This debut fantasy novel asks: What if Adam refused the apple, and only Eve was ejected from the Garden of Eden?
In the first novel in a planned series, Mark posits a matriarchal kingdom where women rule and men are slaves. After Eve’s ejection from paradise, she forms the kingdom of Evlantis, which is broken down into several sectors, each ruled by a Low Queen; every seven years, they elect a High Queen who rules over all. At the start of the novel, High Queen Rachel is three years from the end of her 7-year term, and finds her position is threatened by Low Queen Sephora. At the same time, the self-proclaimed King of the Slaves, Servus, plots a rebellion. He’s in love with Rachel’s adopted daughter, Arrival, who’s serving as Commander of the Soldier Sector in place of her missing sister, Rebekkah. Meanwhile, Adam’s youngest daughter, Ava, is exiled from Eden after she’s tempted by the snake to leave its boundaries. Before she leaves, the Archangel Michael advises her to find her relatives in Evlantis and warns her that if she doesn’t act according to God’s will, she will lose her immortality. Mark certainly doesn’t skimp on plot, and there are flashes of true satire here, as when a woman interrogates one of the slaves and, when he is leaving, slaps his bottom; the slave inwardly seethes “at being woman-handled”—a keen inversion of typical misogyny. However, some linguistic aspects of this woman-focused culture go a bit too far, such as the replacement of the word “history” with “herstory.” Readers may also wish that the temporal setting were more clearly defined; in most ways, Evlantis is a preindustrial society—transportation is on foot or via horse, and available weapons include spears, swords and daggers—but at the same time, the women participate in modern-seeming polls to track political favor.
A promising, if slightly overstuffed, start to an ambitious fantasy series.