I kept seeing this title on lesbian book lists, tried it once but didn't get past a somewhat slow beginning. I'm so glad I gave it another try.
Set in what is presumably ancient Britain, The Warrior's Path is a coming of age story for first person pov narrator Tamras, a young woman/girl who becomes a companion (page) to a warrior, Maara, who is described as short and dark.
They develop a kind of buddy fic, mentor/mentee relationship that reminded me vaguely of the The Pagan Series by Catherine Jinks - except with girls.
The society is largely matriarchal, or at least Tamras' path in it currently is. There are men around but they never take centre stage, which I personally found deeply comforting. This book is like a safe space. Catherine M. Wilson makes me feel safe reading it. Partly, I think, in that I didn't have to worry about male character's feelings or goals, ever. That might sound androphobic but it was sooooo incredibly refreshing.
The complete lack of slut-shaming anywhere in this novel was so different, I hate that I have to single this out as being worthy but it really is. Not that girls took to bed lightly, however.
Also, for a female-focussed society, it wasn't the unrealistic utopia of Herland. Some women kept slaves and some were unpleasant, they still had border disputes (hence the need for warriors), wars and fighting.
But it's clear that the wisdom of the elder women in the community is honoured. Tamras is eventually taught a lot about deep and meaningful things, people talk about their feelings and motivations--with each other! How amazing is that??
Tamras escapes being the annoying innocent ingenue through her loyalty to her warrior and her ability to learn. She's a bit naive to start but not to an irritating degree, and the story doesn't revolve around her fragility and beauty as similar stories might--even though she has both those things.
It won't be for everyone. After finishing it I felt like not that much really happened, plot-wise, but I still felt a deep connection with the characters and the setting.
The language is spare but never dry. You might expect with so much internal development that it could get boring but I was never bored.
In some ways I wasn't surprised to find out how old the author was, because the book felt like it was so steeped in wisdom and love, like it could have only been written by a more mature woman.
I thought I could never really love a book that didn't strictly follow a classic structure but I loved this book. I hope I love the rest of the series just as much. <333