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Stolen Spirits*

So Many Ways It Could Be Better

I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the book blurb that stated that this was essentially going to be a fantasy in which the power structure was a matriarchy and not a patriarchy. I don’t think that concept is done often enough in fantasy, which is a perfect place to explore what it could look like if women ruled and not men. Yes, some stories are focused around strong queens, but they are still usually seen as inferior and requiring a man to co-rule, or—at the very least—others will oppose her rule because she is a woman. So, I had high hopes for this book.

Unfortunately, in the very first scene—which was actually a dramatic and good one—it is clear that matriarchy in this book is no different than patriarchy as depicted in other books. The women are harsh, ruthless, and power hungry in various degrees depending on their role in society. In fact, it might be worse for the men in this book compared to how women are often treated in the more patriarchal books. I found myself getting frustrated with this as I continued to read the story. When an author chooses to flip the power structure like this, he or she has a great chance to show how power could be different in a world that is governed by women. I actually believe if a true matrilineal, matrifocal matriarchy existed, in fiction or in real life, it would be inherently different from the patriarchal structure that we all no. Why bother to write a gender-switch power structure if you going to just have the women act like the men would in that situation? I think one of the answers is that it allows for the brutal treatment of men such as the predominantly female readers of fiction would not like to see in a traditional fantasy story that was more patriarchal. This just rubs me the completely wrong way. I am a female who is proudly feminist, but that doesn’t mean that I like to see men, even fictional ones, mistreated by ones in power. I’d like to think we’d be better than that if we ever truly had real matrifocal, matrilineal, and matriarchal power.