THE RAINBOW READER WELCOMES YOU TO THE REWIND SERIES
Shining A Spotlight On Amazing Books From The Last Few Years
With Special Guest Reviewer, BAXTER CLARE TRAUTMAN, author of The River Within
Trilogy: When Women Were Warriors
Book 1: The Warrior’s Path
Book 2: A Journey of the Heart
Book 3: A Hero’s Tale
Author: Catherine M. Wilson
Publisher: Shield Maiden Press
Have you ever been wandering about your day and been suddenly struck by a remembered fragment of dream? A fragment so curious you stopped to wonder, was that a dream, or did it really happen? Reading When Women Were Warriors felt much like walking through a half-realized dream – did Catherine M. Wilson make this up, or did this really happen?
When Women Were Warriors is fantasy, but reads like the best historic fiction. The tale isn’t set in a specific time - one assumes from the title that the time has passed, but it could well take place in the future, when “it is the custom that a free woman leave her mother’s house to bind herself and those of her blood to a neighboring clan, either by the sword or the cradle.”
That is what Tamras, the main character does, binding herself to the house of Lady Merin, where her mother and aunts were bound before her. Tamras becomes companion to Maara, a mysterious outsider from the North, with whom her alliances to House and clan are quickly tested. In choosing alliances, young Tamras has little to rely on other than instinct.
Tamras is innocent but not unwise. She doubts herself, and makes mistakes, albeit well intentioned mistakes, in the service of her enigmatic warrior, Maara. Indeed, much of the story’s tension revolves around Maara’s identity and intent. Who is she? Where does she come from? Who were her people? The screw turns tighter when Maara reports that warring Northern tribes plan to make a winter raid on the house of Merin. Sides must be chosen - to believe the stranger among them and prepare for war, risking entrapment and ambush, or ignore Maara’s warning and take the chance of being overrun?
As in the best mythic epics (think Beowulf, but comprehensible and with girls) Tamras’ subsequent initiation into the world of warriors is fraught with danger, mystery and sacrifice. Through trials and initiation, she is transformed from a child into a young woman of burgeoning wisdom.
I have to admit I was thrilled when Salem asked me to write a guest review. I must also admit that when she gave me my choice of novels, I was less than thrilled.
Aw, man, Baxter! You make me sound like a blogging bully - for the record, I never threatened to take your milk money, I just grovelled unmercilessly. SW
Unless you stretch Stephen King into the category, I have never willingly read fantasy. Not my genre of choice. But I trusted Salem. If she said When Women Were Warriors was great then it must be great. My last admission? She was right.
Like the stories Tamras was told as a child, and that she passes on to her homeless warrior, Wilson’s tale is mythic. In the lyric voice of an ancient bard, Wilson has incorporated all the classic archetypes - the wise one, the innocent, the warrior, villain, hermit, and fool – in the time-honored duels of good and evil, pride and humility, heart and ego. Her tale is tender without being sappy, sad without being maudlin, passionate without sentimentality, and joyful without silliness.
Much of literature is grossly indulgent, with every desire immediately sated, each whim acted upon as quickly as it is conceived. One of the more endearing aspects of When Women Were Warriors is that it unfolds gradually. Love develops of testing, trust, and knowledge, not an itch. Healing takes place painfully, slowly, and imperfectly, not as a miracle cure. Much in Ms. Wilson’s story remains private, unspoken, or unseen, and her writing’s strength lies in the subtle use of what is not revealed. As in life, When Women Were Warriors is veiled in mystery, slowly revealing itself as Book I segues into Book II and then Book III.
I must also confess the title put me off a wee bit. I was afraid When Women Were Warriors might be a glorified tome for man bashing. Instead, this is a powerful tale of women’s wisdom, in which men have a significant and well-respected purpose. As Ms. Wilson explained, it makes sense that women be the fighters, because a woman who has carried a child “will hold life dear differently than someone who has not.”
Within her fabled kingdom (again, think Heorot, only ruled by girls) Catherine Wilson creates a magical sense of place, and of belonging to that place. Within that, she also tells how it feels to not belong, while reminding us it usually isn’t the place that won’t have us, but rather that we won’t have it. Ms. Wilson’s is a tale of bone wisdom. It whispers of what we remember when we sleep at night and dream. It calls us to remember that women had, and still have, a wise and powerful place in the world. Our only weakness is in forgetting that place.
When Women Were Warriors gets a dreamy 5.5 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.
Salem never at any point threatened to take my milk money...however, the frozen chocolate-covered banana is another story! Seriously, I am indebted to you, Salem. Not only for the kick in my pink Spandex hot pants that catapulted me from my literary comfort zone, but for the opportunity to then rave about what you helped me discover. BCT