The Monstrous Regiment was provided to me by Immanion Press free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This review will be posted here as well as Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, and other online avenues where the book is sold. This review may be used without my permission, as long as credit and a link back to this post are provided.
The Monstrous Regiment is a story of the far future. Long ago, the planet Artemis was colonized by a small group of feminists and male supporters who left Earth to create a civilization of true equality.
Unfortunately, since then a cruel matriarchy has replaced the patriarchy of history. The book follows a teenage girl named Corinna who has been raised on the farms of the marshland where, even though men have no legal authority, they are at least treated respectfully and included as part of the family. But her beliefs are about to be tested.
General Carmenya Oralien, a woman of power from the city Silven Crescent and an old friend of Corinna’s mother, has called on Corinna to come to the city and work for the government; and possibly be something more than just an employee to Carmenya. But Corinna and her mother hold a secret – they’ve recently helped the rebel leader Elvon L’Belder escape General Oralien’s clutches, and are in fact sympathetic with his cause; equality.
At least Corinna believes she is. Silven Crescent, though, is a dangerous city where the smallest infraction in manners can cause a person to go missing forever, and she finds that ignoring the men’s plight is easier than fighting her intoxicating new life. As feelings between her and Carmenya blossom and she gradually sees the ugly truth beneath the beautiful city, she finds herself suddenly in danger from people she had come to know as her friends.
At the same time, L’Belder and his new friends from the marsh are in search for the elusive native race of people living on Artemis. Most believe that none exists, and the stories of traders are only fairy tales; but even the wildest legends have seeds of truth, and the truth they will find is in fact stranger than anything they could have imagined.
The best word I can find to describe this story is “unique.” It was an enjoyable and interesting read. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it didn’t end up how I expected. From the beginning the reader expects to get the story of an unexpecting hero who topples the evil oppressive government and leads the people to freedom. Not really. The Monstrous Regiment unfolds in a much more realistic way, leaving the reader feeling hopeful for the future, but not exactly content that wrongs have been righted and justice has been served. Is there a sequel? I feel like there could be.
The Monstrous Regiment is not for the faint of heart and not for young readers. There are no really explicit or pornographic scenes, but sexual encounters between all combinations of sexes are implied rather heavily, and there is sexual tension between many of the characters. Some of the torture and more horrific crimes of the Dominatrix (the leader of their oppressive matriarchy) also include some graphic sexuality. In my opinion there is nothing tasteless in this book, but if you are squeamish about sexuality or the human body, a couple scenes may bother you.
The book is heavily character driven which I liked, but admittedly there is not a whole lot of action, at least in the first half of the book. Sometimes it can be confusing when the reader is allowed in the heads of many characters, but Storm Constantine does it very well, and I often didn’t want to put the book down simply because I was constantly getting to know her characters better.
The one character I didn’t feel was fully developed was the dominatrix herself. Before we finally meet the dominatrix half way into the story, she is made out to be a cold and shrewd woman who, despite her insanity, is brilliant. When we finally do meet her, she doesn’t seem that brilliant. L’Belder escapes, she knows he was never found, and yet she apparently makes no more effort to find him after the search that brings Carmenya together with Corinna. When we do meet her, we find she is a woman so full of herself that she lounges and surrounds herself with women that flatter her. Her employees talk about her plans but never once during the book do we see her doing something intelligent or working on any plans. It makes me wonder if she was any more than a figurehead.
Still, the book was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read. The author does a fantastic job in building a world that feels real. I can see this leading some people, especially male readers, to see some offensive ideas in the story, so the reader has to keep in mind that this book makes no statement of opinion about gender roles or sexism in our world…the story is about ARTEMIS. Not Earth. Some of the content is controversial, but even if the world Artemis doesn’t always work that way, the book makes it clear that complete equality is and always should be our goal. I feel the controversiality made the story all that more interesting, and I definitely think all you adventurous fantasy fans out there should add this book to your list. A solid four stars.