Kagan, Janet: Hellspark (re-read)

In memory of Janet Kagan, I quickly re-read Hellspark recently. I liked it better than the first time I read it, perhaps because I’ve been very much in the mood for books about the joys of figuring things out. I wouldn’t say that this was as good as the Steerswoman series, but it scratches a lot of the same itch.

The book is juggling more threads than I remembered, and as a result the pacing is occasionally odd. But the characters (and, I admit, being in quick-read mode) pulled me through. And I was delighted to serendipitously discover the existence of Earth languages in which the evidentiary basis of a statement is an intrinsic part of the grammar—instead of reducing my admiration at Kagan’s invention, it just increases my overall sense-of-wonder. Language is so cool.


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  1. R.I.P., Ms Kagan. Two or three gems beats a boatload of mediocrity.
    Kate, do you have a citation for discussion of natural languages that include evidentiary status in the grammar? I’d be very interested to see that.

  2. It came up in a lecture I was listening to. The phrase I remember is “evidential markers,” which leads me to the Wiki article on evidentiality, which may or may not be a place to start.

  3. Excellent! Thanks, Kate. “Evidentiary” only got me legal discussions :-).

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