We need to talk about labelling books ‘feminist’ as a way of selling them. Seriously.
CONTENT NOTE: Sexual Assault, Rape, Violence against women.
In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose – to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.
Let me start by saying that I personally really enjoyed this book. It was a really enjoyable story with some truly badass characters and it actually had a phenomenally powerful message.
My only issue with this book was that it fell into the same trap that so many fantasy novels fall into and one that is perhaps best known in the Game of Thrones series. By that I most definitely mean the use of rape and of sexual assault as a plot device. There were barely any characters in this book who were not assaulted in some way. While I respect wanting to tell those stories and the importance of that element in this particular story, for me it diminished the other struggles these women were facing. It felt at times like their main purpose was sexual (whether they wanted to be or not) and that the other main concern they had was bearing or not bearing children. It wasn’t until we encountered some of the characters nearer the end of the book that I felt like there was a purpose beyond just serving and then escaping a man.
Maybe I’m being too sensitive about the subject but it just felt like a point that was hammered too much throughout the book. The villain of this piece is a terrible man, we don’t need it confirmed any more, we get it, please let these women have something other than their sex lives to worry about.
I feel like I’m making a hash of explaining my problem with this otherwise very good book. So I’m going to stop blithering now and talk about the things I did enjoy.
Multiple female characters. How rare is that? To have female characters who work together and become friends over the course of a book? Thats what I want more of in books. Sometimes it’s nice to have the sole female character in the world of men and sometimes you want a nice bunch of ladies dominating the narrative.
I also enjoyed the magical elements, I thought that they were well thought out and used well in the plot, not in a predictable or nonsensical manner. This is a good level of fantasy for this particular story, it was considered and just right.
I also thought this was one of the best uses of multiple POV that I’ve come across in a long time. Basically you get long chunks of each character as and when they are introduced and then closer to the end they start getting more and more choppy as the characters come together! It is such a good way of building tension and creating action and I am a huge fan. This is how multiple POV should be used!
So would I call this feminist fiction? Maybe? Should that be used as a tool for selling it if it isn’t a definitive resounding yes? No. I think this book is a small shuffle in a good direction but there’s a way to go before we’ve perfected truly feminist fiction.
My rating: 4/5 stars (it’s good! I promise!)
Have you read this or the former book (Maresi)? Let me know in the comments below and hit that follow button if you want to never miss a post!
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