The interconnected story lines, excellent pacing, and heart-wrenching ending will have readers clamoring for the next book. Offer this to fans of other recent feminist speculative fiction like Naomi Alderman’s The Power (2017), Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Bloodprint (2017), or Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand (2018).
Glass could easily have...transform[ed] the plot into a revenge fantasy. But her approach is a more measured examination of societal change ... Glass puts character development over world-building, though she demonstrates skill with both. The multiple points of view transition seamlessly, revealing an astute understanding of human nature ... the men, too, are presented as complicated and layered, a blunt reminder that an ally is a powerful asset when a marginalized person is facing off against institutionalized powers ... Some...sections—like a graphic group rape scene—can be difficult to get through. In a novel that explores and validates the importance of female agency, to present a violation like this through the eyes of a misogynistic male character feels like a misstep. Another is a dearth of intersectionality ... Glass is at her strongest when she takes us deep into the minds of her characters. 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 levels no critique at institutions of oppression other than patriarchy. Thus, by its focus on a single issue—an issue uncomplicated by the presence of trans people or even cisgender queer people—it gives the impression that sex-based discrimination is the only axis of oppression that matters ... it suggests, then there are no problems with a society ruled by queens and kings and aristocrats. No complicating factors that should be addressed, or other axes of oppression worth considering. The Women’s War may be feminist epic fantasy, but its feminism is the kind that never troubled to read Audre Lorde (for example).
Glass’s substantial novel stands out as both social commentary on contemporary issues of bodily autonomy, gender, and social power and as feminist retribution fantasy, made manifest through an appealing epic fantasy setting and grounded in a carefully designed magic system ... Though female leads take center stage, Glass gives real depth to her male characters as well. Personal and political aspects of the story blend gracefully together to provide a high-energy story with sweeping forward momentum toward the next installment.
High fantasy with a feminist perspective. Sort of ... In this faux medieval world, the ability of women to control their own reproductive destinies should be a big deal. It’s baffling that it isn’t. Not only are men not freaking out about their loss of power, but it takes many, many pages before it’s clear that women understand that they can now enjoy sex with men without worrying about pregnancy. Part of the problem is one of perspective ... Another issue is worldbuilding ... Glass’ Seven Wells seems more like a stage set than a real universe. This is, apparently, the first in a three-book series. One suspects there is enough material for one excellent novel in those three volumes. Timely, fascinating idea. Confounding execution.