At the end of Shadow Boxer, Tiana, Evy's little sister and new lightening rider has come under the influence of Penya. Evy is quick to blame herself and is desperate to get her sister back no matter the cost. Constantine, the ancient Roman fighter who loves Evy desperately and refuses to see her at risk, volunteers to travel with Evy to find Tiana. The only problem is that they don't know where in time Tiana is. When Constantine and Evy learn from Ilif, that Penya plans to alter the life of Augusta Ada Byron - a mathematician and scientist, whose work went unrecognized due to her gender, they become determined to end Penya's so-called evil plot. However, even if they find the right Augusta, London is a pretty large place to have to search without any real clues. Can they get to Tiana before she completely becomes Penya's pawn?
Penya is the antagonist in this series and yet I find it striking that she constantly seeks out women who because of sexism never reached their full potential in life. Instead of seeing her as evil, it made me wonder how much further humanity might have advanced if it were not for patriarchy. For so long, women were barred from education and the little they did get were largely arts and language focused and certainly not much math and science. Whatever women managed to produce was largely ignored, unless they managed to get it published under a pen name and work had to be done with little funding and certainly for many in secrecy. It's hard to see Penya as evil for wanting to change this.
“Ada is far more genius than the men working on the first computers. This opportunity will allow her the freedom to express herself scientifically, to show off her mathematical genius , and to prove that women should never have to hide behind their initials.”
Tiana blinked and frowned. She didn’t know much about Penya other than what Evy had told her— which wasn’t a lot— but Penya sounded like her friend Sasha’s mom after the divorce. She’d turned all wounded-bird about her soon-to-be ex, went all women’s lib weird and she was always telling Tiana and Sasha that they needed to embrace their womanhood and not take orders from men. It made Tiana feel uncomfortable and strange. Penya was as manic as Sasha’s mom on a tirade right now.
“That’s really great.” Thankfully, Sasha had figured out the best way to deal with her mom and Tiana used it now. “It sounds like you want to make things better for her and for all girls.” Tiana pressed her clasped hands to her chest like she’d seen Sasha do.
“Thank you.” Penya preened. “You’ll do just fine, Tiana. Just fine."
Night Storm is confusing. From the very beginning of this series, it is strongly suggested that Ilif is not to be liked or tolerated, largely based on his rampant sexism. Ilif is dismissive of Evy instantly and is quick to point out that before her, there had never been another female lightening rider. Then when we have Penya, who actively works through history to improve the lives of women and it is heavily implied that her passion is weird and manic. Every gain women have made throughout history has had to be fought for and therefore I don't see her passion as out of place at all. For her trouble, she is murdered by Constantine and slut shamed by Iliaf. Thanks for that Greyson.
Then there is our protagonist Evy, who is just one mass confusion. In Lightening Rider, the first book in this series, Evy is tough and jaded from having to constantly negotiate sexism but she has changed so much that I barely recognize her. On one hand she tells Constantine not to fight her battles for her after her argument with Ilif but just moments later is swearing to obey Constantine.