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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Bella Forrest – The Gender Game

I thought the concept of this book was a very intriguing one. Two societies separated by a river: one ruled by women, one ruled by men. To be a man in Matrus is to have no rights or responsibilities, and to be a woman in Patrus is possibly worse. You are the property of your husband and cannot go anywhere without him. If he beats you and no-one else sees it, your word is not enough to prosecute him.

Our story begins with Violet trying to smuggle her younger brother from Matrus to Patrus, as he has not passed the test that all Matrus-born males have to undergo to prove that they aren’t too masculine to fit into society. But things go wrong and Violet is caught, and we next catch up with her during her imprisonment for that crime. But Violet is not good at abiding by rules, and she soon finds herself sentenced to death for killing a fellow prisoner.

But maybe that’s not the end for Violet. She’s offered the chance of a lifetime (literally). All she has to do is cross over to Patrus undercover, marry a man she’s never met and take part inĀ a top secret plot. And here lies my first problem with this book. Why give such a seemingly important task to an orphan prisoner who has shown she has a violent and unpredictable personality?!

Nevertheless, of course Violet agrees to this task (it’s either that or the death penalty), and we see Violet plunged into more danger than she’s ever faced.

We then end up in a fairly stereotypical love triangle between Violet, her new husband (who seems nice but boring), and Viggo, the handsome enigmatic fighter that Violet is supposed to be tailing so they can frame him for the crime they are about to commit. But of course Violet falls in love with Viggo and the whole mission is in danger.

I really wanted to love this book as I thought the idea was such a good one, challenging the stereotypical notions of male and female characters and putting them out on display like that, but there was just too much predictability about it, and I would have preferred it without such an obvious love triangle. When you’re trying to expose gender imbalance like that, I think the story would have been just as good without the doey-eyed young girl part.

I did, however, enjoy the shock ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it did redeem the book enough for me to want to read the next book in the series to see where it goes.

 

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