I don’t think I can handle a coherent review on this one. Sputtering outrage, yes. Actual reasonable thoughts? No. See that picture over there? All those little pieces of paper are where I flagged sexist stuff. There are only two women in the book, basically, so that gap at the beginning is when neither of them had shown up yet, and that gap in the middle was because I just got too tired of outrage. This is your brain on fantasy/sci fi from the 1960s. Sigh.
So I’m going to give you a very brief synopsis, and then just let the little flagged bits speak for themselves. Rod and his spaceship land on Gramarye, a planet with a medieval/renaissance type culture. The king has died, and his daughter now reigns, but shakily, because, y’know, ladies can’t be in charge. There are multiple factions trying to take her down. Rod basically infiltrates the court and mansplains to the entire planet how they should run their lives. Democracy is obviously the best choice for a government, but these unevolved peasants can’t grasp that, so Rod’s goal is to steer them toward a constitutional monarchy, which is the best their pea brains can handle. With his “cold iron” robot horse and glowing dagger and tendency to babble scientific and philosophical nonsense, the Gramaryians naturally decide he’s a warlock, which naturally means the two women with speaking lines want to jump his bones.
- His first view of the queen (we are later assured that she is 18, but barely): “A cloud of silver hair about a finely chiseled, pouting face; great blue eyes and rosebud lips; and a slender child’s body, budding breasts and kitten hips under clinging silk, molded tighter to her by the wide belt of her girdle, a Y from hips to floor.”
- “The woman [the queen] was A) uncanny; and B) a bitch, Rod decided. Trouble was, she was a beautiful bitch, and Rod had a weakness.” Right after that, she kisses him. She has absolutely no reason to kiss him. He’s undercover as one of her guardsmen, and she’s supposed to have been in love since childhood with one of the rebels. But she just can’t help herself!
- Rod is suddenly enraged by the loyalty of one of her oldest advisors, who has practically raised her: “He suddenly hated Catherine for being the kind of bitch that enjoyed using men.”
- Someone in the castle tells Rod that if he ever needs help, he should call on the witch Gwendolyn. “‘I’ll remember that,’ Rod promised,’ and immediately forgot as he had a sudden vision of himself calling a woman for help. He almost went into another coughing fit.”
- The teenage queen (beset on all sides and in love with another, remember – plus, she’s just been nearly poisoned) throws her naked self at Rod, but he nobly turns her down. When he leaves her room (sorry, chamber), he’s furious with himself, with her, with life, with manhood. A helpful elf conjures an imaginary dragon for him to fight, to let off some steam. “Death, he thought, amazed, and was outraged that he should die over a puny fit of anger, anger over a slip of a bitch of a girl.”
- Traveling through the countryside, a companion tells Rod not to dally with farm girls, because “given the merest shred of hope of a husband, these farm girls will stick tighter than leeches, and thou’lt never be rid of them.” Instantly, two farm girls show up beside the road, “beckoning, with hands on hips in a slow bump-and-grind.”
- He manfully, and with great pity for her, turns down a peasant girl, sad for her sorry lot in life. She promptly seduces him. “Milord, use me as you will. I ask no more.” He’s then MAD at such cruel circumstances, kissing her forcefully, “crushing and biting and bruising.” But of course she likes it, and they have enthusiastic haystack sex.
- A servant girl at a castle offers him wine and “warmth for your bed,” and he sneers. His companion Tom “was certainly the more appealing chunk of a man; but Rod was obviously the one who had the status. A bitch like any of them, he thought: she doesn’t give a damn for who the man is, just as long as what he is is a station higher than hers.”
- A sample of how he describes every woman he sees: “She wore a white blouse, full skirt, and black bodice. The last was very well filled.” He saves her from a ghost, and while she’s sniveling into his manly chest, “Rod was swept with a sudden wave of tenderness, aided and abetted by a feeling of towering strength contributed by his protective instinct, and silently cursed the adhesive effect of a damsel in distress.”
- When he realizes that the farm girls and serving women who have been throwing themselves at him are actually all Gwendolyn the witch in disguise (you thought I was kidding about there being only two women with speaking roles, didn’t you?): “You’re a witch. Big deal. I’m far more interested in your beauty than your talents.”
- And then. AND THEN. When the queen takes her army to war against the rebels, and actually wants to be a good queen and fight with them, Rod and all her councilors try to talk her out of it, because you can’t fight without a penis, obviously. It doesn’t work, because she’s the queen and her word is law. UNTIL. Rod tells the young man she’s in love with: “I know one way to make sure she won’t ride out tomorrow…Make sure she won’t be able to sit down in the morning.”
- “Tuan stared, flushing. ‘What…doest though mean?’”
- “Why, spank her. Smack her so hard she’ll have to stand till next Sunday. How else would you do it?”
- “’Oh,’ Tuan said. ‘In truth, ‘twould be well done.’”
- “It’s that, or let her die.”
- And then Tuan DOES. And the queen’s guards LET HIM. And if I hadn’t been on a plane, I would have hurled the book away from me.
- We finally get to the end. Rod is leaving; Gwendolyn wants him to stay. He has his mission to consider, though. “A man has to prove his worth to himself, before he claims a woman. Otherwise I’d be a male with no purpose, who didn’t deserve you. How could I father children if I knew their mother was more valuable to the world than I am?” So. That’s a nice viewpoint to teach your children, jackass.
- Also, Gwendolyn is the daughter of one of the queen’s head councilors. She doesn’t know that, though. Thinks she’s an orphan. This dude tells Rod his big secret, though, because he has to know Rod’s intentions with his little girl, who doesn’t know she’s his little girl. He still obviously gets a say in who she sleeps with, though, because…men? And he swears Rod to secrecy, even though he and his secret daughter live right there in the same castle and could easily have a relationship.
So, there you go. I think if I had to stretch for a silver lining for having read this wretched book, it’s that maybe there’s been some progress since 1969? Characters with lady parts are occasionally allowed to be actual characters, and not just a walking bodice? Ugh. I hear there are more books in the Rod the Warlock series. I would advise us all to stay far away.