Reviews

The Four Profound Weaves, by R.B. Lemberg

sanjanapadhi's review against another edition

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3.0

Not much of a review...

Liked this book but I was so confused at times. More specifically, confused at the wrong times

I had assigned it 3.5 stars and as Goodreads doesn't have a system of decimal-stars, I was confused about how much. Normally, when I think a book was like <=(x).5 , I usually assign it the lower integer except in the rarest of rare cases. But like I said it before, I liked this story and I really wanted to like it too, it was just so...(you know what I mean?!). Therefore, I gave it 4 stars finally and decided to revise the rating(if needed to be) at a later date.

Now, months later, here I am. It's a clear downgrade to 3 stars for me. In these months, a loooottt of LIFE HAPPENED, exams happened, studies went downhill and I realized that the ratings definitely needed revising.

anyab's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional hopeful medium-paced

4.0

archaicgambit's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

3.5

I really liked this book! I had high expectations at the start, and I did love the ending, but the middle lacked.

The language of the book is artful without being flowery, just shy of lush. I think the writing style works-- it neither shone nor hampered the story.

I wanted to be excited about the characters, but their portraits were very simply drawn and I didn't connect with them as deeply as I would've wished. 

That said, the representation in this book is outstanding. Two transgender leads and very creative worldbuilding around gender and culture. The magic system was very interesting, and the visuals of the settings were stunning.

This book didn't quite live up to my high expectations, but I'm still happy I read it!

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jonesy_city's review against another edition

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4.0

***Nominated for the the 56th Annual Nebula Award***
In the Novella category.

***Directly After reading***
I don't know what I think of it. It's a good fantasy story. The language was gorgeous and the imagery was vibes (why autocorrect?) vived. But it's hard to form a concrete opinion about the story.

Maybe because allegory is used? I have a hard time with allegories especially in English because so much is based on a specific culture. And I suspect I'm missing parts because it's about gender (roles) in different cultures. Cultures I'm not familiar with.

That isn't to say that without that understanding this story became unreadable. Far from it. But it does feel like you have to have experience in reading fantasy of all kinds. Just reading what's popular won't prepare you for this story. Read fairy tales and speculative fiction. It also reminded me of magical realism by South American / Spanish authors. Although I can't explain why. It just gave me that same feeling.

It's a story that you have to experience and just have to let wash over you. But I can see this being discussed in classrooms.

Also as a sidenote: the artwork in the book is gorgeous! Simple but evocative.

***Directly After buying***
Can I just say that this whole proces of buying was ridiculous? Ugh my country sucks sometimes. Why only have the audiobook listed but no physical copy? THIS IS WHY AMAZON GETS ALL OF THE DOUGH. I'm mad about the amount of times I end up on amazon...

... I'm aware I'm making questionable decisions while tired. What can I say? At least it isn't drugs and it keeps me off the streets?

abetterjulie's review against another edition

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3.0

I wanted to like this much more than I did. That always flavors a review, I know.

It has everything I should love. The representation in it (other than the cruel disabled character) felt good to see. I loved the allegorical rhythm and repetition, and the concepts of hope and death - and how change was presented as a necessary constant.

But. For all that deep meaning about change, I didn't feel like anything did. That frustrated me. I wanted more...profound...change as a result of their journey. The characters were hard to tell apart without the section labels, and maybe that contributed to the way I perceived the resolution.

I think if you approach this as a normally told tale with western structure, you'll be disappointed. I wish the second half had leaned harder into the strengths of the first half and kept the mystical, almost surrealistic, quality. As it is, I felt like the 'story' interrupted the story, if that makes any sense.

hulttio's review

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2.0

This novella is hailed as an ‘epic queer trans fantasy’… and that may be true, but it did not live up to my expectations. The start is sluggish and I had to prod myself through what seemed like irrelevant worldbuilding info dumps. I can tell Lemberg has put a lot of work into crafting the Birdverse; but given that I haven’t read any of their other works, I was missing a lot of context. They also referenced random details that flew over my head. After I acclimated a bit, it got a little better. By the end, I didn’t mind being in the Birdverse, except that I had a lot of questions. Perhaps there was too much to fit into a novella of this length. Oddly, some passages felt like they could’ve been speaking about real world analogues, which broke my immersion in the world.

The characters are also a bit one-dimensional. Uiziya has but one goal—to weave the final of the four profound weaves with her grandmother. The Nameless Man (AKA nen-sasaïr) wants… I wasn’t exactly sure at first. Then it becomes clear he wants a name from Uiziya’s grandmother, Benesret. Some of his later aspirations and goals are more exciting. These two main characters are friends, but lacking their history, I could not care much about their relationship. Also, the novella is told in alternating perspectives—like many other reviewers have already noted, I found it hard to distinguish them. At first, I didn’t even realize they were different perspectives.

The storyline is decent, but ultimately, not much happens. This is a book about gender, transformation, hope, and death—that is, ideas. The plot is more or less just a thing that happens. This is fine when the ideas are compelling and thoroughly fleshed out. But in this novella, there was more showing than telling. Often times, a specific fact would be repeated two or three times throughout the novel, as if the reader didn’t already read that a few pages beforehand. Don’t treat me like a stupid reader, please, have some faith. Reviews have remarked on the beautiful imagery and prose, but the writing just seemed overly abstract. The focus on gender and transformation was refreshing, and the representation of trans characters was well done, at any rate.

While there were elements of potentially interesting themes and some semblance of an interesting narrative towards the end, this novella left me wanting a lot more than I got out of it. Beautiful cover, though.

neilibra's review against another edition

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emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5


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elliotvanz's review against another edition

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3.0

I wanted to love this novella more than I did. The setting was rich and interesting, I loved how queer it was, and the magic captured my imagination. There were sections I reread because I had never heard certain feelings expressed so eloquently before, especially on the subject of trans identity. At the sentence level so much of this book is gorgeous. However, the writing on a larger scale kept me at arm's length. The passivity of the characters, the similarity in voice, the disjointed feel, and the odd pacing all made this book a bit of slog despite its short length. This is one of those books I didn't enjoy reading but I'm glad I read all the same. I'm left curious about the Birdverse but not certain the author's style resonates with me.

saltysnaax's review against another edition

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3.0

Lemberg's fantastical novella takes us to the city Iyar where we meet the nameless man and Uiziya-e-Lali, two "changers," now past midlife and both with hopes still to be fulfilled. Uiziya seeks her aunt, Benesret, a great weaver, in hopes that the latter will teach her the last of the Four Profound Weaves: death. The nameless man seeks a name to fit his masculine form, recently changed through another of the Four Profound Weaves: song.
The story is refreshingly unique: magic is comprised of names and geometry, characters are diverse and thoughtfully and complexly written, and domestic crafts contain great power. It’s easy to write a fantasy novel that’s based on well-worn, and much-loved fantasy tropes because there already is a history, a canon, into which one's story fits. Lemberg creates a new universe for the reader to explore, and one that’s diverse from its conception. Sure, we all love high fantasy, but how many more white men can we tolerate? At some point, we are reading variations of the same story. Thankfully, Lemberg brings something completely new to the fantasy genre.
While this novella did not grab me as powerfully as I’d hoped I am really looking forward to more writing from Lemberg. The universe they have created is so imaginative I wanted to know more about it in this story. I know there are other short stories Lemberg has written set in the Birdverse (more information can be found here: http://rblemberg.net/?page_id=319), however, I wish there was more world-building and character-development in this novella. That being said, readers can certainly read this novella as their first introduction to the Birdverse, and enough context is provided for a baseline understanding, but overall not enough context is provided for a rich standalone novel. In this way, The Four Profound Weaves reminds me of James S.A. Corey’s short stories, which accompany their Expanse series – readers wouldn’t read these without reading the main series because while the short stories are well-written, they would fall flat without the background knowledge of Corey’s Expanse universe. I wouldn’t say Lemberg’s story falls flat, but it would be improved with more detail.
Additionally, I wish our two main characters had more… character! I wanted them to be fully realized beyond their actions in this story. I really liked both main characters, but I wanted to know so much more about them! I think more detail and context would have enriched this novella, at least for me.

Like I said, I can’t wait to read Lemberg’s next project. Consider me a fan.

thesapphiccelticbookworm's review against another edition

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reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

2.25