Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Beatriceid by Kate Elliott

The Beatriceid by Kate Elliott is an epic poem written in the style of The Aeneid but about girls at school and a prank. It is set in the world of Elliott's Spiritwalker books, which start with Cold Magic and which I haven't read.

Before Andevai, the waking of dreaming dragons, the war for Europa, and the cruel treachery of the Wild Hunt, cousins Catherine and Beatrice Hassi Barahal were novice students at the Academy. Here, Cat and Bee learned of mathematics and politics, history and storytelling. But not all stories are told or remembered in the same way--particularly where the tale of Dido and Aeneas, and the fate of Carthage and Rome are concerned.

To the victors go the spoils--only this time, it is the gilded-tongued Bee and the quick-footed Cat who will collect the winnings.

Set before the start of Cold Magic, The Beatriceid is a brand new, standalone short story written in Iambic Pentameter that reimagines The Aeneid in a feminist, Phonecian light.

This poem was shorter than I expected it to be, with the poem itself only taking up about half the ebook pages. The rest of the book was filled with an afterword explaining the reasoning behind the poem, an essay about self-rejection, and an interview with Kate Elliot conducted by the Book Smugglers. I generally wouldn't go out of my way to buy this sort of extra content in ebook form, but I didn't mind reading it after the main event.

The poem was quite amusing, featuring school girls' retellings of the story of Dido and Aeneas — modified to fit into the alternate history of the fantasy universe — framed by a school girl prank. I quite enjoyed reading the epic poetic style employed to speak of school shenanigans. And the actual prank itself. I suspect there were also several references to the source material that went over my head, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the poem.

I am, at this point, wondering why I haven't already read Cold Magic. From the description in the afterword, it sounds like a fantasy book I would enjoy. It was a little strange, perhaps, to read the Beatriceid without having read any other books set in the same world, but after Tansy raved about it on Galactic Suburbia, I couldn't resist. I don't think there are any issues reading it without the wider context, but I suspect people already familiar with the characters will get more out of it.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2015, Book Smugglers Publishing
Series: Set in the Spiritwalker universe. Goodreads has it listed as book "3.5"
Format read: ePub
Source: purchased from Kobo store

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