This third novel in Charnas's acclaimed feminist science fiction series comes many years after the second (Motherlines, 1978), but it's well worth the wait. In a world nearly destroyed by ecological catastrophe, the women (``fems'') of the Holdfast are abject slaves kept only for labor and breeding. Alldera, who escaped to the matriarchal Riding Women of the Grasslands, leads a band of other refugee fems back to take the Holdfast from its male masters. Internecine strife has meanwhile done most of their work- -very few men remain in a few ghost towns--but the Free Fems soon find their worst enemy is dissension among themselves. Charnas's clear thinking and exposition avoid most of the pitfalls that a nakedly political and allegorical book like this risks; her fems are complex, varied, and flawed human beings, and her depiction of the gender wars is perceptive and intelligent. A moving, thoughtful feminist novel set in a gritty and believable dystopian future.