The McKenna Test

You’ve all heard of the Bechdel Test at this point, regarding two women having a conversation in a movie about something other than a man.

Mike Underwood proposed a test for lists of books and women writers as follows:

“Do we have a Bechdel Test analogue for Recommendation Lists? Where if you don’t have at >25% works by women and >25% PoC, you fail?”

In recognition of her efforts in getting bookstores like Waterstones to have more women writers on their tables, I propose to call this The McKenna Test.

Soul of Fire by Laura Anne Gilman

Soul of Fire is the second in Laura Anne Gilman’s Portals duology, following Heart of Briar. In that previous volume, Janet, discovering her lover has been kidnapped by elves, forges an unlikely alliance with supernatural creatures to find a way into elfland and, in the best traditions of Tam Lin, win him back.

This accomplished, there still remains a greater threat–why have the elves been so active, and with a time limit on a truce running out, can Janet and her friends find a way to keep them from their voracious predations on humanity? And can they even figure out *why* the elves have stepped up their hunger to take mortals back with them?

Some of the characters feel less well used than what I would like, but its a more than satisfactory conclusion to the duology. The novel worked extremely well for me as an airplane read, an excellent diversion and diversement in the harried life of airplane travel. Gilman’s work transported me to a whole different set of problems and characters for a while, and kept my mind off of the chaos around me. That counts for a lot.

There is no giant magic reset button at the end of the story, though, and Gilman takes some care in looking at, and deconstructing some of the tropes of urban fantasy and romance alike in finishing off the two book series. Every time I read a Laura Anne Gilman novel, I get the sense that I haven’t read enough Laura Anne Gilman novels. Soul of Fire continues that tradition.

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