Yolen, J. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Yolen (1998). The one-armed queen. New York, A Tom Doherty Associates Book.
Scillia is thirteen years old at the start of this novel about a royal family in the distant past somewhere in the British Isles called the Dales. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yorkshire_Dales Her people worship the Great Alta, a goddess, and the throne is passed on from mother to daughter. As the eldest and only daughter of Jenna known as the White Queen, Scillia is heir to the throne. However, Scillia is reluctant to assume her role as future queen of the Dales, due to the fact that she is adopted. Moreover, she is born with only one arm, which marks her even more as someone different. Unaware of the fact that Jenna herself is adopted, Scillia feels that one of her brothers born to Jenna and her consort Carum should inherit the throne.
Jem and Corrie, her brothers, are respectively three and four years younger and, according to the matriarchal system, are expected to serve as Scillia’s counselors when she becomes queen. However, the rebellious teenage Scillia is overcome with a need to recover her origin and it is only after she learns the truth about herself that she finally accepts to shoulder the responsibilities as the future ruler and leader of her country but only reluctantly. Scillia’s parentage cannot be traced due to the fact that she was a foundling raised at a Hame, a community of female warriors. After her adoptive mother was slain during battle at the War of the Genders, Jenna had taken Scillia from the female warrior’s back where she was strapped.
The traditional enemy of the Dales is Garun and it had been decided during the negotiation of the peace treaty that the two nations exchange their princes, Jem of Dales and Gadwess of Garun. Although Jem is the elder of the brothers and crown prince in the eyes of the Garuns, Gadwess turns out to be the younger prince. This calculated error is political in nature. As a patriarchal society, the Garuns have little respect for the White Queen of Dales and keep their crown prince at home to be raised according to the chauvinistic ideals of their nation. They also raise Jem in such a way so that he will find it natural to disdain women and claim the throne as the direct descendant of the monarchs of Dales.
This complex novel weaving myths, legends, history, and themes related to leadership and gender is fascinating and thought provoking at once. Suitable for students in middle school and high school as well as for adults, it is a novel best described as fantasy inspired by archeology and history.