After the apocalypse the world is divided into the steel and concrete villages of the professors and marauding bands of Barbarians. Apart from that there only those who live in holes in the ground, mostly grotesquely deformed with maybe an extra eye, no elbows or several too many fingers.
One day, Marianne, the very bored daughter of one of the professors watching from her tower window as the village comes under attack, sees that one of the marauders has been injured and has crept to hide in a stable. When she goes, late at night, to see if he is dead, she finds him very much alive and leaves the safety of the village to join his band of Barbarians.
The story of Marianne and Jewel is a tale of hatred, fighting, rape, violence and despair - but also of love. Fitting the apocalyptic nature - end of time, reorganisation of social structures, the reinvention of the evil eye, the danger of zoo animals abroad, the unrelieved filth and chaos of an army on almost permanent manoeuvres, this is an amazing story. Jewel is a fabulous creature, a wild animal, a knowing lover, a tattooed, tribal leader. But the priest of the tribe Donally, with his sleeping snake and his enigmatic pronouncements becomes an implacable enemy to Marianne. Yet at times, they are closer, all three than to anyone else in the tribe. They know something of the terrors, torments and temptations of leadership - at its heart is fear.
This is another fabulous confabulation from the wonderful Angela Carter, set in a future in which order and peace is rapidly decomposing. Who are the heroes, and who the villains in a world where civilisation no longer exists?