The Women’s War
In a feminist fantasy epic, a revolutionary spell gives women the ability to control their own fertility—with consequences that rock their patriarchal society to its core.
“A compulsive read, riveting characters, life-or-death stakes . . . a smashing book!”—Tamora Pierce
When a nobleman’s first duty is to produce a male heir, women are treated like possessions and bargaining chips. But as the aftereffects of a world-altering spell ripple out physically and culturally, women at last have a bargaining chip of their own. And two women in particular find themselves at the liberating crossroads of change.
Alys is the widowed mother of two adolescent children, and the disinherited daughter of a king. Her existence has been carefully regulated, but now she discovers a fierce talent not only for politics but also for magic—once deemed solely the domain of men. Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, young Ellin finds herself unexpectedly on the throne after the sudden death of her grandfather the king and everyone else who stood ahead of her in the line of succession. Conventional wisdom holds that she will marry quickly, then quietly surrender the throne to her new husband. Only, Ellin has other ideas.
The tensions building in the two kingdoms grow abruptly worse when a caravan of exiled women and their escort of disgraced soldiers stumble upon a new source of magic in what was once uninhabitable desert. This new and revolutionary magic—which only women can wield—might well tear down what is left of the patriarchy. The men who currently hold power will do anything to retain it. But what force in the world can stand against the courage and resolution of generations of women who have tasted freedom for the very first time?
Queen of the Unwanted
In the riveting sequel to the feminist fantasy epic The Women’s War, the ability to do magic has given women control over their own bodies. But as the patriarchy starts to fall, they must now learn to rule as women, not men.
Alys may be the acknowledged queen of Women’s Well—the fledgling colony where women hold equal status with men—but she cares little for politics in the wake of an appalling personal tragedy. It is grief that drives her now. But the world continues to turn.
In a distant realm unused to female rulers, Ellin struggles to maintain control. Meanwhile, the king of the island nation of Khalpar recruits an abbess who he thinks holds the key to reversing the spell that Alys’s mother gave her life to create. And back in Women’s Well, Alys’s own half brother is determined to bring her to heel. Unless these women can come together and embrace the true nature of female power, everything they have struggled to achieve may be at risk
A world where the subjugation of women is considered proper and pious is the backdrop for this feminist epic fantasy by Jenna Glass. Thanks to the sacrifice of three women, this way of life changes in an evening of earthquakes and tidal waves that leave destruction as well as a complete societal turn around in its wake.
What I Loved
I loved the unique magic of this world. People create magic potions and enchanted objects from a combination of motes that they pluck from the air. Motes come from a series of wells that dot the land, and some people are more adept at seeing different motes and determining what they can use them for than other people. There are also female motes, male motes, and neutral motes – each serving a different purpose. Most males cannot see female motes, and most females cannot see male motes. To find a mote and use it, one must open their mind’s eye, which causes their seeing eyes to have a white film over them until they close their mind’s eye. It is both an intricate and straightforward method of magic. The concept is quite simple, but the practical aspect can be incredibly detailed and complicated to explain and master.
In The Women’s War, I loved the fiery determination found in the main characters, though in The Queen of the Unwanted, these same characters lost much of that fire and instead succumbed to depression and indecision. The change in states of being is understandable considering all they had been through, but it made for a much darker and denser read. I wanted them to rally and make the deaths matter through the changes that they create rather than appear ineffectual and refuse to grow and take the story forward. Instead of being the harbingers of change that they were in the first book, they are the products of the resulting mental health issues, such as depression and possibly even PTSD. It is tough watching Alys and Corlin go through such a dark period, though it is totally in keeping with what they have been through and is handled in a very respectful manner.
I love the world-building, particularly in The Queen of the Unwanted. I felt like I had a good understanding of how their magic worked and why men maltreat women. It is remarkably interesting how the different areas approached the religion in different ways and how things had been evolving consequently. It was just a matter of time before women fought back against their oppression. I loved how it finally happened, in a way that held a great deal of inherent revenge attached to it.
Let’s say that the men received their just rewards.
To Read or Not to Read
This series is an insightful look at oppression and the many stages that oppressed people go through to acquire the freedoms they deserve. Many intriguing dialogues could result from such an impactful story.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of Queen of the Unwanted in exchange for an honest review.