Happy Holidays! Back to work for me. This week’s teaser is from my newly released book Blade Breaker, the Shadow Wolf Sagas #1.
I was preparing to publish when I realized that the book does not pass the basic Bechdel test, aka having two named women talk to each other about something other than men.
After the panic subsided, I sat down and considered this flaw. The problem is that almost all of the conversations involve Ragnar, who is a first person character. It would be easy enough to add a little conversation between characters like Thyra and Murith (they would talk about weapons or tactics) but it seemed artificial to me to go back and add that.
Then it occurred to me that the Bechdel test is really a low bar, almost like the minimum wage. I thought about this for a while, but the idea was tangential.
In the end I decided to keep it the same. Adding in a conversation just to pass a test is dishonest, especially since the first draft of the book can be seen online.
Ultimately there are conversations between women in the book, they are just implied. The plots involving Lily and Sapphire and Madame Glorianna and Crimson wind are the Catalysts for almost all of the action in the book. I leave it up to the reader to determine if this is a fair substitute.
“Information isn’t free Mr. Grimfang. You’ll find out if you live.”
“If I live?”
“If you can pass my test, consider yourself on my payroll.”
“You don’t actually believe I’d trap you in a private arena and not make use of the occasion, do you Mr. Grimfang?” asked Lily Gemarkand, eyes wide and smiling like a spoiled young child at her nameday celebration. “I said I tried other avenues, and I want you to dispose of one for me. Show me that you are worthy of my time, Nordan.”
“Family tradition and all that, I suppose,” I said, shaking my head, more dismayed by the fact that Miss Gemarkand knew she could get away with this and that she even expected me to accept her money afterwards. In the North, not even a king could dare such an act without facing rebellion. Sadly, I was not in North. “You do realize that I am going to charge you double because of this.”
She laughed, genuinely this time. As I listened, shuffling uncomfortably, some part of me still wondered if this was simply a jest on her part. Then men and women began shuffling into the room. My fists balled up. Ladies in bright silk society dresses began to take seats behind Lily, chatting excitedly with men in long black coats and tricorner hats. My blood began to boil. The head of the Gemarkand family herself watched me intently, like a child lording over an anthill. My lips curled into a snarl.
Blondie and several other guards filed in behind the guests.
After a moment, Lily turned to her guests.
“This is Ragnar Grimfang,” she said. “He’s a Northman of some notoriety; a Twiceborn Ascendant, I am told. Look at those eyes and see the beast that lurks within. Ragnar has come to our city. He pretends he is like us. But anyone can see that he is still wild. We shall soon see just how savage he is.”
She turned and smiled down at me, leaving me picturing my hands on that delicate throat, blood and fangs ripping it open. Lily paused.
“You might ask where I would find a worthy foe for such a man,” said Lily, “However, this is Myrrhn and I am a Gemarkand. Providence provides.”
As Lily spoke, a trapdoor opened in the floor of the little arena. An armoured hood appeared, followed by a massive, muscular body covered in thick plate armour with distinctive sharpened edges. The heraldry was immediately recognizable, sending a chill down my spine; I was facing one of the Devout.
The Devout are a people from a shattered land half a world away from Myrrhn, far to the south of Nordan lands. They fervently believe in power and the right of the strong to rule over everything that they can conquer. This one was an Ascendant, though his presence was dim. Still, he surged against the chains holding him in place, when his eyes fell upon me.
“Two peerless savages,” Intoned Lily while her friends muttered and made sounds of awe. “A fight to the death for my favour, for your eyes only, my friends. Savour it.”