Cover Image: No Man of Woman Born

No Man of Woman Born

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Member Reviews

I absolutely loved this book and most of the stories within. They all fit so well together and at the same times they each had a different atmosphere. I can't believe I finally found a book about trans and non-binary characters in fantasy ! That makes me so excited and I can't wait to read more
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I know posting excerpts from the author's notes is not generally the 'done thing', but it seems to be something I've been doing more and more lately. After all, who can explain a book better than the author in their own words:

"The heroes and heroines in these pages aren't special *because* they are trans; they are special *and* they are trans."

This book features seven stories featuring trans, genderfluid, or intersex protagonists in the staring roles of traditional style high fantasy / fairytale stories. Sometimes the characters are out and the world is incredibly accepting of their identity and sometimes it is more of a secret at first, but all the characters are treated with respect by the narrative. All the stories also come with content warnings at the beginning as well as pronunciation guides for neopronouns if they are used. It was just a really fun collection and also a very important one. Unfortunately even today the high fantasy genre is pretty homogeneous and it's so important for people to be able to see themselves in the stories they read. I would definitely recommend this book for someone looking for more diverse fantasy stories.
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First a small note. Please educate me if I misuse any terminology or say anything that doesn't use preferred wordings. I'm new to this and there's a bit of a learning curve. I want to be a good ally and that's why I chose to read this book: in the hopes that experiencing a story through a character with a nontraditional gender identity would better help me understand how that world view differs from mine. The job of learning this stuff is mine, but support would be appreciated.

When I saw No Man of Woman Born on NetGalley, I immediately pinged another reviewing friend to make sure she saw it. We both were excited by the concept.

When I read the preface, I discovered the book isn't meant for us. It is meant for those people who may lack heroes (gender neutral, IMO. I never liked the word heroine either. They're all heroes regardless of gender) to identify with in literature because they don't fit what society considers normal for gender.

Mardoll's primary goal, if I understood properly, was to correct the exclusion of atypical genders from the fulfillment of prophecies. For example, "no man of woman born" was fulfilled by caesarean section. So the short stories all revolve around prophecies (and one curse) and how they can be fulfilled in non-cis ways. I'm pretty sure the book is a big success here.

In some cases I recognized origins to prophecy, but not in all of them. Even apart from the gender experience, I appreciated the creativity in several tales, such as how the dragon was fought in the first one. Not going to tell you any more--you'll have to read it yourself.

My overall favorite is the retelling of sleeping beauty but I can't tell you why without a spoiler. Again, read them for yourself to see.

This is my first experience with neopronouns. As someone who was raised to see a disconnect when they is used as singular (yes, I'm aware there are many reasons it is acceptable, but it was very solidly pushed as wrong when I learned my grammar, so it's a struggle for me), I would love a widely accepted gender-neutral singular pronoun. I adjusted more quickly to reading the different ones than I expected to. I still don't understand whether these neopronouns are gender neutral or signify different variations on the spectrum. I shall have to do more research.

My overall rating for this collection is 4 stars. I think a part of the reason it isn't higher is my wants impacting the rating, rather than failings on the part of the author. I'd have liked a greater sense in more of the stories that they were heroes because of who they were as people and not merely because of their gender identity. But overall ratings like this are difficult to give and based on a very personal gut reaction. I'm sure it will be higher for many readers, including other allies, cis readers, and anyone else who wish to expand their horizons. I definitely recommend it.
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I enjoyed the classical fairytale feel of the stories, and how they were diversified with the inclusion of non-binary and transgender characters, who are still too seldom seen in fantasy fiction. I liked it well enough, though the stories themselves felt a bit too familiar - besides the inclusion of LGBT+ characters, there wasn't much to set them apart from other fairytale fantasy stories.

Enjoyable but didn't blow me away.
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The idea for this book is great and important, but the book itself fell short for me. I think it is tough to write fantasy short stories in particular, and most of these stories had conclusions that felt rushed / problems that were too easily solved. I think the author would've been better served by turning a couple of these stories into novellas so the stories and characters could've been better developed.
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7 short stories who deal with the prophecies' limits when it comes to gender in fantasy.
It was a delightful read who explores gender identity, we need more stories about genderqueer people in fantasy.
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C’est ma première fois à lire une fiction LGBT+ fantasy, et je n’ai pas été déçue : ces sept histoires courtes (environ une trentaine de pages chacune) ont pour fil directeur le thème de la prophétie, que j’affectionne tout particulièrement. Mais dans le cas de ce livre, les prophéties que nous connaissons bien – « le fils de ____ le tuera » , ou bien « Elle se piquera le doigt sur une quenouille et tombera dans un sommeil profond » – ont une différence de taille par rapport à leurs versions habituelles : selon les mots de l’auteure, « le destin voit ce que les autres ne voient pas ».

Chaque histoire est accompagnée de notes concernant les pronoms utilisés pour et par les personnages, très utiles pour le lecteur qui n’y est pas habitué ou qui ne les connaît pas tous. Elles sont également assorties d’une note concernant le contenu de chaque texte, prévenant le lecteur qu’il s’apprête à aborder des thèmes difficiles tels que la mort des parents, l’automutilation ou encore le mégenrage d’une personne trans. C’est un des premiers livres que je trouve avec ce genre de notes, et elles me paraissent très utiles : je suis personnellement sensible à certains de ces thèmes, et le savoir avant de lire l’histoire correspondante m’a permis d’être prête à l’aborder sans réaction négative de ma part.

Daughter of kings est, parmi les sept récits, mon préféré. La princesse qui doit sortir l’épée magique du rocher en plein milieu de la forêt a été assignée homme à la naissance ? Peu importe : la prophétie mentionne une fille, et elle en est une. Tangled nets et King’s favor obtiennent la deuxième place ex-æquo : le premier pour l’ambiance qui s’en dégage, cette famille de pêcheurs tentant de survivre tant bien que mal à une mauvais saison après le décès d’un de ses membres, et le deuxième pour la méchante sorcière et ses pouvoirs mystérieux qui souhaite à tout prix se débarrasser de celui et celle (?) que la prophétie désigne comme ses assassins éventuels.

Chaque histoire est centrée sur les personnages trans ou non conformes aux normes de genre traditionnelles, et certaines présentent des romances non hétérosexuelles – elles sont définitivement un changement bienvenu par rapport aux récits de fantasy habituels, et leurs prophéties genrées et autres princes combattant le dragon. Leur format en permet une lecture assez rapide, et elles ne s’embarrassent pas de détails inutiles ou de longs paragraphes descriptifs avant le départ de l’intrigue, ce qui peut manquer à certains mais que je considère plus comme un point positif.

De manière globale, j’ai bien apprécié ce livre, et je le conseillerais volontiers à celles et ceux qui recherchent quelque chose de nouveau en fantasy, ou une représentation positive de personnes trans et/ou non binaires dans la littérature.
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The hubs and I had a conversation the other day about Sigourney Weaver's role in Alien. It was my position that Ripley was written in such a way that the gender of the actor wouldn't have mattered. The character and the story were strong enough on their own that acknowledging gender would have been unnecessary and would likely have been a distraction. He disagreed and pointed to the scenes with the kid as evidence that a female would be better to perform those scenes. 

o.0 seriously? 

This book is not a single story but a series of snapshots into the lives of people who do extraordinary things. I enjoyed some more than others, but I found value in each of them. My only critique is that the main character's difference was the pivotal information rather than just a facet of the character's identity. And maybe this is me, seeing this through the eyes of a cis-gendered person, but I have always felt that "otherness" stops being so other, when one stops making a big deal about it. When I think about friends of mine who are gay or transgender, those aspects of them are not what come to mind first. I immediately think of X's sharp ass wit or M's phobic aversion to Jello. I missed seeing characters handled like that. 

All said, I am grateful for the insights that I got by reading this. It's made me want to seek out more stories, especially about non-binary people. I thought I had a pretty good handle on what that means, but I realize I have no idea. I imagine it's kind of like trying to explain color to a person born blind, but I look forward to learning.
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No Man of Woman Born. The title is what caught my eye, it was catchy and interesting and sounded like the kind of thing I would read. Then I realized it was a collection of short stories, and while I’m not normally one for Anthologies, I definitely had to read this. It was exactly what I hoped for; true love, heroes, girls turned boys, boys turned girls, dragons, magic, witches…it was an amazingly, awesome experience reading this book. 

I wish to thank the publisher for letting me have a copy of this on Netgalley. I was crossing my fingers, but wasn’t sure I would receive it, and am thrilled to have gotten it, and even more thrilled in reading it. Yet before I dive into the review, let’s go over the trigger warnings, shall we? Because there’s quite a few of them to list here. 

Warnings: trans-characters in trying situations, non-supportive family members of a trans character, death of family members and children, imprisonment, murder, war crimes, suggested genocide of certain kinds of character, suggested rape

There’s various different kinds of short retelllings you might notice in here. The ‘sword from the stone’, not to mention the ‘sleeping beauty’; but there’s also quite a few that I didn’t recognize as being retellings. If they are, they’re done well enough that I’ve missed it, and it doesn’t state it in the story either. 

I liked all the stories, though I think my favorites are probably “the Father’s Son” and “The sword from the Stone” remixed version. The writing was strong, the characters were believable, and I wish, I wish that I had found and read this as a thirteen year old teenager when I was confused about gender and everything else. While I’m not trans, I have a lot of trans friends, as well as gay and lesbian friends too. Most of my circle is part of the LGBT community, in fact. I have the feeling that had I read this as a teenager, it would have helped me to grow and figure a few things out a lot quicker. 

I can’t review this book without spoiling it. I will say that there are quite a few scenes that are dark and heart-wrenching to read. So if you’re easily triggered or there are things you don’t like reading in fantasy books that deal with the LGBT community…I highly suggest not reading it. 

But if you’re not scared away so easily, then I highly recommend reading this book. Because it is an important book, especially if you’re new to the LGBT community. It shows just how important gender identity is, and why it matters what you call a person. 

I’m giving this a 5/5 stars because of how powerful the message is in this book, and I really hope that any who reads this review at least checks this book out and spreads the message that there’s a positive book for LGBT people to read that’s in the YA fantasy genre. 

{review also posted on my blog, and Goodreads}
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This collection of seven stories has been one of my most anticipated releases ever since I found out about it. It’s a collection written by a nonbinary author, for trans readers, “with cis audiences welcomed but not centered”. I was already in tears by the end of the author’s note at the beginning.

No Man of Woman Born plays around with gendered prophecies by using transgender and/or nonbinary protagonists. I loved seeing how the different prophecies are worded, and I loved guessing while reading what the solution to the particular prophecy would be – as well as the ways people can misinterpret it, as in the case of King’s Favor.

I also loved that the book includes content warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides as well.

Tangled Nets: 4/5 stars. Nonbinary protagonist, dragons, sacrifices. It wasn’t my favourite, but a nice warm-up.

King’s Favor: 4.5/5 stars. Nonbinary protagonist, witches, queens – and a very entertaining misinterpretation of the prophecy. Plus, a great side character, and an even better protagonist.

His Father’s Son: 5/5 stars. Trans guy protagonist on a revenge quest. I would have loved to see the villain’s face.

Daughter of Kings: 4/5 stars. Sapphic* trans girl protagonist with Arthurian sword-in-the-stone elements. (*There is no romance in the story, but it’s hinted that she likes girls.)

Early to Rise: 5/5 stars. Genderfluid, possibly aromantic Cinderella. This was one of my favourite stories, and the best curse-loophole. Also one of the only stories where the solution was completely different from what I expected.

No Man of Woman Born: 5/5 stars. One of the strongest stories – no wonder this one gave its name to the collection. Women, girls, nonbinary people and others who could be argued to fit the prophecy rally around to kill the evil king. Has a questioning protagonist, a parent who comes out in adulthood, and several trans or nonbinary side characters.

The Wish-Giver: 4/5 stars. Kind of simple compared to the others, but incredibly sweet, and overall a nice ending to the collection. Also, it has a female dragon, so kudos for that. (And some ironic commentary on binary colour-coding children.)
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This is an anthology of fantasy stories where the main characters are transgender or nonbinary people. Some of the stories use neo-pronouns (for example, xie instead of he/she and xer instead her/him) which took a few pages to get used to but I quite liked it by the end. In some ways it was easier for me than using them/they pronouns because I have a constant grammar battle in my head. I think this is an incredibly valuable book because there is nothing quite like the feeling of isolation of never seeing yourself reflected in popular culture, screens and books. 

There’s a lovely analogy in one of the stories that illustrates that feeling of being ‘other’ beautifully:

“How do you know when a shoe doesn’t fit quite right? It covers your food and it’s better than nothing at all, because you’re not getting burrs stuck in your heel when you walk, and no shoe is perfect. Maybe if you just wear thicker socks, it’ll feel right. Maybe all shoes are bad and you just need to accept it and stop complaining that your feet hurt.” Kie grinned, shaking kir head. “And then one day you take the shoe off and try on a different one and it’s like you’re seeing sunshine for the first time. And you realize shoes can be comfortable, you were just wearing the wrong one.”

In terms of the stories, there are some that I enjoyed more than others and I find that I enjoy a story more when there is more dialogue. Stories with long descriptive narrative don’t engage me quite as much. A story with a twisty re-take of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ comes with a trigger warning of non-consensual kissing which initially I was amused by but then thought about it a bit and realised that I was raised believing that it is okay to kiss an unknown, unconscious person in the name of ‘true love’. Interesting.

I enjoyed ‘No Man of Woman Born’ and I think readers of LGBTQIA fantasy will too. For a more in-depth and thoughtful point of view, read Shira Glassman’s review.

Book received from Netgalley and Acacia Moon Publishing for an honest review.
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No Man of Woman Born is a fabulous collection of fairly/fantasy stories written representative of Trans/Non-binary people. This is a must read. The writing is spot on.
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Wonderful and engaging fantasy fromm Ana Mardoll.  This is a book that does credit to the genre and I especially enjoyed getting the context of the author's thoughtful introduction.
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