Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆
Warrior Women is an anthology edited by Paula Guran that puts women front and center. There are many ways to be a warrior and many ways to tell the story of one. This anthology collects a variety of stories, arranged around five different themes: Swords (&Spears&Arrows&Axes) & Sorcery, Just Yesterday & Perhaps Just Beyond Tomorrow, Somewhere Between Myth & Possibility, Space Aria and Will No War End All War?
Overall, this is a great anthology. It has a good mix of different stories. They all show differen aspects of what it means to be a warrior. All have different approaches. There were a lot of authors I now want to read more of. The stories I particularly enjoyed were:
- The Girls from Avenger by Carrie Vaughn, about WASPs during World War II
- England Under the White Witch by Theodora Goss, about an empress with ice powers and her expanding empire
- The Application of Hope by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a novella about a captain trying to find a lost friend in foldspace
- And Wash Out by Tides of War by An Owomoyela, about a girl with a chip on her shoulder and her mother, a war machine newly returned from war
- They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain by Rachael Acks about a woman trying to fit back into civilian life
- The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile by Aliette de Bodard about a young girl during war and a mindship looking for a warrior
Read on for a more detailed review of the different stories in the anthology.
Northern Chess – Tanith Lee
Jaisel is a travelling warrior. She finds herself on cursed lands, where an ever diminishing group of knights tries, unsuccessfully, to storm the castle of a dead, evil magician. But no one who attempts to enter the castle makes it out alive.
I really liked the world and Tanith Lee has a beautiful writing style. I also loved Jaisel. And the ending.
Anukazi’s Daughter – Mary Gentle
Rax is Anukazi’s only daughter. As the only female warrior, she fights an uphill battle against prejudice. She does not get the respect she deserves, but she loves the life of a warrior. But then she makes a fateful decision.
The beginning of this story was great. The world was interesting, particularly the warrior culture Rax belongs to. However, the story petered out towards the end. I never really connected to Rax so her decisions seemed to come out of nowhere.
3. Become a Warrior – Jane Yolen
A young girl looses her father and her brothers on the battlefield. When the victors come to claim their spoils, she disguises herself as a boy and flees the castle. She swears she will get her revenge.
I did like the fairy-tale-like quality of the story. I liked the twist on the classic story of the beautiful maiden found in the woods by a prince. But I absolutely hated how she thought about her mother and sisters: as worthless because of what would happen to them.
She did not dream of her mother or of her sisters or of any of the women in her father’s fortress. If they died, it had been with little honor. If they still lived, it was with less.
The Sea Troll’s Daughter – Caitlín R. Kiernan
Malmury killed a sea troll that terrorized the village. Now she is waiting for her reward. The problem: the villagers don’t want to give it to her without proof. And there’s also an old witch claiming that by killing the troll, she has incurred the wrath of his daughter.
I really liked Malmury at first. I liked her swagger and her boasting. However, the characters never really developed. They were sort of lifeless. And Malmury wasn’t much of a protagonist towards the end.
Joenna’s Axe – Elaine Isaak
Joenna’s son is dead and she is determined to get revenge. Even if she has to disguise herself as a man and join the army. She will kill one demon for every year of her son’s life.
I liked that Joenna was a mother and not a young woman. And the few things I got to know about the world were interesting. It was a shame that we didn’t get more.
Love Among the Talus – Elizabeth Bear
Nilufer is a princess and heir to the kingdom, her father and brothers are dead, killed by the Khan when she was still in her mother’s womb. Now they pay tribute to the Khan and Nilufer is raised to one day rule the kingdom.
I loved the world and its culture. Stone creatures that are used for mining, witches that write spells in beautiful calligraphy. However, Nilufer remained totally emotionless and devoid of character. I didn’t connect with her or her actions. They were just too sudden and did not make sense to me.
Soul Case – Nalo Hopkinson
In a Caribbean village, a free community, escaped slaves prepare themselves for battle. The odds are overwhelmingly against them. They are few and have even fewer weapons. All they have is magic.
This story was too short. We barely get to know any of the people in the village so when the price for the magic had to be payed, it didn’t have the impact it could have had.
The Girls from Avenger – Carrie Vaughn
Em is a WASP. The Second World War is raging and Em dreams of doing more, of flying more powerful planes. Tragedy strikes and her best friend Mary dies while flying. Em is determined to find out what truly happens but she has to fight against prejudice and a wall of silence.
This was a difficult story to read. It was sad and infuriating at the same time. The way these women were treated was terrible. But I loved the friendships between the WASPs and how they stuck together.
If one of Mr Keene’s sons had been killed, the family would put a gold star in the window to replace the blue one showing loved ones serving in combat. They’d be able to celebrate their war hero. Mary wouldn’t get any of that, not even a flag on her casket.
In the Loop – Ken Liu
Kyra’s Dad was a drone pilot. He suffered from PTSD and it has haunted Kyra all her life. It is the reason she signs up to work for a company that develops advanced drones that can do their job without human handlers and promises a victimless war.
A fascinating story and a different take on the concept of warrior. Kyra fights with algorithms. It was also a difficult story to read, because of the detached, cold nature opf the drone strikes and the way people kept talking about collateral damage.
Dying with Her Cheer Pants On – Seanan McGuire
It’s the end of the world. The alien invasion is in full swing and they are killing everyone. A group of cheerleaders decides to fight them the only way they can think of: by summoning a ghost.
I guess this story was supposed to be funny. I just found it ridiculous.
Prayer – Robert Reed
Canada is occupied by the United States, a religious empire. A fourteen year old finds a terrible, intelligent weapon built for the US army and is determined to use it for the cause of the rebellion.
The world was fascinating, this mix of religious empire and science fiction. However, the story switched perspectives a lot. From Ophelia to the gun and back and it was very confusing.
England Under the White Witch – Theodora Goss
The empress came from the north. She conquered the country with wolves and magic and an army of girls. It is eternally winter in England and the empire forever spreading, bringing cold to every country they conquer.
This was a beautiful story. The writing is gorgeous and the world utterly fascinating. It left me wanting more.
Out of the mist they came, white and gray, with teeth as sharp as knives. They spoke in low, guttural voices, telling the Royal Guards to surrender or have their throats ripped out. Most of the guards stayed loyal. In the end, there was blood on the snow in front of Buckingham Palace.
The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr – George R. R. Martin
Sharra can walk between worlds. She is forever going from one to the other, looking for the love of her life, whom the gods have cruelly taken from her. One of the worlds she finds herself in is empty except for a lonely man called Laren Dorr.
This story is all about Laren Dorr. And he is not a woman. Instead, he is a very whiny, very boring man and he bored me to no end. The sappy lovestory follows old patterns and offers nothing new. I would have rather read about a badass girl that travels between worlds and not about a whiny dude.
The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars – Yoon Ha Lee
The High Fleet of the Knifebird is still fighting the war that strategist Niristez promised to win. And she intends to keep her promise. What she needs is to find a very special game, guarded by an immortal warden.
This story had some really cool ideas, but overall, it was really confusing, sort of abstract in its telling.
Boy Twelve – Jessica Reisman
Virtue Kana works as a salvager. It wasn’t what she was born to do but it is a hell of a lot better than working for her brother. But he just won’t let her go. He even sends her the clone of her dead boyfriend to make her angry.
This was a great adventure story with awesome characters. Virtue struggled with her past, she had edges. And I really liked her friendship with Dayva. I’m a sucker for female friendship.
The Application of Hope – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Tory Sabin is a captain of the Fleet, a conglomerate of ships that keeps forever moving across the galaxy, only stopping to bring their civilization to alien planets. Tory struggles with a ghost from her past: her father and his ship was lost in foldspace. Then her friend Coop disappears in foldspace as well.
This is more of a novella than a short story and it was worth every page. The world was great, the story had an amazing pacing and strong pull and Tory was a great character.
Not That Kind of a War – Tanya Huff
The Confederation has to keep fighting the Others because they keep coming. Torin Kerr is a sergeant, deployed to different planets. Her goal is to make it out alive and keep her marines alive as well.
This one’s short and action-packed. It had some nice battle scenes and Torin’s tough, shrewd and pretty cool.
Naratha’s Shadow – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Montet is a scout, looking for artifacts and myths. What she finds is a dark thing and no one knows what it is. Her search for the nature of it leads her to a small planet where the Voice of Naratha sings her songs.
It is very poetically told. However, I didn’t connect with any of the characters and the pacing was off.
Eaters – Nancy Kress
Josie Two Ribbons is a soldier in the Space Force but her mission on Janus 4 is personal. Her father was part of the terraforming team there but now he is missing.
I don’t really know what to think about this one. The concept was interesting but I didn’t connect with the characters. And Ellen’s narration was grating and annoyingly lecturing.
And Wash Out by Tides of War – An Owomoyela
The war is over and the soldiers are coming back. Aditi’s mother was one of the ones who left to fight but she is more than a soldier. She is a hhaellesh, a war machine. And Aditi has the only thing that can turn her human again. But her mother is a stranger.
This story had it all: a fascinating world, a tough teen with a chip on her shoulder and a difficult relationship with a mother that returns from war and who she barely knows.
Hand to Hand – Elizabeth Moon
Ereza is a soldier from a family of soldiers. Only one person in her family is not a soldier and it’s her sister, a gifted musician. Their relationship is difficult. Ereza doesn’t really understand her.
Hm. It was a nice stury, but I expected more. I wanted more of the relationship between the two sisters. And the ending was weird.
They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain – Rachael Acks
Charlie enlists in the Allied Earth Special Forces and becomes a weapon as well as a warrior. She is the brain of a hundred robot ships, sent to destroy the rebels. But when she returns home, civilian life is more difficult than she expected.
This story is beautiful and sad. It’s about trying to live a normal life after war, with PTSD and limited support.
Wonder Maul Doll – Kameron Hurley
A group of warriors is sent to a planet looking for organics.
The fact that I can barely tell what this story was about says a lot about it. The worldbuilding was vague at best. We never get to know what these organics are, what’s up with the bugs or why people attack others and what’s wrong with their faces. Just utterly confusing.
The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile – Aliette de Bodard
Rebels are heading towards the First Planet, conquering and destroying all other planets in their path. The empire is falling, the Lily Empress no match for the enemy forces. The mindships are lost. All but one, the Phoenix and its looking for a warrior.
A beautifully written story. I absolutely loved the setting and would have loved to read more about this world.
A great anthology with a good variety of different perspectives and stories that highlight different aspects of what it means to be a female warrior.