Douglas, J. M. The Bound. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016. paperback. 281p. $7.50. ISBN: 978-1523717842
Like many fantasy novels, The Bound is set in a culture of peasants and aristocracy. Here the nobility are families entrusted with magic relics into which a legendary hero bound powerful spirits. Other spirits are bound into humans who gain powers but change physically and mentally. Not everyone accepts this social structure and there is a conspiracy to overthrow it.
The plot follows two young girls who were present when a magical artifact broke and released its spirit. One is adopted into the nobility’s guards while the other is raised by conspirators. The officer who trains the girl in the guards is gay and the conspirator who raises the other girl is a transgender man, and neither are treated as out of the ordinary. Women in the culture are not limited by gender expectations.
The reader is invited to empathize with both sides in the struggle, as neither is blameless nor is either evil. Even the supernatural spirits are not malignant. Characters, both major and minor, are well developed but the plot comes to an inconclusive halt that suggests the author plans a sequel. Fantasy readers who liked Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint novels may find The Bound intriguing.
Retired from Virginia Beach Public Library