- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Shield Maiden Press; First PB Edition, First Printing edition (October 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0981563619
- ISBN-13: 978-0981563619
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,125 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When Women Were Warriors Book I: The Warrior's Path (Volume 1) First PB Edition, First Printing Edition
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Though it takes place amongst ancient Celtic tribes, WWWW isn't a blockbuster fantasy or historical epic typical of YA fiction. It's a slower character-driven story that focuses on the smaller moments that define Tamras, the protagonist, as a young woman and warrior. Not as flashy as chosen one narratives trying to save the world, but just as compelling and heart-wrenching. The slower plot reminded me of Miyazaki films, which often prioritize characterization, theme, and atmosphere over a central conflict or antagonist.
I can't get over how few men are in this book. This is the first time I've read a book that nominally includes men, but only on the fringes of the plot. Every important character is a woman. Men aren't objectified or marginalized--they're just not at the center of the story. As I read this book, I kept thinking that this must be how guys feel consuming almost every piece of media. I think LGBT readers, especially wlw, will also feel centered in this story. Queer relationships are normal and accepted in Tamras' world, and she shares some of the most intimate sex scenes I've ever read with her best friend and fellow apprentice, Sparrow. I think the trilogy is also leading up to Tamras falling in love with her warrior, Maara, though it is slowburn/unrequited at this point in the story.
I'm not sure how much mileage readers of color will get from this book. Maara is marked as an outsider by her darker skin, and the tribes to the north that try to steal cattle are also dark-skinned. However, a huge part of the book is devoted to humanizing those raiders, who had bad winters and no other food, and helping Maara find her place in her new community. I found these storythreads compelling, but it's possible a nonwhite reader would disagree.
Another deep sigh of relief for me was that Wilson didn't use miscommunication to drive conflict between characters. When Tamras and Maara have a problem, they talk about it. When Tamras wants to make an unpopular decision, she speaks to her community leaders first. Even bouts of jealousy about who Sparrow and Maara are spending time with are resolved by talking. This communication was a main driver for Tamras' development and removes frustrating and regressive conflict, so it was a win-win for me.
Lastly, the prose is just. So beautiful. I love the focus on oral tradition, the way the stories Tamras tells become motifs for the larger narrative. I love how small, almost mundane events can be given deeper meaning, but without losing Tamras' voice or perspective. I just cannot recommend this enough on all fronts (save for the epic plot front).
When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson is an exception in that it's a very polished, professionally crafted book by a self-published author who as far as I can tell doesn't have any traditional publishing credits. I ended up being very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing and the book.
Wilson's writing is very smooth and she does an excellent job of creating intriguing characters with depth. The story is slow in unfolding, and yet the pacing is just right so that it doesn't drag. The book kept me interested all the way through, even though there really isn't any action to speak of or major exciting events. Which again points to the skill of the writer. The story is primarily about the experiences and internal changes the characters undergo.
I would label the book as fantasy in that it's medievalish in what appears to be more a made up world than historical. But it's not traditional fantasy, in that it's only kinda swords and without the sorcery. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well-written, character-driven story about female warriors within a predominantly female setting.
Here's a quote from the book I really liked:
"I tried to remember how I had felt at home when I was looking forward to seeing someplace new. Everything there was so familiar that I longed for something different. Now I longed for just one familiar thing. I felt like a bird, caged all its life, set free by an open window and cowering upon the windowsill."
Kindle Note: The Kindle edition is extremely well done.
I am disappointed the 2nd and 3rd Kindle books in this trilogy (at the time of this writing) are priced at ten bucks each. That's the price I expect to pay for new ebooks from traditional publishers released at the same time as hardcovers. I'm willing to pay five to six dollars for self-pubbed ebooks of this quality, which is the equivalent of buying a backlist or new paperback release title from a mainstream author. But as it is I won't be getting to see how the story continues and ends with this pricing scheme.
My opinions about pricing are not reflected in my rating of the book as I don't believe that's appropriate. Books should be rated and reviewed on their own merits. But I included the comments because pricing is part of some people's consideration as to whether they want to read the first book or not. The end of the first book does leave the reader hanging a bit.
If you can't understand these points and the power of the woman this book is not for you.
The only reason I gave this a 4 instead of 5 is b/c it was a little slow, and the pace could have been quickened. But I felt everything the storyteller was feeling, and that's the mark of a good book.
Most recent customer reviews
Can’t wait to read more about these women warriors!