My hero is a Marshlander named Clare who grows up in a gender-equal community, surrounded by enemies interested in male domination and military force. There are many strong women characters, including well-accepted lesbian couples, and Clare’s male friends are also feminist-friendly. Too, though the Marshlanders follow a religion loosely based on Christianity, they worship the ocean as their mother. I use lots of details from the persecution of women healers and detail their strategy for hiding their recipes in tapestry patterns.
A multi-viewpoint story of political intrigue in a pseudo-Renaissance fantasy world, this series so far is ultimately about several women in very different walks of life (a pope’s daughter, a barmaid, a bounty hunter and a witch) dealing with the constraints of a patriarchal society and finding, in their own styles, ways of surmounting the obstacles in their path.
The story’s women have agency, they’re free to make bold choices (and mistakes), and there’s a lot of subtext here. One of the villains, the Owl, is horrifying, but all of her actions come from a very human place of anger and grief. Meanwhile, one of the male characters is a Nice Guy who commits a horrible violation upon one of the leads (not rape — no rape in this series so far, thank God) in the belief that he’s “helping” and knows what’s best for her. (And in another situation, treating a woman like a damsel in distress leads to utterly disastrous consequences…)
This might change, but with two books (out of four) released, this series feels like it’s ultimately -about- female agency, and feels like it has a lot more to say before it’s done.