Clothier, Meg. The Girl King. London: Century, 2011. Print.
Availability: Not published in the US, but available used through many online retailers. Easily available in the UK. Sold at Prospero’s Books in Tbilisi (37 GEL. ouch.)
I was intrigued when I heard that someone had written a romance novel about King Tamar (a 12th-Century female ruler of Georgia, referred to in Georgian as თამარ მეფე Tamar Mepe or King Tamar, because she ruled in her own right, and presided over Georgia’s Golden Age). I’m always interested in reading new books about Georgia, and I enjoy a historical romance novel every now and then. I immediately added The Girl King to my “To Read” list, but the book isn’t easily available in the US, so I had to wait until I had accumulated some trade credit at Prospero’s in order to buy myself a copy as a souvenir from Georgia and plane reading. This book was just the right thing for plane reading–light, engaging, and something I could pick up and put down without getting lost, but not so light that I felt my brain draining out through my ears. Though I’ve primarily seen it characterized as a romance novel, it isn’t a romance novel from the pink section of a bookstore–it’s a novel that features (as many novels do) a relationship as one of the core elements of the plot. It’s fiction, not romance, so no need to fear for the death of your intellectual reputation if you’d like to read the novel. I found the writing surprisingly good, and I enjoyed the creative and evocative descriptions that the author used. I am primarily drawn to books by the characters rather than the plot or style, and while I quite liked the protagonists Tamar and Sos, neither of them grabbed me and made me fall in love with them. This is my only “complaint” about the book, and the main reason I’m not gushing over it. The plot was well in line with the sorts of warrior-woman books I loved as a child: Alanna, Crown Duel, and The Blue Sword, but with the added advantage of being set in Georgia and exploring a period of Georgian history that I know little about.
Verdict: a fun, light read–particularly for people interested in Georgia.