High fantasy with a feminist perspective. Sort of.
Alysoon lives in Aalwell, the capital of Aaltah. Her mother, Brynna, was queen until Alys’ father, the king, set her aside for a new wife and sent her to live at the Abbey of the Unwanted. There, women are free to use petty magic—men are the adepts in this world—but they are also sold for sex. Alys’ husband has recently died, which means that she and her children are now dependent on her father even though "she still hadn't forgiven him," and her half brother. Ellinsoltah of Rhozinolm is a princess until a terrible accident makes her ruler. Everyone expects her to yield rule to the wise men around her, and they expect her to find a king consort soon, but Ellin finds sovereignty to her liking. Alys and Ellin are adjusting to their new lives when they learn that Brynna has worked a powerful spell that fundamentally transforms their world: “From now on, no woman will conceive or carry a child unless she wishes to of her own free will.” Once Brynna unleashes her magic…not much changes, at least not quickly. In this faux medieval world, the ability of women to control their own reproductive destinies should be a big deal. It’s baffling that it isn’t. Not only are men not freaking out about their loss of power, but it takes many, many pages before it’s clear that women understand that they can now enjoy sex with men without worrying about pregnancy. Part of the problem is one of perspective. We learn a great deal about the minutiae of Alys’ and Ellin’s lives, but we don’t know much about what’s happening beyond their chambers. Another issue is worldbuilding, an essential feature of fantasy. George R.R. Martin knows more about Westeros than he will ever tell us. Ursula K. LeGuin kept returning to Earthsea because she kept discovering new stories about the place even when she thought she was done. And of course, there’s the example of J.R.R. Tolkien. Glass’ Seven Wells seems more like a stage set than a real universe. This is, apparently, the first in a three-book series. One suspects there is enough material for one excellent novel in those three volumes.
Timely, fascinating idea. Confounding execution.