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No Man of Woman Born
Ana Mardoll, author
Destiny sees what others don’t. A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father's death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he's ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny. From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character's gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.
Mardoll (Pulchritude), who uses xie/xer pronouns, explores how a variety of gender identities undo prophetic expectations in xer provocative fantasy collection. In “Tangled Nets,” impoverished nonbinary fisher Wren chooses to be the annual sacrifice to a boastful dragon who claims no man or woman can kill it. The exceptional “King’s Favor” pits an insignificant hedge-witch spy with minor herbalist skills against an evil witch queen who has barricaded her borders and purged the land of all other magicians. Nocien avenges the slaughtering of his father’s other sons and wives in the violent “His Father’s Son.” Though most stories avoid angst and are casually queer-affirming, the trans heroine of “Daughter of Kings” has to retrieve her grandmother’s sword in the stone before her politically besieged father begrudgingly accepts her chosen name and identity. The gender specificity of the “Sleeping Beauty” curse in “Early to Rise” founders on Claude’s daily fluidity and possible asexuality. Among the many outstanding stories are a few that fall a little flat—such as the overly literal “The Wish-Giver,” in which a young child fights a dragon for the boon of having everybody see her true gender—but on the whole this is a strong and highly original collection. Readers yearning for more diverse representations of gender in fantasy will be more than pleased with these fresh, humanizing stories. (BookLife)