Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Queen of the Unwanted by Jenna Glass
Narrator: Robin Miles
Published by Penguin Audio on May 5, 2020
Length: 23 hours, 3 minutes
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In this feminist fantasy series, 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 rules 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 whom 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 all come together and embrace the true nature of female power, everything they have struggled to achieve may be at risk.
The Women’s War series has the usual historical fantasy world where women have almost no choices. Their primary worth is to bear an heir for men in the patriarchal society. Men control the magic. Men can also choose to send women to a whorehouse for the “unwanted.” This includes wives who can’t have children, or if the man wants someone else, or even daughters. There, the unwanted are bought for sex or toil in creating spells, where the earnings go to the kingdom.
In the first book, Women’s War, there were considerable battles and the primary characters were women. They were women of royal families. Their magic bloodlines were powerful and one created a spell to give women power over their own fertility. Men were not happy. One women leaves her kingdom and finds a new magic well and forms a new kingdom. Another woman becomes queen when her grandfather and parents are both dead. So now two kingdoms are ruled by women.
Queen of the Unwanted is more of a character study with much less action and battle. I kept expecting a big fight. Men were not happy and kept trying to undermine the women. Unfortunately for them, the woman were fairly successful in their politics and magic. We continue to get the story of Alys and her struggles with ruling the new Women’s Well, and Ellin, the ruler of Rosenam(?) has trade agreements and her own marriage to negotiate. The other women who are primary are two unwanted women from the Abbey in Khalpar who are set to work to find a cure for the spell. I alternated between liking and hating them.
The men are struggling with their lack of control and their anger at the women’s abilities and new power. They have no trouble being greedy, dishonest, and ruthless to get their way. Even the “good” guys have some difficulty. Two men from royal families are part of the arranged marriages, now negotiated by women, and while this is a normal event, they are really not happy. It’s odd because it would have happened to them even if the rulers were men. So their happiness seems a bit more because women are involved in the deciding?
The pace was more even with only a few scenes of action. I did enjoy the characters and the magic. The book is not a cliffhanger but there are some huge plot lines to explore in the next outing. I’ll be looking forward to it!
Robin Miles is the narrator of this world for me. The male and female voices sounded appropriate. I enjoyed listening at my normal 1.5x speed.
Listen to a clip:
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