A man harnesses a spiritual power and uses it to destroy women.
This prequel about the founding of the all-female abbey of Maresi (2017) begins across the sea. Kabira’s 19; Iskan, the vizier’s son, visits her family regularly, but is he courting Kabira or her sister? In this wealthy, formal, Asian-esque fantasy culture, there’s no way to know. Kabira shows Iskan—who’s an irredeemably vile antagonist at the level of King Leck in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm—a spring called Anji that holds “the primordial life force.” Iskan drinks Anji’s water and never looks back. He kills Kabira’s family, marries her, rapes her continually, aborts her daughters, and steals her sons. As decades pass, Iskan acquires new women (buying them as slaves, stealing them from other cultures; their religions and gifts vary). Each narrates in first person. He rapes and batters them, drinking more and more of Anji’s water; he lays waste to masses of people. The prose flows, elegant and smooth, with colorful settings. Turtschaninoff writes mothering-related trauma searingly but underemphasizes rape trauma despite the constancy of the act; inexplicably, the word “rape” never even appears. The women’s skin colors and cultures vary, though the darkest-skinned woman is exoticized.
Late solaces—the escape, the abbey’s founding, one partnership between women—can’t outweigh the toll of misogynistic torture in this heavy piece. (maps, character list) (Fantasy. 15-adult)