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A centuries-long peace is shattered in a matriarchal society when a decade passes without a single girl being born in this sweeping epic fantasy that’s perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Circe.

Five hundred years of peace between queendoms shatters when girls inexplicably stop being born. As the Drought of Girls stretches across a generation, it sets off a cascade of political and personal consequences across all five queendoms of the known world, throwing long-standing alliances into disarray as each queendom begins to turn on each other—and new threats to each nation rise from within.

Uniting the stories of women from across the queendoms, this propulsive, gripping epic fantasy follows a warrior queen who must rise from childbirth bed to fight for her life and her throne, a healer in hiding desperate to protect the secret of her daughter’s explosive power, a queen whose desperation to retain control leads her to risk using the darkest magic, a near-immortal sorcerer demigod powerful enough to remake the world for her own ends—and the generation of lastborn girls, the ones born just before the Drought, who must bear the hopes and traditions of their nations if the queendoms are to survive.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published February 22, 2022

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About the author

G.R. Macallister

2 books173 followers
G.R. Macallister, author of the Five Queendoms series, also writes bestselling historical fiction as Greer Macallister. Her novels have been named Indie Next, LibraryReads, and Amazon Best Book of the Month picks and optioned for film and television. A regular contributor to Writer Unboxed and the Chicago Review of Books, she lives with her family in Boston. Scorpica is her epic fantasy debut.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 282 reviews
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 32 books21.4k followers
January 1, 2022
Read this one for a cover quote, and it knocked my socks off! SCORPICA is "Game of Thrones" for all the ladies out there who loved Game of Thrones but hated the mad-queen finish: a richly-drawn fantasy world peopled by fierce women, smart women, warrior women, women to make you stand up and roar. A matriarchal quintet of queen-led nations is thrown into chaos when baby girls inexplicably stop being born, and the result is an intoxicating brew of court politics, deadly magic, family rivalry, and enough swashbuckling female swordplay to delight Wonder Woman's entire isle of Amazons. Can't WAIT for the next installment.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,891 reviews1,208 followers
March 10, 2022
This book crossed my radar and I was ambivalent. On one hand, the description didn’t do a lot for me: it read like your fairly standard fantasy novel with the twist that the society is matriarchal rather than the mostly patriarchal ones we see. On the other hand, I was feeling some epic fantasy, and I wanted to see if Scorpica might pleasantly surprise me. You might say I am an optimist. Well, G.R. Macallister’s story has some intriguing parts to it, and her characters definitely very dynamic. Overall, though, the writing, characterization, and a lot of the worldbuilding choices just didn’t work for me.

Thanks to Saga Press and NetGalley for the eARC.

There are five queendoms: Paxim, Bastion, Sestia, Arca, and the eponymous Scorpica. Each queendom is known for certain traits and jobs; the Scorpicans are warriors. Each queendom is also matriarchal: there are matriclans, each one is ruled by a queen, and men in general have a lower standing in all five societies—for example, in Scorpica, only women can be warriors, and indeed, the nation actually sells their boy children to other kingdoms for a profit. Ok….

I’m rather torn by Macallister’s depiction of a matriarchy here. Look, I get that it is important to show that women in positions of power can be just as awful as men—and that’s what’s on display here. The gender swap in this story is basically, “what if women were in charge and were just as awful and oppressive as men are in our world?” That doesn’t interest me, though—the whole deal with patriarchy is that it is a form of structural oppression that exists beyond any individual person; if you gender swap it into an oppressive matriarchy, you’re not making any specific comment on our society beyond maybe that power corrupts. I am far more interested in depictions of matriarchy that push the boundaries of our understanding of power, etc. And we have those in fantasy already—fantasy has arguably long had traditions of strong female characters, warriors or otherwise, breaking the mould of what it means to be a hero. Scorpica feels very disconnected from those traditions, however, very much like it thinks it is different and edgy and cool when in reality it’s a couple of decades too late.

Similarly, the whole idea of nations that are so incredibly specialized just feels tapped out. We’ve done this before, over and over, and sometimes it leads down interesting avenues but it doesn’t seem to in this case. Even the title of the book is questionable given that a great deal of the action takes place in Paxim and Arca, and four or five of the main POV characters are Arcans. Beyond that, however, lies the main problem with this world: it’s boring.

The cookiecutter nations are actually a symptom of a larger problem, which is a lack of depth to the entire world. This is evident in the way that Macallister has structured the story: every five years, the queens meet to perform ritual child sacrifices to the gods. In between, we get precious few details about what these queens do or indeed what’s going on in any of these nations. When we are with Jehenit and Eminel and the Rovers, we’re told they are travelling bandits in the otherwise generic land of Paxim. Tamura and her warriors train and fight and hunt and fuck, I guess. We’re told Arca is a nation of magic, that pretty much every woman has some kind of categorized gift—but we never really see what this means, never really understand what kind of culture this has created among the Arcans, aside from the small glimpse we get into Mirriam’s bloodthirsty games of palace intrigue.

And then we come to the main plot: the Drought of Girls. The book starts with the last girl being born in a long time. Over a decade passes, and various nations start to get desperate, Scorpica most of all. I will give Macallister this: it’s a great setup to sow conflict among five peaceful countries, to be sure. Deprive them of a valuable resource, set them at each other’s throats. It’s not a bad plan by the Big Bad (and she would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those kids…). Again, though, despite the vast number of perspectives and the epic timescale of the novel, we see precious few examples of how the Drought affects day-to-day life in the queendoms aside from the existential worries it creates for some of the queens.

Plus, of course, as a trans woman, this kind of gender-essentialist plotting and worldbuilding always makes me uncomfortable. To be fair, Macallister does explicitly signal the existence of genderqueer people in this world—there is an agender priest who uses they/them pronouns, and at one point the book acknowledges that some people are “neither man nor woman.” Nevertheless, that is pretty much “the bar is on the floor” kind of territory these days; acknowledgement doesn’t do much to fix the larger issue, which is that for the purposes of the story you’ve created, it’s just more convenient if we largely ignore and erase trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people. I can’t get behind that. If your story relies on us existing only in the margins, you are actively marginalizing us, and you should find a better story.

My final critique is just that the writing itself didn’t work for me. This book is so heavily weighted towards tell over show. The omniscient narrator spends a lot of time explaining this world to us, instead of stepping back and letting the characters do so through dialogue and action. I suspect that’s what makes my observation earlier about the shallowness of the worldbuilding all the more poignant for me: it didn’t have to be that way. The writing style practically begs for a much deeper world to explain to the reader. Instead, it remains all surface-level stuff, and the dialogue between characters is … lacklustre at best.

Now if you have read up until this point, you might think I hated Scorpica. Understandable. Truthfully, though, all these complaints aside … I still kind of liked it? There’s charm to it and a strange kind of appeal to the journeys of some of these characters. Macallister has some kind of interesting story here; it’s just never fully realized. Queen Mirriam of Arca, for example, has a fantastic journey that sees her verging into straight villain territory—yet it is squandered in a confrontation with the main antagonist, who herself feels defeated too easily at the climax of the book.

I guess my verdict, then, is that Scorpica is kind of a hot mess of epic fantasy—but I respect that, because as I have said in the past, I prefer big swings and misses over books that don’t swing at all. I think there are a lot of problematic elements here, from the uncritical replication of oppressive power structures in a gender-swapped world to the erasure of trans people to the casual way children are sacrificed and sexualized (there’s a scene late in the novel where a girl who is maybe sixteen or seventeen years old has sex with a woman in her twenties—the timelines and ages of people are a little hard to follow, but it’s the kind of thing where if you start to think about it too much you’re like … oh). For these reasons, I find it difficult to recommend this book. At the same time, I can see what others might see in it. It was a pleasant diversion for a couple of days—but it didn’t get me excited, and in some ways, it left me cold.

Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

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Profile Image for Rebecca Roanhorse.
Author 54 books7,176 followers
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June 21, 2021
FYI: I read this ARC under the title "Scorpica". Not sure what the final title will be, but either way, the book was an ambitious and engaging epic fantasy spanning generations. The world feels a bit Ancient Greece to me, but that may be the outsized role of the women warriors who remind me of Amazons. Besides the Amazons, there are four other distinct cultures, each specializing in a skill or craft, the most central to the story being war and magic. That makes for rich worldbuilding and an interesting magic system driven by location and accident of birth (at least at this point in the series). The characters are intriguing and we follow would-be-goddesses, queens and would-be-queens, mysterious thieves, doomed teenagers, and secretive healers, among others, as they maneuver through the destinies set for them, and the destinies they claim for themselves. The real conundrum of the story arises when female children stop being born. I won't spoil the why or how or it all, but in a world ruled by women, and where every person in the world of consequences is a woman, it's a problem. And from the problem cascade a series of events that set the characters on their fraught paths.

The novel is a complete story in and of itself, but it is also very much the kickoff to a series, meaning I'll be waiting to see what happens next. I felt like we were really only getting started and I am ready for more.

Recommend!
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books676 followers
December 19, 2022
I really loved this. It's an epic fantasy that doesn't change the format from the beloved heroes making hard choices for loyalty and family and honor. The one little switch is that women are the heroes, and men are the trophies. Over the top? Yeah, the same way with Fafhrd or Garion or even LOTR. But the recipe is the same and it tastes just as sweet.

CONTENT WARNING:

I don't think this came to a satisfactory ending, but I loved the ride. Mythology, magic, curses, politics...it's got it all!
Profile Image for Silvia .
635 reviews1,371 followers
February 19, 2022
I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Scorpica is a matriarchal epic fantasy that I was really excited to read. The selling points for me were the multiple point of views and the sapphic characters, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I don’t think I had ever read a purely matriarchal worldbuilding before so that was one aspect of the book I found really interesting. Each of the Queendoms (at least the ones we’ve explored a bit more) seems to treat men differently: one sends them away as soon as they are born since they can’t be warriors; one sees them as trophy husbands that at best can do pretty magic; in another one men are starting to demand more rights.

There are several point of views throughout the book and that’s my favorite thing to see in epic fantasy. All the women were so different and since the story spanned multiple years it was also really cool to see some of them grow to become young women.

I think the writing style, paired with how seemingly slow paced this book is, is going to be a little polarizing. It’s the type of writing that’s more tell than show and that can be your thing or not. It’s personally not what I normally prefer but I think it worked here for this type of story, especially since there was so much going on.

One question I had from the very beginning was whether gender binarism was going to be challenged, and I think it wasn’t an unreasonable expectation to have for a sapphic fantasy releasing in 2022, but unfortunately I wasn’t completely satisfied in that point. There was a very minor (non-POV) agender character and mention of “people who are neither [men nor women]” but other than this there was no mention of how people that don’t fit the binary may fit the different societies of the Queendoms. Scorpicans sending away their boys as soon as they are born just based on what they see doesn’t seem to account for the existence of trans women and trans men, let alone someone who is neither. The curse that’s at the center of the plot only sees boys being born, but you can’t really know they’re boys until they’re old enough to tell you they are. The role of the only agender person mentioned in the book was to be a priest, which seems a little convenient in order not to have to think about how people of different genders may fit in an otherwise binary society. I hope this will be addressed in later books in the series because I see it as the biggest, and quite literally fundamental, flaw of this first book.

Despite this and the moments I wished I was able to read this a little bit faster, I enjoyed reading this book and I can say that pretty much at no point did I know or expect what was going to happen later. I would recommend it for readers who are used to epic fantasy and are prepared to be patient until they see where the book is going, and are looking for a casually sapphic matriarchal fantasy.

TWs: pregnancy, child birth, violence, death, murder, blood, death of a parent
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,985 reviews2,584 followers
April 19, 2022
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2022/03/28/...

Here’s what I’ll first say about Scorpica: I was glad I went in knowing very little about it, because I came out on the other side of it with my mind completely blown! This is the perfect example of a book where having almost no knowledge about the story or its themes before starting helped a lot; free from the weight of any preconceptions or expectations, I simply let myself be carried along for the ride and swept up into its world of magic and intrigue.

To begin, readers are transported to a realm ruled by five queendoms, each with its own specialty. For example, the titular land of Scorpica is known for its fierce warrior women. Arca, on the other hand, is famous for magic, while Bastion’s reputation is for its dedication to the scholarly arts and pursuits. Then there’s Sestia, its fertile lands making them natural agricultural specialists, and finally Paxim, a bustling hub for tradecraft and diplomacy. For centuries, peace has existed among these queendoms despite the vast differences between their people’s cultural values and their society, simply because the queens that rule have always recognized the mutual benefits that comes with balance and reciprocity.

But soon, it appears that this precarious balance is about to come to an end, with a phenomenon that is being called the Drought of Girls. What this means is that fewer girls are being born each year, and it’s a complete mystery as to why it’s happening, even if each queendom may have its own theories. What’s clear enough for everyone though, is that for a matriarchal society, the lack of baby girls will have severe and devastating implications for the future of the entire realm.

With a plotline that allows readers a glimpse into the events unfolding across all the queendoms and from multiple perspectives, there were a lot of characters to keep track of, but fortunately it never got overwhelming, mainly because all the POVs were interesting and memorable. Through the eyes of these characters, the world around them also started to emerge, and in this way, we got to learn more about the five queendoms—their histories, traditions, customs, etc.

Indeed, I thought the world-building was perhaps one of the novel’s greatest strengths. G.R. Macallister is also a pen name of historical fiction author Greer Macallister, who is dipping into epic fantasy for the first time with Scorpica, but her experience with her main genre was clearly an asset. The scope of this story and its world is huge, and here we’re probably only grazing the surface. It probably won’t come as a surprise, given its title, but the majority of this book focused on the land of Scorpica and its internal power struggles, and I imagine we will eventually see the same treatment for each of the four other queendoms in future installments.

Macallister also did a fantastic job with her characters, and because I would hate to inadvertently reveal any spoilers by detailing names and specifics, I’ll just say there were plenty of surprises and plot twists that kept the cast list evolving constantly. And yes, I suppose there also may be some truth in comparisons made between Scorpica and Game of Thrones. With that said though, I appreciated the way time transitioned in this novel and the fact that character actions would directly impact the world—meaning everyone had a role to play, no matter how small.

All told, I enjoyed myself immensely with Scorpica, a lushly written and character-driven gem of an epic fantasy novel that will undoubtedly end up on my highlights list of 2022. I’m very excited to continue The Five Queendoms series and am looking forward to the next book.
Profile Image for Shelby.
66 reviews4 followers
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April 20, 2022
One of the blurbs for the book says this is a book that will make you "stand up and roar" and I would LOVE to know what version of this book that author got because all Scorpica did to me was make me lay down and fall asleep.

*cracks knuckles* Okay, let's do this. I'm officially DNF'ing Scorpica as of 3/3/2022. I've been slogging through my ARC since January 15, which is probably a good sign that I should give up. It NEVER takes me this long to read a book, even if I'm not really vibing with it.

And I NEVER DNF books, at least not in the last few years. Scorpica holds the dubious distinction of being the first book I've DNF'd in *four* years. In the interest of full disclosure, I read 140 pages of the ARC, which was a little over 400 pages. I feel reading a little over a fourth of a book (that's not particularly long to begin with) is more than enough to gauge its quality and whether or not I want to continue reading it.

My coworker was kind enough to give me this ARC because she knew I liked fantasy and figured I'd be interested in an advanced copy of an upcoming fantasy novel. And I absolutely was, especially after reading the (vague, but still somewhat intriguing) summary on the back cover. A matriarchal world where girls suddenly stop being born? Sounds awesome.

Reader, this book was not awesome. In fact, it's making me question whether or not I even like fantasy. Imagine a book being so awful it makes you question whether your lifelong favorite genre is actually your favorite genre anymore. That's what happened to me with Scorpica.

Scorpica suffers from many of what I consider Fantasy's Deadly Sins. This list is purely subjective, of course. That's why it's not Seven Deadly Sins, because this list gets added to all the time and it'd be a headache trying to update the name every time I added a new sin. But for me, this list includes sins like...

1) Vague worldbuilding
There's a one-page prologue at the beginning of this book that outlines the five queendoms that, well, make up the titular Five Queendoms. I'm going to be honest: as soon as I saw this crash course worldbuilding prologue, little warning bells were going off in my head. I know high fantasy has to do heavy lifting in introducing a whole new world to the reader, but talented writers can pull off welcoming readers into a new world without having to lay it all out in a Wikipedia-style prologue. (Also, maps are helpful! If I get confused, I'll just flip back to the map and say, "Oh, of course Yerzgefrejfad is the northern kingdom.") But Scorpica apparently doesn't trust its readers, so it infodumps a rough outline of the Five Queendoms on page one.

And stop me if you've heard this one before: Each queendom has its assigned role. One queendom is primarily home to warriors, another queendom is primarily home to magic users, and...what? You think that worldbuilding sounds like the "every faction has exactly ONE personality trait" levels of depth from such YA classics as Divergent? Well...you'd be completely right. These queendoms are one-dimensional, and even that might be generous. After reading 140 pages (again, over ONE-FOURTH of this book), I have no idea what distinguishes these queendoms from each other, beyond what was loosely sketched out in the prologue. Aside from obvious distinctions like "this is the warrior queendom" and "this is the magician queendom," these queendoms all seem functionally the same. They have the same religious beliefs, the same opinions of men, seemingly the same exact climate (I didn't get far enough into this book to discover if we ever went beyond ~desert~ as the primary setting of this novel.) There is absolutely nothing to mark these queendoms as distinct in anyway, and that's just lazy. I've read fantasy books set in just one city that feature more diversity of culture than this and the setting of this book spans an entire continent. The worldbuilding of this book was just shockingly bland. Each queendom got its one (1) job and then absolutely nothing else to make them unique.

As a subpoint to this, I thought the matriarchies in this book were completely uninteresting. This book gave nothing beyond the barest thought as to what a matriarchal world would look like. There could have been some really good stuff here, really sharp commentary on gender and gender roles. (And maybe some of that commentary showed up on page 357. Idk. It definitely didn't exist in the first 140 pages of the book). But instead, I'm left with more questions than answers as to how gender works in this world. In some queendoms, women practice polyandry and take multiple husbands. This approach to marriage is not explored in any depth--we just hear about some of the characters having a few husbands. In Scorpica (the only queendom I can remember, mostly because it was the title of the book and also because it's the one that featured the most prominently in those 140 pages), men just...don't exist? If a Scorpican woman gives birth to a son, that son is sold to another queendom. Which, uh, wow, there's a lot to unpack there. I'm not at all against single-gender societies in fantasy, but I needed a lot more explanation to how Scorpica functiond beyond, "Um, we just give away our sons at birth and then have sex with random men when we travel out of the country." This just was not the incisive commentary on gender I was looking for when I picked up this book.

2) Uninteresting characters
You'd think if the worldbuilding was so paper-thin, the author at least might have taken the time to develop the characters, but nope, that didn't happen either. I've seen paper dolls with more complexity than these characters. I knew it was a bad sign when It was the flat characters who gave me the final push to DNF this book, actually. I realized if I was so uninvested in these characters that death and betrayal didn't shake me, there was no way I was magically going to care in another 100 pages. This sin is compounded by another sin Scorpica commits which is...

3) Too many PoVs
Look, I like books with multiple PoVs. And I know it's a technique the fantasy genre has made its bread and butter. But if you're going to use multiple PoVs, you need to have compelling characters (strike one) and some idea of why *these* characters are telling *this* story. Beyond all the characters living somewhere in the Five Queendoms, I had no idea why the viewpoint characters were chosen to narrate. I couldn't understand how any of these perspectives connected. And don't get me wrong. I know fantasy books often play the long con. You'll get PoV chapters from characters on opposite ends of the continent and they won't meet up until the end of the book. But usually, if an author is skilled enough, I trust that a reveal connecting these characters are coming or that threads that tie the characters together will be hinted at. I'm sure, eventually, McAllister ties our myriad narrators together with something more substantial than "they all live in this world." But none of her characters were interesting enough to entice me, and I didn't care to find out what would cause these storylines and viewpoints to finally intersect.

(Going along with both this point and the last point, this book simply introduced TOO many characters in the first 140 pages, and spent unequal time on them. We get a LOT of chapters about the Scorpican characters, which I guess makes sense given the title of the book, and then we'll randomly get a chapter from the immortal sorceress or finally get introduced to the queen of another country after almost 100 pages. And again, some authors can pull this off! Some authors can keep throwing new characters at you for a few hundred pages, and it works! Unfortunately, the perspective chapters just felt too imbalanced--I'd forget the other queendoms even existed. And even the characters we spent a lot of time with were poorly developed, so I was just being introduced to a bunch of flat, forgettable characters in rapid succession. I simply don't know how I was supposed to get invested in and remember 30 characters who have all the charisma of a beige paint swatch.)

4) No plot
I know fantasy is guilty of some pretty slow pacing. Some of my favorite fantasy novels have admittedly atrocious pacing, particularly at the beginning. I can tolerate some pretty slow burns. But usually, even in a fantasy novel with a slow pace, I have some idea of where the book is going plotwise. It might take 300 pages to get there, but the author will usually at least give us some hint of what the main conflict of the book will be. After 140 pages of Scorpica, I have no idea what the plot of this book is supposed to be. And this isn't even a particularly long book! It's only ~430 pages, which is kid's play in fantasy. Maybe if this book had clocked in at 800 pages, I would have forgiven it for its nonexistent plot in its early pages. But a fourth of the way through the book, I should at least be able to figure out what this book is going to be about. And I have no idea where Scorpica was going. It had, as far as I could tell, no plot. Even the back cover summary has no idea what happens in the book, because the back cover summary just lists off the main characters and then talks about the "drought of girls" that occurs in the Five Queendoms. Unfortunately, girls not being born isn't a plot! It's an inciting incident! What happens after the girls stop being born? How do the queendoms react? I can't believe girls stopped being born, and I still could not figure out what the conflict of this book was going to be. Surely an even that major would have set off a chain reaction pretty quickly.

(As a side note, while I'm sure this series will span multiple years, I got the impression reading the back cover summary that we'd be further out from the drought of girls during the events of the novel. Like, it's been 40 years since girls stopped being born and now society is in shambles. But, no, this book picks up just a couple years into the drought, where it's an issue but not quite society-breaking because they still have young girls who were born a couple years ago. I guess this is more of an expectation problem on my end, but still. The tension and conflict would have ratcheted up if we were years in the future and the last generation of girls is older/dying off. But maybe that will happen in book 4. I'll never know.)

5) Clunky, contrived writing
This will sound shocking, considering everything I've just complained about in excruciating detail, but the prose was Scorpica's biggest flaw. Flat characters were what prompted me to finally put the book down, but the prose had been grating on me from page one. Every word of this book is so tortured, so forced, it's physically painful to read.

Scorpica is allergic to using any phrase that might exist in our world because, I don't know, that will ruin the ~fantasy~ of it all. Characters can't be eleven or fifteen. No, they're "ten-and-one" or "ten-and-five," because apparently using the word "fifteen" in a world where girls just stop being born would destroy my suspension of belief too much. The worst offender in this book (in the 140 pages I read) wasn't the weird, Jane Austen-esque "ten-and-five," but rather a phrase that got used while a character was giving birth. At one point, the book unironically uses the term "birth portal" to describe a character in labor, and I almost lost the will to live right there. BIRTH PORTAL? That reads like something out of one of those cringy, sexist 1970s fantasy novels that make boobs sound like foreign objects, not something I should come across in my feminist fantasy novel. What the actual hell.

Birth portal is by far the worst of it, but there's more awkward writing in this book, like

~We cannot say "slept together" or "had sex" or "f**ked," so let's describe it in the worst way possible~
-"She'd returned to Scorpica with a belly set to swell, as did so many warrior sisters, their seed watered with a man's rain." ("Watered with a man's rain" makes me feel like I'm reading the worst kind of erotica. This one also gets points for its awkward description of pregnancy.)
-At one point, a character fondly remembers her child's father "the remarkable ease of their joining." (Absolutely the hottest way they could have described that memory. Like planks of wood being joined together by a carpenter. Spicy stuff.)

~That most loathed of lazy fantasy infodumping, "as you know, Bob" dialogue~
-"He's gone to Melo--that's the nearest trading post--to swap the season's honey for some other goods." (Because figuring out Melo was a trading post was completely impossible if the character didn't say this. It's not like he doesn't immediately follow up by saying that his brother's going there...to trade...so...we can assume...that means...it's a trading post.)

~Sentences that just make the characters look like idiots~
-"She'd thought the twinges in her body were the usual pains and protests, but it seemed she hadn't recognized what they really were: the beginning of the end." (I'll say. The "she" in this sentence is a master healer who's like a gazillion months pregnant at this point. Surely she might have figured out sooner, using context clues, that she'd gone into labor. Also, add "the beginning of the end" to the list of unnecessarily dramatic descriptions.)
-"But the community didn't need to know in order to suspect." (Uh, yeah? That's what suspicions are. If you suspect something, that means you don't know! The literal dictionary.com definition of suspect is "to believe to be guilty, false, counterfeit, undesirable, defective, bad, etc., with little or no proof.")

~Phrases that are awkward, lazy, or otherwise inconsistent~
-"The three of them were alone: Khara, the man, and the arrow." (My only comment on this sentence in my reading notes was the eyeroll emoji.)
-"The God of Plenty had Her days, but a warrior's years belonged to the Scorpion." (I don't know what this is supposed to mean. Maybe if I had a better handle on how religion and the gods worked in this world, I'd understand, but I don't, so this sentence is just meaningless melodrama.)
-"Her words went to a village on the southern coast so old it had no name." (So, what, ancient people just didn't name things? That seems lazy. And if people still live there, why hasn't anyone thought to slap a name on this place? I feel like the author was trying to say that the village was so old it's name had been lost to time, but given that that's not how it was phrased, I'm going to snark away at this sentence.)
-A character describes her daughter as "a roly-poly dynamo of a child." (Beyond the fact that I just find this description kind of clunky, I feel like it's wildly at odds with the faux-archaic writing this book has been using. You refuse to say a girl is eleven, but you will describe another girl as "a roly-poly dynamo"? Come on, now.)

It's probably for the best that I didn't read all of Scorpica because this review would have been longer than it already is. If you read all of this, I'm amazed and a little bit sorry that you had to sit through so many rambling words. If you didn't read all of this, more power to you and take a TL;DR on your way out.

TL;DR: Scorpica is a bland fantasy novel with one-dimensional characters, flat worldbuilding, hackneyed prose, and no plot. I couldn't be bothered to care about what happened in the last 300 pages of this novel, and I certainly will not be interested in any future installments.
Profile Image for Siavahda.
Author 2 books110 followers
February 21, 2022
HIGHLIGHTS
~a magic-system that draws from sand
~Amazons are hard-core
~mind-control never ends well
~the wind can keep you hidden

I’m not sure how you could have gotten me more hyped for this book – matriarchies!!! Matriarchies get me so excited – any set-up where gender roles are explored or flipped around or completely rewritten has me bouncing in my seat, okay? I was even hopeful, because this is a book releasing in 2022, that this would be a matriarchy that acknowledged more than two genders.

The problem is, Scorpica just puts me to sleep.

I tried. I tried so much harder than I usually do with a book I’m struggling with – my normal cut-off point is 20%; with Scorpica, I made it all the way to 48% before I just had to give up.

Red flags went off for me in the prologue, when we learn that each of the five kingdoms has a Role – and by that I mean it sounds like a Divergent set-up, except that you’re born into your designation, with no opportunity to change it. This kingdom is made up of nothing but warriors, this one is a land of bureaucrats, this one is the land of magic-users – I mean. That’s awfully simplistic and reductive right away – not that different from dividing society up into dominant/valued personality traits like Courage or Intelligence ala Divergent, is it?

After the prologue, things are just…boring? All these Big Things happen, but the emotional impact isn’t there. Although I could intellectually sympathise with some of the characters, I didn’t find myself caring about a single one of them – if anything, they all frustrated me in their different ways. Despite what’s going on – despite the fact that several of the characters do take action! – all the characters felt very passive to me. It reads like Macallister came up with this amazing premise – what if matriarchal cultures stopped giving birth to girls??? – but could no more figure out how her fictional queendoms would react to that than the characters themselves can figure out what to do about it. Scorpica, the queendom of the title, is the only one that takes steps to try and stave off their destruction; as far as I could tell, no one else was doing anything at all.

Read the rest at Every Book a Doorway!
Profile Image for Andi.
1,127 reviews
Shelved as 'gave-up-on'
February 11, 2022
DNF 20% in.

I'd like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for a chance at reading this book.

This book has such a really strong narrative offer. It also seems to entice those who are after Wonder Woman-esque Amazonian fans. Which is what really got me interested (besides Robin Hobb's glowing review).

This book is a dialogue light book, the characters speak so sparsely and when they do it's nothing important and the dialogue comes across rather juvenile. On top of that, because we are told mostly though observation text we don't get a good grasp of the characters.

The author also does not explain the world and the people that inhabit it. All I knew by 20% into the book is that there are 5 various kingdoms. The women treat men like shit, except when they have to use them to father children. Every time when a boy is born they send them away? There is a drought of girls being born and when some of them are born they are born with magic which is bad thing (? - jury is still out on that) and some are built with healing, some are offered to be warriors. So I guess you can say the world building is shit.

I do a test and the test is - if I close my eyes can I tell the difference between the characters, can I picture them in my eyes and their flaws and weaknesses? No. I couldn't.
Profile Image for Lynda Loigman.
Author 3 books1,336 followers
February 22, 2022
G.R. Macallister has created a world that is vast, alluring, brutal, and bold. In SCORPICA, the first of her new Five Queendoms series, Macallister gifts readers with unforgettable characters who leap off the page as they fight for their lives. In Macallister’s world, women are allowed to play every role - they are the magical healers, the evil sorcerers, the duplicitous queens, and the bloodthirsty warriors. They are both the villains and the heroes of the story, which is part of why this novel is so incredibly satisfying. This isn’t a book about one female protagonist – it is a book in which women delight and disgust us. Macallister’s new fantasy realm is nothing short of a revolution. I cannot wait to read the rest.
Profile Image for Greer Macallister.
Author 5 books853 followers
Read
November 1, 2022
Hello readers! Latest update: SCORPICA is out in hardcover, audiobook, and e-book, and I’m so happy it has reached so many readers! But if you’ve been craving paperback, your day is coming — November 15, 2022. And you can preorder the sequel ARCA now for delivery in March! All good news.
Profile Image for Melany.
396 reviews56 followers
December 12, 2022
I was totally gripped into this book within the first 50 pages. The author totally creates this world that you just feel is completely unlike ours but at the same time realistic like you're there experiencing it with the characters. Within the first 100 pages, I already claimed this book to be my favorite Fantasy book ..and after fully reading it, I still stand by that statement. So much character development. So much exciting fast paced moments and thrilling twists and turns you won't expect the outcomes. I loved how it showed multiple perspectives with clear distinction between them so it wasn't confusing for the reader. Absolutely loved every single thing about this and I plan to buy ALL of the other books in this series to see how these pan out. As the ending was SUCH a cliffhanger!!! This is 400+ pages but be sure to start early in the morning as you won't want to put this one down!!

I won this book from the publishers on Goodreads. All statements above are my true opinions after fully reading this book.
Profile Image for book_scent.
228 reviews13 followers
February 28, 2022
RTC!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for bookishcharli .
503 reviews69 followers
February 10, 2022
The second I saw this was like a feminist Game of Thrones I got super excited to be part of the blog tour for Titan. The world building in this nook is absolutely exquisite. The entire time I was reading through this one I could clearly envisage everything going on as if I was immersed into the book itself and living in this amazing world. We get a lot of different POVs from the women in this one which I really enjoyed as you get to know different individual’s perspectives that you may not have gotten otherwise. The pacing was really good and the plot keeps you gripped and wanting to turn the pages quicker than you can read them!

I can’t go into too much more detail without spoiling the plot so I’ll leave it here, but you all need to read this one. It’s going to be big. Grab yourselves a copy and prepare to be amazed.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,004 reviews200 followers
February 4, 2022
CW: child sacrifice

This was definitely a vanity request first and foremost because I love covers with gold color palettes and this one with its intricately designed dagger was a beauty. I was also quite intrigued by this world of queendoms and immediately requested an arc. And this was such a ride.

The world building was a major draw for this book and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint on that level. We never do get to know why the women in this world are so powerful except for it being their god’s will but I loved the history of how the Great Peace came to be and the unique ways each queendom differs from each other. Their specific characteristics together make for a very coherent whole and I loved how the author managed to create them. The pacing is also pretty steady, never too fast or slow, but with its own reflective moments, covering more than a decade of the story. The writing is straightforward and easy to follow, with not too many flourishes, but I think it suited the slightly harsh circumstances of this world.

This is not a spoiler because it’s mentioned in the blurb but the idea of what will happen to a matriarchal world when girls stop being born is a fascinating premise and I was really excited to see the issues arising with this play out. I probably did want to see more of the political machinations and how the common people were dealing with the issue, but we never get to explore the societal wide implications. The author mainly focused on what it meant to one of the queendoms and how they decided to deal with it - I wasn’t completely disappointed but I just expected more.

There are a whole number of women POVs to follow along here and it was nice to get such a variety. Tamura and Mirriam are both conniving queens in their own ways - Tamura hiding all her insecurities by leaning on her warrior side, with a thirst for blood and conquest; Mirriam on the other hand who can’t trust anyone around her, paranoid to the core, all powerful magic user but all alone. Jehenit is a healer who takes her duty to her village very seriously but all that changes when she needs to protect her only daughter. Vishala is bound by her loyalty to her queen, more than to her homeland, and will do anything to protect her heir. Gretti is a reluctant strategist who is loyal to her people more than the Queen and will try her best to protect them all, but is not fond of conquest or bloodshed. Eminel is an unexpected prodigy who doesn’t realize what she is capable of. And finally Sessadon - the resentful one, who wasn’t chosen to be queen but will destroy the world to make it kneel in front of her. All these women are dynamic, their personalities shining through the pages, and I loved getting to know each of their strengths and vulnerabilities and guessing what they might do next. There is so much tension in their relationships and life altering consequences to their actions, and it was fun exploring it all.

In conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this book and I loved savoring the book a bit slowly than I usually do. The world is fascinating, the magic is cool, the ensemble of characters is brilliant (whether I actually like them or not is a different matter) and the plot is a convoluted in some ways, but thrilling in others. I liked how this first book is almost self contained with an interesting conclusion, while leaving lots of possibilities for the sequel. I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Profile Image for Lisa Wolf.
1,592 reviews171 followers
March 19, 2022
In this ambitious novel, historical fiction author Greer Macallister turns her talents to the world of fantasy, writing as G. R. Macallister. Because I’ve enjoyed her historical novels, and since I generally enjoy fantasy fiction, I thought I’d give Scorpica a try.

In Scorpica, the known world is divided into five queendoms, each with its own strengths and gifts. The land of Scorpica raises and trains warriors; Arca is known for magic; The Bastion is a stronghold for scholars and archives; Paxim is a crossroads and a center of trade and negotiation; and Sestia is a fertile land with thriving agriculture. The different lands worship different gods and goddesses and have different cultures and societal structures, but one thing they all have in common is that women rule.

The queendoms are matriarchal societies, where power belongs to women alone. From queens to warriors to any and all positions of power, all roles of importance are held by women. Men are subservient, there to support women and offer pleasure and participate in making babies, but they do not wield authority or take any role in combat.

The coexistence of the five queendoms and their continued survival are thrown into turmoil when baby girls stop being born. Known as the Drought of Girls, this lack of girl babies means there can be no future queens and no future warriors. As each of the queendoms struggles to figure out what to do if the drought doesn’t end, there’s another force at work in the shadows seeking to overthrow the queendoms entirely.

As the story progresses, we see events unfold from multiple perspectives, mainly through the Queens of Scorpica and Arca and various women of their queendoms. We get to learn the customs of the different lands, their superstitions and fears and politics, and for some of the characters, get insight into their more personal emotions and challenges.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and that’s not always easy. Fortunately, there’s a map of the Five Queendoms included at the front of the book, which helps a lot in terms of visualizing the basic geography and how that influences the plot. This is one of the rare occasions where a glossary of characters would have been helpful, although usually I shy away from those.

The premise of the book is quite interesting, and I liked a lot about the development of this world, how the queendoms interact, and the internal functioning of Scorpica and Arca. Where I think there’s some weakness is in the individual character development and, perhaps consequentially, in the emotional impact.

While there are some characters we spend more time with than others, this is a big book with a lot of ground and time to cover, and the individuals often get lost in the shuffle. There weren’t many that I felt I really knew well, and so I wasn’t able to develop an emotional connection with more than two or three of the characters — and even with these few, they only appear from time or time or in limited capacities.

I did enjoy the overall concepts of the book. It’s quite large in scope, and is supposedly the first in a series. I’d guess that there will be a book titled for each of the five queendoms, and that should help fill out and broaden the world quite a bit. In Scorpica, we mainly spend time with characters from Scorpica and Arca, and I imagine that there’s future action planned that will bring the other three lands into greater focus and importance.

Assuming the next book in the series comes out soon enough that I’ll still remember the details, I’d like to keep reading. Scorpica ends with a lot of loose-ends — major conflicts and problems are resolved, but there’s a sort-of cliff-hanger about what comes next, and plenty more to explore in this fantasy world.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. Full review at Bookshelf Fantasies.
Profile Image for Karen.
350 reviews59 followers
February 21, 2022
I’m honestly not quite sure what I had been expecting from this book but it took me completely by surprise. This is a complex and fascinating world which can be both brutal and violent, together with a glorious combination of court politics and deadly magic. It’s full of surprises, plot twists and jaw-dropping moments, you’re never quite sure what will happen next. Scorpica is a book with a completely different spin on an epic fantasy novel, the fact that women rule is unique, in fact there are very few male characters mentioned in the storyline. The world is split into five Queendoms each one infamous for its own particular strengths, such as Bastian for its record keeping and nurturing scholars, Sestia for it’s grain and sheep, Arca for its desert and magic, Paxim for negotiating deals and trading and finally Scorpio for its strong women warriors and their warrior queen.

There are so many amazing characters; Eminel, Tamura, Mirriam, Jenenit and Vishala to name a few and I loved each and every one of them, even the villains. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, it’s deep and complex without being too heavy going. There is no romantic storyline, which I have come to really enjoy in fantasy books, but I didn’t feel I’d missed out as there was so much rich world building, brilliant characters to root for and plenty of action. I savoured every page and detail and I can’t wait for the next book.

TWISTED IN PAGES BLOG
Profile Image for Vanessa.
110 reviews8 followers
February 16, 2022
3.75 stars

First, the pros: Incredibly fun and different world building. I love a world where almost all the names and significant characters are female, and their husbands fill domestic, child-rearing roles, or that of romantic or sexual interests. This was a fantastic contrast to classic fantasy or even contemporary fiction, and I would have enjoyed this being explored with more depth.

The characters are compelling and there is a fantastic lack of "strictly good" or "strictly evil" characters (with one or two obvious exceptions). I found myself really loving a lot of the diverse cast.

Where the novel fell short for me was the plot-- the tension built and built and built and I felt the climax and conclusion were rather lackluster by comparison. The end of the book leaned a little too heavily into the fact that it leads into a sequel, and didn't round itself up in a particularly satisfying way. It was still a very worthwhile read, but the last quarter of the book just didn't quite meet my expectations.

(As a content warning, the first of the two notable lesbian relationships in the novel ends in a horrific, violent manner, to establish the evil of the main antagonist. While I understand the purpose of it, it left a bad taste in my mouth and it seemed to follow the trend of violence typically seen enacted on gay women in fiction/media.)

All of that said, I still enjoyed this book overall and would recommend it to other sff fans who are craving a female-dominated world. It does not lack for female friendships, ladies scheming, a sisterhood of warriors, women in power, political intrigue and commentary on the many aspects of motherhood.
Profile Image for Bookphenomena (Micky) .
2,348 reviews366 followers
February 19, 2022
Headlines:
An epic worldview
Female-dominated political intrigue
Brutal & engaging
Progeny

I have so many thoughts on finishing this book. I feel like I've been brought into an fantasy world that is something of an epic and I'm very ready to carry on with the series.

This book feasted in the themes of feminism, female leaders, matriachal families, the prominence of female children and those elements had problematic sides as you can imagine. Equality wasn't necessarily on the menu but quite honestly, it felt refreshing to read an adult fantasy in the ilk of Game of Thrones from the female view point.

There were a range of stories in tandem being told until the connections started to knot together. I championed lots of the characters, but it wasn't always wise to get too invested. It was a magical world with some interesting powers and gifts but don't be misled, this world was also about the brute force of some of the female soldiers and queens; magic had a place, but it wasn't the only power.

Scorpica was a dense fantasy read and that depth of world building and characterisation really worked for me. It felt like something I could really get my teeth into. Definitely a recommendation for all adult fantasy fans.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

Find this review at A Take From Two Cities Blog.
Profile Image for Ashley Woodley.
11 reviews11 followers
February 6, 2022
I lovedddd everything about this book where should I begin. This book has 5 divided QUEENDOMS no KINGS, just QUEENS. WHATTTTT?!?! I LOVEDDDD ITTTTTT!!!! The queens all had 1-2 husbands, and these women played no games when it comes the improvement of their people. So many ambitious women WARRIORS to read about and the different ways they connect. I CANNOT WAIT FOR BOOK 2. Thank you for the advanced copy, I ended the New Years with one hell of a book. I'm a little angry that I cannot just go to the store to pick up the second book lol but it will definitely be worth the wait. Yes, I recommend this book! This good read drops 2/22/22, put this on your tbr asap. Thank me later!!!
Profile Image for JoJo.
203 reviews10 followers
January 3, 2022
This is more than a woman's story or women's stories. This is a woman's world. The Drought of Matriarchal Fantasy is over. And I am so here for it.

When I say everyone, I mean everyone needs to read this book. I don't care if you don't like fantasy, I don't care if you hate women—actually, I do care; women are gorgeous, talented, unstoppable beings and they deserve everything—just read it.

That being said, if you love fantasy and you love women: this is for you. The world-building blew me away. Not even for a debut fantasy author (which is what G.R. Macallister unbelievably is!), this is an impressively and incredibly rich physical and political landscape that's been crafted that I want to live in—okay, maybe not actually live in, but at least explore from the safety of a reality which will never require me to physically wield a weapon in self-defense—forever. Women are ruthless and kind and resilient and so thoroughly human and that's what's wonderful about reading about a society dominated by women. These women G.R. has created are real and compelling and far from perfect, and it is so refreshing to dwell in a world in which female is the default, where women are the protagonists and the side characters. The age-old struggle endured by Antigone of Sophocles's Theban plays and Dalila of Samson Agonistes, the conflict between duty and family felt by Khara and Jehenit is what really stuck out to me early in my read. The depictions of motherhood honestly have me rethinking my twelve-year-old-self's vow to ~never~ have children. The force and fierceness behind these women's devotion to their kinswomen was moving and heart-wrenching.

But oh my god, THE TWISTS AND TURNS. I recommend not sitting down for this read, because, personally speaking, it is uncomfortable to constantly be on the edge of your seat. Part III: Crisis is the most aptly named section of anything ever. Maybe I'm just out of practice reading fantasy, but at least half my shock came from my underestimating these women's cruelty. And while my heart did not enjoy the over-exertion, I enjoyed every moment of it.

Favorite character? At the moment, it's a toss-up between Eminel (obvi), Vish <3, and Gretti (she really snuck up on me, I was very lukewarm initially but now I would die for her). I am beyond pumped to see where their journeys take them and all these wonderfully complex and complicated women.

tl;dr does not describe this masterpiece. you won't want to miss a second of the heartbreak and fun of this epic yet intimate portrayal of women in all their glory.

Disclaimer: I was given early access to the text in order to create a series bible for the author. Writing a review was not part of the project, I just had too many feelings after finishing and needed to get them down. All thoughts are my own—to the extent that I can consider any of my thoughts original.
Profile Image for Barbara (The Bibliophage).
1,083 reviews147 followers
February 21, 2022
Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com.

4.5 stars rounded up


Scorpica is everything I want in epic fantasy—world-building that still makes characters the focus of the story. G.R. Macallister creates entrancing characters in places I’ll never forget. She’s billed this as book one of a new series—The Five Queendoms—and I’m already counting the months (or years?) until book number two.

Scorpica is a book about women in power, in a society where that’s 100% normal. In the Five Queendoms, women handle all the vital roles. They are warriors, diplomats, scholars, healers, and magicians. Like reality, some women are more good than evil and vice versa. The women marry men, who then fulfill child-rearing and housekeeping roles. And it’s been this way for five hundred years.

However, the queendoms are in crisis. In order to continue their legacy, they need female babies to be born. Instead, there’s a “Drought of Girls,” meaning only male babies are being born. This threatens everything about the countries’ sense of peace and normalcy. Everyone is on edge, from the queens on down to the lowliest common people.

And if you happen to be a young girl in this time, you feel the pressure intensely. So naturally, Scorpica focuses on these girls and the people who protect and love them. She also delves into the characters of the queens. It’s the perfect balance between the two types of power.

My conclusions
I already know this is a book and series worth recommending over and over. I already enjoy Macallister’s historical fiction work, and she slides effortlessly into writing fantasy.

What I loved most was how Scorpica balanced world-building and character development. The characters are the absolute heart of the story. And the world-building is detailed enough to give your own imagination a starting place. But it never overtakes the plot or the characters.

As for the plot, it centers on several elements from large to small scale. Will the Drought finally lift? And will its destabilizing effects escalate into dramatic conflict? On the small scale, we meet and come to know the youngest girls born just before the Drought. Everyone wants them because they are the future of these nations. In a sense, they hold considerable power, despite being children. It’s an intriguing premise.

Of course, I also loved the matriarchal aspects of this book. Macallister writes as if this kind of society is completely normal and common. Thus, it’s a fresh vision of fantasy, with strong roots in the work of Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler. But I wouldn’t call it a feminist fantasy. To me, a feminist book would be about resisting established patriarchy. It would be about fighting for equality and power. Instead, Scorpica focuses on an established matriarchy threatened more from within than from outside. I love that about it.

This is a wonderful book for both fantasy lovers and those who wouldn’t normally choose a fantasy book. Come for the matriarchy and stay for the amazing characters and story.

Pair with Women Talking by Miriam Toews or Women’s Minyan by Naomi Ragen. Both are fictional explorations of the balance of power between men and women.

Acknowledgments
Many thanks to NetGalley, Gallery Books / Saga Press, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. Scorpica debuts tomorrow, Tuesday, February 22, 2022.
Profile Image for Aislin.
219 reviews11 followers
February 6, 2022
Scorpica is an incredible fantasy book full of cutthroat betrayal, duels and battles, political intrigue, and sorcery. It moves at lightning speed and constantly changes directions so you never quite know where the plot is heading.

The book is set in a world with five queendoms where women have political power and it usually passes from mother to daughter. Each queendom has a different climate, culture, and religion, with some more focused on battles and war, some focused on magic, and so on. This balance exists for hundred of years when suddenly and with no explanation, baby girls stop being born. This time is called The Drought of Girls.

The book begins immediately before the Drought and introduces key characters from several different regions in this world, including some of the last girls born. Time passes rather quickly in this book and you get to see several generations. As you might imagine, in a world that is so dependent on matriarchy, the Drought causes a lot of chaos and rising tension between the different regions as they all form their own plans to deal with the changing world.

I found the plot very unpredictable despite it having some classic tropes. The strength of this story is the way the spotlight shifts from one character to another as they grow up and how initially unrelated storylines begin to intertwine.

While this book is definitely not a romance, many characters are openly queer and it's not a big deal to anyone; it's simply normalized and accepted within the world.

There was some resolution at the end of this book but it definitely sets up for a sequel, which I'm already excited for. This was such a strong beginning to a new fantasy series and I highly recommend it!

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for this ARC to review!
Profile Image for Halima (Starlight_and_blooms).
417 reviews28 followers
February 23, 2022
An intoxicating, sophisticated and stunning fantasy: a breathtaking fusion of court politics, deadly & unique magic, family rivalry, intrigue, swords and sorcery set in a fierce matriarchal world - where women rule!

Often, I like to swiftly make my way through books and enjoying doing so. However, Scorpica was different. Scorpica demanded my attention - forced me to read slowly, to pause and reflect and to take in every richly woven detail; appreciate its intricate world-building and immersive plot.

Scorpica is a raw feminist story told from multiple characters, locations and times all seamlessly fused together to create something truly breathtaking. I loved how the writer did not shy away from the graphic brutally of traditional Grimdark tales but instead morphed it into something refreshing new and equally powerful - a phenomenal world where women dominated as Queens, as Warriors, as Mothers!

As well as being brutal and violent at times, the story captures a beautiful tenderness, a mothers love and sacrifice, women finding sexual satisfaction without being branded whores; rewarded for being cunning and fierce.
There’s a cast of diverse characters - including sapphic and pansexual representation. And a world where polyandry and casual relationships are normalised, where dynamic
characters draw you in - making the experience truly immersive.

5 stars ✨
Profile Image for Bonnie.
111 reviews49 followers
April 29, 2022
I had read some serious books, and some “assigned” books that I didn’t like much. I wanted something fun. A fantasy with matriarchal QUEENdoms sounded like it would do the trick.

Five nations, each with a particular focus:
Sestia - agriculture, plus priestesses of the main religion
Paxim - trade
Arca - magic and healing
The Bastion - administration and education
Scorpica - warriors

Men are generally subordinate to women; to what degree differs from queendom to queendom. Scorpica doesn’t even keep their male babies, they foster SELL them off because only girls can be trained as warriors.

Characters:
Khara - warrior queen of Scorpica, known as “The Barren Queen”
Vishala - Khara’s childhood friend and most trusted advisor
Jehenit - kind healer of Arca, first pregnant and later mother to
Eminel - a daughter born with a particular type magic
Sessadon - wounded and recovering on a deserted island
Mirriam - evil queen of Arca. Trusts only one of her husbands and her daughter, Mirrida. Despite prodding, Mirrida refuses to use magic to extend her life as Mirriam does.
Tamura - a young Scorpican warrior
Azur and Ysilef - young warriors fostered into Scorpica after…
… The Drought of Girls. Girl babies just stop being born, and as time goes by this starts to affect society, economy, and government in all the queendoms.

Lots of plotting, conniving, rebellion, duels, resentment, thwarted love, sorcery — the good fantasy stuff. It didn’t end where or how I expected it would end. If another book comes out I will keep reading.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,404 reviews255 followers
April 18, 2022
I received an ARC from Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review.

Scorpica (The Five Queendoms #1) by G.R. Macallister is a very ambitious epic fantasy. I liked reading it well enough, but it's a tough one to review by the end. I enjoyed the author's writing style for the most part, but the ambitious scale doesn't quite do it favors. There are times when the writing and the ambition are engaging and hooked me, but there are others where it becomes almost too broad and flat, or even thinly drawn at times especially when it came to the world-building. The cast of characters was certainly intriguing, though, so I'm very glad for that. The novel is nearly 450 pages and maybe it could benefit from being pared back a little bit. All that said, I'm definitely interested in going further with this series in the future.
Profile Image for Susan.
951 reviews3 followers
June 6, 2022
I like this world-building, these characters, these women. Looking forward to more in this series.
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