The Sworn Virgin is a 2017 historical romance novel that takes inspiration from a tradition in Albania, Europe.
There, female heirs can become ‘men’ by swearing a vow of chastity for the remainder of their lives.
Their expected role in society suddenly changes – and this can cause some struggles of identity in the sworn virgins of Albania.
This serves as the basis for the story in Kristopher Dukes’ The Sworn Virgin.
The novel follows young Eleanora after her father is shot dead and her stepmother plans to sell her into a cruel marriage.
In a desperate attempt to keep her independence, Elanora swears that she will remain a virgin forever and as a result, she is permitted to also live as a man.
She becomes the head of her household, can work for her own money, and enjoy other freedoms men can enjoy – but an injured stranger threatens it all as Eleanora begins to fall in love.
The Sworn Virgin has been praised for its engaging story and the creative combination of modern and historical elements which creates a touching and humorous tale.
It is also surprisingly violent and brutal at times as conflict plagues Eleanora’s home.
If you want to read more amazing books that are like Kristopher Dukes’ The Sworn Virgin, then why not add similar fantastic novels such as the moving Blood Water Paint, Sworn Virgin, and The Blood Of Flowers to your to-read list?
Themes Of The Sworn Virgin
At its heart, The Sworn Virgin is a romance novel that follows the relationship between Eleanora and Andri.
Although Andri is not introduced until a fair way into the story, he leaves an impact and turns Eleanora’s life on its head once more.
The romance here is passionate and dangerous, as Eleanora has sworn to remain a virgin her entire life and a relationship with Andri threatens everything.
As a result, The Sworn Virgin features a star-crossed lovers romance,
Tradition and Sexism
A huge focus of this book is tradition and the sexism that comes with it.
Eleanora is about to lose her identity and independence when her father dies, as sexist tradition almost forces her into an arranged abusive marriage.
Luckily, it is another tradition that saves her and allows her to maintain some control over her own life – but it’s also one that changes her identity and how others see her.
The story is set in 1910 Albania and as a result, the writing is filled with descriptions of the beauty of Albania along with in-depth references to life during this difficult period.
From the local flora to the clothing each character wears, Dukes pours a lot of detail into her vivid descriptions to help bring the historical setting to life.
There is also a touch of modern morals and ambition in the characters, however. The protagonist is decades ahead in thinking as she is incredibly independent and driven.
The Sworn Virgin takes place during a tumultuous time in Albanian history, and the book is rife with violence and conflict.
Eleanora’s father is shot in the streets, she is nearly sold to the heir of a powerful war clan, and participates in the blood feuds that consume the mountain.
With only a rifle to defend her, Eleanora is forced to mourn her losses. This makes The Sworn Virgin a brutal read at times, and definitely not a tale for the faint-hearted.
Books Like The Sworn Virgin
Set in a fictional city in 17th-century Persia, a nameless but spirited girl loses her father and is forced to leave her home behind to move under her uncle’s care.
There, the girl becomes a talented carpet designer but faces a fall from grace after an ‘ill-considered’ action.
The Blood Of Flowers is a passionate and romantic tale that follows a rebellious yet independent heroine who is constantly fighting to maintain her own identity and control over her own life.
With likable characters and a thrilling narrative, The Blood Of Flowers shares many stories and themes with The Sworn Virgin.
It’s also a richly written novel with vivid descriptions that help bring old Iran to life.
Where to buy the book: The Blood Of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
- Like The Sworn Virgin, The Blood Of Flowers follows a spirited young girl as she rebels against her expected position in society.
- The story is well written with likable characters and fleshed-out world-building based on real historical culture.
- The story is also incredibly moving with plenty of tragic loss and passionate romance all mixed into one tale.
- Although the setting is inspired by historical accounts of Persia, the actual places and people are all entirely fictional.
Themes: Loss, Romance, Tradition, Identity, History
If it is the tradition of the sworn virgins of Albania which captured your interest the most in Dukes’ The Sworn Virgin, then another author Elvira Dones has written a very similar story.
Born in Albania, Dones has poured her love for her country into her novel which follows Hana, a young girl who is forced to take the virgin oath and become ‘Mark’ to save herself from an arranged marriage.
Fourteen years later, Mark decides to once again become Hana and experiences many struggles.
While there is a lot less romance in this sworn virgin tale, some readers may prefer the focus on Hana and her own struggles with her identity and the expectations placed upon her due to tradition and her sex.
Where to buy the book: Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones.
- Sworn Virgin allows readers to revisit the Albanian sworn virgins and follow another tale set in a familiar setting and culture.
- The character of Hana is praised for her complexity and likeableness.
- Written by a native Albanian, readers can get a real authentic look into Albanian history and culture.
- The similarities between this book and Dukes’ novel means that sometimes it feels like you are reading the same story.
Themes: History, Tradition, Sexism, Identity
Few empowering historical fictional stories leave an impact like Blood Water Paint has done.
In truth, the story is based on the real-life account of Artemisia Gentileschi, a girl in 17th-century Italy who became one of Rome’s most talented painters.
However, Artemisia is also known in history for another reason – she is one of the first women in Europe to take her rapist to court to seek justice.
Her tale is retold in the form of verse with fictional additions, but it’s a very moving read with similar themes to The Sworn Virgin.
As it is more deeply embedded in true history than The Sworn Virgin, it’s definitely a good choice for those who want to learn more about the past and the people who lived and survived in it.
Where to buy the book: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough.
- Blood Water Paint is a moving, emotional story told through verse.
- It tells the empowering tale of Artemisia Gentileschi, a real historical figure.
- Reading fictional verse is a bit of a jump from The Sworn Virgin, although the two stories share a lot in terms of themes.
- The book also contains graphic violence and assault, which can be upsetting.
Themes: History, Sexism, Identity, Power
So, there you have it – 3 amazing books that we would recommend you try reading if you enjoyed Kristopher Dukes’ The Sworn Virgin.
The historical fiction novel is deeply influenced by real culture, history, and tradition – and it’s incredibly entertaining to follow a character’s tale as they rebel against society’s expectations.
As a result, the best books to read after The Sworn Virgin also feature female heroines and protagonists as they struggle with their own identity and independence in a male-dominated world.
Some tales are incredibly moving, others more violent and passionate, but the three recommended books above feature similar tales and themes that connect them well with The Sworn Virgin.
They also bring some variance such as a different form of writing, a different setting, or simply a different girl going through the same ordeal as Elanora.
Either way, they are each fantastic novels that you are sure to love and enjoy. Take a look, and start with the book that speaks the most to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes or Elvira Dones?
Both Kristopher Dukes and Elvira Dones have published books titled ‘Sworn Virgin’ and both focus on the Albian tradition for female heirs to become ‘men’ so long as they swear to remain virgins the rest of their lives.
The similarities cause a lot of confusion among readers but they are two separate books.
Is The Sworn Virgin Going To Be Adapted?
As of 2023, there have been no announcements that The Sworn Virgin will be getting a movie or TV adaptation.
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