MAIN PAIRING/S: F/F
HEAT LEVEL: Low. Implied only.
‘The Fletcher’ is K. Aten’s debut novel and, bearing that in mind, does a rather good job of engaging the reader and constructing strong characters. You can certainly see the evolution and development of her storytelling skill since then, though.
As a lesbian born in the mid 80s, I went through my entire teenage life alongside Xena: Warrior Princess and, of course, this was where I first learned of Amazons, the legendary women at the heart of Aten’s book. Though Amazons, historically, were likely Scythian and not Greek, I’m drawn to anything that has such an intriguing backdrop as the Ancient Greek world and Amazonian women.
I noticed many similarities with Xena at times, however, as nearly all the details featured in the classic episode “Hooves & Harlots” cropped up in The Fletcher. From the centaur conflict and eventual birth of a hybrid child, to the challenge to the queen’s power, fights with chobos, or the use of an overhead gesture as a sign of peace. There’s still plenty here to show off Aten’s imagination and it’s not necessarily a negative to see so much content mirror the first (and I believe, best and most iconic) appearance of the amazons on Xena, but I found my internal monologue about the overt parallels distracting -- particularly in the first half of the novel.
The book features some fun and adventurous moments, including (and please read this as though you’re Cary Elwes in Men in Tights) an archery contest! There's a touch of magic in Kyri's athletic feats, hinting at a larger fantasy arc that I imagine Aten picks up in Book 2. She's done well to create a platform for the rest of the series. Not at all easy to do!
Our main character, Kyri, goes through some very sweet personal growth, building a new family and realising a host of new things about herself. At times, her reasons for avoiding her romantic interest seemed a little unconvincing, but she herself realises this eventually too, which is great to see. It was also so great to see a sweet story unfold without any overly graphic scenes, as such stories seem to be few and far between.
The story does lack a strong through-line though, in that there’s no real external conflict. Kyri wants to be an Amazon and that’s the crux of the story: passing the tests and assimilating into the culture. I myself have struggled to learn to balance internal and external conflict in my writing and I know from reading Waking the Dreamer that Aten has already made huge leaps in this area. I imagine I can learn lots from her--as a writer--as I continue to read her books, which are released with impressive frequency.
Despite this lack of conflict, there was enough happening in The Fletcher to keep me interested and engaged. I’m actually so terrible at following up on a series and the fact I want to read the next one tells me there’s a certain something in this story that’s got me hooked.