Reading,  Review

Book Review: Gloriana

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Part of my quest to read all of the World Fantasy Award novel winners. This book won in 1979.

This book starts out so description laden it’s hard to stay awake. On several occasions, that description slides into list making and the lists are long enough that it feels like that scene in Holy Grail when we’re learning about what people ate when the Lord bestowed the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch on his followers, except no one is available to say, “Skip a bit, Brother.”

When we finally do get to the point where there are characters, we skip from character to character without warning or apparent reason and the chapter breaks seem completely arbitrary. That arbitrariness doesn’t change a whole lot.

The British Empire is big and early, but otherwise this is clearly an alternate Earth and Gloriana is a representation of Elizabeth I, if in a slightly later time.

There are paragraphs lasting pages, with such overdone lavish description that you get lost between sentences, particularly when those passages interrupt actual storytelling, of which there’s precious little.

And a main point of the book is that Elizabeth, I mean Gloriana, in spite of being the Empress of some large fraction of the world, is an incomplete woman because she can’t have an orgasm, no matter how hard she tries or with who or how many people.


The main antagonist, an artist of deception and eceipt by the name of Quire, makes her fall in love with him with a flick of his fingers, more or less, and because he’s annoyed with his former patron, Gloriana’s closest advisor, Montfallcon, who just doesn’t get him.

Other members of the court have a variety of sexual tastes and fetishes, none of which are really relevant to what there is of the story, but which nonetheless play for a lot of wordage.

Overall rating: 1.5 stars. Because I did finish it, but this was not a good read for me. For two-thirds of the book, nothing really happens, there’s just a slow buildup of tiny events that add up to maybe a long novelette’s worth of story. When there are actual events finally going on, they’re still mostly boring. And the Queen achieves her ‘fulfillment’ (and orgasm) while being raped by Quire, a point which seems missed a lot.

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