The Conqueror's Child is the fourth book in Suzy McKee Charnas's Holdfast series. Like a smith at the forge, Charnas hammers out a neorustic dystopia where the individuals become myths and the once-barbarous relations between men and women begin to be resolved. |
Previously in the series, the fem-slave Alldera escapes the men-cities into the grassland wilderness where she is adopted by the Riding Women. These genetically altered nomads are devoid of males, reproducing without them and producing only female children. They are also deadly with the bow and lance. With their help, Alldera invades the men-cities and frees the fems.
Conqueror's Child begins here, with Sorrel, Alldera's daughter. Rape-conceived during Alldera's slave-days but born and raised free among the Riding Women, Sorrel yearns for a relationship with her hero-mother. For years Alldera kept Sorrel safe, far way, while she built a new society in the former men-cities.
Though safe, Sorrel feels herself a misfit--a conqueror's daughter ignorant of battle. She bonds with a fellow misfit, an orphaned child of another escaped slave--a male child. Because he is shunned by the unisex horsewomen, Sorrel adopts him, resolving to find him a better life. With the child, Sorrel rides out for the cities where fems now rule and men still live.
But there's danger in reunions. Sorrel will not only meet her mother but also two of her rapists. Either could be Sorrel's father, and either could betray her.
The appeal of Conqueror's Child spans genres. Readers of both science fiction and women's studies will find it a powerful read in which institutionalized violence is examined through its very personal effects. However, though Charnas's skill lies in crafting the epic, characterization sometimes falls short, especially with minor personas who seem somewhat interchangeable. Regardless, Charnas's works belong among the SF luminaries for her even-handed examination of relationships and sexuality--themes negligently ignored for much of SF's history.
Source: Tamara Hladik, Amazon.com.