by Jess Corban
*this review was originally written for Netgalley, which is why it is formatted differently than my regular reviews*
That’s the best word I can think of to describe this book. Interesting.
A Gentle Tyranny tells the story of Reina, a young girl in a female-dominated society who becomes part of a competition-of-sorts to become the next Matriarch, the leader of Nede. As Reina trains to possibly become the next Matriarch, she learns about certain things happening inside of Nede that she isn’t sure she can approve of.
When I originally read the synopsis for A Gentle Tyranny, I actually found it pretty confusing since it uses a number of terms that aren’t defined until you start reading the story. So here is the publisher’s synopsis with some of my definitions in brackets.
What if women unraveled the evils of patriarchy? With men safely “gentled” in a worldwide Liberation [an overthrowing of “regular” men], the matriarchy of Nedé has risen from the ashes. Seventeen-year-old Reina Pierce has never given a thought to the Brutes of old. Itching to escape her mother’s finca [basically a large farm] and keeping her training for the Alexia [the “military”] and her forbidden friendship a secret, her greatest worry is which Destiny [career path] she’ll choose on her next birthday. But when she’s selected as a candidate for the Succession instead, competing to become Nedé’s ninth Matriarch, she discovers their Eden has come at a cost she’s not sure she’s willing to pay.
A Gentle Tyranny really plays off of the “your utopia is my dystopia” idea. Nede is a world in which all abuse against women has been eradicated because all of the men have been “gentled”. Men are weak and docile and do whatever the women don’t want to do. They mainly act as servants.
While I enjoyed A Gentle Tyranny, the plot did feel a fair bit like set-up for the other book, especially in light of the ending. And while the pacing didn’t feel slow, considering that this series is only going to be a duology I think that the story could have been structured better.
I liked the setting and worldbuilding of A Gentle Tyranny, but I would have loved to see it dig a little deeper into it and really immerse me in the jungles of Central America.
I found Reina to be a sympathetic character. She’s a girl who isn’t exactly sure what she wants to do with her life, but she knows some things she doesn’t want to do. And then she ends up discovering facts about her world that she doesn’t know what to do with.
That all being said, Reina does make a decision towards the later part of the book that is a “wrong thing for what will hopefully end up being the right reason”. And I found it a lot harder to still like her after that decision. It would have been interesting if Reina had made a different decision and had to see how that choice would play out.
Overall, A Gentle Tyranny is an interesting look at what would happen if women stopped men from being men. However, I’m not sure I enjoyed the book enough to reread it or read the conclusion to the duology.
Cautions: brief mentions of physical and sexual abuse; a brief suggestion of two characters being in a homosexual relationship (this is viewed negatively by the main character); brief, moderate-heavy violence ***
***Note: It has been a while since I read A Gentle Tyranny and I did not keep notes about the cautions in the book. These are all I remember being in it, but I cannot guarantee that these are all of the cautions.