No Man of Woman Born
by Ana Mardoll
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Pub Date 10 Jul 2018 | Archive Date 30 Apr 2019
Destiny sees what others don't.
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.
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.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 94 members
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.