MOTHER OF ALL

In The Women’s War (2019), a discarded queen casts a spell that lets women decide when and if they have children. By the end of Queen of the Unwanted (2020), a plot to reverse the Blessing—or, as the men call it, the Curse—that set the first book in motion leaves that spell unchanged while seriously damaging the source of all magic in the kingdom of Aaltah. Fans of the first two novels will likely be satisfied with this concluding volume. Good is rewarded. Evil is punished. And the trilogy ends on a hopeful note that delivers on the feminist-lite promise with which the series began. As was the case in the first two installments, the emphasis here is on interpersonal relationships, palace intrigue, and political maneuvering among royals. Readers heavily invested in, for example, Ellin’s marriage to Zarsha will get to spend plenty of time listening to them flirt and strategize over dinners in her private quarters. Readers more interested in action will likely conclude that Glass lingers over phenomena such as late-night pastries a bit more than is necessary. This would perhaps be less notable if there wasn’t a striking sameness to all these scenes. There are, evidently, a lot of royal banquets in Ellin’s world, and each time she is forced to endure one we are reminded that they are long and tedious and that a private meal with her husband is a luxury. While she enjoys this luxury, she and Zarsha have conversations into which the author weaves in backstory she’s already shared at least a few times. And this is the model that Glass uses for the many, many, many characters in this novel: Reintroduce the characters in the scene, show them doing something they’ve done several times before, and maybe inject one new detail that nudges the plot forward. There are exceptions to this rule, but not many, and the end result is a story that runs more than 1,800 pages across the whole series and still feels very small.

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