Author: G.R. Macallister
Publisher: Saga Press
Content/Trigger Warnings: Blood, death, grief, an on-page sex scene (semi-vague), discussion of miscarriage, animal cruelty/death, alcoholism, violence, gore, child sacrifice, and execution (magical)
A centuries-long peace is shattered in a matriarchal society when a decade passes without a single girl being born in this sweeping epic fantasy that’s perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Circe.
Five hundred years of peace between queendoms shatters when girls inexplicably stop being born. As the Drought of Girls stretches across a generation, it sets off a cascade of political and personal consequences across all five queendoms of the known world, throwing long-standing alliances into disarray as each queendom begins to turn on each other—and new threats to each nation rise from within.
Uniting the stories of women from across the queendoms, this propulsive, gripping epic fantasy follows a warrior queen who must rise from childbirth bed to fight for her life and her throne, a healer in hiding desperate to protect the secret of her daughter’s explosive power, a queen whose desperation to retain control leads her to risk using the darkest magic, a near-immortal sorcerer demigod powerful enough to remake the world for her own ends—and the generation of lastborn girls, the ones born just before the Drought, who must bear the hopes and traditions of their nations if the queendoms are to survive.
Thank you to the publisher, Wunderkind PR, and Netgalley for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!
You all know how much I love a good fantasy novel. Fantasy is and will probably always be my go-to genre when I’m thinking of what to read next. I love the scale and scope that can be found inside the pages of a novel that transports you to another world. When I was offered an e-ARC of Scorpica and read the synopsis, I immediately knew I wanted to read this book. And, though it took me longer than I was expected, I savored every minute of it!
This is a complicated story that weaves together multiple POVs from multiple different backgrounds. The realm of the five queendoms has existed in peace for centuries. Each queendom has a role to fulfill and they do it dutiful. That is until, for reasons unknown, girls stop being born to women of all five queendoms. As the Drought of Girls persists, tensions among the queens and citizens of their lands start to rise. And, in the midst of all this turmoil, is the generation of lastborn girls just trying to find their place in the world.
When I tell y’all that this book is epic, I do mean epic. If you’re not the type that likes a lot of world-building and different POVs, this might not be the read for you. For someone like me, who loves getting into the nitty gritty of a new world, I think this will hit the spot! There is a lot going on in this story and even I can admit that it sometimes got jumbled in my head. But that’s also why I would encourage anyone picking this book up to take you time with it. Let yourself really sink into this world because the writing makes it so easy to do! Take a slow place and really get to know the characters. It’s definitely worth it in the end. All the details and build up makes sense to me, as well, since this is the first book in a series. It needs to establish the world, the magic, the politics, and I think the author did a great job of doing that without boring me. I was fully invested in everything going on, to the point that I may have extended a few lunch hours because I was so wrapped up in the book 😅
Now y’all may or may not know that I’m a person that adores a character-driven story. Plot is great and the plot needs to be, at the bare minimum, interesting, but the true crux in any novel for me is the characters. Are they well-written? Do I enjoy watching their journey? Is it interesting seeing things from their point of view? I’m all about characters! Thankfully, this book is chock-full of vibrant, nuanced characters that made me immediately invested in their stories. Fair warning, there are a lot of them to get to know in this book, but at no point did that feel cumbersome to me. I loved getting to know each and every major POV throughout this story. There were, of course, some POVs I enjoyed more than others, but they all had something unique to add to the story.
One point that I wish had been explored more is the role of trans men and trans women in this world. In a world that is so clearly divided by gender, it seemed like the topic of trans people is brushed over. I dunno… I guess I just had a lot of questions. Like, would a trans girl born in Arca be able to use magic? Would a trans boy born in Scorpica be sent away like all the other AMAB boys? And with the other LGBT+ rep in this story, it felt like a missed opportunity to not explore those questions. Of course, this may be a case of the author not feeling comfortable writing about a marginalized group she is not part of. And this is just the first book in what I imagine will be a decently sized series, so there’s plenty of time to dig into this topic and more.
Final thoughts: This was a truly epic beginning to what promises to be a fascinating fantasy series! I loved learning about this matriarchal society and the five queendoms. There is a lot to learn, but the author weaves it in so well with the story that I never felt burdened down by it. I thought the world-building was phenomenal and the writing made the world absolutely come to life! Not only that, but it’s populated with characters that practically leap off the page. Though this book spans decades, and there is a lot going on in those decades, it is a compelling and compulsively readable novel. I do suggest taking your time with this one as there are a lot of moving pieces. Overall, though, if you enjoy intricate worlds with interesting magic and multiple POVs, I think you would enjoy Scorpica!