.

It's part of their Birdverse series, which includes these three stories.

Geometries of Belonging

The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar

Grandmother nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds

And it is related to the third of these. The nameless old man was a protagonist there.

This story/book is about so much more than the plot. It is, at its root, a profoundly trans and queer story. Both protagonists are trans (spoiler, I guess?), and the nameless man spends time thinking about what it means to be a man and his people's traditions of masculinity and femininity. Among the nameless man's home culture, it is the norm for groups of women (3 seems common, but I don't know if that's a requirement) to form an oreg, a group of lovers who go on trading journeys together. Men remain inside a separate, locked quarter, where they are scholars and artificers.

It's sad, in many ways, and angry, but also incredibly hopeful. The final chapter hit me right in the feels, in a very similar way that The Song of Achilles did: that queer place, where there is hope and anger and sadness, lost family and found.

Lemberg's writing style is poetic without being impenetrably dense, and it reminds me of Ursula Le Guin's prose at its finest. (I'm sure RB would be pleased with that comparison! I know that "Stone Telling" is meaningful to them.)

I highly recommend this book. You can find it at all the usual suspects.




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