Saturday, August 26, 2023

A Gentle Tyranny, by Jess Corban

In the 23rd century, a Matriarch and a council of female senators rule over the surviving world.  Two hundred years earlier as the world seemed bent on enslaving and subjugating women, there was a "liberation." In the ensuing years, males have been pacified and are now known as Gentles, serving woman in menial tasks.  

At eighteen, every young woman chooses her "destiny" (the career path that calls to her).  For Reina, she is pretty certain that she wishes to become a member of the elite praetorian guard -- the Alexia -- that keep order throughout the land on behalf of the Matriarch.  But Reina's grandmother, the Matriarch herself, has other ideas.  She is growing too old to rule and she wants to choose a successor -- Reina.  But to become Matriarch, there is a competition and Reina must prove herself a better candidate than the other women who want to rule.

Complicating matters is the recent stirring of unrest on the border.  Legend tells that two hundred years ago "Brutes" were entirely eliminated.  But now there are rumors of strong and savage men raiding settlements near the border and committing atrocities.  Have the Brutes returned?  It is a time for strength -- does Reina have the necessary will to fight off this uprising that threatens their civilization?  Grandmother isn't so sure and she has a secret agenda.

Dystopian novels have become rather too common and it's hard to find a really good stand out example.  However, this one rises to the top.  Not so much for the premise (which is riddled with holes) but for the writing and the attention to details.  It's a busy story with lots of power politics to navigate, but Corban manages to fit in a bit of family and even a proto-romance into the mix without ever really distracting from the overall story.  And I enjoyed the politics of this story, which touch on the conflicting nature of family loyalty and power politics.

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