In my new novel Ice Forged, a medieval post-apocalyptic story, I find that women of every circumstance play a very important role in what happens after the world “ends.”
Blaine McFadden, my main character, sacrifices his title, lands and fortune to protect his sister and aunt from Blaine’s abusive father. He’s sent to a prison colony in the arctic, There, he meets women from every class and circumstance whose ill fortune caused them to be exiled. One of those fellow prisoners, Kestel Falke, is a courtesan, spy and assassin who becomes part of Blaine’s inner circle. Among the prisoners who have survived long enough to become colonists, the women are shopkeepers and merchants, trades people and seers, farmers and trollops. They play an important role in the economy of the self-sufficient colony, and emerge among the leaders when a devastating war cuts the colony off from the supplies and oversight provided by the kingdom.
Regardless of their previous social class or the circumstances that caused their imprisonment, the older women colonists emerge as the “wise women”, an important force in the social cohesion of the colony. Far from the land of their birth, torn from their families and loved ones, these “wise women” preside over the births, marriages and deaths, and keep the customs and culture of their homeland alive through the celebration of religious and seasonal holidays. The magics of vision, foresight and prophecy seem to fall more often on women than men, giving women with these gifts status and standing among their fellow colonists.
When war destroys the kingdom that exiled Blaine and his fellow colonists, the after-effects of war fall especially heavy on the women who survive the devastation. With a generation of men lost to the battlefront, and many of the surviving men either too old, too young or too injured from the war, it falls to the women to piece together a subsistence living from the wreckage, harvest and plant the crops, gather the scattered livestock, and patch up their damaged dwellings. Since the Cataclysm also destroyed the kingdoms’ trading partners, the survivors are on their own for the necessities of life. And since magic was one of the casualties of war, those who survived the conflict must shoulder the burden of rebuilding without magical help.
Blaine’s Aunt Judith, his sister Mari and his former fiancé, Carensa, each find a different path to survive in the harsh new reality. Without the strictures and conventions of class and in the midst of a society torn asunder, they have the opportunity to make decisions for themselves and step into leadership roles in ways that would not have been possible under old norms.
I found it very interesting to think about the tension that the power vacuum creates after the apocalypse. Some of the women survivors will seize the moment to assume roles for which they are qualified but which social pressures would have denied them before the breakdown of society. Others will attempt to regain a sense of control and normalcy by attempting to replace familiar cultural, social and family roles and take consolation in the familiar.
I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know the women of the apocalypse in Ice Forged and as I work on the sequel. And I’m looking forward to seeing more of them as future stories come together. I hope you’ll join me for the adventure.
Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013. Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books). For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com. Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.
Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here: