I picked up this book knowing nothing about it based on my love for the author’s previous work. I think I like this one better than those.
This is a deeply feminist story. In this world, all people might be born with the skills to do magic. They do this by pairing with spirits. However, there is a risk that if a woman becomes pregnant, a spirit can take over the child before the child’s soul is fully formed. This child will eventually turn highly violent. Punishment is death for both the mother and child. Not the father of course. /sarcasm.
To prevent this all women are required to wear a collar that cuts them off from their magic as soon as they marry. This is unthinkable for Beatrice. She is a very powerful sorceress but she is untrained. Girls don’t get training because they are just going to be collared anyway. Beatrice has been learning in secret though. Her plan is to make herself unmarriagable by becoming a full mage. Just as she finds a grimoire that will give her the final spell she needs, it is taken from her by Ysbeta. Ysbeta feels the same way about her future as Beatrice. She comes from a very wealthy family. She has property that she will lose if she gets married. She wants to become a mage but she isn’t skilled enough yet. They are both running out of time before their families marry them off against their will. They are going to have to work together to get what they want.
I loved the interactions between Beatrice and Ysbeta’s brother. He is set up as her love interest and he would be better for her but better isn’t good enough. She points out that it is him allowing her to use her magic and that isn’t ok. It isn’t his to allow.
I also loved this discussion about the effects of patriarchy that men just don’t understand. Referring to the issues with pregnant women doing magic, she says:
“But no one is looking for another way,” Beatrice said. “The current system lays all of the restriction, all the responsibility, and all of the burden on sorceresses. Men aren’t inconvenienced in any way. They may do whatever they like. For them, the system isn’t broken, so why look for a solution?”
It applies to so much. The epilogue was amazing. MILD SPOILER – a partial solution is found and Beatrice tries to explain it to a group of men. They lose their minds because the solution calls back to the quote above and mildly inconveniences men in order to free women. Can’t be having that now, can we?