Have you ever read fanfiction? Do you know what fanfiction (FF) is? Just in case you don’t, go to www.fanfiction.net, pick a favourite movie or TV show or genre, sit in a comfortable chair and enjoy some light reading. You’ll understand soon enough. My first exposure to this phenomenon began with Xena: Warrior Princess. Wow! What an experience. If I’m not wrong, I believe Xena FF is still going strong.
Anyway, there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to FF and aren’t aware of it. Does 50 Shades of Grey sound familiar? Ahhh, there you go. 50 Shades of Grey is written by E. L. James (50SG) and was originally FF based on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. In the original FF story, Christian represented Edward, Anastasia was Bella, Anastasia’s photographer best friend Jose was Jacob and so on. In the original series of 50SG, there was a little of the Edward vs Jacob angst like in Twilight. Not so much in 50 Shades – the movies.
In brief, FF is where a fan decides to write a story based on a TV show, or movie, or book or… Their story will provide alternate endings, or introduce romatic relationships with different characters, or provide missing scenes, and similiarly to 50SG, the fan will take all the characters from the original source and place them in a new world, be in fantastical or real world. Some FF are well written, many are not, some are short, such as 100-words, some seem to never end. The imagination of the writers is endless and so are FF.
Anyway, back to my narrative. I’ve just finished reading A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (AMROW), which I felt was well written, entertaining and, in my opinion, complete fanfiction. No complaints! As stated, it was well written, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word. My main reason for picking up the book was because Sherlock Holmes is one of the main characters – and I love all things Sherlock. AMROW is the 2nd in a series of books about a young lady, Mary Russell, who through a chance encounter when she was 15 years old, became affiliated with Sherlock Holmes. In AMROW, the year is 1920-21, Mary is 20-turning 21, Sherlock is 59, and retired from his investigating services.
The reason I classify AMROW as FF is because at some point Mary and Sherlock get married. Yup. They tie the knot, get hitched, walk down the aisle and so on. Sherlock is initially Mary’s mentor, later her companion detective, and finally her love interest. John Watson is called ‘uncle John’, although uncle is used to imply close family friend. Arthur Conan Doyle is Watson’s annoying, exacerbating book agent. This last is the biggest(!) reason for this to be FF. When real people mingle with fictional characters, you know a fan has taken liberties. 😉 Does it matter if this book is labelled as fanfiction? Again, I don’t think so. INMHO, this book is written better than 50SG. (Oh no! There goes my inner goddess.) I only mention the concept of FF because it was my first thought when reading the synopsis.
I’ve read all Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books. And some by other authors where the protagonist is a relation of Sherlock (The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg), where Arthur Conan Doyle is the main character taking on the role of solving mysteries (The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth). I enjoyed them all. For the most part, they are light reading, nothing too intense, gory, or difficult.
AMROW was no different. Mary has just graduated from Oxford with a degree in theology. She also turns 21 and inherits her family’s fortune. Through a friend, she meets Margery Childe, a minister and leader of the New Temple of God. Margery is a suffragette and a mystic. I really enjoyed Margery’s speeches to her congregation and her conversations with Mary. This probably has to do with the fact that I read the book in audiobook format. The narrator intoned just the right feeling and intensity in the monologues and conversations, making Margery easy to like and very mysterious. There is a moment where she, Margery, is attacked and hurt badly. She refuses medical help and refuses to cancel her session at the temple wanting only to be left alone to pray. The few who witnessed her injuries are later shocked to see her completely healed when she departs for the stage. Were the injuries faked? Did someone help clean her up? Or was it a miracle? Oooooo!
Mary attempts to identify who is murdering temple supporters, wealthy women who have bequeathed money to the temple. Like Sherlock, Mary dons disguises, speaks with officials such as Lestrade’s son also named Lestrade, and follows clues with some support from Sherlock to solve the mystery. What’s nice is that Sherlock isn’t completely involved in the mystery. He has his own agenda and appears occasionally, usually when Mary needs saving, support or comfort. In this book, Mary has opportunities to demonstrate her worth, her investigative abilities and her intelligence. She’s very likable, smart, a feminist but not a suffragette, and is determined to be thought of as an equal. By the end of the book, she and Sherlock survive a near-death experience and solve the case.
In regards to her relationship with Sherlock, it is based on mutual respect. Sherlock sees Mary as a great improvement to John Watson and sees her as an intellectual, willing to investigate, ready with intelligent questions and quick to decipher clues and anomalies. The topic of love appears quickly in the book and begins with a conversation initiated by Sherlock.
Sherlock: Go on Russell, you may as well ask your question. You’ve spent 7 hours in getting here or perhaps I ought to say 6 years.
Mary: What on earth are you talking about? …
Sherlock: A question you have finally nerved yourself up to ask and the momentum carried you along.
Mary: And what question might that be?
Sherlock: I expect you came to ask me to marry you.
Mary: Holmes, what do you…what can you…?
Sherlock: So, Russell, what say you? Have you a question for me?
She is gobsmacked by the whole situation and runs away – literally. She may have gotten away from Sherlock but the idea he has placed in her head germinates. She thinks about it in quiet moments and starts to realize her true feelings for him, feelings she did not know she had.
Luckily for me, this romance is not a large part of the story; it’s actually quite small. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not interested in reading romances. I normally have no opinion of romances between people with an age gap. But in this case, there are 38 years between Sherlock and Mary and she’s only 21 when they marry. I realize this is Victorian times and age gaps were common. But that’s a bit excessive, no? Anyway, I will avoid saying anything more. I’m not turned off, I am simply not interested.
The book was great fun. I enjoyed the bickering between Sherlock and Mary and I especially enjoyed the female protagonist as she was portrayed. Strong, smart, and completely able to handle what life placed in front of her. She’s no Wonder Woman as she is scared and doubts herself, and often needs and accepts help. I’ve started reading the first book of the series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, to understand how these two found each other.