Green (Green Universe Series #1)

Green (Green Universe Series #1)

3.9 65
by Jay Lake

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"She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name - her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan...and the skills of an assassin...she was named Emerald, the

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"She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name - her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan...and the skills of an assassin...she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke's collection of beauties." "She calls herself Green." "The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke's city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed." Acclaimed author Jay Lake has created a remarkable character in Green, and evokes a remarkable world in this novel. Green and her struggle to survive and find her own past will live in the reader's mind for a long time after closing the book.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Lake (Escapement) makes a shift from steampunk to lush fantasy filled with exotic locales and exquisite descriptions. Sold as a child, raised and educated as a courtesan and secretly trained as an assassin, strong-willed Green retains her unyielding sense of independence, leading her to make drastic, unwise choices. Often used as a pawn and occasionally betrayed, she perseveres in trying to gain a measure of control over her life and a place to call home. Her goals become harder to reach when she's caught up in the machinations of immortals and power games of meddling gods. Despite an occasionally episodic feel and some rocky pacing that suggests it might have worked better split over several installments, the story is nicely powered by strong mythic undertones and a fresh take on the relationship between gods and mortals. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

A girl is sold by her impoverished father to a man who takes her to the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she learns to be both courtesan and assassin and joins the group of beauties that form the entourage of the Undying Duke. Calling herself Green, the young woman rises to a position of power in a treacherous world. Lake (Escapement) has created a memorable heroine living in an exotic and sensual setting that draws from many historic cultures. A good choice for most fantasy collections.

—Jackie Cassada
Kirkus Reviews
A stylish and intimate fantasy from Lake (Escapement, 2008, etc.). The story concerns a young girl, sold from her tiny farming village to a mysterious stranger and trained to be a consort to a sinister duke. Given the name Emerald by her captors, she stubbornly calls herself Green, and later becomes a blade-wielding assassin. Lake infuses the book with first-person intimacy, particularly the early scenes, when Green is separated from her homeland. Her journey from child victim to heroic, independent woman is well told, and Lake displays a keen insight into the emotional world of Green and his other powerful female characters. The adventure story at the heart of the book yields some breathtaking fight scenes. The plot is perhaps less complex than it could be, but Lake makes up for it with intensity and page-turning momentum. An action-packed tale. Agent: Jennifer Jackson/Donald Maass Literary Agency
A fascinating, difficult character, Green lives in a remarkable world, in which gods walk the earth, and not all people are human. Lake's world-building is stellar, even with as idiosyncratic a narrator as Green, and the story she tells thrills.
Mary Robinette Kowal
I adored Green the character and loved Green the novel. I highly, highly recommend this book, particularly if you're looking for a strong female protagonist.
Seattle Times (Tiptree Award-winning author Nisi Shawl)
Running with Green over the city's gilded rooftops, plunging through sewers with her to confront a skinless avatar of the God of Pain, readers will feel the exhilaration of freedom deeply prized, unceasingly sought, and hard-won.

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Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Green Universe Series, #1
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.16(d)

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By Jay Lake

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2009 Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-6776-1



* * *

THE FIRST thing I can remember in this life is my father driving his white ox, Endurance, to the sky burial platforms. His back was before me as we walked along a dusty road. All things were dusty in the country of my birth, unless they were flooded. A ditch yawned at each side to beckon me toward play. The fields beyond were drained of water and filled with stubble, though I could not now say which of the harvest seasons it was.

Though I would come to change the fate of cities and of gods, then I was merely a small, grubby child in a small, grubby corner of the world. I did not have many words. Even so, I knew that my grandmother was lashed astride the back of Papa's patient beast. She was so very still and silent that day, except for her bells.

Every woman of our village is given a silk at birth, or at least the finest cloth a family can afford. The length of the bolt is said to foretell the length of her life, though I've never known that a money-lender's sister wrapped in twelve yards of silk lived longer than a decently fed farmwife with a short measure hanging on her sewing frame. The first skill a girl-child learns is to sew a small bell to her silk each day so that when she marries, she will dance with the music of four thousand bells. Every day she sews so that when she dies, her soul will be carried out of this life on the music of twenty-five-thousand bells. The poorest use seed pods or shells, but still these stand as a marker of the moments in our lives.

My silk is long lost now, as are my several attempts since to replace it. Be patient: I will explain how this came to be. Before that, I wish to explain how I came to be. If you do not understand this day, earliest in my memory like the first bird that ever grew feathers and threw itself from the limb of a tree, then you will understand nothing of me and all that has graced and cursed my life in the years since.

The ox Endurance bore a burden of sound that day. His wooden bell clopped in time to his steps. The thousands of bells on my grandmother's silk rang like the first rainfall upon the roof of our hut after the long seasons of the sun. Later in my youth, before I returned to Selistan to see the truth of my beginnings for myself, I would revisit this memory and think that perhaps what I heard was her soul rising up from the scorching stones of this world to embrace the cool shadows of the next.

That day, the bells I heard seemed to be tears shed by the tulpas in celebration of her passage.

In my memory, the land rocked as we proceeded, in a way that meant I did not walk. I had eyes only for Endurance and my grandmother. My father drove the ox, so my mother must have carried me. She was alive then. Of her I can recall only the feel of arms as a pressure across the backs of my legs, and the sense of being held too close to the warmth of her skin as I wriggled away from her to look ahead. I hold no other recollection of my mother, none at all.

Her face is forever hidden from me. I have lost so much in this life by racing ahead without ever pausing to turn back and take stock of courses already run.

Still, my unremembered mother did as a parent should do for a child. She walked with a measured tread that followed the slow beat of Endurance's wooden bell. She held me high enough that I could look into my grandmother's white-painted eyes.

Her I recall well in that moment. Whatever came before in my young life is lost now to my recollection, but my grandmother must have been important to my smallest self. I drank in the sight of her with a loving eagerness that foretold the starveling years to come.

The lines upon her face were a map of the ages of woman. Her skin seemed webbed, as if her glittering eyes were spiders waiting to entrap whatever little kisses and pudgy hands might stray too close. I do not suppose she had any teeth left, for her betel-stained lips were collapsed in a pucker that seems to me in memory to have been as familiar as the taste of water. Her nose was long, not so much in the fashion of most of Selistan's people, and had retained a certain majestic force even in her age. She had no hair left but for some errant wisps, though as most of her scalp was covered by the arch of her belled silk, I suppose this knowledge is itself a memory of a memory.

There must have been a washing, a laying out, a painting of the white and the red. These things I know now from my experience of later years, learned upon the corpses of those I helped prepare for the next life, as well as the corpses of those I have slain with my own hands.

Did my father run his fingers across his mother's cooling body to do these things?

Did my mother perform that ultimate rite for him?

Did my mother and grandmother live well together in the presence of my father, or did they fight like harridans?

So much has been taken from me. What has been given in return seems hollow next to the brilliance of that moment — the sharpness of the colors painted on my grandmother's face; the rich, slow echo of Endurance's bell and the silvery ringing from my grandmother's silk; the faded tassels on the ox's great curving horns; the heat that wrapped me like a bright and stifling blanket; the dusty, rotten smell of that day as my father sang his mother's death song in a toneless, reedy voice that sounded bereft even to my young ears.

That brilliance is reinforced by a skein of later experience, but it also stands alone like the first rock of a reef above the receding tide. I wish that the past were so much more open to me, as it is to the blue-robed men who sit atop the shattered heads of ancient idols in the Dockmarket at Copper Downs. For a few brass taels, they will enter their houses of memory to recount the order and color of festival parades and marching banners in decades long lost to dust.

Distant memory is an art that absorbs its followers, immerses them in the mazes of the mind. I am overtaken by recall of more recent times, of blood and passion and sweaty skin and the most pointed kind of politics. For all that was taken from me in the earliest days of my stolen childhood, those distant memories would still be safe and sane compared with what has passed since, if their return were ever granted to me.

It would bring me the sound of my mother's voice, which I have lost.

It would bring me the look of my father's face, which I have lost.

It would bring me the name they called me, which I have lost.

My image of my grandmother is as bright and powerful as sunrise on the ocean. She stands at the beginning of my life. Her funeral marks the emergence of my consciousness of the world around me.

For all that bright and shining focus on my grandmother, she was gone at the beginning of all things. Whoever she might have been to me in the rhythms of ordinary living is buried deep within the impenetrable fog of my infancy. I like to think she held me during the days when my mother must have worked the fields alongside my father. I like to believe she crooned to me songs about the world.

These things are even less than guesses.

My grandmother's last moments aside, what I hold most in my memory from those first days of my life is Endurance. The ox seemed tall as the sky to me then. He smelled of damp hide and the gentle sweetgrass scent of his dung. He was a hut that followed my father but always cast shade upon me. I would play beneath his shadow, moving as the sun did if he stood for too long, sometimes looking up at the fringe dividing his belly where the fur of each of his sides met and a fold of skin hung downward. The white of his back shaded to gray there, like the line of a storm off the hills, but always spattered with dust and mud.

The ox continually rumbled. Voices within prophesied in some low-toned language of grass and gas and digestion that endlessly fascinated me. Endurance would grunt before he pissed, warning me to scramble away from his great hooves and hunt frogs among the flooded fields until he found a dry place to stand once more. His great brown eyes watched me unblinking as I ran in the rice paddies, climbed the swaying palms and ramified bougainvilleas, hunted snakes in the stinking ditches.

Endurance had the patience of old stone. He always waited for me to return, sometimes snorting and tossing his head if he thought I'd moved too far in my play. The clop of his wooden bell would call me back to him. The ox never lost sight of me unless my father had taken him away for some errand amid the fields or along the village road.

At night I would sit beside the fire in front of our hut and stitch another bell to my silk under the watchful eye of my father. My mother was already gone by then, though I cannot recall the occasion of her death. Endurance's breath whuffled from the dark of his pen. If I stared into the shadows of the doorway, I could see the fire's fetch dance in the depths of his brown eyes. They were beacons to call me back at need from the countries of my dreams.

There came a certain day in my third summer of life that, like most days there, was hot as only Selistan can be. You northerners do not understand how it is that we can live beneath our greater sun. In the burning lands of the south, the daystar is not just light, but also fire. Its heat falls like rain through air that one could slice with a table knife. That warmth was always on me, a hand pressing down upon my head to wrack my hair with sweat and darken my skin.

I played amid a stand of plantains. Their flowers cascaded in a maroon promise of the sweet, sticky goodness to come. The fat stalks were friends sprung from some green jungle race, come to tell me the secrets of the weather. I had made up my mind to be queen of water, for it was water that ruled over everything in our village. Warm mud was caked upon my feet from my sojourns in the ditches planning the coming of my magical queendom.

Endurance's bell echoed across the paddy. The clatter had an urgency that I heard without at first understanding. I looked up to see the ox's ears flattened out. His tail twitched as if he were bedeviled by blackflies. My father stood beside his ox with one hand on the loop of rope that served as a bridle. He was talking to someone dressed as I had never seen before — wrapped entirely in dark cloths with no honest skin exposed to the furnace of our sun except the dead-pale oval of his face. I wore no clothes at all six days out of seven, and my father little more than a rag about his waist. It had never occurred to me that anyone would have so much to hide.

My father called my name. A thousand times I have strained in memory to hear his voice, but it will not come to me. I know it was my name, I know he called it, but the sound and shape of the word are lost to me along with his speaking of it.

Can you imagine what it means to lose your name? Not to set it aside for a profession or temple mystery, but simply to lose it. Many have told me this is not possible, that no one forgets the name she was called at her mother's breast. Soon enough I will explain to you how this came to be, but for now believe that the loss is as great to me as it seems incredible to you.

Papa turned toward me and cupped his hands to call out. I know my name hung in the air. I know I ran toward my father with my hair trailing behind me to be tugged by the sun and wind. It was the end of my life I ran toward, and the beginning.

Laughing I went, covered in the dust and mud of our land, a child of sun-scorched Selistan. My father continued to hold Endurance's lead as the ox tossed his head and snorted with anger.

Close by, I could see the stranger was a man. I had never seen a stranger before, and so I thought that perhaps all strangers were men. He was taller than Papa. His face was pale as the maggots that squirmed in our midden pile. His hair peeking out from behind his swaddling was the color of rotting straw, his eyes the inside of a lime.

The stranger knelt to take my jaw in a strong grip and bend my chin upward. I struggled, and must have said something, for I was never a reticent child. He ignored my outburst in favor of tilting my face back and forth. He then grasped me by the shoulder and turned me around to trace my spine with a rough knuckle.

When I was released, I spun back hot with indignant pride. The maggot man ignored me, talking to my father in low tones with a muddied voice, as if our words did not quite fit his mouth. There was some small argument; then the maggot man slid a silk bag into my father's hand, closing his fingers over the burden.

Papa knelt in turn to kiss my forehead. He placed my hand in the maggot man's grasp, where the silk had so lately slid free. He turned and walked quickly away, leading Endurance. The ox, ever a mild-mannered beast, bucked twice and shook his head, snorting to call me back.

"My bells," I cried as I was tugged away by the maggot man's strong hand. So the belled silk was lost to me, along with everything else to which I had been born.

That is the last of what I remember of that time in my life, before all changed: a white ox, a wooden bell, and my father forever turned away from me.


Leaving Home

* * *

The maggot man and I walked the better part of the day. My small brown hand was folded tightly within his huge pale one. He had looped a silken cord around both our wrists, lest I slip his grip and flee. I realized he was not a maggot, but a corpse. This man had walked into our village from the lands of the dead.

My heart flooded with joy. My grandmother had sent for me!

It did not take me long to understand how foolish that was. The maggot man smelled of salt and fat and the crispness of his cloth. The dead smelled — well, dead. If a person had been made ready for the sky burial, or an animal for the sacrifice, that was one thing — but anything that died under our sun soon became a stench incarnate.

He was alive enough. He must have been burning with the heat.

So instead I eyed the cord. It was a color of green that I had never before seen, bright and shining as the wings of a beetle. Women had their silks, but even my child's eye could see this was another quality altogether. The threads of which it was made seemed impossibly small.

The cord did not matter so much anyway. We had walked past the huge baobab tree that marked the extent of my worldly travels up until that day. The road we followed was a cart track, but the maggot man and I might as well have been the last two people alive under the brassy sky.

I know now that my father had a name besides Papa, and my village had a name besides Home. The world is wider than a woman can walk in a lifetime, perhaps a hundred lifetimes. Every town and bridge and field and boulder has a name, is claimed by some god or woman or polity or tradition. That day, I knew only that if I turned and ran far enough, fast enough, I would reach the old baobab and follow the hollow clop of Endurance's bell all the way to my little pallet and my own silk beside my father's fire.

The fields around us had changed even with this short walk. They did not harvest rice here. There was no endless network of watery ditches full of frogs and snakes. Fences stood instead, dividing one patch of stone-filled grass from another identical patch of stone-filled grass. Faded prayer flags hung on fenceposts, almost exhausted by wind and sun. A few narrow-bodied cattle with large sagging humps watched us pass. No light stood in their eyes, nothing like the spark of wisdom that had dwelt in the fluid brown depths of Endurance's gaze.

Even the trees were different. Skinnier, with thin, dusty leaves instead of the broad gloss of the nodding plantains at home. I turned, slipping my wrist around within the loop, to walk backwards and look down the long sloping road up which we had been walking.

A ribbon shone in a broad land below us, silver bright with curves like the sheltering arms of a mother. Fields and orchards and copses surrounded it for a distance of many furlongs, punctuated with the rough nap of buildings and little smudges of forge fires. Was that water? I wondered.

The maggot man slowed his stride to allow me my stumbling backwards progress. "What do you see?" His words were thick and muddled, as if he had only just learned to talk.

A land of rice and fruit and patient oxen, I thought. Home. "Nothing," I said, for I already hated him.

"Nothing." He sounded as if the word had never occurred to him before. "That is fair enough. You leave this place today, and will never see it again."

"This is not the way to the sky burials."

Something in his words miscarried, because he gave me a strange look instead of answering. Then he reached for my shoulder and twisted me around from the past to face the future once more. The clasp of his fingers ached awhile.


Excerpted from Green by Jay Lake. Copyright © 2009 Joseph E. Lake, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Green 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Montreve More than 1 year ago
A critic who reviewed this book stated that it was akin to Carey's Kushiel Series. Of course, after reading that I couldn't get my hands on it fast enough. The plot was easy enough to follow, with a false climatic part (or so I thought), that was really a build up for the true climax. The characters were likeable, however I never fell in love with them. The descriptions were .... Almost there. It is hard to explain. It is kind of like trying to watch a TV show with really bad reception. You get the basic idea, but I felt like it lacked on last nudge, one last description, to really solidify the image in my head. Despite that, I find that this book was a fairly decent read. I did finish it, after all. I'll probably read another one of Lake's books. I think that maybe I expected too much because I am such a huge fan of Carey's lush world and descriptions in the Kushiel series. I think that if you didn't go in with really high expectations (as I did) you would be perfectly happy with this book.
Lynx379 More than 1 year ago
I'm all for a book about assassins but. . . i have to say that i was really disapointed in this book. Green is supposed to be a strong person and an assassin but she can't even kill someone who beat her brutally for years and another who tried to rape her without crying and vomiting over their deaths and then saying a prayer for them. I had high hopes for a strong heroine in this story but Green seemed more like a weak character full of bluster. She talked big, but didn't back it up most of the time. Despite what she said, she was constantly getting pushed around. She was full of anger but wasn't directing it in the right places. She just didn't have any redeeming qualities. I felt this way about all of the characters. The characters didn't have much depth and they weren't really likable at all. In fact, i detested the majority of the characters because they seemed nice, if somewhat mysterious at first, and then turned cruel and vicious the next second. It was a long and droning story which could have been broken up into more than one book. I just couldn't get through the book because i couldn't stand to watch this protagonist who was supposed to be strong, beat herself up (literally, she cut her own face) and to tolerate others, (in some cases her own "friends") to beat her up too. With that being said, the book  had the potential in the beginning to go somewhere great, but instead it progressively got worse. I sadly, wouldn't recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Green is a great character. At times I felt like this book was more a character sketch than a story, as it dragged in some spots. I nearly gave up a time or two. I liked the resonance of the book, and how things tied together in the end.
Travis Johnston More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of fantasy novels.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Looking forward to others
Anonymous 7 months ago
This also reminds me of l Am Legend. Love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!
love_coffee_and_books More than 1 year ago
I just couldn't get all the way into this one.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found Green's story quite compelling. A strong, realistic hero with a well-rounded sense of humanity. A very well-written first person account.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thout me was lock out
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Adventure fighting romance all presented in unconventional wsy
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ElectricBadger More than 1 year ago
Although I really liked the concept behind Green, and enjoyed the first third of the book - the coming of age arc - it rapidly began to drag with an increasingly forced plot, more random situations, and a colder, less emotional main character. A good read still, but I wish the three sections of this book had been broken into three separate novels, with proper care to give each a growing character and plot development.
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