The Glorious Angels by Justina Robson book review

Journey to the empire of Glimshard in Justina Robson’s latest

It’s kind of hard to define where The Glorious Angels fits in with other sci-fi novels. That’s not to say that it doesn’t – it just stands out from so many others, not least for its unique matriarchal society.

Set in the empire of Glimshard under the reign of Empress, the story follows a series of characters as their city goes to war with an unknown enemy. Told from the perspective of multiple characters, from the Empress herself, to the spies and even an alien creature called a Karoo, the story is incredibly intelligent and well structured.

What’s really fascinating about The Glorious Angels is the simple fact that it’s a matriarchal world. It’s not that women have usurped men; they’re naturally more dominant. There’s no resentment, and no assumption that it should be the other way round. It’s really refreshing to see that this status of females doesn’t have to be justified.

Despite its dominance of females, Robson doesn’t rely on the stereotypes of each gender in her story. She delves into so many emotions and topics, including lust, romance, family and independence, but it’s all grounded in reality and you never get the impression that the characters are shallow or incompetent.

It’s a really tough read and requires attention and concentration in abundance to truly follow, but the characters are incredibly deep and personable, providing their own unique interpretation of situations as they occur. There’s a real mix of emotions and ideas explored across the course of the book – all told from each character’s point of view, seamlessly shifting from one perspective to another.

Despite its predominant theme, it’s not a political commentary. What this book really does is tell an engaging, complex story, and it tells it well without condescending to stereotypes.