Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rosie's Riveters: Sudha & Ardee West

Rosie's Riveters is a weekly posting written by Booklust readers about riveting females in literature. Many readers have strong reactions to the women in the books they read- either very positive or very negative. These are the characters we find riveting, for good reasons or bad ones, and they form the population of Rosie's Riveters. Through this weekly post, we can discuss females we love to hate, or love to love. And maybe, just maybe- we can determine why we react so strongly to them.

If you are interested in participating, please comment on this post or e-mail me and I'll add you to the line-up!

This week's post is by my close friend, Sudha, whom I have known and loved my entire life. We have always shared a love and discussion of books, from Jane Austen to Terry Pratchett, Salman Rushdie to Lindsey Davis. Sudha has introduced me to many fantasy authors, most notably Terry Pratchett and George R. R. Martin. And, with this riveting post, she is likely to get me started on Joe Abercrombie as well.

Who is your Riveter?
Ardee West. Not a grand high lady/queen/noblewoman, but a commoner whose brother is on the rise in the military.

What book does she feature in?
She is a recurring character in Joe Abercrombie's "The First Law" series, made up of three books: The Blade Itself, Before They Were Hanged, Last Argument of Kings.

Do you love her or hate her?
Both. Throughout the book, Ardee West is in an impossible position in a rigidly class based society. Her brother, Major West, is a rising star within the military and her only kin left alive. She comes to the kingdom's capital city from their farm in the north to "see what the center of the world looks like," but since she is a commoner and is not an heiress, she has no social "in." In addition, her brother makes zero time for her and pawns her off on other people to entertain and to talk to. She spends her days reading, getting absurdly drunk, and eventually seducing men out of sheer boredom.

I love her for her fierce intelligence and her sexual independence. She does what she wants to, even though her actions are frowned upon greatly. I hate her because she is the only one to know (and eventually reveals) the dark side of her brother, one of the only really good people in this incredibly dark trilogy of books.

Describe her personality- how would you describe her to a friend?
She is manipulative, tempetuous, and deeply injured emotionally and mentally. Once you find out why she is the way she is and what happened to her and her brother, she still does not always make sense. She is pragmatic but has a good heart, buried deep within her beauty and bitterness. The reader doesn't see it until the very very very end of the last novel, and then the reader realizes that she was this good hearted all along.

Can you compare her to a celebrity?
She has the psychotically self destructive elements of any number of Hollywood leggings-clad starlets coupled with an Angelina Jolie-like contradictory sexiness and compassion. It is HOT.

What makes her riveting?
She effortlessly captures two of the main characters in the book in two very different ways. Her additiction and her habit of seducing men is the only way she can get her brother, her only family, to pay attention to her. That part makes me hate her, but she has no other way to get Major West's attention.

What do you most admire/despise about her?
I despise her addiction to alcohol and her relentless need to needle her brother. I admire her for her independence, even though it doesn't ever get her anywhere.

Would you recommend reading the book in which the Riveter features?
Yes time a billion! The First Law series is very dark and depressing, but tightly written and well plotted.

Any parting remarks?
I do not generally credit male fantasy writers for developing good female characters. Joe Abercrombie does an excellent job with Ardee because she is not the archetypical damsel in distress or destructive seductress. She is also quite clearly put in her place by society and cannot move within its confines, which is a very realistic depiction of women in medeval times and perhaps even modern times. I believe Ardee is a truly feminist construction.


  1. Ardee sounds like a captivating character. I added the first book of the series on my TBR list and I am very looking forward to discovering her myself.

    Thank you for introducing her, Sudha :)

  2. Definitely sounds like a captivating read. I appreciate the visual of Ardee as a leggings-clad Mary Kate Olsen, but hotter. Thanks Sudha and Aarti! Adding to my list.

  3. I don't know if she is Mary Kate Olson...perhaps a Lindsey Lohan. But better, and without the mysterious bag of coke in pants that weren't hers.

  4. Sounds good now I do wanna read it...though that image of her as Olsen or Lohan kind of put me off

  5. I just read another outstanding review of the first book in this series yesterday. After reading about your riveter, it sounds like these books are a must read for me. She sounds like an interesting character. Thanks!

  6. I'm going to have to remember this for next week. I don't remember characters as vividly as you do, but I'll give it a try.

    And I am going to have to get my hands on that book. The cover is wonderful.

  7. I read the first book in this trilogy. I liked it, but it was a harder read for me than normal. I will read the second book in due course!

  8. Ardee sounds like an interesting character.


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