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A Brother's Price

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,274 ratings  ·  240 reviews
In a world where males are rarely born, they've become a commodity-traded and sold like property. Jerin Whistler has come of age for marriage and his handsome features have come to the attention of the royal princesses. But such attentions can be dangerous-especially as Jerin uncovers the dark mysteries the royal family is hiding.
Paperback, 310 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Roc
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Chase That's where we get in to the systematic nature of the inequality here. What good does it do you to be able to overpower someone when you will be…moreThat's where we get in to the systematic nature of the inequality here. What good does it do you to be able to overpower someone when you will be doubly punished (or worse) for doing so? Do you fight until you are inevitably taken down? Run (penniless, friendless, and with few means given that men do not participate in societal life, even to work) for the remainder of your life at the mercy of those who would take advantage of you? Dominance must be backed by power. Those without it behaving as they wish would meet little more than a quick death. Men in this world were raised to be as docile as women of the late 19th/early 20th century were in our own history. Certainly htey could rise up against their individual oppressors, but what good would it do in the cog of the grand machine. Systematic oppression picks up the slack where individual dominance may fail.

Furthermore, you seem to be still thinking of this in terms of how men in our modern society act. Perhaps a man plucked from 2016 America would not hold with those ways, but a man from that society? No chance. They are not only the minority, but are indoctrinated from birth to be obedient and docile. Why would they NOT do what women (the person in charge of every part of their lives) told them to do?

On the testosterone front: physically stronger; true but given that women are the ones expected to fight and do heavy labor, possibly not as relevant as you are assuming. Testosterone doesn't turn us into ragey sh*theads; any guy who tries to convince you of that is lying like a rug. Assertiveness on the other hand is a combination of personality and learned behavior. This society seems the sort to stifle that sort of thing.(less)
Aimee No. I feel like you are forcing this issue by trying to make the same point over and over here. And honestly, I don't get the impression that you've…moreNo. I feel like you are forcing this issue by trying to make the same point over and over here. And honestly, I don't get the impression that you've read the book because you don't reference anything other than the premise, which you are struggling to grasp because you keep stating that you think that gender roles are fixed. No one who does social science research thinks gender roles are biologically fixed. If you want to talk about the book, talk here. If you want to talk to only people who agree with your ideas about gender roles, I'm sure there's a Reddit thread for you.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,274 ratings  ·  240 reviews

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Lois Bujold
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF and romance readers
Recommended to Lois by: many mentions over the years

This stand-alone book had been tugging at my attention for years; I finally got around to loading it up on my Kindle in advance of an out-of-town trip.

The plot and set-up have been described adequately in other reviews, but briefly, a young man born into a world where the ratio of men to women is about 1:20 has adventures and romantic adventures. This is social science fiction rather than fantasy as such, as the world has no magic. (Though it does have an early 19th-Century tech level.)

What the
Gail Carriger
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Spencer had a much more breezy voice than I expected from someone so critically acclaimed. It was easier jump into and read A Brother's Price than I thought it would be.

The story was fun. I liked the action scenes. The world-building was spot on. Perhaps the setting wasn’t hugely original (kind of alternate Old West) but I was absolutely riveted by the shifted social structure.

Would this have been a good book if the genders were reversed? No. It would have been one s
Jan 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Kind of like if The Handmaid's Tale were a romantic comedy.


Sorry, I had to whack myself in the face with the keyboard several times to reset my noggin after typing that.

Right, so, it's basically "what if The Patriarchy(tm) was The Matriarchy!?" which veers wildly between "See, see how gender oppression is unfair?" and "Lol, schadenfreude!" which works as comedy only on the assumption that the oppression depicted against men is totally implausible in any real world.

Ian Osmond
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A virtuous, virginal protagonist -- pure and chaste, but plucky. From a decent and honorable family. But when they rescue a soldier attacked on their land, it turns out the soldier is royal! And the rogueish heir to the throne seduces the poor virginal protagonist! But they fall in love! Can the heir to the throne marry someone as lowborn as this -- barely even landed gentry, even if beautiful, kind, and plucky. And what of the stolen cannons? Is there a traitor somewhere planning revolution?

I a
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
A fantasy whose only interesting feature is the bit of gender reversal it's got going on. Jerin lives in a world where men are extremely rare, and thus regarded as very precious, sold for high prices, and generally married off to an entire family of sisters. They're also not really allowed to do anything, lest it upset their delicate sensibilities; it's the women who get to go out there and perform acts of daring-do and have fun storming the castle and whatnot. It's an interesting set-up.

Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The conceit of this book, as many reviewers have mentioned, is that male children are rare in this world, which is a blend of a fantasy kingdom and the American wild west. If our kind-hearted, sweet-natured hero were female, I'd no doubt have left this one on the shelf.

But the conceit works, and Spencer's worldbuilding is wonderful. There are so many intriguing, half-explored ideas here that I do hope this is only the first book in this universe. (What becomes of sisters ejected from their famil
I love most of Wen Spencer's sci-fi books. They're brilliant and unique. That's why I am not sure what to make of this book of hers.

It's clearly... an attempt to turn gender on its head. But what her goal in doing so is highly questionable. If she couldn't be clear as to what the goal was, perhaps filling the book with as many sexist stereo-types as possible, than attributing them to *women*-as-oppressors rather than the oppressed class, was something she should have re-thought. Normally I appr
Blodeuedd Finland
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, fantasy
This book was really good, it turned everything you knew upside down, and I did go all weird at one point, then I righted myself. No, not weird. We are just learned to think such in our male society.

If this had been reversed it would have been a 80s romance. With dubious content and everything. But it is not.

For every 20 women there is one male. SO yes they are the price in this world.
They are owned by their mothers, their sisters, their wives and can be sold and bartered. (nothing new there, th
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
(Re-posted from

Do you know what I hate? When you’re recommending a book to someone, or maybe you’re just telling them what the book you’re currently reading is about, and as soon as you say it’s science fiction or fantasy you get the look. The ‘oh, you like reading that stuff? Mine is a more refined taste.’ Seriously, I hate it. Half the time these people who disregard speculative fiction so readily barely read at all, or they only read what their favourite fa
Text Addict
A person's favorite books can be - are - intensely personal. A favorite book may not have the most amazing writing or worldbuilding or plot or characters, and yet be just the right book for certain readers. For such a book and such a reader, a review is rather pointless. Which is why I haven't gotten around to writing a review of this book until now, even though I usually re-read it a couple of times a year.

Consider, for example, the worldbuilding here: it's muddy. Is this another planet? A pos
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: awesome, fantasy, gender
This book is the most awesome book ever! Seriously. It was written just for me. I don't know how I missed not reading it sooner. LibraryThing suggested it as a 'read alike' based on the limited amount of data I've put in there. I am not a big fan of LibraryThing's read-alike feature, even if it does want me to read every CLAMP manga volume ever. (I don't even object to doing that.)

And I see this book was on the Tiptree list. But it didn't win! If I was on the jury that year, it would've totally
N.K. Jemisin
Dec 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Reread this recently. I'd enjoyed it before, but on this reread I realized what a nifty little satire of gender roles and gendered literature -- in this case, Regency romances -- it is. It goes a bit deeper than role reversal because of the worldbuilding premise: there's a legitimate reason that women run this world, and men are treated as chattel. (That worldbuilding premise is so intriguing that I keep checking Spencer's site, hoping she'll decide to revisit this world in the future. I can't h ...more
Julie (Manga Maniac Cafe)
4.75 stars

Wow. What a great way to close out the reading year! A Brother's Price was very unique and entertaining; too bad it's a standalone. In a world where women vastly outnumber men, boys are coddled and protected. They are the wealth for the large, extended generations of women who live together, traded or sold for a husband for the many daughters in the household. Jerin is from a the Whistler family, and they have been gifted with four sons. His sixteenth birthday is fast approaching, and
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Going solely on the blurb, one could be forgiven for suspecting Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price to be a badly written romance. This is far from the case. In fact, while it features a bethrothal and a wedding, it is barely a romance at all. This is a tale of society and manners - tipped upside down, turned inside out and shaken firmly just for good measure.

Spencer has taken a relatively simple idea - what if, in a society just becoming industrialised, women seriously outnumbered men? What kind o
A curious book. On the one hand, a light and fluffy romance in a world whose gender reversals had me giggling. On the other hand . . . wow, this world is a dark place. Because the hero lives a charmed life and the story is determined to be the happily-ever-after kind, that darkness is always pushed off the edges, but it accumulates nonetheless. I'm left a little confused as to what I'm supposed to take away here. This is a book that's begging for a deconstructing sequel.

Or maybe I'm overthinking
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi, fantasy
I’m a sucker for world-building and can be enticed to read almost anything if the culture intrigues me. So when I first heard about A Brother’s Price, the “what-ifs” had me interested enough to get my hands on it asap. It’s a bit different than my normal type – secular adult fiction that is not mystery or SciFi/fantasy. And I was a bit worried the romantic aspects of the story would stray into romance novel territory. Instead I found myself hooked on a unique alternate-universe set in a western ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
In a world...where men are a tiny fraction of the population, they've become contested possessions of women, who have evolved religious and political structures in which they marry as groups of sisters and carefully protect any existing brothers from husband raiders and any crazy ideas like learning to read. The setting is about mid 19th-century tech, so the sisters can be gunslingers and a steamboat can explode, and the societal structure leads to a sinister plot to overthrow the Queen Mothers ...more
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
An enjoyable read, though there were a lot of aspects of it that required me to suspend logic, and just enjoy the story.
Jan 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, from_library
A lot of this book was a VERY good read. The story is interesting, paced well, and the dialogue is mostly solid. Where it really stands out is that it has the best alternate gender-role society I've read so far (certainly more consistently handled and believable than Ancillary Justice, The Player of Games, or The Left Hand of Darkness). The society is one in which males are rarely born, so they're kept at home to be protected and consequently end up performing most of the domestic work. Official ...more
Siew Ee
Mar 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Major role reversal between men and women in this fictional dystopian country called Australia. Reason: men are scarce, at a pathetic ratio of 1:20 or thereabouts. Because of the rarity of the male species, they are closeted and much protected; and women are the ones who are the breadwinners, and they do all the fighting and other macho stuff. The poor men are treated like merchandise, with the brothers in a household either traded or sold off as husbands for other families. But as they are expe ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first found this book the summer of 2005. I remember wanting a new author who wouldn't get me involved in a new series. I just wanted a good, clean, quick read. And there it was, sitting on the new reads shelf of Barnes and Noble.
I was lucky. A Brother's Price is one of the few books Wen Spencer wrote which was not part of a series. I ended up buying up her other two series, the Tainted series and the Tinker series, before the end of summer.
I love science fiction with sociological issues. In A
Jun 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
All through the book I was marvelling at the world created by Wen Spencer. In a wild west culture, women outnumber men by something like 20 to 1. Groups of sisters will become wives to a single husband, who is protected and coddled away from society, and has domestic duties: cooking, cleaning and raising the children! The main character (Jerin Whistler) is one such male, who spends a lot of time blushing prettily (hah). His role is like that of a virgin bride in a historical romance, but much li ...more
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As someone who rarely reads, I very much enjoyed this book. It's a real breath of fresh air to see a book with a male damsel in distress rescued by a dashing and strong woman. The story was very easy to follow, and the romance was nice and not overly gratuitous. My only problem with this book was that it was much too short. This is a book with quite a large cast of interesting characters and a world that's very easy to get sucked into, but not enough time to savor it all. The ending is just too ...more
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I started out rolling my eyes so much that I had to force my way into the book. My initial take on it was "it's a gender roles switch and that's it" and I wasn't too enamored with the "subordinate" gender being treated as chattel regardless of which gender that might be. Still, if I can suck it up for historical romance and other genres that use the trope then I can certainly do so here.

Once the story took off, however, I found I was anxious to see how it went. I enjoyed the characters and the m
Jul 18, 2019 marked it as audible  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Travis Baldree has a nice baritone -- but when he tried to raise his voice to do women's speech, I can't UNDERSTAND him! sob
You know those awful fantasy stories you run into from time to time where the men are weapon-happy he-men, and the women are fainting and beribboned (except for 15 minutes where they're plucky and resourceful instead), and villains are seething with pointless evil, and non-nobles/royalty are all yucky dirty ignorant poor people with no redeeming qualities? Evil Incarnate does awful things because, hey, it's what evil guys do, and Real Man saves his true love, Damsel in Distress, and is rewarded ...more
There may be slight spoilers ahead

This book started out very very promising, I had no idea what to expect, and when my Aunt said she loved it I really should read it, ok why not. The first chapter had humor, fighting siblings, very interesting gender reversal, all of which I was enjoying. Woman outnumber boys in this world, and when families do have them, they are kept apart and protected, then sold off like freaking stock. This is where the book starts to fall apart for me. I liked the gender r
Mar 06, 2008 rated it liked it
People seem to feel strongly about this book, one way or the other, but honestly all I could say about it was "ehhh."

The setting is something like late 1800s old west, with gender reversal and polygamy.
Only a few men are born, so lots of women marry one man in the hope that a few of the 10, 20 kids turn out to be male.
Since they aren't born often, they're protected to the point of -seemingly- turning most of them fairly spineless.

I have to say, it makes a certain amount of sense, and for somet
This book had a lot of potential, but was poorly executed. The world setting was interesting. You have a society that has a very few number of men to the number of women and flipped gender roles. Unfortunately the book doesn't do much with this. It's little more than window dressing to cause complications for getting the male and female leads together. All the action is packed into the last third of the book when the guy is kidnapped and has to escape. This is the only time when you really get m ...more
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John W. Campbell Award Winner Wen Spencer resides in paradise in Hilo, Hawaii with two volcanoes overlooking her home. Spencer says that she often wakes up and exclaims "Oh my god, I live on an island in the middle of the Pacific!" This, says Spencer, is a far cry from her twenty years of living in land-locked Pittsburgh.

The Elfhome series opener, Tinker, won the 2003 Sapphire Award for Best Scien