“The hero is an eunuch.” said the author Marj McRae.
“Wait, what?” was my reaction. She emailed me the link, I downloaded Not A Man in e-book form and dove in.
An eunuch – I expected there to be a few descriptions of not so very nice things – violence and rape. I mean, it’s a young boy being castrated. And frankly, I was stunned by the level of research and detail. I now know a lot of very interesting things about castration and about Oxford.
That’s right, Oxford. As in Oxford University. You see, Shuki, is not content with the fate of other eunuchs – lovable as along as they are beautiful. He has other plans. He wants his freedom and Oxford University is in his sights. And with his brains, he manages to manipulate others into providing him with the skills and knowledge he needs to succeed.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted. The relationships Shuki has with people are odd to say the least, mostly because as an eunuch, relationships work out very differently. Very differently. Rape is a constant threat and theme, at times accepted as something that will despite precautions inevitably happen, and at other times something absolutely terrifying. Nearly every named male character Shuki meets in the book, feels an urge to act. And you do find a lot of information on what happens to women in particular societies, those of lower social orders and those whom tragedy has befallen.
You do find yourself cheering Shuki on, you want him to not be raped, you want him to win and achieve things even if it means that he has to resort to pimping himself to the highest bidder to pay for Oxford’s fees. You want him to find someone he can be happy with regardless of the fact that he cannot feel sexual attraction and you find yourself wondering who it will be. And then you dive into despair when the most horrifying things imaginable happen to him.
But Shuki is persistent even though his main flaw seems to be how blind he is for most of the novel to the fact that he will always be wanted, coveted and desired in ways that extremely dangerous and that knowing self defense and displays of power are not enough to protect him or those he cares for.
The book itself starts out a bit odd – I felt a bit like everything was just being described for the first few pages but once you knew Shuki, you were dragged in which I think says a lot about McRae’s ability to create characters.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Author: Marj McRae
Series: Shuki series
Publisher: Samray Books via Smashwords.