I read this book and enjoyed it SUPER SUPER MUCH! Yes…super super. I am very excited about book two! So I am helping to celebrate the upcoming release by hosting this read along, where the fantastic Cal Spivey give us insight into the happenings of chapters 6 and 7!
If you like fantasy…you’ll love this book. And Pip is the absolute BEST!
“Your brother is a slimeball.”: The Untold Read-Along Part Three
Welcome to The Untold Tale read-along! The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey is the first book in the Accidental Turn series, the second book of which, The Forgotten Tale, will be released on December 6th. To prep for book two, we’re sharing a ten-part series that will be part recap, part review, and part discussion of the book that has been called the “most important work of fantasy written in 2015.”
If you want to read along with us and avoid the SPOILERS that will follow, you can pick up your copy of The Untold Tale from major online retailers.
About the book
Forsyth Turn is not a hero. Lordling of Turn Hall and Lysse Chipping, yes. Spymaster for the king, certainly. But hero? That’s his older brother’s job, and Kintyre Turn is nothing if not legendary. However, when a raid on the kingdom’s worst criminal results in the rescue of a bafflingly blunt woman, oddly named and even more oddly mannered, Forsyth finds his quaint, sedentary life is turned on its head.
Dragged reluctantly into a quest he never expected, and fighting villains that even his brother has never managed to best, Forsyth is forced to confront his own self-shame and the demons that come with always being second-best. And, more than that, when he finally realizes where Lucy came from and why she’s here, he’ll be forced to question not only his place in the world, but the very meaning of his own existence.
Smartly crafted, The Untold Tale gives agency to the unlikeliest of heroes: the silenced, the marginalized, and the overlooked. It asks what it really means to be a fan when the worlds you love don’t resemble the world you live in, celebrates the power of the written word, challenges tropes, and shows us what happens when someone stands up and refuses to remain a secondary character in their own life.
Part Three: Chapters 6 and 7
In this section, Forsyth is staggered by Pip’s revelation that the world he lives in is the fictional setting of a series of books called The Tales of Kintyre Turn, by Elgar Reed. Reed, an author from Pip’s real world, wrote these books as a very pulp-fantasy, Terry Goodkind-esque saga of the glorious hero Kintyre Turn and his squire and chronicler Sir Bevel Dom. In other words, Forsyth has lived his entire life in Kintyre’s shadow by design.
Pip and Forsyth recover enough to return to the dinner party, where Bevel promptly bullies Pip into dancing, despite her first polite and then blunt protests. At least he is a kind partner, instructive as he leads her through an unfamiliar dance. But before anyone can relax, Kintyre cuts in, groping Pip and exacerbating her injuries.
The emotional roller-coaster of an evening comes to a head when Bevel, per his and Kintyre’s usual routine with maidens, proposes a threesome with Pip. When Pip refuses, an argument as to whose bed she’ll go to (“How about I go to nobody’s bed?” Pip says) culminates in her outing of Kintyre and Bevel as lovers, per the homosexual subtext of the novels.
Kintyre refuses to escort Pip home, and Pip refuses to accept his help anyway. Pip convinces Forsyth that they can take on the quest together instead.
“The whole world was created for my brother. To serve him. To exalt and glorify him.” (page 142)
In my life, I have heard people say–in earnest–that a particular deity created this world to serve and fulfill the needs of men. Not mankind, but men, specifically.
Imagine if that were true.
Or, that not only was the world created to serve and fulfill the needs of men, but one man in particular.
Poor Forsyth! The chapters we’ve read so far have all expertly led to this moment. Every reminder of Kintyre’s existence has led to dark recollections from Forsyth of his brother’s rudeness, selfishness, and cruelty. Having been introduced to Kintyre, we see how boorish and offensive he is. I would be crushed to learn that my whole world existed to support someone like him.
Why, though? Isn’t he a hero? Hasn’t he saved people and done great things for the kingdom? One of the amazing things about this series is that as much as it lifts up non-traditional heroism, it also directly challenges the traditional–but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
This section specifically shines a light on Kintyre’s personal relationships and the way his version of masculinity inhibits and damages them.
On page 157, Pip criticizes the fact that Kintyre knows “the social cues and common practices of politeness,” but “has decided…that learning to communicate and interact with other human beings is beneath him. That everyone will just…marvel and obey.” We see this in Kintyre’s behavior toward Forsyth, his own brother, whose every request regarding Kintyre’s stay at Turn Hall is utterly ignored. Kintyre shows up and shows no consideration for what’s already going on. He demands accommodation, but won’t accommodate–not even, or perhaps especially not, when it comes to respecting Pip’s triggers and boundaries, first when Forsyth warns him of them and later when Pip herself tries to set them.
And poor Bevel! His exchange with Pip on pages 173-175, the morning after the party and Pip’s outing of him as in love with Kintyre, is heartbreaking. He’s terrified because Kintyre “doesn’t love anyone,” including Bevel, though they’ve been traveling together for more than a decade and have a sexual relationship (albeit one expressed through threesomes with a woman). Pip’s exposure of them has brought an end to even that, Bevel fears, because Kintyre views love as a game: “he makes [women] fall in love with him and then he runs…now he knows, and he’s going to run away from me.” Kintyre won’t even look at Bevel.
Kintyre’s adventures are rife with sexual exploits, an integral part of any male power fantasy given the expectations placed on men to only want one thing, as I and I’m sure others heard from our mothers when we were teenage girls. But that’s all they are: exploitations. Kintyre’s masculinity is about being adored, not adoring, and he’s never shown to have even the smallest bit of kindness to give in return.
Even as Bevel propositions Pip for a threesome, it has a perfunctory feel about it. There’s no excitement, there’s certainly no chemistry between Pip and either hero. “Why don’t we just jump ahead to the end of the evening?” Bevel says, as he must do whenever there’s a maiden about–organizing threesomes, as Pip says, just so he can touch Kintyre. Kintyre, for his part, is in an “indolent slouch” until Pip says no, and only then does he interject. To my reading, he doesn’t care about having sex with Pip–he cares that she went against the script and rejected him.
I could go on–we haven’t even talked about the way Kintyre’s behavior, even at a remove, infects Forsyth’s instinctual reactions to Pip and their potential relationship, though we did touch on that last week–but by the end of this section, Kintyre is gone, and Pip and Forsyth have a new challenge to overcome: quest planning.
This next one goes out to all the fantasy nerds out there. Join us–and author J.M. Frey!–for a little nerding out as Pip and Forsyth hit the books before they hit the road. Next week, part four will be hosted by Michelle Hoehn over at A Sleuth of Bears and cover chapters 8, 9, and 10.