The OTHER Laurie King: Califia’s Daughters

“The other Laurie R. King” is my series of reflections—as we approach the publication of a distinctly non-Russellian story, Lockdown—on why I write books that aren’t Russell and Holmes.  Stories that just push at me until I have to step outside Mary Russell’s time and place. For other posts on the topic, click here.

The first story I ever wrote—or shall I say, the first one I half-wrote, then paused for some years, then wrote The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and several other books, before finally getting back to it—was Califia’s Daughters. In a different world, one that gave the young mother that I was sufficient time and inspiration to finish this story right away rather than putting it in a drawer for years, you might now be reading a blog post talking about “Why I write other books than those of the Califia’s Daughters universe…

Instead, my foray into speculative / futuristic stories is a sort of one-off, a tip of the hat to a world that might have seen Laurie King as a writer of science fiction rather than crime.

Califia’s Daughters is one of those stories I couldn’t have told if I’d stayed inside the Russell & Holmes milieu. For one thing, Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have been permitted to wander around with quite such abandon, since in Dian’s world, men are both scarce and cherished, discouraged from risk-taking, packed in cotton lest they come to harm.

Amazon warrior

Only the elders of the Valley remember life the way it used to be, when people traveled in automobiles and bought food others had grown. When the ratio of male to female was nearly the same. Before the bombs fell, and a deadly virus claimed the world’s men.

Wounded Amazon.

Now, civilization’s few surviving males are guarded by women warriors like Dian, the Valley’s chief protector, as fierce and loyal as the guard dogs she trains. When an unexpected convoy of strangers rides into her village, it is Dian who meets them, ready to do battle.

Or as the reviewer at Hankrules wrote:

I also found it interesting, to be honest, to see how in a matriarchal society, so many stereotypical traits, often associated with men in a less than stellar way, shine through even though men not only aren’t the prevalent gender, but aren’t even exposed to society and culture. It’s as though there’s little to no difference between the two genders when the two are in power at separate times in history.

A sort of reversed, and benevolent, Handmaid’s Tale.

Historical fiction allows us to hold a mirror up to a portion of our lives: the situation of these characters is different from ours, yet they are the same as us. The minor distortion of history makes a mirror that gives what we see a slight twist and shimmer, causing reflections of thought as well as vision.

To Russell and Holmes, the 21st century is the distant future, our lives and mores as alien as this postapocalyptic story’s situation are to us. Russell’s England feels the twentieth century, but is still ruled by Victorians; we feel the edges of this future, and yet we are built on the past. Similarly the roles of men and women: Russell herself is exceptional, but would be so in any era, even one with fewer constraints on her freedom.

As historical fiction allows us to see ourselves in a foreign setting, so perhaps do we glimpse the familiar in a land transformed…

And if nothing else, as the above reviewer noted:

Califia’s Daughters is one of the most unique, inventive, thought provoking, dark, disturbing, pseudo-violent, feminist-based, post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels I have read in a long time, if ever. I thoroughly enjoyed it and came away impressed with the book and author. What a work of art! …. I found myself on edge half the time, hoping like hell she could get out of the mess she was in.


To read an excerpt of Califia’s Daughters or see order info, go here.

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  1. Penelope Brindley on April 12, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Califia’s Daughters is one of my all time favorites! Such a wonderful story. I have enjoyed all of Laurie King’s books, the ones in series and the stand alones, but this one is extraordinary.

  2. Lisa Masoni on April 12, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Califia’s Daughters ended in such a way that it seemed like there was more story to tell. Maybe some day a sequel?

  3. Suzanne Boucher on April 12, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Califia’s Daughters was the first book I read of yours, and started my love affair with your books. Have always wondered how that universe carried on. Keep on trucking, Mrs. King, I’ll read anything you write!

  4. Maureen Lopez on April 12, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I agree! Can we expect a sequel soon??

    • Laurie King on April 12, 2017 at 10:08 pm

      Not soon, I’m afraid. Though yes, I’ve long hoped this would be the middle book in a trilogy…

      • Inga on August 22, 2017 at 12:39 pm

        Yes, please write a trilogy. I listened to this during my one hour drive (to and from work) and the time passed so quickly I wanted to drive past my work place and keep going.

        • Laurie King on August 23, 2017 at 9:08 am

          The hazards of audio books!

  5. Judy Stark on April 12, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    From the momeny I started teading it, I was drawn in like a hummingbird to nectar! I loved the character development, the presence of only a few treasured men into a mostly female population and that it was so different from the Russell series. It’s my favorite book! Thanks for the insight into its writing, Laurie!

  6. Peg Herring on April 13, 2017 at 5:29 am

    I also loved the book. It’s a given, I think, that a talented writer can (and should) write in different genres and sub-genres, despite publishing wisdom that urges the same thing over and over.

  7. Susan Bland-Medicis on June 19, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    This book was a surprising delight. I am a fan of speculative / futuristic stories first and mysteries second. I read the Beekeeper’s Apprentice first and then all the rest and stumbled upon this looking for more. I admit to some trepidation because Sci Fi is not a forgiving genre if you get the tone wrong. You had me from the cover art. Great story, fierce and gentle and hopeful. I would read more and recommend this book to others.

    • Laurie King on June 19, 2019 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks, Susan, I loved writing this book! (And would love to do more, some day…)

  8. Val on July 4, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Ms king – please write more books about Califias Daughters. I have worried about Thomas now for far too long!

    • Laurie King on July 5, 2019 at 9:38 am

      I know–poor fellow, I hope he made it!

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