Ever since starting to develop Kersir (a desert-based fantasy world that my Dark War Trilogy characters kept referencing in character interviews) I’ve kept an eye out for other desert-based fantasy. The first I was able to get my hands on was Rebel of the Sands (review link), which was rather underwhelming, but I recently won Maris McKay’s Women of Kern in a giveaway and it was fabulous.
Women of Kern is a collection of novellas and short stories set in the deeply thought-out world of Kern. Each story follows the story of a strong female character (legitimately, diversely strong, not the kind of “strong female character” you get in most YA fiction) and shows a vivid part of Kern through that character’s story.
Kern isn’t your generic, euro-centric, same-across-the-board-like-a-Star-Wars-planet fantasy world. It’s diverse in its landscape and cultures, it’s deep and immersive, and it’s really fascinating to read about. There’s inspiration from everywhere in the real world.
The characters pale in comparison to the world, and a few of them did seem somewhat lackluster, but in general the characters were well thought-through as well. I generally preferred the side characters to the main characters (Zaelet is one of my favorites), but that’s true of many stories for me and I don’t think that’s a fault of the author.
Several of the stories are romance (but several of them are not), and I enjoyed most of them. I tend to be picky about my romance, but only a couple of these annoyed me. Still, I think taken as a group I preferred the stories without romance to those with it. (Except for Lelihatha’s, which was possibly my favorite story of the bunch.)
Maris’s writing is really vivid and immersive. This allowed me to really explore the world through the characters’ eyes, but also made some of the romance uncomfortable for me because I have an overactive/vivid imagination. Nothing in this is what I’d consider too graphic (for an older audience), but it did get more descriptive than I was especially comfortable with.
As a whole, I loved this book and I can’t wait to read more about Kern and the characters in it.