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Monday, September 28, 2009

Review - Prisoners of Gender by John Bushore

Title: Prisoners of Gender

Author: John Bushore

Publisher: Eternal Press

Buy Prisoners of Gender Here!

Rating: You Need to Read

Reviewed By: Janelle

It’s not the same old love story when a princess and her guardian exchange bodies due to a botched spell. Add a clueless maid-servant along with a half witted giant who loves pretty girls, and this bawdy, romance takes off with plenty of adventure and a bit of situational comedy.

Princess Marissa, a virgin, yearns to be a man so she can control her fate. Captain Bardak is sworn to protect her. The caravan is attacked; all are killed, save the princess, the injured captain, and Janelle, a loyal but superstitious servant. They are taken captive by the minions of a vengeful wizard intent on using the princess to avenge himself on the king. An enchantment goes awry, and the captain and the princess secretly switch bodies. Can Bardak, in his unfamiliar, frail, female persona, manage to save Marissa, near dead in his battered body, so he can return her form in a virtuous state?

It'll be a tough battle, because Marissa quickly learns to enjoy being a male and wants to try out her new ‘equipment,’ while Janelle lusts for the captain. And even if Bardak succeeds, he’s likely to be executed by the princess’s hardhearted father.

I admit, this story is funny and at the same time insightful about how gender roles effect our view on life and society. I doubt I’m alone is wondering what it would be like to be a man. Even by today’s standards, men have more freedom, they have better jobs and earn higher wages even in jobs done by both sexes. On the other hand, men have more job stress and suffer from far more stress related illnesses, all so they can bring home the proverbial bacon as society demands they must. So who really has more freedom?

There are two points, however, that rub me the wrong way in this story. The first is a contradiction in the theme and the actions. Bardak repeatedly states that gender is irrelevant and it is the actions you take that cast your lot in life. Yet when Marissa and Bardak switch bodies, it is the male personality that dominates in both cases. Marissa, in Bardak’s body, gives in so completely to her newly found masculinity, she even chooses to a new, male name for herself. Furthermore, as soon as she is returned to her body, she returns to her more submissive role. In the case of Bardak, even under pressure he is always able to direct and dictate the female traits.

The second is the repeated use of rape. I understand that it was not an uncommon practice in the mediaeval period for invaders to have their way with the women – it’s why we have the phrase “rape and pillage” after all. But within the confines of the story, it happens or is hinted at so often that it feels over done. There are plenty of way to torture someone, be they male or female, and a little creativity goes a long way.

Overall, this is a fun and funny story, and I recommend it highly.

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