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Edith Pawlicki
Trials of Fire and Rebirth
An immortal who can’t remember the past, and a god who’d do anything to forget it… An Ning wakes with no memory of her past in a male body. As the centuries pass, she masters her powers and makes a quiet life among mortals, but she keeps her fears and secrets to herself. Then a strange immortal drifts into her village, and An Ning wants to tell him everything.. Karana never wanted to be the God of Destruction, and after his family fell apart, he abandoned his mortal followers to wander the Earth. He’s happy to be free of all responsibilities - until meets An Ning, a young immortal who makes him want to stand for something… Or someone. When cultists attack their home, An Ning and Karana must brave corrupt temples and the depths of the Underworld. For only by understanding the past can they build a better future.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10


Plot/Idea: This is a risky, difficult concept to execute, but Pawlicki nails it. This story is an excellently woven narrative of love and bodily dysphoria that links the modern struggle of trans people with the ancient tradition of gender fluidity in myth. The additional link to the cycle of reincarnation is another intriguing thread.

Prose: The novel excels when describing people and objects. Characters come to life as bits of their personality are conveyed through their stylistic choices and hidden meanings in their statements. The writing is less clear when describing place, with locations such as the Sea of Souls and the Underworld feeling more thinly drawn.

Originality: While borrowing elements from mythologies around the world, like the concept of a triple or "Threefold" Goddess, Pawlicki has ultimately interlaced an entire pantheon and mythology mostly from scratch.

Character Development/Execution: It is hard to think of a novel with more solidly executed character arcs. The tale of Karana and An Ning's love is deftly handled, while never feeling trite or the miscommunications frustrating. Side characters endear and have their own fully fleshed out motivations and desires, separate from the protagonists.

Date Submitted: August 19, 2022