The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

August 31, 2017

Author: Gail Carson Levine.

Summary:

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Latki—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Latki-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

(Published summary)

My Thoughts:

Given that I’ve loved Gail Carson Levine’s other works, I was very disappointed.

This didn’t work at all for me. It’s not just a ‘teaching story’, that’s blatantly focused on particular issues (racism and prejudice) and putting forth morals about them instead of telling a compelling story that leaves the reader with new thoughts on those issues. No, it’s also a teaching story that, unwittingly I’m sure, brushes away the very points it’s trying to make.

Peregrine, the main character, spends a lot of the book first overcoming her own prejudice and then fighting the subjection of her people, the Bamarre. While the Bamarre, a conquered folk living under the Latki, are not technically called slaves, they live in servitude even at the beginning. Things get worse over the book, and as the climax closes in every single red-alert siren I’ve ever heard of is going off. The Bamarre are not allowed to travel without permission. To own books. To practice various trades. Their children are automatically conscripted. They are no longer referred to as people, but as beings.

They’re being dehumanized.

This last was the most important part for me. When the government starts systematically dehumanizing certain people, refusing to call them humans – that’s long past slavery. That’s looking straight at genocide. That’s unthinkable levels of bad.

But (spoiler alert – but did you really expect anything else from a middle grade book?) happily, our protagonist triumphs! The queen was kind of on their side already, so all it takes is one hand-to-hand duel with the oppressive king and everything’s all better! Yay!

Um, no. Do you hear what message this is sending, behind all the blunt obvious quotes about equality and freedom? It’s saying Racism is bad, yeah. But don’t worry, it’s not that big a problem! You can clear it all up in a day’s work!  As if the ruler’s decree will change a nation’s ingrained prejudice. As if there wouldn’t already be so many dead. As if that systematic dehumanization isn’t going to leave scars on an entire race.

While I know the author had good intentions, The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre just doesn’t cut it for me, either as a story or as a lesson.

Content Review:

Sexual Content: One kiss.

Language: None.

Violence: Child locked up as punishment attacks the door again and again until she’s bruised and bloody. Man slaps servant. One character hits another over the head with a heavy wooden statue. Character wrings chicken’s neck. Character stabs ogre. Disobedient servant whipped. Brief sword-fighting (and arrows) fighting gryphons and ogres. Man shoots dragon through the eye, but doesn’t kill him; dragon proceeds to carry him off. Some talking between characters about a boy’s first kill in battle, in which he cut a man’s throat.

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