I had been following author Jane Dougherty’s blog for a while before I decided to read her Green Woman Trilogy, so you would think I had a fairly good idea what to expect, right?
This writer exceeded all my expectations. She is a fine example of all that is wonderful about Indie publishing. In fact, I enjoyed the first book so much, I immediately downloaded the next two, and one of the accompanying novellas.
The Green Woman series starts with The Dark Citadel, and introduces us to its heroine, Deborah. She is a Givenchild, adopted when her birth mother escaped the oppressive city of Providence, and her father disappeared. Now, she is about to turn sixteen, and rebels against the marriage which the state has planned for her. Thus a series of events are set in motion as Deborah goes in search of her mother, discovering her true identity, and the destiny she can’t avoid.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Providence was a city designed as a refuge, a last defiant cradle of humanity and civilisation. Beyond the safety of its crystal dome, demons swoop through the eternal shifting sandstorms, and the dark of night reigns. In the wastelands outside, there is little chance of survival, but for many, life within the dome is just as precarious.
This book encompasses big themes, dark themes which the author does not shy away from. She sets out her stall in the very first chapter, where we see the doctors of the Holy City State coldly performing the routine mass murder of all new-born Ignorant babies,
‘The doctors, masked and latex-gloved, reached backwards and forwards to the tray of vials, inserting syringes in a single, practised movement. Each baby’s face puckered and grimaced, and a last feeble protest escaped on its warm milky breath when the needle was withdrawn from its heart.’
In this book, Dougherty deftly handles issues of racial hatred and persecution, the abuses of women and children in a male dominated society, the cracks opened up in a society bound by the tight control of a rigid authoritarian state, the use of brutality and forced fanatical religious worship as a means of control. In doing so, the author draws not from imagination, but the world around us, past and present. It’s a grim picture, but not a hopeless one.
The second book of the trilogy, The Subtle Fiend, continues in much the same vein. The Lord High Protector has made a deal with Abaddon, King of the Demons, and is hunting for Deborah. He fears she has found refuge with the hated Ignorants, a race regarded as the City’s underclass. Meanwhile, the power of the Green Woman is growing. As the Protector prepares a public mass execution, Abaddon’s forces descend on Providence. Unaware, Deborah battles a personal tragedy and deep despair of her own as she draws closer to finding her mother.
The concepts of torture, suffering, genocide and rebellion are all a part of this story, yet the reader is not overwhelmed but lifted by the warmth, courage and determination of the main protagonists. In her characters, Dougherty delves into what it is to be human, and upholds those qualities as a beacon of hope in the darkness.
The final book, Beyond the Realm of Night, brings war and rescue, heroes and villains, light and darkness into violent confrontation. Yet nothing is quite what it seems; strangely, not everyone wants to be saved; winning the battle is not the same as winning the war; shaking off the chains of one suffocating regime paves the way for another to take root; being re-united with her mother brings Deborah terrible loss. The Green Woman has achieved her destiny and made the ultimate sacrifice.
Dougherty brings her story to a close with unique flair and style, but it just might not be the happy ever after ending some would hope for…
In creating this dark, disturbing, dystopian masterpiece, Jane Dougherty has shown she can compete with the best; had the name of one of The Big Six graced her cover, she would doubtless be a best-seller by now. Her writing is considered, powerful, and almost poetic in style. Her world building is second to none, and her characters conflicted and convincing. But for me, the most entrancing aspect of the series is the melding of many world mythologies into the crafting of one cohesive new legend; Lugh, Fionn mac Cumhall and Oscar stand shoulder to shoulder with Osiris and Isis; there are Etruscans, Amazons and Norsemen; angels and demons rule the skies, and centaurs gallop across the earth’s surface… it shouldn’t work, but it so does!