on July 25, 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Deborah’s father dreamed that, one day, she would become a prophet—a seemingly impossible dream for a woman in a patriarchal society. To see her father’s dream come true, Deborah made the cunning decision to become a man and sought out a mysterious elixirist who can turn women into men.
Under the elixirist Kassite’s tutelage and training, Deborah learns the essential traits of masculinity and steadily grows stronger, building muscle and willpower. But Kassite requests something in return: he needs Deborah's help to escape the tannery and return to his homeland. It is the beginning of another thrilling adventure through the desert—a cat and mouse chase between Deborah and her violent fiancé who still hunts her, a chance meeting with an ancient healer with a prophetic message, and a revelatory spiritual experience in an abandoned cave.
As she continues on the path God has laid before her, Deborah witnesses the darkness that can take hold in the hearts and souls of men—evil that causes her to reflect on the wisdom, insight, and inspiration she has gained from the women in her life. Will becoming a man truly help her become a prophetess, or might there be another path? Visionary dreams, a mysterious eagle, and an extraordinary band of ex-slaves will help Deborah find the answer . . . and ultimately her calling.
I haven’t read the first book in this series that imagines the life of Deborah from the biblical book of Judges. I received this book as part of a blog tour but it was not difficult to understand what had come before. We know in the bible Deborah is leading the tribes of Israel but how did a woman get to this position of authority? This story posits that her father had a dream that said that she would be a prophet. She can not imagine how this could happen as a woman so she decides to take a potion that would turn her into a man. Obviously, hormone therapy wasn’t available then so she is getting scammed by the people who are supposedly helping her.
She has a lot of internalized misogyny. This isn’t surprising given the thoughts about women in her time. But the men who are supposedly helping her keep drilling it into her head. Women are stupid and emotional. Men are in all ways superior. I started highlighting these comments as they came up in the book.
“Girls aren’t stupid.” “It is not a matter of stupidity, but of destiny. Women exist to keep the home—make food, sew clothes, bear children, care for infants. That is why the gods made women fit for domesticated submission—passive, temperamental, small-minded, and anxious.“
Deborah’s face flushed with shame. The mere sight of someone resembling Zariz had caused her to cast off all masculine strength and posture, instantly regressing to the foolish girl she had once been.
Kassite might view it as yet another manifestation of feminine weakness.
There are more but that is the general idea. They keep telling her that she needs to search inside herself to get the final inspiration to complete her transformation to a man. I was hoping that this led to her realizing her strength as a woman and deciding that she didn’t need to change herself externally in order to be able to be a prophet. The book could have easily had that be the outcome. I thought that was what it was leading to. Instead she decides to embrace her life as a woman because she has a magical dream where she sees herself dispensing justice as a woman. What?
When she declares this to her “mentors”, they dismiss her ideas and no longer accord her the same respect as when she was trying to be masculine.
“I am disappointed,” Kassite said. “You still think like a girl.”
Obviously the constraints of the time and place restrict how “Smash the Patriarchy” the story can go but I wanted more realization of feminine strength than was seen in this book.
This is part of a continuing series. You don’t know at the end how she rises in power. This is a story that I would love to hear but I’m not sure that I will be satisfied with this author’s imagining of the story. This book works fine as an adventurous historical fiction tale but it was worrisome to read this much internalized misogyny that isn’t disputed in the text from a male author.
There are also some anachronisms in the story especially in regard to the horses. I’m a horse history nerd so that might not bother anybody else.