Cover Image: No Man of Woman Born

No Man of Woman Born

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Member Reviews

These are really good retellings with queer protagonists whose adventures and challenges aren't because of their gender. It's a refreshing take on old tales and I really loved the use of neopronouns as well as the content warnings at the beginning of each chapter
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This book at the beginning was completely confusing, but as I pushed through the story began to make more sense and flowed alot easier.
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A great short story collection, but a bit too slow for me. Nevertheless I recommend it as it is nice to read about trans and non-binary characters in fantasy, my favourite genre, and it is great to see the genre shift from the white cis-centre it has  largely focused on in the past decades.
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I cried many times during this book because of how good it felt to read these stories. THESE are the tales about prophecies and magic with gender identity I wish I read when I was younger. I really loved how the main character's gender played into the prophecy for each story. Like, '"no man or woman"? oh good i am neither'. All the little loopholes found in "classic" prophecies. I also really liked how much worldbuilding there were in each of these stories, so many new worlds for my imagination within barely 30 pages? Kudos. And honestly, from the author's not on page one I knew I would love this book. This is why own voices stories and representation in books are important.
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This collection of short stories re-imagines various folk tales (and well known literary constructs like the titular "No Man of Woman Born") in settings where transgender, agender and other non-binary characters have central roles in the narratives.  It's usually fairly obvious how that facet of the characters will play into the narrative, though I don't think that surprising the reader was the main focus in any case.  Ana Mardoll is genderfluid xerself, and pretty open about the fact that xie wrote the stories to give non-cisgender persons some heroes of their own.  Which is something I can heartily support.  I'm also pleased to say that even if they aren't exactly packed with shocking twists, they're well executed.  In particular, I'd like to read more about what happens to Caran, from the story "King's Favour", in the time after that story ends.
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A lot of pretty good short stories, helpful in increasing both knowledge and acceptance when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, especially relating to gender identity. At the same time, I don't feel like it was taken as far as it could have been, and most of it could work as novels if the author had gone deeper into both plot and characters.
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A quiet fisher mourning the loss of her 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.
This is all you need to read. I enjoyed this book, the writing and plot were easy to follow and I couldn't guess what was about to happen next and makes me want to read more by this author. 
Give it a try and enjoy the world and story
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It took me a while to get through this book but this was caused by personal matters and my inability to read short stories collections somewhat consistently and has no say on the quality of it. I loved that every story has trigger warnings and pronunciation guides of neopronouns if needed.

★★★★⭐ | Tangled nets 
Good start. I like how it was family-focused and Wren's motivation was xer mother and sister first and the whole unjust system latter. I'm pretty sure it was a retelling of 'The Lottery'? & that Wren's autistic.

★★★★⭐ | King's favour
I think the only thing I didn't like was that the scarce dialogue and listings of herbs made me lose focus every now and then. Other than that I loved the tragic irony the Witch-Queen got herself into and how Caran saved nerself with the simplest magic.

★★★★⭐ | His Father's Son
Trans boy getting revenge on the bastard who killed his family. Cool society concept with many mothers and I think remarrying? Or the concept of marriage as a couple which is currently rising a child together? 
A bit deus ex machina but still satisfying.

★★★★,5 | Daughter of Kings
Never say no to a nice trip to an evil magic forest. Cool things may happen.
King Arthur's Excalibur retelling with a bi, trans woman. Also, men are such useless rulers in this one. 

★★★★⭐ | Early to rise
Genderfluid sleeping beauty retelling! When you spend your life getting yourself ready for the influence of prophecy but then nothing goes as planned you need to be really clever to get yourself and your kingdom out of the trouble.
Also, I'm pretty sure that MC is ace.

★★★★,5 | No Man of Woman Born
Why the prophecy that "no man of woman born can't kill you" doesn't make you invincible? a. there's a lot of people who are not men, and b. not every person to give birth to another person is a woman. 
A story about exploring one's gender in the light of prophecy. Do I feel like my assigned gender does not fit me because I want to fit the prophecy or am I trying to fulfill the prophecy to have an excuse to explore my gender identity? Is there a point at which I should have a definite answer? Will this answer change the more I learn?

★★★★⭐ | The Wish-Giver
A badass little girl battling a dragon to get her gender recognised. Just imagine a tiny girl facing a big ass dragon and tell me you don't want to know how THAT plays out.
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This book is an interesting new experience - almost like relearning how to read, and definitely learning what should be new norms. I enjoyed the main characters being transgender or nonbinary because this created scenarios where familiar fairy tale gender-related tropes gets turned on its head.  I won't deny that the new pronouns tripped me up quite a bit because it's the unfamiliar words that jump off the page first. The guides at the beginning of each story were helpful in telling us what to expect. I really hope to see this kind of inclusion becoming more common. We all need this.
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Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel.

DNF at 25%

I have been "currently reading" this for months and it's getting to the point where I am dreading picking it up...which should never be the case when reading a book, so I have decided to pass on this one.

It's definitely a "me not you" situation and I urge anyone who likes the sound of this to check out other reviews before going by what I say!

First up, what I liked:
-Diversity. This book is packed with short stories filled with diverse characters. All characters are trans and use neopronouns or "they/them" pronouns. It's also own voices!
-after reading the introduction, you can tell how much this means to the author and I think this is such an important novel that definitely deserves the attention it gets. It's such a shame there are not more stories like this. 
-I love the fact that trigger warnings are added to each story.

Onto things I didn't like:
-The world building and character appearances were sorely lacking. 
-I just couldn't connect to anything that happened or any of the characters. 
-I found the short stories very slow-paced and I much prefer fast-paced stories. 

Overall, I am very glad I had the opportunity to read this one and just because it wasn't for me doesn't mean it wouldn't work for you!
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This book features seven short stories all about trans and nonbinary character with a twist on the common trope "no man of woman born". The idea is ingenious and all of these stories are very different from one another.
The author herself says it in her notes but I loved that no wrong pronouns or deadnames were included unless absolutely necessary. You can tell it's not necessary at all, there were enough other troubles around to keep the story interesting.
I loved the whole setup of these stories and the unique ideas Mardoll has. There are some character who have strong relationships with siblings and friends which I very much enjoyed. Sometimes, I was confused by the unexplained  magic and felt it did not fit into the actual plot.
These are all short stories and soetimes I feel the story needed more pages or a more well-rounded ending.
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**I received this book from NetGalley in exchanging for an honest review**

I loved this anthology. Let me first start by saying that I only knew that this book was a collection of short stories based on gendered prophecies. But each short story was brilliant, none of the main characters were cis gendered, the worlds created in such few pages were incredible. In only several pages Ana Mardoll was able to create an immersive fantasy world, with its own legends and prophecies. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
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Seven legendary stories with allll the representations we can ever ask for!!!!

No man of woman born was everything! I would've preferred more if it wasn't short stories cz i love standalones and series.
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“Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.”

For all Shakespeare’s powerful, headstrong women, he really missed a trick in Macbeth. Then again, this kind of “from my mother’s womb untimely ripped” trickery is precisely what we should expect from a writer who just brings out a one-off bear to pursue (read: devour) a character he can’t be bothered to kill onstage. I’m a big Bard fan, but, as Mardoll notes in xer introduction, “If no man born of woman can accomplish a given task, that seems like an excellent time to bring in a woman to do the job.” What a shame the play had a serious dearth of ruthless women utterly lacking in qualms about regicide. (I cannot have been the only one to watch the prophecy scene and think of Lady Macbeth.) Tolkein, as Mardoll notes, went some way to redress this with Éowyn, shield-maiden and sexist-Witch-King slayer of Rohan. But now Mardoll takes up the mantle of utterly destroying gender-based prophecies, and does it with glorious aplomb.

“The heros and heroines in these pages aren’t special because they are trans; they are special and they are trans.”

In this collection of seven short stories, Mardoll centres trans protagonists in rich fantasy worlds, drawing on legend, myth and fairytale, as well as modern-day issues. Of course, as readers, we go into the stories knowing two things: “no trans character is killed in the pages that follow” -- which is gloriously refreshing -- and that the protagonists will face down not only peril, but gender-based prophecies. I went into the collection with a little trepidation that the tales could get predictable, and whilst the twist to the first story, ‘Tangled Nets’, was fairly foreseeable, Mardoll’s characterisation and world-building is endearing enough that the resolution was welcome. However, after this gentle start (albeit as gentle as population-devouring dragons and self-sacrifice can get), Mardoll ups the ante considerably. 

I frankly wanted a whole novel from ‘King’s Favour’, a story about magical espionage in a kingdom where witches have been purged by a young Witch-Queen. ‘His Father’s Son’ is a classic tale of revenge -- though thankfully, Mardoll does not draw on Shakespeare for the narrative arc -- and includes my favourite approach to prophecies: the “shit, acting on that prophecy is the thing that made it happen” approach. ‘Daughter of Kings’ is a bittersweet balm to the heart, whilst ‘The Wish-Giver’ is pure sweetness (with a coulis of “listen to your trans kids”). ‘Early to Rise’ presents a delightful loophole to Sleeping Beauty, as well as addressing both the origins of the curse (a memo to fairytale kings: faeries are vindictive, and also rather big on guest-list etiquette) and the non-consensual kissing element. 

My personal favourite, however, was the titular ‘No Man of Woman Born’, which satisfied my half-a-lifetime long desire for a proper ending to the Macbethean prophecy, as well as picking holes in the idea of prophecies themselves: “Do you think the prophecies are prescriptive or descriptive?”

Mardoll’s collection is a much-needed delight, and xer voice is strong, capturing the fairytale elements, yet underscored with a wryness that fits perfectly. A prophecy: people of all genders will delight in this collection.
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No Man of Woman Born is anthology with full of fantasy and an amazing characters. I really enjoyed some stories but couple of them felt like unfinished. I wanted to know more. The Wish Giver and Early to Rise were my favourite stories. I loved the concept and i loved the Ana Mardoll's writing. Neopronoun pronunciations and content note parts were really usefull too. Thank you for this arc.
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Seven really well written stories that will have you turning your pages waiting to see what comes next! You want revenge? you have it! You want dragons? They are there! Witches? Magic? Swords? Check check and check! You want Ace, Trans, genderfluid, nonbinary great representation? YES! This is the book! 

A amazing collection of fantasy stories with amazing characters, and even more amazing neopronoun pronunciation guides so that we don't butcher it up. Smooth writing, and very thought out plots!
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"No man of woman born" hooked by the title because it is a great title and references not only Shakespeare but also makes me think about Tolkien. Gender is a big part of our lives but it is only when books like this end up in our hands that we realize how much it matters since we are children. In several of these short stories, the hero is able to defeat the villain because the gender that they've been assigned or the gender with which they are perceived is not the one they are. Some of the stories even have neopronouns which may take the reader a bit to get used to adding more layers to the characters. I also particularly liked the fact that the short stories dealt with very bloody and serious matters because whereas gender is something that can be quite serious even more when people are misgendered.
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As diversity begins to really fill out YA fiction and starts to make its way through the speculative genres, gender variant and trans characters are still being left behind. This anthology of short stories helps to fill that gap with many different stories that twist cleverly on the base premise.
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No Man of Woman Born is a wonderful collection of short stories that center trans and nonbinary characters in traditional fantasy-story roles and prophecies in ways that are always true to their gender.

Content warnings can be found at the beginning of the book and at the start of every individual short story.

The book starts with an author's note that already touched me deeply, and it only got better from there on. The short stories feature a wide variety of characters all over the trans spectrum, from trans women and men to genderfluid to nonbinary to questioning. Some of them use neopronouns, all of which are briefly noted at the beginning of each story.

Overall I adored this book and had a great time reading it. I had no idea how much I needed to hear these stories until I actually read them. Especially the story giving the book its title, No Man of Woman Born, will stay with me for a long time and become something to reread again and again.

Individual ratings for and quick thoughts about the short stories:

Tangled Nets: 4 stars 
I'm not a big fan of the Evil-Dragon-Needs-Annual-Sacrafice trope, but it was well executed here. It helped that the sacraficial system in this story is pretty reasonable, actually. I was a bit confused by technicalities of the climax, but ultimately it was a nice story.

King's Favor: 4 stars
This one started out slow and had a bit too much retrospection for me, spending most of it's time setting the scene and world and not enough on the actual story. The second half of it was very cool, though, with a great open ending!

His Father's Son: 5 stars
One of my favourites. It made me cry, had very interesting worldbuilding (without dragging like the previous story) and I loved the family dynamics, for lack of a better word.

Daughter of Kings: 5 stars
Another favourite! A great take on the sword-in-the-stone prophecy. I loved the brother and the companion, the interpersonal interactions in this one were the best.

Early to Rise: 4.5 stars 
Fun and intriguing retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a genderfluid aromantic protagonist, which I adored!! The ending, while super cool, seemed almost too easy however and didn't entirely convince me.

No Man of Woman Born: 5 stars
This one resonated with me a lot. It's different from the others in that it doesn't actually.... fullfil the prophecy, slay the dragon, etc. Instead it's introspective and soft, with wonderful conversations about identity and knowing who you are, featuring a questioning protagonist. I absolutely loved it.

The Wish-Giver: 5 stars
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Admittedly, I am not actively a fan on fantasy, but I don't mind it either, and I love short stories and trans content. Besides, I knew of Mardoll as an activist on Twitter, so I figured I'd like this. Sadly, I didn't.

Most of the stories aren't so much fantasy as they are set in fantasy worlds - they're more Ronia the Robber's Daughter than Circle of Magic. And in fairness, my not caring for that is just a matter of personal taste. But an additional frustration is that although Mardoll is a trans writer ostensibly writing for a trans audience, the stories still follow the tropes of trans literature too closely for comfort.

"His Father's Son" and "Daughter of Kings" (a take on the sword in the stone myth) are essentially coming-out stories, and I suspect that most trans readers are, like myself, tired of those. "Early to Rise," featuring a genderfluid Sleeping Beauty, is a definite step up in terms of both trans content - the main character's fluidity is critical to the plot, but is presented as a simple fact - and fantasy content. But even that one left me feeling unsatisfied, with an ending that felt rushed and unnatural. I finally had to stop reading when I hit the painfully didactic (and lexically anachronistic) line "Innes hadn't realized it was possible to be a gender other than the one you'd been assigned at birth."

In the end, I feel like this is a case of "better idea than delivery." Hopefully, either Mardoll or someone else will make another attempt that really follows through.
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