I come to you today with a beautiful West African folktale! This one is a tale from the Yoruba people. I found it from this book called African-American Folktales For Young Readers, in case you wanted to read more. I haven’t read it all yet, but I really liked this fairy tale!
A girl with beautiful brown eyes lived beside a river in Benin. Every boy who saw those eyes was sure to fall a little bit in love, and the old folk in her village often talked among themselves about who she would marry, and what beautiful children she would surely have.* But when she grew up, everyone had more on their mind than her marriage. A drought had struck the village, withering the plants and drying the river. The hot sun beat down upon the earth, and there was no water to be found except for small muddy pools where the river had been.
*(As a side note, it always annoys me when old people do that. WHAT IF SHE GROWS UP TO BE A LESBIAN, CHARLES.)
The girl made many trips back and forth from the river, carrying water that saved the lives of the villagers. She always seemed to find more water than everyone else, but it was only because she was so dutiful and resourceful. But the drought continued, and eventually, even she could find no water to bring home. She sat down in the dry riverbed and began to weep.
Her tear hit the ground, and out of her tear came a fish.
The fish had beautiful dark eyes. “Give me your jar, and I will fill it for you,” he told her.
She was frightened at first, of course, but the fish’s voice was gentle and kind, and she had no other choice. She lowered the jar in front of him. The fish put his mouth to the opening of the jar, and spewed clear, sparkling water into it. The girl could hardly believe her luck.
The people at her village wanted to know where she had gotten such clear water, but she didn’t tell them, because she did not think they would believe her. Which, yeah, can’t say I’d blame them. This story is a drug trip and I love it. It’s a very beautiful drug trip.
She came to the fish for water the next day, and the next, until a week had passed. The fish had a gentle voice, and beautiful, colorful scales that reflected the bright light of the sun. She grew to love the fish, for his kindness as well as his beauty. And so the girl became the bride of the fish.
Yeah, the real horror of reading fairy tales is finding out your ancestors were all furries. ALL of them. They all sat around the fire and told stories about some boy with a beautiful seal-wife, or a girl with a fish-husband. I do not know for the life of me why this is such a common fairy tale trope, but it is.
I, for one, am supportive of fish-husband!
The girl’s parents were as in the dark about how she was getting the water as anyone else. They sent her youngest brother to follow her down to the river in secret. As he watched her from his hiding place, the girl got the water from the fish as always, and bent down to give the fish a kiss. The brother slipped away and told his parents what he had seen. The parents were angry, because now there would be no wedding, and the village would consider her an outcast. Additionally, the village might ostracize her family, as well, because apparently fish aren’t considered to be respectable in-laws. Who knew.
Okay. Okay this is hilarious. You live in a rural area where everyone knows each other and whenever something big happens, people talk about it for a while, you know? Anyway, you’re just peaceably living your life when suddenly, out of nowhere, you get eternally labeled as ‘that guy who’s daughter married a fish.’ I don’t know how I’d show my face again.
Anyway, the parents decide to take matters into their own hands. Of course, since they’re parents in a fairy tale, they do this in the most traumatizing way possible. They stopped the daughter from going down to the river, and sent the brother instead. The brother took a knife and a jar, carrying the jar the same way that the women did. When the fish came up out of the mud, the brother stabbed him. He took the fish’s body back home and gave it to his father, and the father tossed the body at the daughter’s feet. To the dad’s credit, the story does say that he thought the fish was an evil spirit. But still! That was her husband! Put some thought into how she must feel!
Also, like…the fish was providing the village with water, so exactly how evil a spirit are we talking here
The daughter took the fish in her hands and carried it through the village and down to the riverside. And so she stood in the empty riverbed and wept. As the tears ran down her face, the riverbed began to fill, until the water was up to her waist and the currents tore through, sending her skirts billowing. But still she cried, until the water rose over her head, and she drowned in the river. But instead of sinking to the bottom, she was transformed into a water lily, and all the water lilies in the river are her descendants.
Anyway, the moral of this story is to not come between your daughter and her furry lifestyle
I’m kidding, I think it’s a beautiful story and I love how brave the heroine is. I guess you could interpret the ending as a suicide, but I think you can also interpret it as her sacrificing herself to save the same people who killed her husband, and that’s kind of how I prefer to interpret it? She just comes across as a loving, kind person who honestly deserves better. I really like her.
So I had an awful week. First I see some super acephobic stuff on Goodreads (seriously be normal, people, it costs you literally nothing) and then right after that I found out that a bunch of far-right people broke into the capitol, with the encouragement of our president (it costs people NOTHING to be normal, but here we are). Currently I would like to live anywhere except America.
The Uyghurs are currently undergoing a cultural genocide in China, so here’s some a Tumblr post about that. It lines up with what I know, and includes some ways to help, too.
Anyway, this is just a short story I wrote about a girl and her brother, set in Joseon. It was mostly written as a way to use the phrase ‘war criminal husband.’ Hopefully you like it. I dunno if it’s good or not. It was mildly inspired by a drama I watched, My Country, but it’s absolutely its own thing. I got the idea from a prompt.
I let out a long, long sigh and slumped down onto the ground, my skirts spilling around me. Dirt smudged the yellow silk. It would be murder for the servants to clean. If the skirt was ruined, I was killing my brother.
The trees blazed with color above me, red and green and yellow. The forest smelled of the sweet scent of damp earth and greenery. The tension eased from my shoulders. Anything was better than being stuck in my house. I was still murdering him.
“How’s the war criminal husband?” I asked him. It was a low blow. He deserved it.
Beom-Seok waved his hands. “He is neither a war criminal nor my husband,” he assured me. “All I wanted is to spend time with my sister on her birthday. I didn’t come here to get attacked like this.” He crossed his arms and tilted his head, giving me a look that suggested I was being unreasonable.
“You kidnapped me, orabeoni.” My voice contained immeasurable disappointment. “And he’s not your husband? I guess you must have just eloped with yourself.” I glared daggers at him. What kind of idiot did he take me for?
Beom-Seok sat down next to me, stretching out his legs. He threw an arm around my shoulders. I wanted to shake it off, but decided against it. “Would it be your birthday if I didn’t ruin it?” he asked. “And yes, my war criminal husband is doing just fine,” he added with a sigh.
I looked at my hands. “Father didn’t remember,” I said, too quickly. “His servant had to remind him.” I coughed.
I didn’t have to say it, I guess. We both already knew that Father would not care. That was the real reason why Beom-Seok did something stupid on each of my birthdays. But he’d never do the stupid thing I wanted him to do, which was come home. Father would probably refuse to see him if he tried, but sometimes I still almost resented him. I was not able to leave, and Beom-Seok was not able to come back.
The wind blew through the trees, creating a whistling sound. I paid attention to that, instead.
“Yes, well.” Beom-Seok coughed, too. “He’s always like that, isn’t he.” It wasn’t a question. He fumbled with his sleeves, looking for something to do with his hands. “I brought soju!” he remembered. He produced the bottle. “Does this make up for accosting you in the street?” He cast me a teasing smile.
“No,” I said, grabbing the bottle. I downed the contents, savoring the sting the alcohol left in the back of my throat.
“The idea was that we would share it,” he said patiently. I wiped my mouth and shrugged. He sighed.
I shook my head. “You can tell your husband he’s now my favorite family member by default.” Not that my other family members made that extremely hard. I scowled at the bottle.
“I’m sure he’ll like that very much,” Beom-Seok said, patting my shoulder. “How was your birthday? Before the kidnapping,” he added before I could say something else sarcastic.
“Boring,” I said. My fingers dug into the damp dirt. I looked away.
“I imagine so,” he said drily. “You never seem terribly disappointed to see me despite all your harsh words, Ye-Won.”
I let out a little laugh and rubbed the back of my neck. “Maybe not,” I admitted.
He squeezed my shoulders in an approximation of a hug. “Let’s go to town,” he said. “We’ll think of something to do there.”
“What will I tell father?” I asked, wrinkling my nose. “I don’t know what he’ll do if he knows I met you. He’ll either jump for joy or die of apoplexy.”
“Probably die of apoplexy,” he murmured. He grinned at me. “You are a very good liar, sister. You’ll think of something.”
I nodded and stood up, brushing off my skirts. “Let’s go see a play. Or go to a gibang,” I said with a wink. “I’m not going to a gibang with my sister,” he told me, rolling his eyes. He gave me a hand as we walked down the hillside. I ignored it. “Let’s go get something to eat.” He patted my braid.
I wished Beom-Seok would come home, eat dinner with our family, make up with father. I wished everything in our family could go back to normal. But until that happened, this was the next best thing.
I hope the rest of 2021 goes better, lmao. There’s no harm in hoping. So, while I’m doing this, I hope that the story wasn’t terrible, and I hope that it might have made some small part of your day better. All this may be too much to possibly hope for, but that’s the point
You know how, despite loving books and writing a lot, I don’t tend to actually…read a lot? I can’t remember the last time I read more than twelve books in a year. Well, y’all. This year I read THIRTY-SEVEN BOOKS, according to Goodreads. I know that’s not a lot compared to some of you freaks superheroes who are out here reading 200 books a year, but it’s still way more than I usually read and I’m really happy about that! Getting an overdrive account allowed me to read SO many more books than I usually do. I have a feeling I’m not going to be able to keep it up next year, what with college and all, so…RIP my reading streak lmao. (Also I don’t think people who read 200 books a year are freaks, I’m just simultaneously impressed and jealous XD)
We Hunt the Flame, by Hafsah Faizal–Hafsah Faizal really said ‘f*ck it’ and wrote a self-indulgent hurt-comfort Assassin’s Creed fic that was the best thing I’ve ever read. She’s a wizard. Also STOP HURTING NASIR YOU’RE SO MEAN AHHH. This is the kind of book I wish I could write. I love fictional men in pain.
Muse of Nightmares, by Laini Taylor–*long, long sigh* Full review here.
The Guinevere Deception, by Kiersten White–Mordred deserved better. And Guinevere, light of my life, my queen, deserved a personality. Also Arthur sucked. The book kind of felt like it was jumping from plot point to plot point without bothering to connect them? Lancelot and Brangien were super cool, though! Full review here. I had fun reading it, but I probably wouldn’t read it again unless I was bored.
House of Salt and Sorrows, by Erin A. Craig–The character development wasn’t too great, and it wasn’t that memorable–also, a dead sister should have WAY more effect on the characters, please don’t use dead women as plot devices–but the setting and monsters were uber cool, so we’re still good.
Song of the Crimson Flower, by Julie C. Dao–🥺 So cute…So soft…The setting is amazing and the descriptions are so vivid!10/10 would live in this world. The characters are adorable. Anyway, y’all should all go read this. It’s set in the same world as some of the author’s other books, but it’s a standalone.
The Story of Hong Gil-Dong–Y’all are sleeping on this Korean classic. It’s kind of like Robin Hood? It’s VERY fun. And also pretty short.
Sorcery of Thorns, by Margaret Rogerson–A reread! I love this book so much. It has the same tone and feel to it that a lot of the books I grew up with had, so this fills me with nostalgia even though I only read it last year.
Tian Guan Ci Fu, by Mo Xiang Tongxiu–MY FAVORITE BOOK EVER. I READ IT IN A WEEK EVEN THOUGH IT’S LONGER THAN THE BIBLE APPARENTLY. NO I HAVE NOT READ THE BIBLE COVER TO COVER YET. (I am a bad Christian.)
This book is everything. It has a demon king who would burn the world for his loved ones but will content himself with fixing his loved one’s house and complimenting his bad cooking because he knows his loved one doesn’t want to burn down the world. It has a god who has seen the worst of humanity and been through the lowest misfortune and still chooses to do the right thing anyway. The world-building is so creative. The side characters are amazing. IT’S SO GOOD YOU HAVE TO READ IT. GO DO IT NOW, YOU CAN FIND FAN-TRANSLATIONS ONLINE. IN FACT LET ME LINK YOUTHE ONES I READ. The translation I read was split into two parts.
The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo–I found this kind of forgettable, but it’s true that contemporary is not my genre, so take my opinions with a grain of salt. The abusive mom was forgiven way too easily, though. While I admire the effort it must have taken to write the story in verse, I think it would have worked way better in prose. The poetry created too much of a distance from the reader. Full review here.
Thorn, by Intisar Khanani–Not the best book I ever read, but pretty fun! I haven’t read a lot of Goose Girl retellings, and I liked what this did with the story. Full review here.
Ash, by Malinda Lo–This was disappointment in a book. Needed more lesbian fairies. 0/10. Full review here.
Avalon High, by Meg Cabot–This book enraged me. Yes I’m aware I hateread it and thus brought it on myself but it was so worse than I expected. I can’t encompass the breadth of my rage in a brief paragraph, so please see my review for my thoughts.
Into the Grey, by Margaret Killjoy–yeah this is a short story, but I’m including this here because I can! It was great. Carnivorous mermaid girlfriends are the best girlfriends. Also probably the first honest-to-God trans rep I’ve come across? (Don’t quote me on that.)
Lullaby for a Lost World, by Aliette de Bodard–another short story. This one was wild! Pretty fun though.
The Kingdom of Back, by Marie Lu–This one disappointed me so much. Nannerl kept making stupid decisions, the pacing SUCKED, and did I mention that Nannerl kept making stupid decisions? Did someone take her brain and replace it with a brick? Also, I’m not docking any points for this and I didn’t mention it in my review, but there’s a lot of speculation on whether or not Wolfgang was autistic and it wouldn’t kill you to write him as autistic. You know what I’m saying? Full review here.
Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde—Wilde did it again, folks! I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did, but I was almost in tears by the end. So good. Also I went to AO3 to see if there were any OT3 fics about Lord Windermere, Lady Windermere, and Darlington and there WEREN’T. Internet I have never been so disappointed in thee.
Tales of India–a book of fairy tales. The illustrations were great and I loved the stories! 10/10.
We Should All be Feminists, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie–So I will preface this by saying that I think the author might be a TERF? People were saying she was, at least, and I couldn’t really get to the bottom of it? But this book was still pretty good and I think you should read it. It’s short, to the point, and reasonable. The writing is really good.
The Lightest, Heaviest Things, by Weez Phillips–A sweet middle-grade about a young mentally-ill girl saving the giants in her hometown! It was really whimsical and charming. Full review here.
Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge–A reread! This book is legit hilarious. The relationships are all toxic, but it kind of seems more self-aware than a lot of YA, so I forgive it. I like toxic relationships as long as I don’t get the impression that the author thinks everything’s adorable and fluffy, you know? (To an extent, at least. It can be kind of hard to handle.) And I really like heroines who make hard decisions and aren’t always the most sympathetic. This is probably my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling, to be honest, although Beauty by Robin Mckinley is a close runner-up of course
The Art of Feeling, by Laura Tims— …
…One of my favorite reads this year was a contemporary????
No, seriously. This might be my favorite book ever. I think it’s because stuff actually happens. Like the main characters have to deal with bullies and the heroine’s drug dealer high school ex-friend is out to get them both. This book is HILARIOUS too, which helps. The characters are so good 😳 It also has great mental illness rep and both main characters are disabled, and–drum roll, please–ace representation that is actually really good! (fucking FINALLY.) Sam, the heroine, has a bad leg after a car accident and needs crutches, and Eliot, the hero, has a rare condition where he can’t feel pain, which sounds really great until you think about it and realize exactly what that would mean. (as in, he literally can’t tell when he’s injured himself and needs medical attention.) This book was so good. I swear I could read it over and over. Anyway, my full review
The Boy Who Steals Houses, by C.G. Drews–I loved the writing style! Really poetic and descriptive. I could have used a better ending and more of the hero’s brother, though. Also the heroine just felt…weirdly not 3d. And for the last time, I have no idea why I’m supposed to think Sam is so in the wrong for beating up the guys who harassed his autistic brother. We might not be able to go after the people who are mean to our siblings, but anyone would want to, and isn’t the joy of characters that they can do the things we want to do with little to no consequences? Full review here.
A Match Made in Mehendi, by Nandini Bajpai–This was dumb but so CUTE. I’m not linking my review because I wrote it right after class (which was a mistake) and I’m mildly ashamed of it.
A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor–This was wild. Wow.
An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson–Another reread! This is such a comfort book for me 😭 I love it so much. One of the rare fairy YA books that really does it for me. Full review here.
With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo–I KNEW I would like Acevedo’s non-poetry stuff better. This was so good. Slight magical realism vibes? Just slightly? It’s about a girl who wants to become a chef and is raising her little daughter. I didn’t want to read it at first because I thought it was going to be a depressing book about the Hard Life of Teen Moms Living in Poverty (which is a valid book to write, but it’s 2020, you know, and I can’t do that right now), but this was actually really uplifting.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder, by Sara Barnard–This was okay! It’s a contemporary romance about a girl with selective mutism and a deaf boy. I missed the fact that it was a romance when I picked up, though, and there is way too much sex and kissing for my comfort. (They. Are. Teens. I am asexual. And also they are teens. There are several reasons I do NOT want to read that.) Full review here.
The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horowitz–So cute 🥺 I do wish certain adult characters had been called out more on their actions, but I think they aren’t because it’s from the perspective of a child. As in, you don’t realize how messed up that is until you’re older. The child characters and the sheep are adorable, though, and the magic is really creative! I love stories about characters who are trying to be villains.
The Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee–This blew me away. I’ve never read anything like it before. It’s SO good. Full review here.
Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia–Meh. A ton of really good ideas ruined by poor pacing and underdeveloped characters. And WHY were the villain’s motivations hidden for 3/4ths of the novel. That was such a bad choice. If I have to hear how dumb and evil Martin is ONE more time I am going to bash my head into a wall. That being said, I loved the ending and Loray. Loray is my aesthetic encompassed in a character. Full review here.
Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia–I loved the ideas of GOJAS, even though it wasn’t perfect, so I thought that, surely, I would love her other books that she might have fleshed out more. And then I got hit in the face with *&#$* mushrooms.
I’m sorry, did I wander into a Star Trek episode? Is this where I ended up? This isn’t as fun as Star Trek, though. I need my Spock. My Uhura. My McCoy. At least the hero and the villains were more fleshed out then in GOJAS. I actually really like Francis, the hero. I just wish this hadn’t tried to take such a ridiculous plot so very seriously. If you’re going to go camp, then go camp. Don’t try to be artistic about it.
A Modest Proposal, by Jonathon Swift–I read this for school when I was exhausted, so I feel it isn’t fair of me to speak ill of it. I’m pretty sure I got a good grade on the paper, though! yaaay
Maimonides, by Ilil Arbel–a biography of Maimonides, a medieval Jewish scholar. This was really fun to read! I felt like I learned a lot.
Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor–I wasn’t thrilled with this, but it was okay. Full review here.
I’m not going to get into my life because ahahaha. But at least my reading year was pretty fun! I hope I keep it up.
Hello, please enjoy this traumatized superhero Hanukkah story that I’m posting a day after Hanukkah is over, oops! Happy late Hanukkah. I don’t celebrate it, but I think it’s a really cool holiday.
Also I didn’t edit this story at all *cue deranged laughter*
Lucia leaned her head into Ezra’s shoulder, his wool sweater scratching against her cheek. He glanced down at her with an awkward smile and went back to sipping his hot cocoa.
The Christmas tree lights sparkled in the dim living room, and a lit menorah stood in the window—they celebrated both holidays, since she was a Christian and he a Jew. Warmth from the heater washed over them both. They sat together on the green couch, enjoying the rare moment of peace, one where Ezra did not have to be out fighting and where she was off work.
Or at least, they tried to. Ezra could not ease the tension from his shoulders, and she could barely breathe, sure that something was going to ruin the moment. Some supervillain was going to bash in the windows. He was going to get a text from his supervisor again. Or she was simply going to open her mouth and walk right into one of his triggers, and he would struggle to remember to breathe the whole night.
She leaned back. He copied her. Nothing was going to happen. They would be fine.
“I don’t really know how to do this,” he said, his voice quiet and hoarse. “Celebrating Hanukkah with my wife sounds easy, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” she agreed, studying the little bumps and knobs in the ceiling. “It does sound easy.” She shifted to better accommodate him. “A lot of things aren’t as easy for us as they should be. And it’s not our fault.”
He shrugged, munching a latke with his eyes closed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “This isn’t what you were expecting holidays to be like when you married me.”
“This is exactly what I expected,” she protested. “Ezra, I love you. I wouldn’t have married anyone else for the world.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “I love you too, Lucia,” he said.
“Then that’s all we need to celebrate Hanukkah. We’ll figure the rest out from there.”
She closed her eyes and leaned against his chest. This was peace. This was them, alone, away from the world and its prying eyes. Ezra’s heart, still functioning, beating away in his chest. She was still here, too. And whatever everyone else had taken from them, they had not been able to take their love for each other.
“I’m having a great Hanukkah,” she said, and it was true.
“I’m glad. I—I am too,” he said in surprise. He rested his hand on her head and exhaled.
They might not be there for next year, but they were here for this one.
Tell me what you think! Also this story is under 500 words. I’m usually so wordy.
Before I get started, I want to say that the Ownvoices label has done a lot for promoting marginalized authors and I really appreciate that! A lot of people (including people who are like me) wouldn’t have anywhere near the same amount of publishing opportunities if not for the efforts of people who promote these books. I’m really happy about the push for diversity in the book world over the last 10 years.
Also, I was inspired to write this post by Fadwa’s post on the Ownvoices label, and you should probably read her post instead. I know for a fact her post is better than mine is going to be. >.<
The way certain people approach non-marginalized authors writing marginalized main characters is really condescending towards marginalized people, in my opinion. Yeah that last sentence was a mouthful.
I don’t know, it’s one thing to feel that you’re not in the right place to write a main character with a different identity from yours at this point in time. It’s another to say that NO ONE could get inside the head of someone of a different identity unless the writer was part of those groups to begin with. I find it a kind of dehumanizing take. It can’t be that hard to use research and imagination to fill in the blanks, right? Marginalized people aren’t some eldritch beings beyond ‘normal’ people’s comprehension. That’s ridiculous. And yeah, a lot of people do have some unintentionally–or, God forbid, intentionally–dehumanizing takes when they write marginalized characters, but I don’t think the answer is to say that no unmarginalized people should write main characters who are minorities.
Funnily enough, I don’t see anyone seriously saying that male authors shouldn’t write female main characters, even though women both face discrimination and are often poorly written by hapless/creepy male writers. Maybe it’s because white women aren’t viewed as inherently other and they’re seen as more human, so it doesn’t really occur to someone that male writers would have a hard time getting inside a woman’s head, even though clearly they sometimes do. Just a thought, I’m not sure if I’m correct. Anyway, male writers SHOULD write female characters, but they should just not be idiots about it. There’s a spicy, controversial take for you. /s
On the other end of the spectrum, though, there are people who talk like this because they’re genuinely tired of being misrepresented, and I get it, but still. The take that people who aren’t mentally ill and queer will NEVER get what it’s like to be me makes me pretty uncomfortable. I gotta say though, white, straight, able-bodied people telling other white, straight, able-bodied people why they shouldn’t write diverse main characters will never not make me irritated. Sorry.
It takes research, empathy, and self-examination, but I think it’s definitely possible to tell a story with a character who has a radically different experience from yours. Come on. I want all the stories about mentally ill queers like myself, and if certain people feel like they ‘shouldn’t’ out of misplaced moral obligation, then I won’t get all the stories! Just do your research! (In fact, maybe I should do a post on writing queer characters one of these days. It’s a big topic, though.)
Some people argue that you’d be taking up space from a marginalized author in the publishing industry, because publishers have quotas for how many diverse books they put out each year. That’s probably a really complex topic and I don’t know a lot about publishing, but I will say that that sounds more like our responsibility as consumers to hold publishers accountable? We need to support Ownvoices books, absolutely. But I don’t get why that’s on authors to not write certain books? The publishing industry being mostly white and straight, discrimination marginalized authors face because of that, and publishing quotas sound like problems that require a more complex solution than telling authors not to write outside their identity. But again, I’m not an expert on publishing by any means. I can’t really tell you what the solution should be.
But again! You, personally, do not have to write a diverse story if you aren’t in the right headspace for it. But don’t assume that no one is in the right headspace. And also, um…if you DO write outside your own experience, please, please do your research and use your brain. This isn’t your endorsement to go out and regurgitate problematic tropes straight out of the 19th century.
Also, to be honest, I’m kind of confused on how the Ownvoices label would even work for me personally?? For context, I’m an agender biromantic asexual, which is a lot of words to say that most characters I write are only going to be a part of my identity and not the whole. If I write a female or a male bisexual character, is that Ownvoices?? But the experience of a guy or a gal who experiences sexual attraction is going to be way different than me, a not-guy-or-gal who does not experience sexual attraction. I don’t know, I’m just confused. Am I overthinking this? Probably?
As far as characters who don’t share my identity at all, such as non-white characters, I can’t say if I do the best job with them or anything, but I can say that I don’t regret writing those characters and writing them taught me a lot. so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Yes, Ownvoices books are most likely going to do the representation better than someone outside the community can. (I say most likely because I’ve heard of some wild-sounding Ownvoices books that maybe shouldn’t have seen the light of day. Those aren’t incredibly common, though, at least to my knowledge.) But that doesn’t mean people outside the community shouldn’t even try. Some of my favorite queer books were written by people who probably weren’t queer. And yeah, the books weren’t totally unproblematic, but I didn’t mind! The authors did a decent enough job and wrote REALLY fun stories. In the end, that’s all that matters.
And now for a different topic that Lais talked about way better herebut I still wanted to complain about it a little bit myself
Ownvoices books aren’t supposed to necessarily represent you personally–actually, scratch that, diverse books aren’t necessarily supposed to represent you personally. (In similarly related news, I wish I could unread certain reviews.) I cannot begin to elaborate how weird it is when Goodreads reviewers complain about an asexual character being ‘problematic’ because the character isn’t Every Asexual, and I read their complaints, and…
The character is like me??? I’m a sex-repulsed asexual without a, you know, libido (no, seriously. There was a time when I literally did not know what sexual attraction was and thought it was a scam). I find faces aesthetically attractive but not abs. None of that makes a character problematic or means the author ‘didn’t do their research.’ Just because you don’t relate to one character because their experience is different from your similar experience doesn’t make the character problematic!! Why do we put pressure on authors to tell Every Asexual Experience and not on publishers to publish more stories with asexual characters? No book can tell Every Chinese Experience or Every Queer Experience, and authors–especially Ownvoices authors–shouldn’t have that burden put on them.
I don’t know, I just find it kind of hurtful when people call me a problematic asexual character. But also deeply funny. Anyway, it is such an alienating experience to read certain reviews.
On a serious note, let’s not speculate on authors’ identities just because they wrote something we didn’t like, and by that I mean stop assuming authors are straight and then getting in their face for writing queer fiction. Oh, and just a fun story: One time, on Twitter–a place I try not to frequent very often–I saw a debate going on about whether closeted authors could write queer characters, because (step one) closeted authors take advantage of straight privilege to (step two) get a book deal, and (step three) trick queer people into throwing their money at them, thereby (step four) profiting off of queer money. I just about lost it.
It can also get pretty hairy when someone (okay, white queers) approaches a book with an intersectional protagonist (read: a non-white queer) and thinks it’s going to represent them personally, and then gets really mad when it doesn’t. A ton of people have already discussed this topic in depth, so I won’t go into it too much, but. Like. Please figure out when a character is actually problematic and when they’re just different from you. I am begging you.
(God, now I’ve given myself a crisis that I am Every Reviewer that Annoys Me. I am, aren’t I. Oh no. I’ll be right back I’m just working some things out)
Oh, and one more thing
Writing Ownvoices stories is really hard and sometimes you just aren’t in the right place for it. That’s fine, honestly. You shouldn’t feel any responsibility to portray characters like you if you don’t want to. And you might be in the right space for it later! I say all this because I felt like I needed to write queer characters when I was dealing with a lot of internalized homophobia and, while I’m glad I did write those characters because I think they helped me, I also shouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself. The queer characters I write now are legitimately fun for me to write, which means I’m in a better place 🙂
So, I don’t know, tell me your thoughts on these topics. If you want.
This post is literally incomprehensible, my God. I’m totally going to get cancelled because of this.
Yeah, I’m aware this topic contains a lot of well-tread ground already, but I’ve got to get my revenge on those terrible fantasy novels I read as a kid somehow.
I’ve had kind of a rough year–I’ve been super depressed, college homework is hard, and to top it off, my grandfather died a couple months ago due to covid complications. It was just not fun. 🙃 It hasn’t been all bad though, and I really want to write and blog more? Hopefully?? Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about bad fantasy heroines.
I’m sure you’ve met the character type before. (If not, I will be hitting you up and blackmailing convincing you with mild force to let us switch lives and reading experiences.) This female character is tough. She’s like a man, but better. She looks down her nose at more feminine characters as she mows down a zombie horde, and she’s horrified by the fact that her stuffy aunt wants her to wear a DRESS and EMBROIDER, and despite living in a historical period, she acts like no historical woman ever. Which is a good thing, because historical women are WEAK. And our heroine isn’t weak. Insert some faux-feminism into the story and demonize every woman who is not our heroine–these are crucial steps–and done! You have created a Strong Female Character.
God, I’m giving myself flashbacks.
Here’s the thing, YA authors of my childhood. Women aren’t naturally weak. Just because “Womyn are kept under the thumb of the patriarchy and are treated like chattel!1!!” doesn’t make those women weak, and that goes even for the women who act like how society wants them to. Especially for the women who act like how society wants them to, in fact. Living up to such high expectations is impressive! Stop denigrating people who haven’t done anything wrong!
And femininity isn’t weak. Femininity is pretty cool, actually. I’m pretty sure all the authors who write characters sneering at sewing and embroidery have never sewn or embroidered anything in their lives. It’s hard! Sewing is really, really hard and takes a lot of practice and skill and sometimes math to get right. It’s an art form.
POV: You are a sewer. You’ve been working on a dress for weeks. It’s your finest creation, taking all of your skill and imagination. You’ve put so much of yourself into creating something beautiful, something that you love and that other people will love. You pick up a YA novel, one with four stars on Goodreads and Amazon. “Women who sew are dumb!” Snippy YA Heroine says. “I sure can’t breathe in this corset!” You close the book in disgust and wonder when authors will open a history book.
(Corsets don’t. They don’t choke you. Sometimes they can! But that means you’ve either been tightlacing or else the corset doesn’t fit. ALSO, CORSETS AND STAYS ARE DIFFERENT THINGS. PSA.)
Hey, I just had a thought. I wonder if sewing would still be considered weak if men did it? I bet it wouldn’t, huh? It’s almost like we denigrate women’s work just because women do it, and not because it’s inherently bad…Nah, that can’t be it. It must just be that math, fighting, and not showing emotions are considered good because they ARE good! Men must just like better things. Hah! Silly women.
And a lot of traits that are traditionally coded as feminine are…good, actually? Being kind, compassionate, and a good parent is not like…a crime. It takes a lot of strength, funnily enough. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t good parts to masculinity as well, because there are, but masculine traits are not ‘more strong’ than feminine traits. Being brave and outspoken is great! So is being humble and kind. (And that’s not to set up a dichotomy between the two. You can absolutely be both.) And I don’t want to hear ANYBODY say that crying or otherwise showing emotion is weak. Crying is your body’s way of processing emotions, and it’s quite effective. In fact, stigmatizing every human reaction except anger and violence is how you get toxic masculinity! Huh, imagine that.
Anyway, call me crazy, but I think that ‘femininity is bad, actually’ is an incredibly bad take for a feminist to have. Of course, maybe I’m just blinded by the patriarchy. /s
And I want the women to be friends! Just! A woman–or, for that matter, a person–does not have to be an island in order to be strong!
And a character doesn’t need to be strong. They need to feel like a person.
Let women be weak. Let them be passive, let them be quiet and meek. Let them have a quiet strength, or let them be cowardly. Because women are people, and sometimes people are all of those things. And then let your other women be strong and brash and brave, because sometimes people are those things, too.
You know who’s a good Strong Female Character? Eowyn. She has a motivation for wanting to fight, she doesn’t look down on other women for being different from her, and she recognizes that being in a war is bloody and awful but she wants to fight anyway because she both wants to be there with her family and is suicidal, at least in the book. She’s amazing and awesome and I SHIP HER AND FARAMIR SO HARD (sorry, random Farawyn outburst that happens to me every once in a while). I kind of get the sense that all these Strong Female Characters are trying to be Eowyn and failing, because the authors don’t get what made Eowyn work in the first place.
She’s just…REALLY cool.
My hot take is that damsels in distress are cool, actually. Sue me. The issue isn’t that “The woman sat around and waited for some guy to save her, what a COWARD.” The issue is when a woman is a) put in distress in order to get her out of the way because who has time to write a woman, am i rite lads, or b) put in distress in order to be a motivation for the hero. “Oh noes! Princess Erlandia was kidnapped by the dastardly villain! I CAN’T back out of this plot now! Wait what was her name again”
Women who fall into misfortune and can’t get out without help? Not a problem. And yes, that includes women who get saved by men. Sometimes…it…happens??? I don’t get why people make such a big deal out of it? Though I will admit women saving each other is *chef’s kiss* amazing. Anyway, #StopDemonizingCinderellaForBeingAnAbuseSurvivorChallenge
(I feel like a lot of the narrative around feminism and fairy tales is…deeply weird. I’d like to do an article on that but other people have done it better, I think. In sum, they are LEGENDS told in like 300 words and if you really want to go there, a lot of men in these stories wait around and get saved by old ladies!! The focus is not on the characters and I’m sorry you didn’t get the modern novel you were expecting?? A lot of fairy tales are WAY more female-focused than the literature of the era was and it seems very strange to me to assume that just because men collected the tales, that means women weren’t telling them.
AND STOP. DEMONIZING. CHARACTERS WHO ARE ABUSE SURVIVORS FOR ACTING THE WRONG WAY AND NOT BEING ‘STRONG.’ I SEE YOU PEOPLE TALKING THAT WAY ABOUT CINDERELLA AND RAPUNZEL AND I HATE IT.)
And also, last complaint I promise, but I feel like female friendships don’t always get a lot of depth? A lot of them are, at worst, disgustingly wholesome and thrown in for the brownie points, and at best, not as memorable as a lot of male relationships I can think of. I’m perfectly willing to admit this may be the books I’m reading, because YA has a habit of letting the main romantic relationship be the juggernaut to end all juggernauts the main focus, but I don’t know. Can any of y’all think of female friendships in modern literature that are as developed and memorable as, say, Frodo and Sam? I just want more really developed female relationships that are allowed to be the focus of a story. And I don’t just mean romantic relationships.
Tl;dr: THERE’S MORE THAN ONE KIND OF STRENGTH TO BE FOUND ON THIS EARTH, AUTHORS. And also develop your female relationships for the love of God. Things that you shouldn’t talk about if you can’t be normal about it: 1) femininity, 2) fairy tales, and 3) abuse survivors. Oh, and 4) corsets.
P.S.: When I say mean things about YA, I’m joking. I literally write YA, that’d be pretty hypocritical of me, lol.
Anyway! Let your women be messy and beautiful and ugly, my good people. Good night, and happy early Gawain and the Green Knight Day Christmas and Hanukkah to all who celebrate! Man, I wish I could get a sexy guy to come through my door this Christmas and challenge me to a game in which I behead him and then have to go to his castle and get hit on by both him and his wife but then I don’t get beheaded because I’m too sexy. Alright I’m sorry for making you read that last sentence, I’m out (but also, please God let this happen to me)
No, I have no idea if I’m going to do Nanowrimo or however you say it, but I still plan on writing this story sometime this year if college doesn’t eat me alive and this linkup looked like fun, so! Anyway.
[Edit: I realized I forgot to give the link to Christine’s linkup! It’s here if you want to do it. Anyway, thanks to Christine for the questions! I KNEW I had forgotten most of the intro. Oops.]
1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?
I’ve been wanting to write a Southern Gothic fantasy like Raven Boys for a while. I’m not technically sure if this is a Southern Gothic at all but hey! Who cares! I’ve loved Tam Lin since I was a kid, and I have a…complex relationship with the South that I hope I get to explore while I write? The story has a high chance of devolving into a dumb paranormal romance though lmaooo
Also, the only thing I’ve ever read in my genre are two short stories and Raven Boys. This has absolutely no chance of going wrong! (I’m not even sure if it’s going to end up a Southern Gothic.)
2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary if you’d prefer)!
Let’s see if I can do this (I refuse to apologize for cringiness)…
Janet Harrow’s sister is dead. She’s dead, and she isn’t coming back. But Janet keeps seeing her anyway. Well, Janet has always suspected she was going insane.
But when her sister turns out to perhaps not be so dead after all, the only people who seem to hold any answers are the vaguely unsettling and–worse–annoying group of drifters she met in her woods. They are not safe people, but if the strange boy with them who speaks in riddles and half-truths is the only person who will tell her the things she needs to know, then so be it.
*points above* I spent way longer on that than was necessary. All of this is subject to change, of course. This entire post is subject to change. My life is subject to change.
3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?
In Texas! I like the creepy forests, and as I said above, I do hope I’ll be able to write in my weird feelings about the South.
4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).
I wish I had cool faceclaims for these guys or something. Usually I do, I just couldn’t find anyone who looked like these characters?
Janet | ISTJ | Suspicious of change | Imminently practical until she isn’t xoxo | Smart | straightforward | Makes good grades | Tries to be normal but fails actually | Has OCD and probably depression, too | She’s black and pansexual let’s just hope I don’t make a mess of representation ahhhh | Kind of tall | An actual mess | Extremely introverted, but has decent social skills | Look when I say she has decent social skills I mean she has Lan Zhan’s social skills which is to say that her social skills are horrible but everyone thinks of her as the soul of respectability for some reason | I’m sorry for sneaking in another Untamed joke
I tried looking up a picture for Tam Lin, but all I could find were Cole Sprouse knockoffs and thirst traps. Thanks, Pinterest.
Tam Lin | A bisexual idiot | That’s it that’s his only personality trait | A drama queen | ENFP | Very empathetic but not actually compassionate | He might end up being genderfluid | Musically gifted and WILL use it for evil | Very cheerful most of the time, even when the situation makes cheerfulness a wildly inappropriate reaction | He’s white and he has dark hair and…wow, I can’t write descriptions?? He, uh *gestures to face* good cheekbones! He has good cheekbones! And…clear skin! A jawline sharp as a knife?
(As a side note, why does literally every YA hero get described this way…Normal teenagers won’t kill you, authors.)
All of the side characters are completely underdeveloped except for Janet’s brother, so I’m glad no one asked about them! *shoves them under table*
5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?
Everyone is undeveloped! Yay!!
I mean, there’s going to be an evil fairy queen I guess. Except she’s more like an evil self-designated queen because she’s the head of a tiny community. That’s it.
6. What excites you the most about this novel?
Uh…everything? I kind of mentioned it up there when I talked about how I got the idea for it. But also, I have it in my head as a cross between a horror and a rom-com, and I don’t know if the finished product is going to turn out that way, but I love it.
7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?
Definitely a standalone. God help me if I write more than one of these.
8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?
Pantsing! I have a few scenes I want to incorporate but I am making it ALL up as I go along. It’s kind of a more relaxed, character-driven story (read: it has no plot) so I think pantsing will work for this one. Hopefully!
9. Name a few unique elements about this story.
I haven’t read a story like it before? So there’s that? It does share a lot in common with my other stories, though. I insert weird horror elements, I write two faux-sexy protagonists, and I call it a day.
I guess I haven’t seen many people give their take on redneck fairies, which is a crying shame. More people should do this. Tbh, a lot of books I’ve read about fairies are kind of boring, and I want more original ideas? Anyway, I’m not saying that making fairies into gay rednecks will save the fairy genre, or that my story is in anyway good or tasteful, but I am saying that I think gay redneck fairies are interesting and I would like to see that more than…whatever authors were doing when I was a teen. *side-eyes*
(I read great books when I was a teen, but I also read some really weird ones, and I want to know what was up with all the sexual harassment in bad fairy books. Will I do this? Is it simply the plight of any author who writes about fairies? Were the authors required by law to put in at least one pervy and unnecessary scene? Is there a curse??)
10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).
Oh gosh. I made a Pinterest board somewhere but I put it on private? It’s somewhere I guess?
Okay here we go. I love making Pinterest boards it’s so relaxing.
I was going to make a joke about how obvious it is I wrote this at three in the morning, but I write all of my posts at three in the morning and I think the joke is getting a bit old. But, uh…Wow, you can tell I wrote this at three in the morning.
Ah, the chosen one. Just saying (or typing) the phrase is enough to send a shudder deep through the souls of many out there. There was a time when you could not escape from this character type in fantasy. They were EVERYWHERE. Chosen ones were annoying and numerous, like flies. I have said before that hating on cliches just because they’re cliche can be kind of silly, for lack of a better word; just because a trope is done a lot doesn’t necessarily make it bad, and for the most part, the execution of the trope is what makes a story awful, not the trope being there in the first place. But I will still admit chosen ones can get on my nerves. I’m not saying I actively avoid books with this trope, but I’ve never sought them out. Although–I do kind of miss seeing these types of books in bookstores. There’s a type of nostalgia, not in reading the stories (heavens no), but in reading the bad book blurbs. I’m an early 2000’s kid, you little ones out there don’t understand.
Actually, I’m just really weird.
But I’ve softened on this trope over the years. (Over the course of last year, actually.) Chosen ones and prophecies are bad when they’re lazily used, but the tropes aren’t bad in and of themselves. The issue is that, instead of actually trying to say something about fate vs. free will or the struggle of responsibility, the prophecy is only ever used as a way to push the plot forward. Gotta wrangle that hero in there somehow! Now quick! We’ve got a dark lord to defeat and a poorly-developed love interest to shove in our hero’s path!
Instead of being used to enforce the story’s themes, the trope is just used to remove agency from the main character. A prophecy is not the same thing as a motive, and treating it like one can be story-breaking in some cases. What’s more interesting, a hero who tries to defeat the dark lord with no way of knowing who will win because that’s what the hero wants to do, or a hero who tries to defeat the dark lord because a prophecy says he will? And that’s not even getting into the implications imbedded in the trope of how only special people can accomplish things and if you aren’t special you might as well not even try.
But! I still don’t think this trope is all bad! I’ll admit I DEFINITELY like it better when it’s subverted, but even played straight, I’ve still seen portrayals I like. Weak motivations and vaguely weird undertones can definitely be overcome with the right amount of witty banter and fun dynamics and painful angst. (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m struggling to come up with any examples of the chosen one trope played straight, just because I don’t read a lot of chosen one stories. Was the trope played straight in Kung Fu Panda?)
This trope honestly has SUCH fertile ground for subversions, though. I’ve seen some people say that even subverting the trope is pointless because everyone’s already done everything you can do with the trope already and I’m just **insert confused face here**. People have been writing for a millenium and everyone has already done everything you can do with a LOT of tropes. That doesn’t mean the execution of the tropes can’t still be interesting.
Off the top of my head, I can list several subversions I’ve never read in a story before: A chosen one cracks under the pressure, abandons the prophecy, and doesn’t get pulled back into the plot, leaving his friends to pick up the pieces of the abandoned plot thread, so to speak. A chosen one becomes friends with the villain and fulfilling the prophecy becomes something horrifying to them. An ACTUAL pacifist–not a fake one, sorry Aang–becomes the subject of a prophecy about killing the villain, and does not find it pleasant. Just…there are a ton of subversions that I haven’t seen done before, and even if it were true that all the subversions have already been done, that still doesn’t mean that interesting stories can’t still be made using this trope.
Anakin was the first character that really made me think I could love this trope. He’s the chosen one, supposedly, but it’s all very murky and he ends up killing a bunch of people and was the prophecy even real?? Did he fulfill the prophecy by killing Palpatine, even though Anakin still destroyed the Jedi order? Did he fulfill the prophecy by destroying the Jedi order and killing Palpatine? It’s a very weird subversion of the trope, and I honestly enjoyed it so much.
I LOVE chosen ones with fall arcs, okay? It’s such an interesting subversion. I mean, I love fall arcs in general. But chosen one fall arcs are especially interesting because of the things you can do with it. What’s the intersection between fate and free will? Is the prophecy nonsense or is there some kind of twist? How do you defeat someone with fate on their side, actually? And I love characters who are on the wrong side of the prophecy, too. What would the knowledge that a person is going to turn evil and there’s nothing they can do about it do to a person?
Mordred: so i’m destined to destroy a kingdom
Me: you’re doing great sweetie 😍😊😋😍🥰
Anyway, it’s 2020 and I personally think it’s time for chosen ones to make a comeback. The trope has a lot of potential, and just because it got turned into a lazy plot device doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. I’d love to see more authors do original stuff with prophecies and chosen ones! I’ll briefly turn my whump-addict mode on and say that I mostly like prophecies that end horribly like in Greek tragedy, but that’s not a prerequisite for me to like this trope in a story. I like exploring concepts like fate and free will, and I like the idea of being destined for something you aren’t sure if you want at all.
Anyway, tell me your thoughts on this topic! I want to know if there are any subversions of this trope you particularly like or if you like the trope at all. Are there any stories with chosen ones you love? And I’m sorry this article is bad–I’m in college and my brain cells are dying (at least I have an excuse now lmao)
*shrieks, falls off a cliff that symbolizes existential horror and despair*
I’m kidding, I’m kidding, it’s not THAT bad. Just…stressful. I haven’t been blogging that much this year, because of depression, and I think college is probably going to impact my ability to blog even more, so that’s not really fun.
Also, why!! am I able to write PERFECTLY until I have to do an assignment!! Why is that??
I’ve been writing way, way more lately. Unfortunately, I have not been organized enough to pick a specific project. So I’ve been randomly working on fanfics, some Arthurian stuff, and one Tam Lin retelling that may or may not be going anywhere?
Yeah, the Tam Lin retelling is like…I’m going for a Southern Gothic feel, so think Flannery O’Conner meets Twilight, lol. It’s a contemporary fantasy. Mostly. I mean, it’s as contemporary as the southern US can get. The south is kind of a timeless place. Sure, we have cars. We have internet. But nothing changes. It’s not…It’s not a good quality, actually.
Also, I’ve noticed my male characters tend to fit into two archetypes, which is either ‘evil bard’ or else ‘got high in the woods.’ Which one is Tam Lin going to fit into? I will see.
Getting off track, this is kind of personal, but I’ve kind of been questioning as far as my gender identity? I think I’m agender. Oops. I feel like that’s something that probably shouldn’t have surprised me, in retrospect.
I’ve been taking a dance appreciation course (save me), so I’ve been watching a lot of Bharatanatyam dance (am I spelling that right? I hope so). I should probably spend less time watching dances I like and more time actually doing my homework, but oh well!
Go on…Get lost in the rabbit hole of Indian classical dance. I promise you won’t regret it. (Unless you have homework to do.)
Also, why hasn’t Disney adapted an Indian folk tale yet? India has such a rich music and dance tradition, and I think an Indian director (or someone who was dedicated to faithful representation) could do a really good job with this.
I’ve also been listening to some Bollywood soundtracks!
The color scheme of this dance is so beautiful. As is the music. I’ve never watched the movie, but!! the dance!!
Also, just a rant because I feel like it: My sociology classmates are awful? We were talking about taboo foods and I mentioned dogs as a food that’s taboo in America (which in retrospect I REALLY should have known better than to do), and then suddenly my classmates started making ‘Chinese eat dogs’ jokes. I was really caught off guard, so I wasn’t able to really shut it down. Anyway, I hate them now! Yay
On a different, more cheerful note, I’ve also been watching Flower of Evil? It’s great so far! The drama is about the son of a serial killer, and the son is suspected of being the accomplice, so he takes a fake identity and…marries a cop. And it’s funny because you think at first that he’s totally faking his love for her, he’s evil and is just manipulating her and all that–he isn’t. He’s absolutely in love with her, he just thinks he’s faking it because trauma
Anyway, that’s all, folks! Wish me luck in college, I guess.
This short story, “The Grey Marshes” by Becky, showcases a fierce girl named Helga choosing her next step in life.
The marsh had always felt like Helga’s home, in all of its emptiness. The place was bare and open and alone. One lone tree stood out in the center of the marsh, its leaves fallen to the ground after the last frost. It was bleached grey like everything else out there, stripped of color. There would be no color out on the marsh for several months, not until the cold season was over.
Helga stood by the water, gripping an axe in her hand. Her dark hair was braided down her back, her ears almost pointed, her skin a deep copper brown. The icy water soaked through her shoes and soaked the hem of her finest blue dress, a dress she might have worn to a wedding. She was not…