Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman | DNF’ed and a call out of possible racism

Beyond the Wall

I didn’t expect to find myself publishing a book review at 9:30pm on a Saturday evening. Especially when I have another blog post coming in the morning. But I just decided to DNF this book, and while I usually just leave my explanation on Goodreads…well, this one took some explaining. My “mini review” wasn’t exactly mini anymore. So I did a quick hop-skip-and a jump over here, and decided to publish it here too.

spoiler free

Let’s get into it!

10

Synopsis (1)

(Found on Goodreads)

Britannia. A conquered land.

Running. Weeping. Blood on her lips.
Blood in her mouth.
Blood that is not her own.

After maiming her master, Cassia has no choice but to run. Beyond the river, fair to the north, stands Hadrian’s Wall – the furthest limit of the mighty Roman Empire. And beyond the wall? Freedom. With dogs on her trail and a bounty on her head, the journey seems impossible. But then Cassia meets Marcus – slick, slippery, silver-tongued – a true and perfect son of Rome. And her only hope.

Review

*This book was sent to me by the publishers in exchange for an honest review

DNF’ed at page 154

I’m not really sure how to go about this. Because from what I read, it’s not exactly a bad book. It’s just…not one for me.

I didn’t get along with the writing style. One of the first things I picked up on was the excess amount of exclamation marks used. Which fair enough, can show more emotion. But…it just made the main character sound like she was being melodramatic. I couldn’t really take her seriously, she sounded somewhat childish. And I thought to myself “well, she is a teenage girl. Maybe that’s how the author sees us all.” Which wouldn’t have made it any better, really. But then we switched to an old man’s side of the story, and the exclamation marks were still there, and so…maybe not.

It didn’t really help that the story moved so quickly. While it might be good for some – don’t we all love getting through a book really quickly? – to me it just felt like every event was based off a lot of handy conveniences, when in reality nothing like that would have happened. Wow, this girl is lucky.

And while the story was going ok for me, something about the writing grated on me. I’m not saying it’s an awful book – not at all – it’s just really not for me. If someone else I know wants to read this book, then I’m happy to give it to them and hope they enjoy it more. It’s just a shame I didn’t like it myself, I had high hopes.

One final thing I feel I ought to mention: there’s one particular sentence that lodged itself into my mind, because it just seemed…wrong. I would say racist, but it’s a bit of a rocky situation, and I don’t feel it’s my place to say with certainty. I’ll explain.

So, there’s a scene where the main character is disguising herself so she can escape the city. Bare in mind this is set in the Roman Empire. So, the main character has these marks around her wrists and ankles where her mother had pricked pigment into her skin as a baby. As you would expect, these could be used to identify her. And so during the process of her disguise, this sentence says…

“Her arms and legs, her face and hands were darkened with walnut juice from the same source until the marks on ankles and wrists were almost obliterated and she looked like what she was pretending to be – the boy slave of a traveling trader.”

Now for the many thoughts on this. First of all, I don’t know how strong walnut juice works as a stain but just hang on – why does she need to be “darkened” to look like a slave? She was a slave right from the beginning of this book, with tanned skin from working outdoors and ginger hair. And it’s mentioned countless times how pretty she is at that point. She was “chosen” for her master’s son, of course she must be pretty. And yet, to LOOK like a slave she has to be…”darkened”? That just seems like racist prejudice to me. Would it not have been better to find a substance that closely matched her skin tone and just cover the marks? Or would that mean she doesn’t look like a slave, if she keeps her natural skin tone? You see what I’m getting at here?

Of course, I may be wrong. I’m a teen blogger still learning every day about diversity and what phrases are a no-no, but the fact that that one sentence jumped out of the page at me screaming NO… Well, that says enough for me to at least mention it. I could be wrong. I could be making a fuss over nothing. It could be an unfortunate mess of phrasing. I will say that nothing else in the book seemed racist, though I can’t vouch for the second half since I marked it DNF. It was just that one sentence, but I thought I’d mention it anyway because to me, it’s just wrong.

Anyway, this “mini-review” is a not-so-mini review after all that explaining. But I hope I got my points across clearly. I just didn’t want to continue this book and come out of it with a review full of hate, after forcing myself to finish it. So here we are today. This is just my experience of the book. No book is for everyone.

Rated 1/5 stars

1 star

give a warning

Share your thoughts!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

If you haven’t, have you read any of her other books?

Is this on your TBR?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time…

Ashleigh

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20 thoughts on “Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman | DNF’ed and a call out of possible racism

  1. First of all, love your blogover – your blog makeover. It’s amazingly good.
    Second of all…I can’t really tell by that sentence. I guess the context is missing for me. Did most slaves have dark skin in this book? Were free people lighter? Was it NECESSARY? If not, then I don’t see the point. I still don’t know if it’s racist but might be a horrible stereotype of what people think slaves should look like?
    I’m glad you DNF’d it as life is too short for tons of exclamations!!! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!! ❤
      As for context, it wasn't really mentioned what skin tones people had. I vaguely remember most people being classed as pale or tanned from the sun, and from the setting I think most would assume they were white, including slaves. There wasn't anyone claimed as having a brown/black skin tone as far as I can remember. It was more the insinuation that her skin tone had to be dark to look like a slave, whereas she had previously been called pretty on numerous occasions – while still a slave. So it was the skin tone that made all the difference. It's subtle, but it's a negative stereotype. I've had a PoC agree with me on Goodreads, saying it's subtle racism but they'd have to stop reading if they noticed it. So I guess it was ok for me to have pointed it out?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh it’s definitely ok to point that stuff out…I was just trying to puzzle it through….the “need” for the author to include that sentence. Sometimes I get when it’s needed and in this case it sounds like it wasn’t…sounds like they were falling back on the old stereotype of the “dark-skinned” slave. You can always point something out that rings warning bells. Sometimes I just try to see if there’s a misunderstanding…in this case, you’re definitely right.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That definitely sounds like a microaggression at the very least. The sentence clearly states that dark skin = slave. And if she’d been a slave all along, then how does her darkened skin make her look more like a slave? Clearly people with lighter skin could be enslaved too. It definitely seems to be based on internal prejudice if you ask me. Anyway, sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this one. That’s always a bummer. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I cannot comment on the sentence and potential racism as I feel I would have to read more of this to make sure I grasped the full context. But I think you did a wonderful job of breaking down the “why’s” that this did not work for you. A well thought out and seemingly fair and insightful DNF review. I hope you feel better after making the decision to approach it this way. Nice job 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I always appreciate an honest DNF review! I’m not sure about the statement, as I’d have to read more of the book to know what was going on… but I do think that if you felt uncomfortable by that statement and you felt in your heart it was wrong, that’s all that matters. If you were bothered, you did the right thing by putting it down, in my opinion. Nice review, Ashleigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good review! Especially the call-out. I think that it is extremely odd that the author thought slaves in Rome had dark skin because that is not historically accurate at all. Anyone who wasn’t a Roman could be a slave in Rome. Hell, even Romans could be a slave. How odd that the author associates dark skin with slavery even in this setting… just makes no sense at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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