Maiden, Mother, and Crone

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Here are 11 stories featuring eleven trans protagonists who are more than their gender identity. Many of these stories are magical, written in unique ways or feature some incredible worldbuilding. You will find something for your tastes, whether it is vampires (Lilah Sturges), knights (Alexa Fae McDaniel), a more sci-fi twist (Kylie Ariel Bemis) or magical forests (Izzy Wasserstein). You can tell all the love and care that went into this collection.
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Mother, Maiden, Crone is a, at the lack of a better word, fantastical antology, gocusing on the lives and experiences of Trans Femmes  -  a viewpoint too often overlooked in representation and actvism both. The book contains 11 different original short stories from various writers, with various writing experience. The latter detail might be noticable through parts of the books, as certain texts seem to struggle with the balance between world building and representation, but over all, I really did like the book, and will be putting it on the list of “future bookshelf fillers”. 

I have to admit that reading fell in second line after exam prep, and so I did not get to know the book as thouroughly as I might have wished, but all in all, it’s a decent 4/5 stars on my count.
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What I read of this book I really enjoyed, however I hadn't anticipated reading a full length book on the adobe app on my PC and that's just very difficult to do so I didn't get to finish it before it expired. I'm pretty sad about this as I believe this would've been a favourite but it can't be helped.
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Maiden, Mother, and Crone is an anthology of fantasy stories with trans feminine leads. Whilst the majority of the stories have a sword and sorcery feel to them, there are a couple of exceptions notably LIlah Sturges' "Undoing Vampirism" and Crystal Fraiser's "Perisher" where a ghost sidekick helps solve crimes.

I gave the book an overall rating of 4 stars (rounded for the mean of 3.9 stars calculated from my ratings for the individual stories). There was one story that I didn't click with however the tales were of an overwhelmingly high standard and my main critique was that many of them left me wanting more from the characters. 

My favourite stories were probably Sturges' earlier mentioned tale as it is was so unique and left a lasting impression, as well as, Wasserstein's "The Vixen, With Death Pursuing" which simply a hauntingly beautiful love story. 

I have discovered a wealth of new authors to check out and I look forward to getting lost in the worlds that they create again very soon.
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I have truly, always enjoyed fantasy stories. And as I got older I realized how white, straight, and cisgender the lens was that these stories were being told through. Which is one reason I so enjoyed this anthology. Every story had trans characters. And in a lot of the stories, their being trans lead them to a life of greater freedom. Which was so wonderful to read, since usually trans stories tend to be tragic. And it’s not that tragedies don’t have an important place in society, but it was nice to take a break from the reality of the social and economic injustice facing trans people today, to read a collection of stories where they are thriving. The fantasy genre needs more stories from queer and trans perspectives.

I would LOVE to read full novels of some of these stories. I loved the group of women from “Freeing the Bitch” so much. I want to know how they met, I want to know where their journey takes them. I want more! I also would love to read more mystery solving from the duo in “Perisher”. But all in all, these collection of stories were so rich with wonderful characters. I highly recommend!

I read this book as a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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A wonderful idea for an anthology but inconsistent in the quality of the stories. It was great to see trans women as characters in fantasy fiction, something that does seem to be happening more and more in the rest of the genre, but many of these stories didn't quite work for me.
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Although uneven in terms of quality, with a few stories that strayed a little too far from ‘fantastical’ for my tastes, the fact that a collection like Maiden, Mother, Crone is a collection that’s well worth the read.

What stood out most for me, and what I think distinguishes this from similar collections, is that while these are stories featuring transgender women, they are not necessarily about being transgender. In fact, gender is almost an afterthought in many of the stories, something mentioned in passing. There are no big reveals or shocking twists, just a simple acknowledgement of identity.

Gwen Benaway’s Mountain God was a stronger opener to the collection, a vintage sort of sword-and-sorcery tale of two mercenaries who are thrown into the role of heroes. There are some interesting thoughts on obligation and duty here, and the friends-to-lovers aspect is deeply intertwined with Aoyas’ anxiety as a Marked (i.e. transgender) woman.

Forest’s Edge by Audrey Ves follows that up with a fairy-tale inspired story that explores gender, parenthood, and the love for another woman. It’s a melancholy story, with a dreamy aspect to the temptations of the fey. The Vixen, With Death Pursuing by Izzy Wasserstein was a strange sort of story, and one that feels frustratingly unfinished, but it’s full of beautiful language and some breathtaking imagery.

Ellen Mellor’s Freeing the Bitch was, far and away, my favorite story of the collection. It’s a fun, female-fronted tale about a classic, yet nontraditional group of adventurers on a high fantasy quest. Gender is very much a part of this, with hints and suggestions and even some red herrings throughout, and the way they stand up for one another is fantastic. I desperately want to read more of these women – especially Sindy and the Bitch – whether it be more stories or a full-length novel.

The Knighting by Alexa Fae McDaniel and Undoing Vampirism by Lilah Sturges are the two stories in the collection that are almost entirely about gender. Personally, I felt Knighting was the stronger of the two, with the philosophical debate/discussion between accepting the honor of being knighted and suffering under the weight of being called ‘Sir’ well done. I liked Vampirism, and thought it was quite clever, but it was more scene and less story.

Kylie Ariel Bemis’ Dreamborn is probably the darkest, heaviest story in the collection, re-imagining the horrors of colonization and residential schools on a fantasy-inspired alien landscape. It’s an exceptional tale, with a uniquely strong woman at the forefront and questions of gender – for her and her daughter – underlying it all. I wondered what it was all building to, and was worried it might devolve into some cliched battle, but the spiritual, emotional way in which Bemis resolves the climax is fantastic.
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On an individual level, some of the stories in this anthology were wonderful (my favorites were i shall remain and Forest's Edge), but taken as a whole this was all over the place. The quality of the storytelling is incredibly inconsistent from piece to piece, and there were several points during the first half of the book when I considered putting it down because I didn't know if any of the subsequent stories would be worth going through more lackluster writing. Ultimately I'm glad I finished it, but I'm not sure other readers would be as inclined to continue on to the much better stories in the second half of the anthology.
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Content Warning
self-harm (blood magic), transphobic attitudes

I was super duper excited for this anthology! Fantastical short stories about trans femme heroes written by trans femme warriors! Sign me up please!

Every short deals with the emotions of the trans femme, and the judgments cast upon them in society. Even in made up worlds. Intolerance is everywhere. There were also a couple of Nonbinary persons as well. And of course each story also deals with banishing an evil force. Even if it's their own negative minds. Each short deals with a diverse, oppressive, theme in allegorical fantasy. Dreamborn tells of the Indigenous and residential schools. It was the most powerful to me.

As pumped as I was, I was greatly let down. I did nit enjoy nearly as many as I would have liked. Only 2 really stood out to me (Dreamborn & Mountain God). Most were, meh. And one was very disappointing.

I've included each story title, and the rating I gave it.

Don't let my ratings deter you though.
You may get more out of this than I did.

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1. Mountain Girl (Gwen Benaway) ➡ 4/5
2. Forest's Edge (Audrey Best) ➡ 3/5
3. The Vixen, With Death Pursuing (Izzy Wasserstein) ➡ 2.5/5
4. Potions & Practices (Gwynception) ➡ 1.5/5
5. Freeing the Bitch (Ellen Mellor) ➡ 3/5
6. The Knighting (Alexa Fae McDaniel) ➡ 3/5
7. Undoing Vampirism (Lilah Sturges) ➡ 2/5
8. I Shall Remain (Kai Cheng Thom) ➡ 2.5/5
9. Dreamborn (Kylie Ariel Bemis) ➡ 4/5
10. Failure (Casey Plett) ➡ 2.5/5
11. Perished (Crystal Frasier) ➡2/5
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A truly unique and clever short story collection. I loved the idea of transwomen telling trans stories in a fantasy context. Each story was it's own and explored its trans characters in different ways. All the characters were shaped by being trans but that wasn't their only defining characteristic. Which is something that I can only imagine someone who is trans deals with on a daily basis.

My favorite stores were the ones that subverted my expectations. I also really admired the stories that created a metaphor or analogy in the fantasy setting. 

Overall, a really good short story collection full of all kinds of stories from a really talented set of writers and truly amazing women.
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This is an anthology of stories written by trans women involving various genres of fantasy. There is high fantasy of the sword and sorcery type, as well as alternate universes and supernatural creatures. Each story uses the classical tropes of fantasy, with heroines battling various challenges and progressing with bravery and cunning. These heroines are trans, and as Gwen Benaway puts it in her forward, "The reality of our lives as trans women is never far from the surface of our fantastical stories, but within their magical bounds, we have the agency and capacity to change worlds."

Gwen is the author of the opening story, "Mountain God," where magic can change the natal sex, but the Marked are discriminated more than the Unmarked, and Aoyas is also from a region that is considered lesser within the Empire. As a mercenary mage, she has just about every disadvantage possible given to her, but she has a strong bond with Rais, her fellow mercenary. No matter what comes their way, they're determined to stay together. Think of this as slice of life sword and sorcery, where the battles aren't just against bandits, but against the casual discrimination they both face.

Faerie is full of tricksters and magic in Audrey Vest's "Forest's Edge," taking Denya on a quest into the forest for something to help her daughter's illness. Its choppy present tense makes it feel like a fairy tale that had been unearthed, and we have the familiar trope of the fae stealing humans away or tricking them into eating food in order to keep them. Magic of different kinds is mentioned in Izzy Wasserstein's "The Vixen, With Death Pursuing," as well as the fascinating detail that mages who delve so deeply into their craft actually become the thing they study. Ellen Mellor's "Freeing The Bitch" features three trans women and one cis woman on a quest to free another woman calling herself The Bitch, which is really just one step leading to an even larger quest that reminds me a lot of various Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder campaigns.

Knights usually welcome the honor, but for Daphne in Alexa Fae McDaniel's "The Knighting," being called Sir is too much of a dissonance to bear. There's a similar aspect within Kai Cheng Thom's "i shall remain," where the narrator is worshiped for a Divinity exchange, and she had left Shining Daddy's side to forge a path of her own. "love that you cannot leave is not love," so she refuses to return simply to serve another's whims. Colonialization is wedded to science fiction in "Dreamborn," and our heroine is one of the natives seeking to restore the children of her village from the school where they had been abused by outsiders in the name of civilization.

The voices in these stories are varied and interesting, and contain not only fascinating concepts in fantasy, but characters that feel incredibly real. Sometimes the fact that the characters are trans are important, sometimes it's just another facet of who they are or used to be. That's as it should be, because the focus is on the story itself and the representation it offers for readers.
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trigger warnings
PTSD
transphobia
violence
kidnapping
child abuse

A smith venturing in the dark wood to save her child, a woman wanting to transition and accepting a job to get the potions needed. A battle mage who is despised and hunted because she was born with a penis, a person holding a speech against vampirism.

This collection includes eleven short stories with queer protagonists, trans people who still get a plot. This is what I wanted: There is more to a trans persons story than transitioning. It will always be a part of our lives, but not all.

From these stories, I liked all apart from one, and one other attempted to use German which doesn't read to me as an German native speaker as executed as intended.
The anthology reminds me of my halloween playlist: It makes me happy because each and every song has some kind of connection to monsters, magic and mishief. Next song, still one I like to a topic I adore.
In the same vein, each and every story feautures characters that happen to be queer, just as it should be. Of course you've got a special set of problems if you're queer that differ from those other people experience, but often when encountering trans or homosexual characters they're reduced to this one aspect of their entire existence, which is exhausting and infuriating.

We have a broad spectrum of settings. Classic high fantasy, then medieval with fairies, we have urban fantasy, one story is set in America in the Great Depression. One leans toward sci fi and multiverse, talking about planets and different worlds. There is a shape shifter, a medium, a mecenary. A mixed bag of goods, so as long as you're into magic, you will find something that appeals to you.

I'll make sure to look up the authors and see what else they've done, and I hope that people who don't neccessarily look out for stories with queer characters will give it a go, to normalize our stories in the mainstream narrative.

I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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As an anthology, the works are of course of varying styles and quality. For the most part the stories were excellent and of very high quality, but there were a few stories with blatant errors or typos that I was surprised got past editing. I hope they are caught before final release, as I was reading an ARC. But I definitely found a few authors who's work I'll look out for in the future.

As for the content of the stories, there were some standard swords-and-sworcery fantasy tales which I get kind of bored by, but some real gems. I am glad Benaway, in her role as editor, took a broad view of what counts as "fantasy" when accepting submissions. 

And mainly I'm just glad this book exists. I'm glad there are publishing spaces for authors who are trans, and I'm glad I get to read their stories.
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I’m typically happy with a short story collection if it has two or three stories I can’t put down, and in this collection there were several. I had to leave bookmarks for myself so that I could go back and tally them for this review. In my opinion, things really pick up steam around the midpoint so if a reader is muddling through at the start, I strongly recommend just going out of order. 

For starters, I’d read a much longer book version of “Undoing Vampirism” in a hot second. Unfortunately it’s tough to review further without spoiling anything.
“The Vixen, With Death Pursuing” was a compelling magical realism story with some hints of the Paper Magician book series in its world building.
Most of all, I think the flow of “i shall remain”, “Dreamborn”, and “Failure” is great and heartbreaking. I personally would have placed “Forest’s Edge” alongside them as well. They all intertwine elements of mythology, indigenous culture, and/or traditional fairy tales with new elements and masterful inclusion of the uniting framework of the anthology - questions, commentary, and perspective on gender and society’s perception/prescription of it. 

I’d say all of the stories would be considered high fantasy, but they offer a wide range of settings and writing styles within this category. As with any anthology there were a couple reads that I just didn’t jive with, but the highs were more than high enough to make up for the lows.
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There's lots of things to recommend this book. First and foremost, it gives a voice to people who are historically underrepresented in media and publishing, and that can only be a good thing. Some of the stories here are great - I loved 'The Vixen, with Death Pursuing'. 

However, I have no idea who proof-read this, but some of it was borderline unreadable - Gwynception's story is so full of errors and typos that I had to skip most of it. 

I think a lot of this is down to the smallness of the press, and therein lies the problem; marginalised people often have to rely on small presses because big publishers won't take risks on marginalised writers (even though readers have shown time and time again that it's not really a risk) and those presses don't always have the resources available to edit the books as much as they need. 

I'd still recommend this book and I enjoyed more of the stories than not, but it definitely suffers from a lack of cohesive quality.
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I tried all the available recommend apps for this sort of book, and none worked with this download. So I was unable to read this book to review it. It's sounds amazing, so in time I'll buy it.
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A brilliant collection of short stories. Each one unique, yet coming together to form a cohesive set. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys fantasy short stories, It's nice to see the LGBTQIA community represented so well. Highly recommend.
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Some of the short stories were well written and very interesting, while others were a bit poorly executed. What drew me to the fantasy short story collection to begin with was highlighting trans women/trans femmes voices.
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This was a great idea for an anthology. As with any anthology there are some stories that are better than others. If you like short story collections you’ll enjoy this one.
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I quite enjoyed this anthology, but some of the stories just weren't that amazingly executed. The very first story had a great idea, but didn't execute it well, and tried to fit far to much worldbuilding into a v ery small space. The result was a dry read that does not serve as a good introduction to this anthology. The idea was great, the quality just could've been better. Maybe a narrower focus would've helped.
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