The Conqueror's Child

Suzy McKee Charnas, Author Tor Books $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-85719-6
When Charnass dystopian novel Walk to the End of the World appeared in 1974, followed by similar work by Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy and Alice Sheldon, SF found itself in the middle of an angry feminist revolution. Charnas continued her exploration of the world of the Holdfast and the Riding Women in Motherlines (1978) and The Furies. Now she brings her classic series to a conclusion in the tale of Sorrel, daughter of Alldera, the woman who in the earlier novels escaped slavery, then raised a female army to return and destroy the misogynistic evil of her homeland. Sorrel has grown up strong among the Riding Women, but is embittered by her mothers abandonment. Traveling across the mountains with her adopted son, she discovers that the women of the Holdfast have largely mirrored the evil theyd previously fled, holding their men as slaves, using them for procreation and as beasts of burden. Some want to change this, Alldera among them, but the prospects for reform are endangered by the return of a charismatic, unscrupulous man known as the Sunbear, who may be Sorrels father via his long-ago rape of Alldera. Avoiding clichs and easy answers, Charnas brings this powerful series to a fitting end. There is much of the darkness and pain found in the previous books, but there is also hope as it becomes clear that, within limits, some of the women and men are ready to at least think about living together in peace. The year is less than half over, but this potent, thoughtful novel by a talented writer at the top of her form clearly counts as one of the best SF novels of 1999. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
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