I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
After reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, I was very excited to read the sequel. My experience with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife was amazing; I loved how gritty and harsh the story was, and how it really didn’t mince words. I liked the main character and the way the author portrayed every aspect of every situation, avoiding all bias or favoritism. In the end, it was a spellbinding book that is still at the top of my list in terms of dystopian novels. You can see why I was so excited to read this sequel, and read about how the author imagined the future of her dystopian society.
Etta comes from Nowhere, a village full of survivors of the plague that wiped away the old world. In Nowhere, mothers and midwives are considered sacred, and everyone reveres the teachings of the Unnamed Midwife. Etta, however, doesn’t feel the same way about the role of a midwife or a mother. She would much rather be a scavenger, who roams the territories surrounding Nowhere, salvaging useful relics and saving women and girls being sold by slave traders. When slavers capture those she loves, Etta vows to avenge them. As her mission leads her to the stronghold of the Lion, a tyrant who claims currency through a bounty of weapons and women, Etta will have to risk her body and spirit to not only save lives but also to discover her own destiny.
Let me begin by saying that it is imperative that you read the first book in this trilogy or else the concepts and impact of this story really won’t make sense. That being said, this novel takes on the issue of gender in a completely different way than The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. While in the first book the focus was on struggling to be a woman, this novel is all about gender fluidity. As usual, the author conveys her story in that gritty, no-holds-bar style that I love and she really doesn’t shy away from disturbing content. There are graphic depictions of rape and abuse, so consider this a warning for those wary of this kind of content. Unlike the first story which centered on the survival of a whole gender, this novel is much more of an identity quest where Etta/Eddy discovers who he/she really is amidst a society that doesn’t really support lesbian/gay relations or even the concept of being transgendered. This novel pulled me in but I found myself more drawn to the internal struggles rather than the actual action parts of the story. While it felt like this novel moved slower than its predecessor, I didn’t mind because it gave me the time to really think deeply on the ideas that the author is presenting. I still think the first book in this series was the better of the two, but this novel is by no means bad. Overall, another gripping story that tackles difficult issues in a dystopian setting. I can’t wait to see what the author will publish next in this fascinating series!