Last Updated on December 20, 2022 by ThoughtsStained
When I discovered that The Women’s War by Jenna Glass being marketed as a feminist fantasy of empowerment, I became quite excited! I definitely wanted to read more feminist fantasy in my life and, in looking for comparative titles for my own feminist work, I hoped this might become one.
Unfortunately, while I did enjoy some aspects, others…not so much.
Publisher: Del Ray | Release Date: September 2019 | Pages: 576
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: Paperback | Source: Bought
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?
On the Page
- Rape (on-the-page, violent)
- Heavy misogyny
- Abuse (verbal, physical, emotional)
- Anger issues
- Fat shaming
- Body shaming
- Forced marriage
- Child abuse
- Loss of a loved one (death of a family member, death of a child)
- Slut shaming
- Suicide/sacrificial death.
Content warnings are written up by me, unless specified. Subject to being an incomplete list, though guided by referencing this list and trying to highlight as many as I can identify.
- STRONG “Fuck the patriarchy” vibes. That had to be hands down my favorite aspect of this book. While it was really hard to read about how women were treated–often poorly, with abuse and neglect and judged as inferior not rare occurrences–it was also super empowering as some of our characters began to fight back, as the bricks of these patriarchal societies began to get torn down and how inspiring these women were. I’ve been ready to smash the patriarchy for a while now, but after reading this? I was vibrating and unable to sleep.
- How emotionally invested I got. I got really emotionally invested in some of these characters, Alysoon and her family, in particular. It’s because of that invested that I literally read the last 200+ pages in one sitting and resigned myself to stay up until 1am to see how this ended. But also, FUCK Delnamal. Like, fuck him to the highest degrees possible. He’s like Joffery, but worse.
- The ending. Gave me a lot of “how dare you” vibes.
- Hard to keep track of who is who. I definitely struggled throughout this for most of the book. We have a lot of POVs and many different players within this–which makes complete sense for the political narrative that it is–yet I struggled to keep up with who was who, and how they all fit together in the larger scheme of things.
- Fatness equated to evil. This upset me a great deal, because why was this a thing? A few characters, including Delnamal, who are depicted as vile and evil because of the thing they have done, yet another aspect that is included to help “confirm” his evilness is definitely his being fat. This is mentioned multiple times and, considering there is no positive fat rep, that’s the obvious conclusion that’s being drawn. Which, as a fat person who is in recovery for ED, that was…not great to read.
- Where do queer people fit into this world? I was also really disappointed that we’re presented with a novel that is labeled as a feminist fantasy that…doesn’t include any queer people anywhere, nor any clues on how they fit into this world? Like, c’mon loves, seriously?
Obviously, this was a mixed book for me! I really enjoyed the vibes and seeing women grow into power and fight back against oppressive systems. But, the negative fat representation and lack of diversity in other ways–not to mention reading a book that is on-the-page oppressive towards women–challenged any attempts to fall completely in love with it. Will I continue the series? Initially, I thought so, but as time as passed, I find my interest waning.