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Women and Magic in an Unfair Society: The Women’s War by Jenna Glass

Saturday, February 8th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Women's War-small Queen of the Unwanted-small

Covers by Jonathan Bartlett

One thing I love about modern fantasy is how different it is. There’s something for every reader, every mood, and every taste. For example, I’ve never read any of Jenna Black’s fantasy novels, such as her Faeriewalker trilogy, her Nikki Glass series, or her more recent Nightstruck novels for Tor teen. But she’s recently taken to writing more serious fantasy under the name Jenna Glass, starting with The Women’s War, and I find these books very intriguing indeed.

The Women’s War is the tale of a patriarchal society, and a revolutionary spell that abruptly gives women control over their own fertility — and the predictable (and unpredictable) events that follow. Here’s an excerpt from Sabaa Tahir’s review in The New York Times Book Review.

The Women’s War is an epic feminist fantasy for the #MeToo era. . . . The Women’s War does what so many classic adult fantasy books do not: It gives us a nuanced portrayal of grown women dealing with a wretchedly unfair society. It is rare to read a fantasy novel with a middle-aged mother as a main character. And it is refreshing to see women becoming heroes in a world that wishes to keep them muzzled.

The Women’s War was published by Del Rey in March of last year. The sequel, Queen of the Unwanted, is due in May. Here’s all the details.

First, here’s the publisher’s description for The Women’s War.

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?

And here’s the blurb for the sequel, 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.

I’m not sure if there are more books to come in the series. But this one is intriguing enough that I may just start with these.

See all our recent coverage of the best in Series Fantasy here.

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