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A Brother's Price Kindle Edition
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In this world, men are rare and valuable, so women form 'families' to share the men available to them. Generally there is one man for however many adult "Sisters" not related to him. While the founding groups of 'sisters' may not have started out as blood relatives, the families over time do become true genetic relation. Families who have historically been able to produce male children gain status, influence and are considered wealthy.
The men, however aren't in the catbird seat here. They are virtual prisoners of their families from the moment they are born till they die and rarely leave their homes. Because there are so few men, they can't be risked in dangerous occupations. The early death of a husband before his children, male or female could secure suitable spouses could mean the death of an entire family, and certainly it would mean a lost of wealth, prestige, and influence.
Men are largely uneducated, work as homemakers, and are pretty much sold and traded between families. I got the feeling that the culture was largely lifted from that of the ancient Greeks, though this culture was more technologically advanced.
In the beginning, even though I have been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy for over 50 years, and consider myself reasonably skillful in making the mental and emotional shifts required by that genre, I found myself almost quitting the book. However, I'm glad I didn't!
My sense of disorientation and 'wrongness' was pretty strong at first. Stuff like this shouldn't happen to a strong male character. I had to read almost a third of the book to really 'get into' the situation of the novel. And there ARE some minor flaws in the book that didn't help, though i'll point them out in a bit.
This character is a young man from a reasonably prosperous, but backwater family of no particular influence. about to come of age and facing dim and dismal marriage prospects when he happens to save a princess of the realm. This changes his life and propels his family into the always dangerous world of court intrigue for which they are un prepared and unwilling to enter in to because of who the recently deceased father of the family was. They are backwater for a reason.
As I said in a prior paragraph, there are some flaws, and they kept it from getting a full 5 stars. Fist and biggest in my mind is why does this male shortage only happen to humans? Why aren't the other animals affected? Was it a disease? Are the people of the story not really humans but some similar species? It wasn't ever explained or even addressed. And no one even wonders aloud why this discrepancy even exists.
Another flaw that I chose to overlook because I thought it would get in the way of the story, is that in such a world women would evolve to be larger and stronger while the men would become smaller and weaker. The men are physically weak, while the women aren't really described at all. Yet the young man is able to fight off the attackers of the princess and then Carry her BACK to his house, without breaking a sweat. That seems a flaw in the story logic to me.
I think this weakens the story, in our world, where men are expected to do the fighting and the dangerous jobs, men are VERY much aware of other men's physical size and ability to do violence. The author might have two women meeting for the first time, think she seems strong, and capable, but I think it far more likely women would notice if the other woman is a leftie or a rightie, any limps or weakness in the limbs. that sort of thing.
Now this last 'flaw' might have been overlooked on purpose since the author, Wen Spencer couldn't know at he time she wrote it, if people would perceive it as a serious work or an attempt at highbrow erotica. I have no way of knowing. But I think in a world where there are so FEW men, female homosexuality might well be more culturally accepted even among women who were not really lesbians.
We have precedent in that several of the ancient Greek societies seemed able to accept homosexual behavior in men who weren't committed to that life completely. The book might have hinted at it once, but I think considering there didn't seem to be any overtly religious objection to it, this might have been a bigger part of the cultural, political, and economic life of the society in the book.
On the whole, I thought this was a pretty good book, and I'm glad I read it. If you're worried about it, it isn't a particularly titillating story, but it will hold most people's interest.
The oldest sister in each generation of a family becomes the Eldest. She and her Sisters marry one or more husbands if they have the money to buy them. The monarchy is ruled by the Queen Mother Elder of the Royal Family and her generation of Mothers.
In this novel, Rennsellaer is the current Eldest of the Queens' daughters. She hasn't always been the eldest sister in the family.
Halley, Odelia, Lylia, Trini are the other Elder Sisters of Queens. There had been more, but they were killed earlier.
Jerin Whistler is the oldest boy in his household. He has three brothers. He works hard and gets along with his sisters, but Corelle gives him a hard time.
Corelle Whistler is the leader of the middle sisters. She often criticizes Jerin.
Summer, Keria and Eva Whistle are also middle sisters in the family. They always follow Corelle's lead, but Summer does not do so blindly.
Heria is the oldest of the younger sisters. The others range in age from toddlers to late childhood.
In this story, the Elder Mother, her sisters and the older of the current generation are away. Corelle and the other middle sisters are left behind to protect the youngest sisters and the boys. Corelle is viewing a magazine of men's fashion and telling Jerin what he should wear.
Jerin is only two months away from being old enough to marry. He is afraid of being married to a local family of ugly sisters. Corelle is fascinated by the boy in that family.
Jerin stops Corelle by pointing out that she shouldn't have the magazine at all. Corelle goes over to visit the boy and takes Summer, Keria and Eva with her. No one is left to protect the boys and the little ones.
Heria hears someone in the woods, so she take a rifle and goes for a look. She sees riders attacking a redheaded woman in the creek. She fires a shot at the riders and then another. The riders leave the site and Heria props the women up so she won't drown in the water.
Then Heria returns home and tells Jerin what happened. Jerin goes back with Heria and carries the woman to the house. Since she had been so nasty, Jerin put the wet and dirty woman within Corelle's bed.
Heria rides to get the Queen's Justice troops from the local garrison. Then she fetches Corelle and the other middles home. Corelle doesn't notice the horse in the stable and doesn't believe Jerin. After Jerin finishes the tale, the middle sisters all run upstairs to see their guest in Corelle's bed.
Then an Army troop appears looking for the woman. The troop had been searching for stolen cannon, but then she had disappeared. Ren tells them that the woman is Princess Odelia. Corelle figures that Ren is also a princess.
The Whistlers do not allow the Army troop to enter the house. Then the Queens Justice troops appear and the Army troops are allowed entry. Ren goes upstairs to see Odelia.
Odelia is less than pleased with the appearance of her sister. She had wanted to see more of Jerin. Since Odelia cannot ride, Ren and her troopers stay a bit longer.
This tale causes Ren to become infatuated with Jerin. Odelia also likes him. Ren arranges for Jerin, his eldest and two sisters to come to the Royal Palace,
Lylia approves of Jerin and eventually Trini gets to know him. Ren has their approval of marrying Jerin, but the Queen Mother Elder insists on also getting Halley's approval. Ren tries to find Halley.
Yet Halley has already found Jerin. This novel does not have a sequel, but the author has also written the Ukiah Oregan and Elfhome series. Her latest novel is Eight Million Gods.
I had already read the other novels, but somehow overlooked this one. It is an interesting satire on patriarchial society. This tour de force is well worth reading.
Highly recommended for Spencer fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of gender reversal, political intrigue, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin
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