In Book One of the Holdfast Chronicles, Alldera the Messenger, along with all other women, is a slave. In Book Two, Alldera the Runner lives in two worlds, both consisting entirely of women. Now In Book Three, The Furies, Alldera the Conqueror leads an army back over the mountains, hoping to end the tyranny and free the slaves she left behind....
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The Furies Reviews
Third in the series set in a post eco-catastrophe world, this follows the adventures of Alldera, the woman who escaped to the grasslands at the end of book 1 and ended up the de facto leader of the other 'free fems' who had already escaped there. At the start of this book, the fems have made their way back through the desert to the Holdfast despite the objections of the Riding Women, who we met in book 2. Sheel, one of the sharemothers of Alldera's daughter, Sorrel, and for years an antagonist, follows with a small group of other Riding Women and becomes a reluctant witness to, and occasional participant in, the often bloody dealings of the fems as they confront their former masters in what is left of Holdfast society, following the civil war at the end of book 1. The fems' mission is two-fold: rescue any surviving female slaves, and make the men pay for their terrible cruelty.This is a complex book dealing with well-realised characters who are all flawed, and the complexities and conflicting priorities of the various groups of women. At first, Alldera has difficulty in keeping them from killing all the men in revenge, and has to show that she is not 'squeamish' about doing it herself on occasion. The fems are almost drunk with joy at finding and freeing other women; a joy quick to turn to a killing frenzy, especially when friends are horribly murdered by stray men. The challenge is not only to keep the remaining men alive in such a climate, so that younger women can use them for breeding, it is also to balance the conflicting desires of the different groups of women, the older ones who have returned with her from the grasslands, done the bulk of the fighting, and hate the men, and the more conciliatory attitudes, sometimes bordering on collaboration, of the recently freed fems who, being a much rarer commodity after the men's excesses during the civil war, have in most cases been treated a lot better than the slaves who escaped.Compounding Alldera's problem in managing all this is her own personal conflict when she finds her old master alive, and the increasing attack she comes under from her refusal to have him sacrificed as part of the Moonwoman religion. This is a practice led by one of the free fems which is increasingly followed among them but which she views as superstition. Despite her legendary status even among the rescued fems, her sense of connection with her ex-master - who freed her at the end of book 1 after she convinced him to at least some extent of her humanity - leads to a underlying tension which Alldera, always a blunt, straightforward person, fails to appreciate, with dangerous consequences.Meanwhile, Sheel and the other Riding Women have their own difficulties, with some taking to the drugged drink some of the fems brew, and others becoming curious about what sex with men entails (the Riding Women's ability to self clone is explained in the previous volume). Sheel suffers from home sickness though she and Alldera eventually reach an understanding and acceptance never granted them before.This is a vividly realised account of the tensions and often wilful misunderstandings of a bunch of often mismatched people, with a clear style of prose that does not get in the way of the story while managing to convey the settings and mood of their surroundings, and the emotions of the characters. The viewpoint of the mad enuch Setteo is a case in point; to the women, he is a figure of fun, a mascot or an irritation while to himself he is a type of seer or visionary who is interceding between various supernatural creatures - the different groups of women (the fems are the Blessed; the Riding Women are Angels) - and the savage Bears which no one but he is aware of, and which he tries to placate or trick. The best book of the series so far and therefore deserving 5 stars, though with a caution that it does feature quite a lot of violence.
This finishes the Holdfast Chronicles. Well, sort of. There is a fourth, but is in the future and not as enjoyable, imho. This is the story of the war between the sexes. Well told, good stuff. Made me want to read them all over. Recommended reading from: http://www.feministsf.org/bibs/recomm....