Series: Nede Rising #1
Published by Wander, Tyndale on April 6, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Young Adult, Speculative
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What if women unraveled the evils of patriarchy?
With men safely "gentled" in a worldwide Liberation, the matriarchy of Nedé has risen from the ashes. But can women wield sole power without being corrupted themselves?
Seventeen-year-old Raina Pierce has never given a thought to the Brutes of old. Free to train for the Alexia at her mother's finca—and keep her forbidden friendship a secret—her greatest worry is which Destiny she'll choose at 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.
Jess Corban's debut novel presents a new twist to the dystopian genre, delivering thought-provoking action, a slow-burn romance, and a setting as lush as the jungles of Central America.
**Explore the locations that inspired Nedé! Pre-order A Gentle Tyranny by March 8, 2021, for a chance to WIN A 9-DAY TRIP TO BELIZE...with Jess! Plus 4 bonuses for entering. Details at JessCorban.com/win.**
The potential for A Gentle Tyranny’s premise to go horribly wrong is tremendous, but it’s a calculated risk that pays off enormously at the end. I feel it’s only right that I mention that at the outset. With every page that I read, the more I loved the book and the more concerned I became for how the major thematic element—the Big Message™—was going to play out. Let me explain.
A Gentle Tyranny is a twist on the YA dystopian genre that we haven’t seen before. In the world of Nedé, women have taken over. In response to an increasingly cruel and male-dominated world, women revolted and for nine generations they have “gentled” the men of their world, changing their biology to be docile and subservient. My fear—and at no point was this ever a point the book was leading toward—was that the conclusion of the book would be that of conservative Christian fundamentalism: Men were made to lead and a world without “real” men, manly men, men of chest hair and testosterone would be an ungodly world indeed.
Fortunately, that is not where A Gentle Tyranny goes. Instead, debut author Jess Corban presents a world where both patriarchy and matriarchy have resulted in violence and destruction and the best path forward is humankind working together in a blessed alliance, male and female, to live and lead.
But to the story: For generations now, the matriarchy of Nedé has ruled. Men have been safely “gentled” in a worldwide movement of liberation. It’s into this world that seventeen-year-old Raina Pierce is born. At the age of eighteen, the women of Nedé are expected to chose a type of profession—a Destiny—which they then perform throughout their lives. Raina has no clue what she wants to be and, complicating that, her grandmother, Matriarch of Nedé, has selected Raina as a candidate to succeed her. It’s through the competition to become the next Matriarch that Raina learns some of the darkest secrets of Nedé and becomes convinced that she must become the next leader to set things right.
One of the most difficult aspects of YA dystopia, particularly now that the genre is utterly saturated, is giving the audience what they want and expect while still telling a new story. Corban takes from the classic tropes: the various Destinies read like the factions in Veronica Roth’s Divergent, the competitive element is somewhat reminiscent of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and when we move into Christian dystopias there’s thematic shades of the Ted Dekker/Tosca Lee Books of Mortals and Rachelle Dekker’s The Choosing. Yet, while A Gentle Tyranny has elements of all these books—because all these books are drawing on the same tried and true formula—it’s also very clearly its own thing and something much different than I’ve seen in the genre up until now.
A Gentle Tyranny is a thoughtful take on male/female relationships and leadership, political elitism and the corruption of power, the justification of evil on the basis of an alleged greater good, speaking truth to power, leveraging one’s position of privilege and influence for the marginalized, the appropriate means of the oppressed to fight against oppression, and more. While A Gentle Tyranny’s primary inequality is gender-based—men are “gentled” while women are honored—it’s impossible to read the book without seeing the nonfictional inequalities of our own, both historical and present. You also begin to see the inequalities within Nedé—rural and urban, poor and rich, commoner and elite—and how the elite, Raina’s grandmother in particular is no less cruel than the male leaders of the past that proved the need for male “gentling.”
Jess Corban’s A Gentle Tyranny is a masterpiece of fiction. Her sense of world-building is stupendous. Her characterization is rich and layered. The novel’s pacing keeps the story moving even as never rushes over important elements of the plot. The story gives readers story we think we want, one with all the comfortable familiarity of the genre, but then goes beyond that to deliver a thematically-rich and thought-provoking story. Jess Corban has breathed new life into a well-worn genre.
I’m reading this in January, but I’ll make the prediction now that this will be one of my favorite novels of the year. I predict some debut author awards coming Corban’s way and it’ll be well-deserved. Now can I please have the next book?