Review: Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski

The over of 'Sere from the Green' by Lauren Jankowski

This is a review of the OLD edition of the novel, and does not entirely reflect the NEW edition of the novel (in particular, the NEW edition of the novel has some explicit ace content).

This is the fourth work of fiction I’m reviewing for Asexual Fiction from Smashwords Month

What is this story about?

Okay, I generally try to avoid reading reviews other people wrote before I finished writing my review. However, this time, I could not help myself, and I found a plot summary which is both a) accurate and b) better than what I probably would have written on my own. So here is the plot summary by Kirsti (Melbourne’s on my mind):

… it starts out being a story about an ordinary girl taking photos of a murder that subsequently vanishes without a trace, and her being all “Um. WHUT”. But it rapidly turns into “Guess what? You’ve got paranormal abilities! And you have a twin sister! And you need to learn to use your powers immediately because of reasons! And also your father was a pretty bad dude! Who may or may not be dead! And also now there are more vanishing murders! But we can’t really do anything about those, so go break into this museum and steal a CD instead! Also, there’s this mysterious guy following you but don’t worry about him! Instead, worry about the assassin who’s after you!”

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?

There is discussion of sexual mores and one character’s sexual history, but nothing sexual happens in the story itself.

Dead bodies of people who were probably murdered appear. Also, there are assassins. And there is quite a bit of various kinds of physical violence.

Tell me more about this novel.

This is a novel which is full of very well-worn tropes such as ‘ordinary person who doesn’t like their life discovers that they are actually from a magic race and they have magic powers’. Having such well-worn tropes does not make a story bad – after all, if one looked at my favorite works of fiction, one would find plenty of well-worn tropes. However, the tropes feel so worn because … I don’t know how to put it. This novel feels very derivative to me. And I don’t mean that in the fanfiction sense. Some works of fanfiction – such as Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality – take settings, plots, and characters from another work of fiction, but because it is driven by original ideas which the writer cares a lot about, it feels fresh and original. This story feels like it lacks that type of inspirational spark, so its just copying a bunch of common tropes from other stories and throwing them together.

The plot is incoherent. It goes all over the place, and the structure of the plot is downright bad. For example, we never learn what was going on with the dead body in Chapter 1.

Like most readers, I prefer to have my novels have some kind of conclusion at the end, even in an ongoing series, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me when a novel ends on a cliffhanger. However, for me to want to continue in a series in which the first novel has a non-conclusive cliffhanger ending, I need confidence that the writer is good at plotting, and that there was a high chance of a satisfying payoff. This novel did not give me that confidence.


On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I give this story a … zero.

Well, I’ve had a pretty good run of ‘asexual’ fiction which actually has asexual content, even if it’s just a character quickly saying ‘by the way, I’m asexual’. I guess it was only a matter of time until I ran into ‘asexual’ fiction which did not have any asexual content, especially since the vast majority of works of fiction also rate a zero on the asexuality content scale.

But maybe some of the characters are ace, and this is revealed in future novels in the series. I do not want to read any other book in this series, so unless someone who has read later books tells me, I’ll never know.

There are hints that the protagonist might be ace (or aro) such as:

“Not interested, buddy,” she said bluntly as she turned her attention back to the dance floor.

“Did that sound too much like a pick-up line or was the delivery wrong?” the man asked. The question didn’t sound like flirtation but rather a genuine inquiry, as if he didn’t know what he had done wrong.

“I’m just not interested,” she repeated. The mystery man shrugged and smiled slightly.

And here is another hint:

“Neither has your sister,” Jade countered. “You haven’t been trained properly yet. I’m sure you’ve seen signs though. Animals naturally relax around you. Sometimes it almost feels like you know what they’re thinking. A longing to run free. One hell of a libido. Am I getting warm?”

Isis shifted her weight and Electra did the same. Neither sister noticed the other mirroring her movement. Well that’s just plain freaky, Jade thought as she repressed a shudder.

… but such hints are not enough for me to consider this to be ‘ace’ or ‘aro’ content.

Furthermore, throughout the story, the ‘good’ characters (i.e. the ones the reader are supposed to be sympathetic with) seem totally sold on that specific brand of feminism which declares that women are as ‘liberated’ as they are sexually active, and that having sex is the way to counter patriarchal men who want women to be chaste. Here is a quote:

“Don’t think too much about it. They’re mad at Mom for breaking just about every rule laid down by our ancestors,” Electra explained, flipping some hair over her shoulder. “She’s a sexually liberated single mother and they’re old-fashioned, not the best combination.”

I really hope that this is just a setup for this specific type of ‘feminism’ to be questioned and broken down in future books in the series, because this type of thinking has generally been bad for asexual people, and since this book is marketed at asexual readers, I hold it to a higher standard than mainstream books.

Was this written by an asexual?

Yes, Lauren Jankowski is asexual.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

No, I do not.

One may buy this book from Smashwords and various ebook retailers. This book and the other books in the series are also going to be (re-)released by Snowy Wings Publishing.

3 thoughts on “Review: Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski

  1. Pingback: Asexual Fiction from Smashwords Month | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  2. I’ve now read the updated version of the book (didn’t read the original). It does have explicit ace content–there’s one grey-A character (the main character) and one aro ace character (although the aro ace one, if it hadn’t been explicitly stated “they’re aro ace,” I would not have known). I can’t really recommend it, though, because none of the other issues you raised here have been solved (including the “sexually liberated” feminism issue).

    • Yes, I’ve read the updated one too (and I should probably update this post to clarify that this is a review of the original, not the new version).

      Actually, the new version tones down the “sexually liberated” feminism and has a more coherent plot, so even for the other issues I raised the new version is a major improvement.

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