Title: The Women’s War
Author: Jenna Glass
Series: The Women’s War #1
Genre: High Fantasy
Date of Publication: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey
In this patriarchal, high-fantasy world, women are used by royals as bargaining chips and are valued only for their ability to reproduce. But the tables have finally turned. A curse has been cast, one that allows all women to choose whether or not they want to bear a child. Women have finally regained some control over their lives, but the battle has just begun. Many men will do whatever they can to keep their power.
Plot & Characters
Touted as a feminist high-fantasy, The Women’s War does not disappoint in this regard. This curse that is cast upon all the kingdoms gives women some semblance of power, but of course, men still seek to control them.
The novel follows several women over the course of the months following this curse that befell all the kingdoms. Each of the women is in a different stage of life – whether eighteen or the ripe old age of forty, and each of them experiences different levels of oppression. Each woman is controlled (to varying degrees) by the men in her life. These women’s journeys, while quite different in plot, are also eerily similar. It’s fascinating to watch their characters develop over the span of this 550-page book. However, because there are so many different characters living in different kingdoms, they can be hard to keep track of, which does slow down the pace of the book. The individual chapters are a tad too short, giving you a taste of what is going on with one character before switching over to the next, which can add to the confusion. Although a lot happens in this book, this is not a quick read.
While there are several main female characters in this story, I will focus on three: Ellin, Alys, and Jellin. When her family is tragically killed, Ellin becomes the new Queen of Rhozinolm. Having a female sovereign has precedent in her land, but the men of the council seek to manipulate her and seize the throne for themselves. Alys is a forty-year-old widow with a gift for magic, which before now she was unable to use. She hopes to use magic to make the world a better place for her children. Jellin is Alys’s eighteen-year-old daughter who must use her wits to avoid marriage to an unsavory man.
While many men in this novel are reprehensible, Glass includes several men who are quite the opposite. They are masculine and strong while able and willing to allow the women in their lives to be strong as well. They don’t have the need to weaken others in order to feel strong themselves. I was a little worried going into this novel that in order to make the women powerful they would have to cut down the men. This is true for the egotistical, psychopathic, power-hungry men of this world, but fortunately Glass makes the distinction between these men and the allies, and The Women’s War does not develop a dangerous “us vs. them” mentality.
I absolutely adore how magic works in this world. It’s so simple, yet unique in concept. There are elements everywhere, some which are feminine, some masculine, and some neutral. Each element has a unique purpose. Glass expertly introduces readers to the nuances of this type of magic without readers having the chance to realize that so much information is being fed to them. There aren’t pages upon pages describing how magic works. Instead, she weaves the information about magic into the plot, revealing just what readers need to know as they need to know it. Magic is so critical to the way that this world works, and it’s quite cleverly done. By adding a “mote” of the element “rho” to the “cheval” (horse-like invention for transportation), you start it up and can begin your journey.
The existence of magic and how the people use it reinforces the book’s themes of oppression. Many women have the ability to see and use these magical elements, but, depending on which kingdom they reside in, it varies between being simply frowned upon and being illegal.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a high fantasy epic that blends with dystopian themes of oppression. Looking for a feminist read that doesn’t lecture or feel quite as depressing as The Handmaid’s Tale? Then this is the book for you.
*Thank you to Del Rey and OLA Super Conference for the ARC for review*
Find the book: