Publisher: Acacia Moon Publishing
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author
Destiny sees what others don’t.
A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer 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.
GENDER: transgender, nonbinary (agender, bigender, genderfluid), questioning
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, aromantic
TROPES: magical abilities, the chosen one
TAGS: young adult, fantasy, retellings, queer characters, POC characters, disabled characters (permanent limp, Deaf or mute character who uses sign language, prosthetic), coming out, coming of age
WARNINGS: explicit violence, bloodshed, ableism, human sacrifice, self-sacrifice, border walls, population purges / genocide, mention of self-harm, sexualized violence, death, misgendering, parental bigotry, mention of parental death, magical curses, non-consensual kissing, governmental oppression, mention of emergency cesarean births, childbirth, mention of rape, physical injury, domestic violence, captivity, mention of suicide, binary language
***The above list of warnings includes all that the author marked at the start of each story, plus some additional ones I added myself. The below image includes the author’s breakdown from the text of the novel, using a screenshot of the Table of Contents. If anyone cannot read the screenshot, please feel free to contact me and I can clarify what it says.***
Right from the start, the Author’s Note made me emotional as all get out, and every story in this collection is wonderful! Some I enjoyed more than others, but each of them are lovely and worth reading. Below are short reviews of each short:
Tangled Nets – I love this story of a young fisher volunteering to be the year sacrifice to the dragon, and then discovering a way to save xer family and village. One can’t help but empathize with Wren’s anger and desperation, as well as cheering xer on once you realize her plan.
King’s Favor – This short tells the tale of a hedge-witch who, during ner captivity, manages to find just the plant they need in order to successfully take down the vicious, dictatorial queen who rules the Northern province. I loved seeing the brief bit of bonding between Caran and ner jailer guard, and the two of them working together in the end to help the people who’ve been oppressed for so long.
***His Father’s Son – A story of vengeance, this short is a great commentary on the importance of family, both blood and found. It was lovely to see a multitude of different familial interactions, even within so few pages. These pages are action-packed, but not in a way that ever felt rushed or like too much in so short a space.
***Daughter of Kings – A twist on the myth of the Sword in the Stone and King Arthur, this story brings to us a queen, one to bring peace and prosperity to her people. I very much enjoyed the interactions between Finn, her brother, and Torjei, and how the latter two supported her without question, both as the rightful queen and in her coming out.
***Early to Rise – Reminiscent of the movie Maleficent, this story takes on the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty in such a way as to follow the essentials of the tale while twisting little details here and there to add different depth and nuance to the concept. With a genderfluid main character, Mardoll does an incredible job taking advantage of the binary loophole of the original tale, allowing the aromantic main character to save themself and their people without forcing True Love’s Kiss.
***No Man of Woman Born – A play on the line from Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and the title of the collection, this story brings to us a character who believes he could never fulfill the prophecy to defeat the evil overlord because of his parentage, until he finds out he actually has two fathers instead of one. The coming out scene of Innes’s father was really sweet and precious, in more ways than one, but I loved it, personally, because it was a moment in which an older person was finally coming out. The main character, Innes, struggles with identifying his gender throughout this story, and his father coming out in his 40s enabled Innes, and I think many readers, to finally breathe and realize it’s okay not to have everything figured out when you’re young. Also, I really appreciated that Mardoll included a section where a nonbinary character says that kie still sometimes misgenders kirself in kir head, because that is something that is so relatable to me, and something I’ve yet to see in other stories with enby or trans characters.
The Wish-Giver – This final story is a sweet one about a little four year old who defeats a dragon, who grants wishes, in order to achieve her dream–to be recognized as the girl she is! This story was really cute and a great ending to the book.
*** Indicates my favorites of the stories
Ana Mardoll is a writer and activist who lives in the dusty Texas wilderness with two spoiled cats. Xer favorite employment is weaving new tellings of old fairy tales, fashioning beautiful creations to bring comfort on cold nights. Xie is the author of the Earthside series, the Rewoven Tales novels, and several short stories.
Aside from reading and writing, Ana enjoys games of almost every flavor and frequently posts videos of gaming sessions on YouTube. After coming out as genderqueer in 2015, Ana prefers xie/xer pronouns. [xie (“zee” or /ziː/), xer (“zur” or /zɜr/)]