The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre
The story is about Marie-Josephe and her fight to save the life of a sea woman who her brother, Yves, caught and the king plans to eat. When Marie-Josephe finds out that the sea woman is intelligent she is willing to risk everything to save her. I liked the dual nature of Marie-Josephe’s character where one minute she is shy and blushing and the next she is standing up to the king. It makes her more complex but at times she is almost too complex. She is open minded, and accepting of everyone even if society isn’t, and proficient in so many skills and subjects, and she’s beautiful, and so reverent of the king and pope, and everything else that there is so much to her that it is hard to bring her into focus as a real person. And due to her wide eyed innocence every innuendo had to be explained bluntly to her and it got rather annoying. I was happy to see that the sea woman wasn’t always sweet, gentle, and loving, not the one dimensional, perfect, innocent, doe-eyed opposite of the big bad humans. Yves also has some interesting parts to his character because he is so conflicted unlike, it seemed to me, many of the other characters for whom everything was hard lines. But even with Yves, as with many of the characters, I felt he was taken to extremes. If it was a movie I would say everyone was overacting their part and they needed to tone it down a bit. I also found some of the plot rather hokey. When Marie-Josephe learns to understand the sea woman, even though no one else can, it reminded me of a children’s movie where some kid can understand all the barnyard animals when they ‘talk’. And there was something overly simplistic about the big run for freedom, something reminiscent of the Little Engine That Could repeating ‘I think I can, I think I can’ and thinking that if they believe hard enough it will all work out. There was also a lot of description of hair-dos and clothes and court splendor that got tedious after a while but it does help give you a very good picture of the setting. You can imagine the pomp and can get a good idea of the world in which these characters reside. The story was okay. It had a strong female lead, a little romance, a little fantasy, a little historical fiction. I liked the mix of genres and how it talked about Newton and emerging science of the period. But okay was as far as it got for me. There was nothing so extraordinary about the story or the characters that made this book special in my mind, nothing that made it stand out.
But maybe I'm wrong. It did win the 1997 Nebula Award and other people have loved it. If you want to read it and judge for yourself you can go here and find several ways to get an electronic copy for free.