This book has been sitting on my shelf for 10 years, the poor thing. I finally decided to read it because I read Graceling, and all the while I was thinking, if I'm going to read a book about strong women in a medieval fantasy, I might as well read The Ladies of Mandrigyn
You know when you read "The Ladies of Mandrigyn" you immediately think of warrior women, right? I thought it would focus on the women battling the villain's armies and defeating the Evil Wizard himself. But this book unraveled in ways I did not expect at all. For one thing, I didn't expect it to have such a romantic sub-plot.
Let's start from the beginning. Sun Wolf and StarHawk are the main characters in this story, and they are not
the ladies of Mandrigyn. Sun Wolf is a mercenary and Starhawk is his second-in-command, who happens to be a woman. Sun Wolf is coerced (read: poisoned and withheld from its antidote) into teaching the ladies of Mandrigyn to fight, so that they could free their city from the rule of Altiokis, "deathless evil wizard". You see, all the men of Mandrigyn who were able to fight were enslaved by Altiokis, after their failure to protect the city. So, it's up to the women to run Mandrigyn and free the men. It is in this period that they find that they are very capable, and not fragile dolls as their men treated them. Also, there's Sun Wolf whose motto is "Don't fall in love and don't mess with magic" with powers he is not aware of. He takes in Starhawk, ex-nun-turned-mercenary, who tracks Sun Wolf after noticing he was missing, and realizes in the middle of the story that she was in love with Sun Wolf all along. Hence, romantic sub-plot!
I loved how Barbara Hambly portrayed women as "more than you think they are". I loved how they formed relationships despite social stratification. Once I got over the romantic sub-plot (which was actually good but kind of distracting), I enjoyed the humor in it, as well as the action, the supernatural elements,and of course, the characters. At least there was no agenda-pushing. Just a simple illustration of women's strengths, and yes indeed, we women are
* As a comparison to Graceling (I can't help it!), which I gave 3.5 stars. I never even thought I'd give 3.75 stars to a book, and I'll be avoiding that in the near future.