So continuing the Sunday Flashback theme this is a book that I missed the first time around. First published in 2005.
Author: Wen Spencer
Genre: Fantasy/Alternate Earth
Purchase: A Brother's Price
From the Author:
On an alternate Earth, where the population is ninety percent female and a man is sold by his sisters to marry all the women in a family, Jerin Whistler is coming of age. His mothers are respected landed gentry, his grandfather a kidnapped prince, and his grandmothers common line soldiers blackballed for treason, trained by thieves, re-enlisted as spies, and knighted for acts of valor. Jerin wants to marry well, and his sisters want a husband bought by his brother's price.
This is an interesting book. On this earth, women hold the role that men have held in our world. They make the decisions and the men are treated as chattel. Women are soldiers, bakers, store owners and make decisions for the family. They also have polygamous marriages, several sisters marry one man. The men are bought or traded and bring great value on the families if they happen to produce male children. No mention is made as to why there are so many women and so few men and why the men father so many more female babies but personally I was so caught up in the story that it didn't occur to me until I finished the story.
The main male character, Jerin, is also not typical of his world. He is stunningly handsome, he's been educated (something not common for a man) and he is very good with children. As the male head of the house, he in actuality is the house steward and is in charge of not only the cooking and cleaning but also plays a large role in taking care of the younger children. He understands that he is to be traded or bartered in marriage but is terrified that his "elder" sisters won't take his feelings into consideration and make a trade that he will not be comforatable with. What he really wants is a love match, however, even he doesn't know that at the beginning of the book. He's also very young according to our standards, he is not quite 16, which is their age of maturity and when he will be old enough to be married off. His birthday is to take place 2 months from the start of the book.
The main female character, Princess Rennsellaer, is very interesting. She is the oldest living daughter of the Queens and is the next head of their kingdom. She's well educated, very attractive and a widow (having been one of the yougest wives of the Eldest daughter's husband). She is a good horsewoman and a good military leader. While in the area that Jerin and his family live, she ends up encountering his family and falls in love with Jerin. She knows that she must choose a husband for herself and her remaining sisters and realizes that Jerin and his family have enough noble blood to be a match and makes arrangments for him and at least 2 of his sisters to come to the palace to meet the rest of her sister's and her mothers, as she must get approval from her mother's to marry Jerin and make him the royal consort.
This story also deals with the fall out of the matriarchial society and the responsibilities that these women all have to take and also with how an educated man turns out to have great value. Jerin turns out to be more than just the father to the kingdom's future queens, he turns out to be a good match for the young women and if a sequel was done to this story it would be interesting to see what role he would play in possible changes to their society. It's an interesting role reversal and there is plenty of action and even a kidnapping attempt and rescue that takes place.
Overall this is really a good book. I don't know if the author intended for there to be a social message but one comes thru anyway. I really enjoyed reading this. I have read 2 other books by this author, both are science fiction/fantasy books, Tinker (Elfhome, Book 1) and Wolf Who Rules (Elfhome, Book 2) and consider them both part of my comfort read collection.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Crowns