I decided to cover the epic highs and lows of my 2021 reading year through writing mini reviews! Part one may be found here.
Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
agjsd;l I didn’t realize until just now that this is the third Arthurian story I read in a row. Anyway this one was Very Bad and I have yet to find an Arthurian retelling that encapsulates the sheer unhinged and fun quality that the legends have, although I do remember loving The Squire’s Tale as a kid. This was like…bad characters with no depth to them, pretty unfeminist feminism (I’m still kind of salty about the ‘magic starts with menstruation’ thing, like can trans women/women who can’t menstruate not do magic in this universe or am I taking this too literally?? Also, don’t forget Guinevere getting pressured into a marriage by our wonderful heroine), corsets that are the root of all evil…And also it was really hokey. Werewolf Guinevere is going to haunt me. I’m sure you get the picture.
Full review here. Also on Goodreads some weird lady got pissed and called me childish for this review?? And then she rated the book three stars and said it wasn’t that great??? People on Goodreads are bizarre.
A Dowry of Bloodby S.T. Gibson
This was somehow worse than Half Sick of Shadows. And it wasn’t even a real Dracula retelling. Amazing.
This was…interesting? But kind of forgettable at the same time? Idk, I enjoyed the mystery of what on earth is going on with those little kids, but I think the ending was overly abrupt and I didn’t really like it. I’ve got mixed feelings!
The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan
This was so cool and interesting?? It’s a defense of women written in the fifteenth century, so you know, I was all over this one. It’s deeply weird and definitely not written from a modern viewpoint at all, and it was just a really fascinating read.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Hmm, so I’ve finally had it happen where a childhood favorite just wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Oh well, more fodder for fanfic I’m probably never going to publish. I just HATE when I hyperfixate on a bad book though, which yes, I am currently hyperfixating on Harry Potter for some reason. At least I’m getting writing practice out of it, though.
Okay, since nobody asked, allow me to discuss a few Harry Potter headcanons of mine:
Headcanon I actually believe: Sirius Black is aroace (or possibly very gay for James! I’m open to either interpretation)
Headcanon that I must believe or else I succumb to the depths of despair: Snape and Lily were platonic *sobs in the misogyny that was the whole Snily vs. Jily thing* (No seriously the way Lily was handled in regards to both James and Snape was so misogynist. Why can’t we stop getting mad about James vs. Snape and start getting mad about how Lily only existed to be a conduit for two men’s character development and–there are multiple rants I could write about Lily, I’d better stop now)
Headcanon I think is really funny: God. Everything about the Black family. Sirius Black rebelling against his family by going to church and listening to Mozart and it WORKS because church and Mozart are muggle. Their dad asking Sirius loudly if he enjoys rubbing shoulders with the plebians every time they have to go somewhere (MY GRANDPA DID THIS, as a side note). That family is so weird and trashy and they live in my head rent-free.
Headcanon that is all of the above: Marcus Flint and Oliver Wood were actually dating, they just got SUPER competitive on the quidditch pitch. We never find out about this because it wasn’t relevant to Harry’s story ❤
Anyway yeah unfortunately this book is trash. Ultra unfortunately, it’s the kind of trash with expansive worldbuilding and a few really good ideas that gets the hyperfixation gears turning
Uh…I kind of ended up writing two reviews for this book lmao because I wrote one a while back, when I hadn’t read the book in years, and then I reread the book and realized I was irritated enough that I had to write an updated one with my thoughts lmao.
White Smoke by Tiffany Jackson
The twist was hokey and the ending was super abrupt?? What was up with that? Also I simply think that the mom should have divorced her husband, but whatever
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
This one was a TREAT. I loved the worldbuilding, and the main character is so down to earth, it’s great. They’re just such a normal person thrown into a very not-normal situation, and I love them. Also, it has DRAGON ROBOTS. The ending was a bit out of nowhere but honestly, I didn’t mind. Dragon robots, guys.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I have found one of my new favorite books. The prose is beautiful and gets under your skin. The heroine seems normal only for you to realize that she’s just as unsettling as the house she’s staying in. The HOUSE. I know it’s evil, but I too find myself strangely drawn to it. Just. God, I wish I could write like this.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
*sigh* Round two went much the same as the first, except this time the pacing was worse and Snape and Malfoy were much more poorly written. The only interesting part of this book was Tom Riddle, and then the author underutilized Tom Riddle. Why couldn’t these books have been about Tom Riddle?
(I mean, thank God they weren’t about Tom Riddle, because then we would have been thrown headfirst into Even More Ableist Bullshit than whatever that was in the sixth book, but I digress)
THIS WAS SO GOOD OH MY GOD IT HAS EVERYTHING. IT HAS GAY WEREWOLVES, IT HAS SHAPESHIFTING HAWK BOYFRIENDS, IT HAS HOT FEY GIRLFRIENDS WHO SWEEP IN TO SAVE THE DAY EACH TIME. IT’S AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ IT.
(Also, when I saw gay werewolves, I don’t mean it literally lmao, it’s just that I think it’s easy to headcanon him that way. I don’t want to raise any false hopes)
Medea did nothing wrong. She killed her kids, you say? Well what if the kids had bad vibes? I think you people just hate to see a girlboss winning.
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
This was so cute!! In which an autistic girl and the revenant that’s possessing her attempt to save their country from the monsters trying to destroy it. (It’s not stated on page because it’s a medieval fantasy, but it’s heavily implied that she’s autistic, which makes me very happy). Anyway, things go wrong because the girl and the revenant only share one braincell. It’s great.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
This was good, but unfortunately the prose could have used more polishing, and I definitely think it should have been middle grade. The worldbuilding was pretty creative, though! I loved the ghost mammoth.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
The portrayal of ADHD and abuse was pretty good, although there was some weird stuff in there about home remedying ADHD away, which. What. PLEASE inform me if any of you guys have ADHD and find home remedies useful for you, because I have never heard of this and my mom is into all sorts of herbal medicine stuff?? And I also didn’t like a few weird comments that were made about patients in mental hospitals. There was also some unfortunate misogyny, especially toward Camila, the black female character, and just…hmm. I really liked the portrayal of abuse, though, the main characters were well-developed, and aside from a few weird lines, the ADHD rep was pretty good? I just have mixed feelings toward this one, I guess.
Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu by Christina Laffin
This was so interesting! I love reading about historical women, and I love reading literary criticism, so this was right up my alley!
Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell
Okay I did not expect the writing style to be this good! A few stories were slower than others, but the ones that were good were REALLY good.
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
This was really something else. Spooky and weird and wonderful and…somewhat lesbian? How this got published in the 1800s I do not know, but the book is a fun read and a wild ride! Fair warning, if you attempt a drinking game in which you take a shot every time the word ‘languid’ or ‘melancholy’ is used, you will end up with liver poisoning by the end.
Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
This had a slow start, but I ended up really enjoying it by the end! It’s probably not my favorite book ever, but it’s solidly enjoyable, and that’s a lot more than can be said for other books I’ve read this year (oops I did not start this out intending to be bitter). Full review here
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
THIS WAS NOT SOLIDLY ENJOYABLE. HOW DO YOU TAKE LOKI AND ANGRBODA AND MAKE THEM A) ANNOYING AND B) HAVE NORMAL BORING MARRIAGE PROBLEMS. WHAT WAS UP WITH THIS. OOH, HE JUST CAN’T COMMIT TO ME AND THE KIDS! SHUT UP, I DON’T CARE. IF I WANTED TO READ ABOUT SOME GUY WITH COMMITMENT ISSUES I WOULD READ SOME BOOK ABOUT THE TRIALS AND DESPAIRS OF LIVING IN THE SUBURBS.
Someday I will find a good Arthuriana retelling, but apparently not in 2021! I haven’t been reading as much so far this year, but I am slowly making my way through Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio and Winter’s Orbit. They’re both pretty good so far, even though I’m not too far into Winter’s Orbit yet. I’ve also been working pretty steadily on my fanfic? Hopefully I’ll finally defeat my ADHD-induced writer’s block once and for all, lol.
I read 72 books this year. Who am I. I mean, to be fair, a few of those are short stories and Goodreads just counted them as books for some reason, but still.
(Also I’m pretty sure the only reason why I’ve read so much this year is because I had a mental breakdown towards the end of my spring semester and then took the Fall semester off and thus am able to read like I’m in high school again lmao.)
But anyway! I thought I’d do some mini-reviews to bring in the new year! I ended up having to split this up into two parts because it got so long lmao, I’ll post part two tomorrow (hopefully).
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo(translated by J.R.R. Tolkien)
AHHH THIS WAS SO GOOD GAWAIN IS VERY BISEXUAL-CODED AND THE WRITING IS BEAUTIFUL. EVERYTHING IS AMAZING. THE OTHER TWO POEMS WERE REALLY GOOD TOO.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Yeah so this is basically everything I hate about YA. Halfbaked plots and characters, a really immature style to the whole thing, weird homophobic stereotypes out of nowhere?? At least the writing was pretty, though! Full review here.
The Five and Twenty Tales of the Genie by Sivadasa
This was pretty interesting? It didn’t stick with me too much (as an aside, I think this is the only book where the main scene I remember is the sex scene. Huh), but I’m glad I read it. There is some misogyny in here, of course, but it was written in the middle ages, so I’m not going to hold that against it. It provided an interesting glimpse into the time period!
A Treatise of the Nobilitie and Excellencie of Womankynde by Cornelius Agrippa
This was a really interesting read, but the main thing I remember are the virgin birth horses and the reason why we know that the virgin birth horses aren’t real is because of the Virgin Mary or something. The support of women was nice, though! I simply found myself a little distracted by that one thing!
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
I will admit I don’t remember this book very well, but I really liked it at the time. If I’m being honest, the main thing I remember about it is that the nonbinary rep was really good and that I thought the ending was kind of pat, but I liked the rest. That’s it!
AGHHHHHH THIS ANTHOLOGY WAS ABSOLUTELY GODAWFUL AND I HATE IT SO MUCH. Full review here.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Hmm, so I still would have hated this either way, don’t get me wrong, but the ableism towards this one schizophrenic minor character + the ableism in how the main character discusses Jane Eyre did NOT endear me to her. Full review here.
Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
Uh, this was kind of awful. Don’t get me wrong, the book had me invested, it was just also kind of awful. The racism was definitely a no from me, and a lot of plot points seemed to be added in for the drama as opposed to originating organically from the story. Don’t get me wrong, I love drama! I just want organic drama, though. Full review here.
Folk Tales of Brittany by Elsie Masson
I’ll admit I don’t really remember the books I read toward the beginning of the year and I left this unrated and unreviewed, so honestly, who knows? I remember liking some of the stories? I do not remember this book?
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
This was extremely silly but also very cute! I will admit that the insta-love was grating and the love interest was barely above manic pixie dream girl levels. Jordan was great, though, he made the book for me, and I thought the heroine was pretty cute. Full review here.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
I remember loving the writing and the magical realism. The way the author wove in the folklore from the heroine’s country with the narrative was amazing. **spoilers** In retrospect, I would have appreciated it if the hero had had an arc from ‘vaguely defending the heroine’s sister’s abusive boyfriend’ to ‘not doing that and in fact apologizing,’ but maybe the fact that the hero didn’t get an arc was kind of the point? Maybe the point is that he died and thus never got the chance to grow as a person? Idk. Despite my mixed feelings on the hero, I still really liked this book!
Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland by John Gregorson Campbell
This was so interesting and I loved learning more about Scottish fairies! So much super cool information in this.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
I LOVED THIS ONE SO MUCH. It deserves the hype imo. Full review here.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
This is definitely not the worst retelling of Arthurian legend that I’ve read. Now, I know that’s not necessarily high praise because I have read some AWFUL Arthurian retellings, but this book is definitely not that bad. I do think the plot could have held together better, and I don’t really like Arthurian retellings that are set in a modern time period (well. There may be a few fics on AO3 with this premise that I love, but they actually have fun with their premise and make it a comedy. Which yeah, I do think anything approaching the absolute chaos that Arthurian knights in the modern day would bring should probably be a comedy). And Nick, the hero, was bland as flour. But I really liked the heroine, and I think the portrayal of the discrimination really stuck with me? Yeah, I’ve got mixed feelings on this one! Definitely not a terrible book, but it also didn’t stick with me, and it could have been WAY better with a little more editing.
We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
I loved getting to see my babies again ❤ I miss them already. I should reread this as soon as I’m in a mood to reread things again.
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
Unfortunately blah. Another great premise ruined by insta-love. Also, while I did find the political intrigue more interesting than the romance–although there are a lot of things I think I would find more interesting than the romance, to be honest–there were also situations where the heroine would just make stupid decisions. You’re letting yourself get blackmailed over that? Okay.
I actually really liked this! It felt a bit unpolished in some respects–there were some weird grammar mistakes, occasionally the representation was a little eh, and there was this one timeskip that was VERY confusing and bothered me an unreasonable amount. Not to mention that the chapters were much too long. But! All that being said! I can apparently be distracted from any flaws in a book by a well-written antiheroine. She was just exquisitely awful and wonderful to watch. Full review here.
Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie Mclemore
The writing was beautiful, but I found the rest of this kind of forgettable. However, I’ll forgive a lot of things for a Snow White and Rose Red retelling. The blurb is a lie, though, unfortunately. Rose is not that manipulative or mean. I’m sorry, she’s literally just a girl in a tough situation. From everything I remember, anyway??? I wish I could get mean antiheroine Rose Red, but alas. Full review here.
The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
*sobs because this book could have been so much better* There was like. No plot. And Guinevere, Arthur, and Lancelot were SO bland. Mordred was the only bright spot in this book and the poor thing only got like a few pages.
**spoilers for the next book** Let me just rant for a paragraph here. So, I’m reading in reviews that the final book ends up with Guinevere/Lancelot as the endgame ship. If the author was gunning for Guinevere/Lancelot, I literally do not know why she didn’t write it into this one. Mordred is the only person I’m convinced that Guinevere actually likes. (I mean, she seems to at least feel genuine affection towards Brangien, but if we interpret that as romantic, then I feel that we’re getting pretty far into AU land at that point. Although I do ship it!) She likes Arthur because she’s been told to like Arthur. She likes Lancelot because Lancelot is devoted for her, so what else is she supposed to feel for Lancelot? This book did not do its job of convincing me that Guinevere feels anything genuine for like. ANYONE besides Mordred or Brangien, and I’m talking about platonic relationships, too. And yet somehow she ends up with Lancelot in the next book I guess??? Somehow? That was just. NOT built up at all and I’m annoyed, because I’d love some more sapphic Arthuriana! I guess I’ll have to write some, lmao. **okay, I’ve got the spoilers out of the way, you can look now!**
Uhh, wow, this is complicated. So, at first I thought it was an okay book, even though it had incredibly simplistic takes on bigotry and was very feel-good. And then I found out that the author had been inspired for his story by residential schools and I feel like the analogy was just. Very weak and not well-used? I’ve seen different people have different takes on the discourse as far as that goes–some people didn’t like it at all, some people thought it was okay because ultimately the book wasn’t that inspired by residential schools–and I’m not sure how I feel about that one, but either way, I found this book very forgettable. Even without knowing what this book was inspired by, I still think this is pretty blah.
This was very cute! I have seen reviews pointing out that the arrangement between Scottie and Irene kind of pressures Irene into outing herself, and I do agree with that–and sometimes Scottie doesn’t really treat Irene all that well, I thought that pressuring her into going to her ex-friend’s party was kind of terrible–but despite all that, the story remained engaging for me, and Irene is AMAZING, so I forgive it for its sins. Again, it’s just really cute. Also, the mean girl cheerleader is the heroine?? I love this.
SO DISAPPOINTED. This anthology looked so cool. I mean, retellings of Asian fairy tales?? But I didn’t like very many of the stories that much. A lot of them were bad YA with bad prose or simplistic characterization, and I think I honestly might be starting to grow out of YA, which is a very sad realization for me.
THIS WAS SO GOOD AND THE ART WAS SO BEAUTIFUL I AM FANGIRLING.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Hi so I loved this with my whole heart?? The portrayal of toxic friendships was really good and the romance was very sweet! Also I’ve got autistic headcanons for Ishu so I know I connected to the main character lmao
This was a very cute short story about an aromantic dragon who is friends with a phoenix! I thought that the characterization could have been a little stronger, but it’s not that much of a problem in a 40-page story, so I didn’t mind it. This was very slow and sweet and I really enjoyed reading this!
Medieval Elite Women and the Exercise of Power, 1100–1400: Moving beyond the Exceptionalist Debate by Heather J. Tanner
I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. It’s so interesting to me to learn more about how medieval noblewomen lived their lives and how they maintained and exercised power! It’s a collection of essays about different medieval noblewomen, and I enjoyed basically every one (from what I recall. I can’t really recall any of the books I read this year very well, it’s all a blur tbh).
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
So, this started out slow for me, but I was really invested by the halfway mark. I love scheming empresses. Also, the writing was beautiful for the most part? There were a couple sentences that were clunky, but other than that, it flowed REALLY well.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
*insert long wail of pain here*
I HATED THIS MORE THAN I HATED 2021. IT’S SO WISHY-WASHY AND INTROSPECTIVE IN THE MOST PRETENTIOUS OF WAYS AND IT’S BAD. I DON’T CARE ABOUT SEA SALT, I DON’T CARE ABOUT ASTROLOGY, I DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT MONSTERS IF YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S TELLING ME ABOUT THEM. ALSO ALL OF THE HEROINE’S RELATIONSHIPS SEEM VERY UNHEALTHY AND I THINK MAYBE SHE SHOULD BECOME A BETTER PERSON AND GET BETTER FRIENDS, A BETTER WIFE, AND A BETTER FAMILY (ALTHOUGH HER MOM SEEMS ALRIGHT, TO BE FAIR, AND THE THING WITH HER FRIEND FROM THE TEA SHOP WAS HER FAULT. WHAT EVEN WAS THAT).
*deep breath* alright, caps lock rant is over now. I don’t have a review, but I do have a lot of ranty reading updates if you want to read them lmao
I’m going to skip over the fairy tale books I read for the sake of time but you should totally checkthemout because the illustrations are gorgeous and looking at them kind of makes me feel like I’ve stepped into a fairy tale world myself!
Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti
AHHH EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS WAS SO GOOD. THE WRITING, THE CHARACTERS, THE FAIRY TALE VIBES, THE SISTERS, EVERYTHING. YOU SHOULD GO READ IT, IT’S FAIRLY SHORT AND YOU CAN FIND IT ONLINE FOR FREE.
Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph Gies
This was really informative and I learned a lot!
Walewein ende Keye
I’ll admit I don’t remember this one very well but a) I’m always down for Arthurian legends and b) GRINGOLET
The Perilous Cemetery
THIS WAS WILD I mean anything with Gawain in it is bound to be wild but THIS FELT ALMOST WILDER THAN USUAL.
My review is here but I feel like it doesn’t encapsulate the whole experience. It’s just. Such a weird little story.
Anyway, thank you for reading such a long post lmao. A lot of the fantasy I’ve read this year has just been…disappointing? Maybe it’s just a case of the disappointments standing out more than the ones I liked, though. Still, when I think of the books I liked this year, the ones that come to mind are the classics and the academic stuff, not really the fantasy. It’s a shame, I hope I find better SFF soon!
I’m currently rereading this series because I was curious as to whether I’d still like it, and I have Thoughts on the first book. Oh boy do I have thoughts. Anyway, I decided to write a review about it! So, here you have it, a list of my problems and a few things that I liked! I’ll probably review the other books as I go, because I need an emotional outlet somewhere.
(This is a completely random rant, but I wish people would get JKR’s books secondhand. They’re cheaper that way, anyway! Her ‘activism’ is currently focused on making trans people’s lives harder, and I just feel kind of weird when people give money to Ms. Known Transphobe. I definitely don’t think it’s bad to still like the books, though, I’ve seen people talk like that and it’s so stupid.)
**This review has spoilers for the Harry Potter series**
Okay, I won’t lie, the beginning is pretty iconic. “Mr and Mrs Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” That’s great.
This chapter seems pretty set on making wizards out to be the cool nonconformists that your suburban parents HATE!!1! Mr. and Mrs. Dursley don’t like these people, because they’re different, and they don’t dress normally, and they’re not normal!!! And then wizards end up being the most privileged assholes ever, including characters that we know and love. This would be fine if the series admitted this as it started edging into young adult territory! But the series is never willing to actually face what’s there.
McGonagall literally goes (paraphrasing here) ‘are we really going to leave Harry Potter with that sort? I’m not sure you could find a family more different than us. Are you sure a non-magical family can actually raise Harry?’ And I’m supposed to be just fine with that, I guess. Yeah the Dursley’s are awful. No, they aren’t awful because they’re muggles, wtf.
Anyway if McGonagall met me in real life she would microagress me
The beginning of the book was very slow, and a lot needed to be cut. I don’t need to know all the details about Dudley’s boarding school, for example.
I especially don’t need all the spiteful jokes about a fat eleven-year-old. What is up with this book making fun of a literal child? Was this author not aware that fat children were going to read her book?? I’m honestly furious.
I’ll freely admit it, though, I still do find Vernon Dursley kind of funny. The sheer breakdowns he has at the mere mention of anything REMOTELY magical was a nice touch, I’ll admit. And of course that just ends up making everything look even more suspicious.
Although! I do think the Dursley’s abuse should have been on an emotional level. I think Harry should have more trauma with the absolute neglect that he goes through? He does have trauma that shows up later in the series, definitely, but it just seems like there should be…more.
This is beside the point, but Vernon slaps Dudley around at times and I didn’t notice that when I was a little kid.
I HATE the scene where Hagrid gives Dudley a pig’s tail so much. So, so much. And he says he was trying to turn Dudley into a pig?? DUDLEY IS ELEVEN AND HAGRID WAS MAD AT DUDLEY’S FATHER. I HATE THIS I HATE THIS I HATE THIS.
The worldbuilding is legitimately fun in places! I will admit this! It’s a very ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ type of worldbuilding, and there are so many details?
Having said that, there’s also a TON of weird stuff. “The goblins are an oppressed class who do all our banking, heehee. I sure hope this isn’t reminiscent of anything. And also the goblins are ruthless and EVIL. You know, kind of like Shylock? This isn’t reminding anyone of anything, right? Oh, and also the goblins’ skin color is ‘swarthy.’ I sure hope making the goblins brown won’t offend anyone. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll be fine!”
Also, since people keep misusing death of the author, it doesn’t matter if JKR intended this or not, because it’s still a valid interpretation, imo. From my understanding, death of the author is basically this: The author’s interpretation does not matter. Only the readers’ interpretations matter, as long as the reader can back up their opinion with evidence from the text. Some people seem to think it means that it doesn’t matter if the author is a bad person, which…that’s not what it means. Sorry for the derailment, just a personal pet peeve of mine! [Disclaimer: I am not an English major]
Basically, ‘is it okay to like problematic works’ is a COMPLETELY different conversation than ‘death of the author.’
The wand stuff is actually cool, if not built on enough. If you’re going to imply that wands have a special bond with their wizards, then go all the way and give me the semi-sentient weapons! I feel like the wands should have had a bit more personality, so to speak.
This might be more of a personal thing, but I prefer soft magic systems to have so many vibes, and Harry Potter magic does not deliver enough for me lmao. Where are the vibes here?
The characters aren’t too deep, but I’ll excuse that because it’s a kid’s book and I didn’t notice this when I was a kid
I honestly like Draco? He comes across as a legitimately annoying little kid instead of the Worst Person Ever (which of course would have made me like him, because I’m contrary that way). I have trouble with some middle grade that tries to make their villains into the Worst Person Ever and then the villain is just……literally eleven. I know I’m not the target audience, but. There’s something about Draco that feels pretty convincing, though. Yeah, that’s a real little kid. (It’s the treating little things as Very Very Important. Harry does this too, and it’s actually a really good touch. Thinking that you’re going to get kicked out for breaking a rule and panicking when you lose a single point from your house is such a little kid thing to do.)
The treatment of Neville, Percy, and (to an extent) Hermione honestly pained me, though. Like. Do these characters come across as really really neurodivergent to anyone else?? Why does the story keep making fun of them for this?
I won’t lie, it was a bit of a punch in the gut when Neville got laughed at for forgetting to put the hat back after he got sorted and I guess I was supposed to find it funny? I didn’t find it funny! It was something I might have done as a kid! The book would go ‘it’s bad to bully Neville 😇’ and then turn around and make him the butt of yet another bad slapstick joke. If you’re going to put in an anti-bullying message, then maybe give the ADHD-coded character an actual personality instead of making him a collection of clumsy mistakes? Maybe don’t make him a person that even the good guys think is mildly annoying?
And Hermione is literally just infodumping about her hyperfixations I think. She’s not annoying.
I’m a little hesitant on this one, but I genuinely think Percy is autistic. He sees the world through rules because he has trouble understanding people, and when people break those rules, he doesn’t know how they’re going to react and it makes him upset. Idk I could be wrong, but I just think he kind of reminds me of people I’ve met before? It makes me upset when the book keeps making fun of him or villainizing him! He’d actually be a really interesting character if the book cared about any of the characters outside of the main cast! (I’m willing to change my opinion on this as I keep reading the series, but this is just what I noticed as of the first book, anyway?)
Anyway, that just made me mad. I don’t think Rowling likely meant it to come across this way, but I definitely read it that way now, especially in Neville’s case!
What is UP with the cat hate in a book about witches? Mrs. Norris is literally just a little kitty. Why do people keep expressing a desire to kick her or sic a dog on her? I don’t care that she’s suspected of reporting to Filch! She’s just an animal! Mean cats don’t deserve to be abused, and these comments were honestly disturbing.
I also hated how the story would bend to serve the plot? Like why on earth did Harry and Ron sneak off to go save Hermione from the cave troll when they could have just told Percy or something? If they were older, I’d fully believe that they’d learned through experience that every authority figure in their book is useless, but they’re still eleven! They haven’t learned that yet!
Okay, every adult in this book is useless, but this is just laughable: McGonagall ignores three little kids telling her about how the sorcerer’s stone is in danger? Like. It’s one thing to go, ‘oh, some kids are panicking over nothing again,’ but if literal children know about your secret macguffin, maybe you should be a little more concerned?
Scratch that, the adults are worse than useless. McGonagall docks fifty points each from Neville, Harry, Hermione, and Malfoy? And then, as detention, sends them into the Forbidden Forest to track something that’s killing unicorns, something that even werewolves aren’t powerful enough to do? All for the crime of sneaking out at night?? From an adult perspective, she was so obviously on a power trip. And then Hagrid decides to split the kids up like we’re in a horror movie???? Are you kidding me???????
Also Hagrid is literally buying illegal, dangerous exotic animals and then he and Charlie get literal children to cover for him. But we’re just going to gloss over that. Lol okay. I love when I buy a pet tiger off the black market and then no one calls me out on it and then I get to pin the blame on a bunch of children.
And then in the forest, Hagrid sends the two kids he doesn’t know very well with his dog (and expresses doubt that the dog can actually protect them? Like he calls the dog a coward?). Okay, I see how it is. Kids you don’t have a personal connection can just go off basically alone into dangerous unicorn-killing forest.
Snape is actually a really effective character in this book as the bitter and unpleasant teacher, but he would have been SO much more effective for the series as a whole if he were nice sometimes. I actually have a lot of thoughts about Snape but I’ll save them for another review because this is getting long lmao.
This is somewhat off-topic (lol like I’m ever on-topic in this article), but I hate how Harry just automatically knows how to ride a broom with no training whatsoever. And then in his first match, the Slytherin team captain has to cheat to keep Harry from getting the snitch?? Lol, Harry is tiny and the other seeker is seventeen. I am pretty sure Flint would not need to cheat in a fair world. Flint I am so sorry that you were born into a world tilted in someone else’s favor, you can commiserate with every other character who isn’t friends with Harry I guess
Other people have commented on this, but the fact that a full quarter of the students gets sorted into the evil house is just amazing. And no one thinks to question this ever. As an aside, ambition, determination, and cleverness are not like……bad qualities, actually. I also hate how hard work and loyalty are portrayed as ‘boring?’ Why is Hufflepuff the boring house? Hard work and loyalty are what builds nations. I also think it would have been more interesting if Harry had actually had Slytherin traits like the hat said…
Is it just me or is the prose kind of boring? Because I was bored. And every time I stare at this sentence the worse it gets: “The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight.” Ma’am what does that mean?
I will say that the mystery was pretty engaging, even though I already knew the end!
Dumbledore being a manipulative bastard is pretty great. Can you imagine putting bait for a dark lord into a high school just because you want to get a good feel for how he and your child soldier are going to interact? Because I’m pretty sure that’s strongly implied in this book, lmao. I actually love both Dumbledore and Snape because I’m trash for bizarre, morally grey characters, even though I think they were both probably done dirty by the story (Snape DEFINITELY so).
Anyway, as you can probably tell, this book was not for me. I actually expected it to hold up better than it did. This was a real childhood favorite of mine, and it’s always a disappointment when childhood favorites turn out to be bad.
This review was way too long, so as a reward for having gotten to the end, have one of the few quotes I semi like from my bad Regulus fanfic I’ve been working on! (Is it fanfic if you’re deeply conflicted about the books that it’s based on? Is it a reward if it’s a bad fanfic quote?)
Bellatrix loved the feel of blood on her hands. It was a drug, a divinity. Something about that did not sit quite right with Regulus, but he didn’t understand why. He finally understood why people called her terrifying, though.
He was making a mistake. He had made so many mistakes leading up to this point, and now it was too late to even begin to undo them all. He couldn’t breathe. He could never breathe right around his family.
God I love Bellatrix. Everyone give one up for yet one more female villain done dirty by her author!
I have not updated this project in like…a year? It was giving me anxiety, so I stopped doing it. And also like…I started it when I was seventeen so my grammar was really weird and I had single quotes instead of double quotes for some reason?? And WordPress is super weird so I can’t figure out how to make one sentence into a different color without changing the color of my whole paragraph and now I have to change my formatting for this project???
But I’m back to it now, and I’m definitely going to try to keep working through it! I’ve got a pretty big hyperfixation on Arthurian legends, and blogging about it is a pretty good way to sate it.
Previously on Le Morte D’Arthur: Arthur attempted to murder his infant son in order to avoid the prophecy of doom, which always goes well and has never backfired on any mythological parent ever! Anyway, long story short, Mordred survives. Bad luck for all those other kids Arthur ALSO killed just to make sure he got him, though.
After the death of Uther Pendragon, his son Arthur reigned, and Arthur held many wars in his day in order to get all of England into his hands, for there were many kings within the realm of England, Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall. [Maybe Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall were ruling themselves just fine? Just throwing that out there as a hypothetical idea]
When King Arthur was at London, a knight came and gave the king tidings of how the king Rience of North Wales had raised up a great number of people and had entered into the land and burned and slew King Arthur’s people. [It’s been a while, so I almost forgot, but I’m pretty sure that that’s the guy who collects the beards of his enemies for….reasons??]
“If this is true,” said Arthur, “it would be a great shame unto my estate unless I withstand him mightily.”
“It is true,” said the knight, “for I saw the army myself.”
“Well,” said the king, “send forth a proclamation that all the lords, knights, and gentlemen of arms should draw back to the castle called Camelot.” And there the king held council, and held a great tournament. [Is this really time for a tournament lmao]
When the king came to Camelot with his barons, there came a damsel sent as a messenger from the great Lady Lile of Avalon. And when she came before King Arthur, she told him where she came from, and why she was sent as a messenger. Then she let her richly-furred cloak fall, and showed that she was girded with a fine sword.
The king marveled, and said, “damsel, for what cause do you have that sword? It does not beseem you.” [I’m not mad at Arthur for period accurate sexism, but I would like to say that girls with swords are sexy and let the sexy sword woman live in peace (spoiler alert: She doesn’t)]
“I shall tell you,” said the damsel. “This sword I am girt with causes me great sorrow and difficulty, for I may not be delivered of this sword except by a knight; and the knight must be a good man, without villainy or treachery or treason. [Am I using the correct tenses of gird? I do not know and I do not care.] And if I find a knight with all these virtues, he may draw this sword from the sheath. I have been to King Rience, and he and all his knights have tried to pull out the sword, but none could.”
“This is a great marvel,” said Arthur, “if this be true. I will myself attempt to draw out the sword. I do not presume myself to be the best knight, but I will give example to all the barons that they may try, each one after the other, when I have attempted it.” Then Arthur took the sword by the sheath and the girdle and pulled at it eagerly, but the sword would not move. [*sips tea* so, about your son that you attempted to murder]
“Sire,” said the damsel. “You need not pull half so hard. He that shall pull it out shall do so with little effort.”
“You speak well,” said Arthur. “My barons may try.”
“But beware that you are not defiled with shame, treachery, or guile, for you will not be able to pull out the sword,” said the damsel. [Didn’t she already say this?] “For he must be a clean knight without villainy and of a gentle strain on both his father’s and mother’s side.” [Not only do YOU have to be good, your parents have to be good, too! What is going on with this magic sword]
Most of the barons that were there at that time tried all in a row, but no one had good luck. So the damsel made great sorrow out of measure, and said, “alas, I thought that this court would have the best knights without treachery or treason.” [Look, not to be a hater, but is a weird magic sword really the end all and be all of character judgement?]
“By my faith,” said Arthur, “these are as good knights as any that have lived in the world, but they cannot help you; so I am displeased.”
I feel like my English always low-key falls apart whenever I try to sort of wrangle Malory into modernish English, but I’m definitely WAY better at it than I was at seventeen. I probably ought to go back to the earlier chapters I’ve done and clean them up after a while. Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed the latest bizarre Arthurian adventure! It only gets weirder from here.
I forced myself to finish this. I honestly don’t know why.
**This review contains spoilers**
God. God I hated this so much.
Okay, so here’s the setup: Elaine is an oracle (cool). Elaine is being emotionally abused by her evil depressed mother, who is the only mentally ill character in this book (somewhat less cool). Elaine then goes to Avalon, where everyone is liberated and wears skimpy clothing and is neo-pagan in sixth century fantasy Britain for some reason! (GO BACK GO BACK I WANT TO GO BACK) Yeah, suffice to say that this book impressed me with an interesting first scene and then took a swan dive off a cliff. At least my expectations weren’t that high? …Still though, I was foolish enough to at least have some expectations!
Clearly, I need to stop doing that with modern Arthuriana.
I’ll get into all the ugly stuff later, but let me start off by saying that I was super confused about the plot for most of the book? Elaine’s visions led me to believe that this was going to cover all of Arthur’s reign from his rise to his fall, because she kept having visions about the arthurpocalypse and How It All Fell Apart (ooh). And then I was at the middle of the book and Arthur hadn’t even married Guinevere yet? I honestly had to rack my brains to remember if this was really a standalone. Anyway, yeah, I could have done with a few less visions! Or at least put something in the blurb to make it clear that this is about Arthur’s rise to power? Maybe?
So yeah, the plot was really boring and I honestly don’t know why I was supposed to care. Oh no, Merlin is supporting Mordred, who is now Arthur’s half-brother for some reason and also in love with Morgause because this book decided to devote its existence to making me want to throw up! Why is Merlin doing this (especially when supporting Mordred goes against everything he stood for in the legends)? I don’t know! Elaine wants to stop this, because Mordred will run the kingdom into the ground! At least in an unspecified vision Elaine had, anyway. Why couldn’t we have seen that vision? It would have given such a better sense of the stakes if we could have seen what would have happened to Albion. Elaine is all-in for Arthur for…reasons I guess! I don’t know why! Why can’t she grab power for herself and be queen if she can literally see the future? She’d do a better job of it than either of those two schmucks.
I couldn’t help but compare this to Nirvana in Fire as I read this, not because it was anywhere NEAR as good as Nirvana in Fire, but because both stories had a protagonist who puts their life on hold to get some other guy on the throne. But Mei Changsu had a clear reason for wanting the current emperor off the throne, because the emperor was responsible for the death of his family. I get why that would drive you to do really extreme things! And I also understand why he would think Prince Jing was the best guy to be on the throne. Prince Jing is a guy who REALLY cares about justice, and the corrupt royal court doesn’t have a lot of guys like that. I just…wasn’t convinced about Arthur? It’s not that he’s bad, it’s just that I don’t understand why he’s good, let alone the best guy to be on the throne. I don’t know why Elaine cares so much about this guy, other than that Nimue told her he would bring some vague ‘golden age’ or whatever. Sure, I…guess he’s better than Mordred? Were there no other options? Why are my only two options ‘evil weasel’ and ‘stale chunk of white bread?’
Also, like…Nihuang was more of a girl power icon than any of the women in these books will ever be.
Speaking of girl power! The way feminism was handled in this book was so simplistic, heavy-handed, and sometimes…just plain dumb? Probably the most egregious scene was with Morgana and the tapestry. Okay, okay, get this. Morgana walks into the room, points to the unicorn on the tapestry and asks Elaine if she knows what the unicorn represents. Elaine answers that it represents virtue, and Morgana responds that it represents virginity, and the men don’t want to tell her that because they don’t want to seem too interested in what goes on between a girl’s legs (her words, not mine). I…
POLICING WOMEN’S SEXUALITY IS THE WHOLE POINT FOR THESE PEOPLE AND THAT ABSOLUTELY EXTENDS TO HOW THEY TREAT TEENAGERS. Oh boy, I wish this were how the world worked! I sure WISH that men would pretend not to care too much about a teenage girl’s sexuality! Someone take me to this fantasy world, please! *bangs head against a wall* I have literally read an article in which a girl’s parents pulled her out of the swim team at age TEN because the swimsuit she had to wear was too tight (fitted swimsuits are required for competitive swimming)! I have heard of young teenage girls getting lectured for being a ‘stumbling block’ to the older men in their church because the young girl wore a shirt that was too tight or something. Please explain to me again how these types of men will act so bashfully around young women that they don’t even want to mention virginity in front of them.
Anyway, this was all a lead-in to Morgana’s sex joke, because of course it was. Arthur is RIDING the unicorn? Get it??? *waggles eyebrows* If your sex joke has to be explained that much in order for it to make sense, it isn’t a very good joke. Kill me now.
And then Morgana proceeds to burn the tapestry #ForTheLols, which makes me want to kill her. Embroidery is so hard and those girls worked on the tapestry so much. Just because Elaine hates the tapestry doesn’t mean all the girls who worked on it do. It must have been some of those girls’ pride and joy. That was the moment I decided I hated Morgana.
The feminism would swing between being about historical issues no modern woman would have to face and modern issues no historical woman would likely face. And sometimes issues NO woman would face, ever (see the tapestry). The corset represents female oppression!!! Get it, because the boning in a corset is like a cage?? Sort of like how real women are in a metaphorical cage?? DO YOU GET THE SYMBOLISM??? And the pooooooor women, not being able to practice archery and having to wear corsets and all that. Because medieval women absolutely wore corsets and didn’t practice archery.
…Okay, look here. Medieval noblewomen practiced archery because oh, look at that! They went hunting! They absolutely didn’t wear corsets. My God. The author just lifted a bunch of stereotypes about the 19th century in order to write her book. At one point the heroine wears a dress that has cap sleeves, which. I’m pretty sure would not have been done in the medieval period? All the women in paintings that I’ve seen have their arms covered up to their wrists, which would have been a pretty nice thing to mention if you want to talk about modesty! Oh, and at one point, Elaine literally says ‘not all men,’ to which Guinevere replies, ‘not all men, Elaine……but enough of them,’ and I’m sorry, did I stumble onto a twitter conversation somehow? Because I would like to get off. Like. Are you writing about 19th century–oh, I’m sorry, medieval oppression of women, or are you making commentary on how they’re oppressed in the present day? Or are you going to look at the ways in which the treatment of women stays the same throughout history, discussing how while times change, some of the ways in which people treat women remain the same, and–oh, you just steamrolled past that option. Didn’t even notice it. Never mind, I’m not sure what else I expected.
You know what, I give up. I’m going to have Mordred say “yes all men” and shove a guy out a window. If Laura Sebastian can do it, so can I.
(A quick note: I don’t think Arthuriana has to be historically accurate at all! It’s basically impossible to write historically accurate Arthuriana, if you want to get down to it. But my personal preference is for the world to feel more medieval than this? And I really just don’t understand why we’re segueing into 19th century women’s issues.)
I also think the feminism in this book doesn’t address a lot of women out there? The liberation in this book is found in wildness. Avalon, with its sexy sexy bonfires and women who wear skimpy clothing, is liberated. THEIR women do stuff. They can do magic and be fighters. Lyonesse is liberated. Their women are werewolves and they wear short skirts and kill people! They’re wild and they run and fight! Camelot’s women…
…Um, they’re just not mentioned? Elaine’s mom is mentioned. She’s evil and abusive. Morgause is mentioned. She’s evil because she wants power for herself, unlike good and sweet Elaine who wants power for a man. And worse, Morgause is too feminine, unlike the heroine, who is just the right amount of feminine! Morgause cares about her appearance and stuff, which makes her an evul harpy who is evul! Seriously, Morgause is such a negative female stereotype. I do not understand why you would pretend to write a feminist novel and then treat your female villains this way?
To be fair, Elaine is from Camelot, but she spends most of her teenage years on Avalon, and she has Avalon’s values. I’m not counting her. Even though she is more ‘normal’ than her friends, she still seems like an exceptional woman to me, with her powers as a seeress that allows her to influence the rise and fall of kings. What of the normal women? The women who aren’t werewolves, or sorceresses, or kingmakers?
Anyway, we never hear about the women who do fit in and what they go through. We also never hear about the women who don’t fit in in different ways from Elaine and co. The feminism is just not very intersectional. There are a few women of color, but they’re either relegated to relatively minor roles, or, uh…We’ll get to that later. The closest thing we get to queer rep is Guinevere and Elaine jokingly flirting, but don’t worry, folks! They’re very straight, they’re just flirting because they’re not homophobic and women flirting is funny or…something? I guess? Seriously, they had more chemistry in that one scene than either of them EVER do with their trash boyfriends. We never hear about any disabled or mentally ill women. Oh wait, I almost forgot! We do hear about one mentally ill woman, who is mentally ill and abusive. Can’t forget Elaine’s mom.
Look, I don’t mind mentally ill abusive characters. In fact, I think there’s absolutely a place for them. Not all mentally ill people are good, that’s stupid. We’re people, not just an identity, and sometimes people are very bad. And I do think that since mental illness affects all parts of your life (or it can, anyway), it makes sense that someone’s toxic or abusive behavior would be influenced by their mental illness. But does she have to be the only mentally ill character in the story? Does Morgana have to say “She’s touched in the head” and imply that that is the reason why Elaine should leave her? I know the author said she had depression, and I respect that she probably had a reason for portraying depression in that way, but I also have depression, and personally? It didn’t sit right with me, and I’m just a little bitter. Why can’t Elaine have depression and struggle to get out of bed and leave her tower sometimes? Why can’t Lancelot draw her out–not cure her, but make things a little better–and convince her to brave the dangers of the real world, a place that’s confusing and sometimes harsh and not at all as simple as her tapestries? Why is that not the heroine the 21st century needs or whatever?
(Like…giving her depression would have given her a connection to the Tennyson poem that she absolutely did not have lmao.)
There are a few women of color, but I don’t think they were handled well? Nimue is Black, and I don’t have too many problems with her–sure, she’s not that interesting, but it’s not like she stands out for that in that cast. Morgana and Morgause, though?? They’re both described as having ‘bronze skin,’ and the way it’s written, is, uh…
She was beautiful in a cruel way, with luminous bronze skin, long, wavy hair the color of jet, a hawklike nose, and a wide mouth painted red as blood.
I just! I don’t like how she’s described as ‘beautiful in a cruel way’ and then it goes on to describe her bronze skin and aquiline nose! This rubs me the wrong way! I hate this so much!
Oh, and Mordred has a ‘hooked nose?’ And, if I remember correctly, Morgause does, too? I…*slowly slides into the dirt* If you’re wondering why this upsets me, hooked noses are something Jewish people are often stereotyped as having. (TW for discussions of antisemitism in the link.) I’m not trying to cancel the author and I’m not trying to argue that she’s a bad person, but I wish she or her editor had googled ‘antisemitic coding’ before publishing this.
Random little things that annoyed me:
-There were places where the writing just…did not make sense? “Relief falls over Arthur’s expression like a velvet curtain.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN.
-Mordred has ‘sand-colored’ hair in one scene and black hair in another. I refuse to believe this book was edited.
-Everyone in this book swears using the words ‘Maiden, Mother, and Crone,’ which, while I’m pretty sure it comes from beliefs about Hecate, is still a very modern phrasing? Honestly, though, the fact that half the characters in this book practiced a modern religion is the least bad thing about this book. (Nothing against neo-pagans or anything like that! I just don’t understand why the characters happen to believe the exact same thing as neo-pagans in the 21st century when they supposedly aren’t time travelers lmao?)
-The magic in this book is SO hokey. At one point Morgana literally pulls down the moon from the sky and threatens to destroy it. Okay Admiral Zhao. Admiral Zhao did it better, tbh. What even was this book.
-Morgana has purple eyes?????
-The worst thing? LANCELOT KEPT CALLING ELAINE ‘SHALOTT.’ THAT IS LIKE IF SOMEONE KEPT CALLING ME BY THE NAME OF MY HOMETOWN. WHAT PARALLEL UNIVERSE HAVE I ENTERED INTO THAT THIS BOOK EXISTS. I WANT OUT.
The ONE thing about this book that I liked is that the heroine understands the need for propaganda, and in general, the political intrigue wasn’t awful. That was the one thing. Everything else? Throw it away. Preferably somewhere far away from me, please.
Anyway, this was an awful experience! I possibly enjoyed reading Yu Wu more, and I didn’t even finish that one because the hero was a burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste. A burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste is still better than watching paint dry, though, which was what reading this felt like.
I realized I wrote a (very long) review on The Guinevere Deception and then forgot to post a review of the sequel to the blog. Oops. I kept meaning to get around to cross-posting my review from Goodreads and then I kept forgetting, but whatever, it’s done now.
The Camelot Betrayal was both…a better and a worse reading experience than the first one in the series. It was better because my expectations were way lowered after that small disaster of a first book, but. I mean, less Mordred? Mordred’s the best character, why is he barely in this. Even though the first book was kinda sorta aggressively mediocre (sorry), I still think the author really could have turned it around in the second book! As it is, though, the trilogy didn’t get worse, but it also very much did not get better.
**This review contains spoilers! And also a little bit of cursing, just in case you’re uncomfortable with that**
I probably spelled some of the names differently from how they’re spelled in the book, because Arthurian names tend to have ten different variants each and I didn’t want to look up each character lmao
I feel like I should knock off a star for making Morgan Mordred’s mom and whatever the fuck this trilogy did to the Pendragon family tree, but you know what? I will put aside my pettiness for today.
(BERTILAK IS GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND. NOT MORDRED’S DAD. WHAT THE FUCK. LOT IS A CHARACTER THAT EXISTS, HE’S MORDRED’S DAD IN QUITE A FEW VERSIONS OF THE LEGENDS, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE. MAKING BERTILAK MORDRED’S DAD INSTEAD OF GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND IS HOMOPHOBIA. SEND HELP.)
After thinking about it for awhile, I realized my problem with this book is that it has no fucking plot. (Okay, I also have problems with Arthur and Gwen’s missing personalities, but that’s a rant for another time.) Yeah, sure, there’s some stuff about the Dark Queen–love of my life and I want to kiss her–but she’s a distant threat at best. Arthur occasionally rides off to the cursed lands to do…I don’t know what he does, actually. Guinevere occasionally ties knots. Everyone is concerned, but no one’s really doing anything about the villain? And the villain doesn’t really do anything to them? Villains who aren’t active in their own stories CAN work, but usually only when there’s another, more prominent villain to do their dirty work. Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader, LOTR without the Ringwraiths and the orc generals. And before you ask, no, Mordred does not fulfill the role of the more active villain. In fact, let me make a list of the things Mordred does:
Convinces Guinevere he doesn’t, actually, want to kill her (this is not a trick to gain her trust and then betray her, in case you were wondering)
Makes out with Guinevere in a dream sequence/vision (was this really him though? Should I count this?)
Helps out Rhoslyn and her girls
Helps Guinevere out when she wanted to leave Camelot at the end
THAT’S IT. He’s not evil, okay? Yes, he may have committed a small act of eco-terrorism at the end of the last book, but if you’re not going to keep up those villainous acts in the second one, my memory of why I’m supposed to feel conflicted about this guy is going to fade real fast. Besides, as mentioned above, the Dark Queen is the love of my life and I want to kiss her. In my eyes, he did me a favor. Mordred just wants to resurrect grandma and then kick back in a cottage in the woods with his cute not-girlfriend Guinevere and you can’t convince me otherwise.
None of the subplots feel naturally woven into the main plots, because there is no main plot to really weave into. It’s just…Oh hey! I should save that dragon! Oh hey! I should save Iseult now! The story jumps around SO bad. Guinevere doesn’t do anything! Sure, she saves Iseult, but as far as for the main plot? What does she do?? Mordred doesn’t do anything! Arthur might do some things, but he sure as hell won’t tell Guinevere anything about that, because this is a Healthy Relationship in a Feminist Book! A feminist book that lowkey defends persecuting witches, I guess. (Yes, I’m still mad about this! ‘Oh, persecuting witches is bad, but also we aren’t going to call Arthur out for this, because that might make him feel bad.’ Cry me a river.)
Pardon me for assuming that a book with Gwenhwyfach in it might flesh out Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship with each other a little. I was expecting Gwenhwyfach to trick Arthur into betraying Guinevere and then Lancelot would save her and Guinevere would have to deal with the fact that Arthur doesn’t actually trust her, and she would realize that she’s currently falling for Lancelot and it would be very cute and gay and–I’m getting carried away. Just. Anything but Gwenhwyfach being the annoying little sister who likes party-planning. (I mean, points for not villainizing her, though, I was getting tired of the girl hate.) Guinevere and Lancelot hardly ever have any in-depth conversations, and they don’t really seem to be on the same wavelength. I never have any idea of what they mean to each other. This isn’t even a developed friendship, let alone a romantic relationship.
I realize I accidentally make it sound like Lancelot and Guinevere have a romantic relationship in this book. They don’t. I don’t really know what they feel for each other in this book, tbh? I do think their relationship should have been WAY more fleshed out, whatever it is.
And what is up with how the story portrays Blanchefleur? She does literally nothing wrong in the legend that she’s in, from what I remember. Why is this story so bent on portraying her as an evil harpy? I believe I said this in my reading updates on Goodreads, and I’ll say it again: it’s not very feminist to turn a perfectly fine woman into a misogynist stereotype. I’ll admit I never paid Blanchefleur much mind before, but I love her now. I’m contractually obligated to love every mythological woman who gets portrayed in a shitty way for no reason.
Also, while I do definitely appreciate Brangien and Iseult’s relationship, I can’t help but feel like the story didn’t explore as many opportunities for diversity as it could have. Which is to say, STOP WRITING PALOMIDES OUT OF THE TRISTRAM AND ISEULT STORIES, DAMN IT. If Iseult can have a relationship with Brangien, why can’t Tristram have a relationship with Palomides? That’d be cute. I ship it. Palomides is suspiciously missing from a lot of retellings of Tristram and Iseult, despite the fact that he plays a prominent role in their story in the legends. He’s a Middle Eastern character, and I can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with him hardly ever showing up in retellings. Idk, it just doesn’t sit right with me. And Gawain’s potential bisexuality hardly ever seems to get explored in mainstream retellings, either. This man made out with a faery knight. I’ve heard that at one point in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, he literally told Lancelot that he wished he were a pretty girl so that Lancelot would fall in love with him. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he’s straight. I wanted MORE from this character, but alas! He was doomed to be a bit-part role in this book. (For the record, I don’t think Lancelot’s straight in the legends, either. He and the half-giant knight Galehaut definitely had something going on)
(This is COMPLETELY off-topic, but speaking of queer retellings, I want someone to write the Guinevere/Iseult epic one of these days. They were such bros in Le Morte D’Arthur ❤ I have SO many ideas for Arthurian retellings that I’m never going to write. It’s getting worrying.)
And also?? Enby Lancelot seemed to be hinted at at some point in the first book (it’s been a while, but I remember she expressed discomfort with women’s clothing, and I seem to recall that Mordred referred to her as being in a grey area gender-wise), but it’s NEVER mentioned again in this one.
I’ll keep this part brief, because this review is already getting long, but the prose was pretty inconsistent. There were some parts that were legitimately really good, and a lot that…wasn’t. There was a LOT of telling instead of showing, and not in a particularly effective way. I also wish the worldbuilding had been better? I was super confused on how much fantasy!England diverged from real England. The setting never ended up feeling that real.
I know I’m complaining a lot, but I will say that the story was very cute. It was an entertaining read if I turned my brain off! I do like reading about Guinevere and the girls going on adventures! Mordred was also very cute and kept me from DNF-ing ❤ He’s the light of my life and the only reason I rated this more than two stars.
Something that a lot of medieval literature gets and a lot of modern retellings don’t: It’s actually kind of hard to make Arthur the most interesting character and if you can’t do that, PLEASE don’t make everything in the story revolve around him. Like I recently read a retelling from the point of view of freaking Elaine of Astolat that had her revolve around Arthur. Why would you do that. Why. (And when I say ‘read’, I mean read part of and didn’t finish. I’m going to try to finish it so I can review it on the blog, though.)
The Camelot Betrayal might be the one that finally gets me to sit down and finish a fanfic. Mordred and Guinevere were done so dirty by these books.
Eheheh I already know how this is going to go (there’s no way I’m not answering fantasy to almost every question), but Kenzie’s post was so fun and I wanted to join in anyway? Why not? Talking about writing is easier than actually writing, anyway. I see no drawbacks here.
And yeah, I should probably address the elephant in the room. I took a long, unplanned hiatus. I’ve been having kind of a rough year, dealing with college burnout, depression, and two of my pets dying? The dog was expected even though it was really sad, because she was really old, but oh man I did not expect the horse. I loved that little man. He was a black Arabian who was an absolute drama queen. He was sometimes very mean (not to me though) and he loved going fast. I miss him.
Anyway, enough about sad stuff! I want to get back to blogging, because I do really like it, but I probably will do it intermittently without a consistent schedule? I want to gradually get back into it, though!
thank the blogger who tagged you, and leave a link back to their blog–Heh, I wasn’t tagged. I stole it off of Kenzie’s blog.
leave a link back to the creator of the tag >> (I mean, technically this bit is optional, but I’d really appreciate a link back, especially if you enjoyed the tag!)–Already done!
answer the questions honestly, and include at least one (1) gif of a pelican >> it’s in the rules, folks. you have to do it.
tag 3+ friends to do the tag on their own blogs! >> and make sure to give them cookies. because that’s always fun.–I will not be tagging anyone, as most of the people I follow are on hiatus right now?? And I’m barely posting either? 2021 has NOT been a good year for my blog feed, understandably.
What is your favorite genre of fiction to write?
Historical fantasy fairy tale retellings. I’m not actually much of a worldbuilding person, but I really like researching and writing historical time periods? I don’t hold myself to being super historically accurate, but it’s nice to have a historical framework to work with! (Although one of my personal pet peeves is when authors try to write about a social issue while having literally no idea about the era. I’ve read a lot of bad ‘feminist’ hist-fic and I hate it here.) And I love fairy tale retellings because I’ve always loved fairy tales in general and they’re so fun to reinterpret? And also plot is not my strong point lmao, so it’s nice to have something already in place to jump off of!
(If you’re wondering, I’ve always considered my strong point to be characterization, but it varies from story to story)
Okay, more specifically, fantasy that’s not super heavy on plot but rather is probably more character-driven, and then throw in some vaguely unsettling vibes. Creepy magic stuff going on. The house is probably sentient. Etc.
What genre would you NEVER get caught writing? . . .EVER.
I, an asexual who has literally never cared about sex outside of ‘oh look, it’s that thing that other people like doing!’, would never write erotica. And also I would never write hard sci-fi, like imagine being into science unironically?
(I’m kidding, I don’t understand science, but I respect the people who do.)
What fictional genre feels most like home to you?
Definitely fantasy. It’s what I grew up reading, and it’s what I grew up writing. It’s hard to explain the specific vibe, but I think it’s whatever Howl’s Moving Castle, Beauty by Robin Mckinley, and the Squire’s tale have in common? Those books were all pretty much my childhood.
In general, I’m not picky about fantasy subgenres, but I’d say my favorite is historical fantasy/historically-inspired fantasy (when it’s done well. I hate bad hist-fic so much.)
If you could transform your real life into any genre of your choosing, which would it be?
This is not a sane answer, but I’ll admit it’s really fun to imagine myself in some political intrigue fantasy or whatever. My personal daydream is being competent and having good social skills. Also Ladies of Grace Adieu got me into writing as a kid and I wouldn’t mind living in the world of those short stories? They were so whimsical and vaguely creepy.
(The prerequisite to me living in a story world, obviously, is that I am competent in ways that allow me to survive in my respective circumstances. I want to be the final girl, if you will.)
What genre does your real life most resemble at the moment?
Honestly, probably a fantasy about the fey. But like, a chill one, not whatever YA fairy books have going on lmao. I will not elaborate ❤
What’s a genre you’re interested in writing, even though you’ve never written it before?
I’ve only ever picked up a couple of superhero comics and I’ve read like…two novels about superheroes, but I’d like to write about them all the same? I have no plot bunnies currently though, lmao.
What genre is your most recent plot bunny, and where did it come from?
Arthuriana! I started reading an Arthurian retelling and got very mad lmao. It was called Half Sick of Shadows and it just. So many bad takes??? It didn’t really feel like an Arthurian retelling either, which…I kind of sympathize, because Arthuriana is very hard to write. Arthurian legends are absolutely sprawling and I feel like it’s hard to capture the absolutely chaotic feel within a normal-sized book? So then a lot of authors end up oversimplifying things until the book just feels like something else entirely.
But anyway! Enough ranting! The point is, I read a book I didn’t like and decided to get back into writing in the same genre! It’s from Morgan’s POV and has absolutely no plot ❤ It’s stressful to write even though it’s also a just-for-fun project because I’m fun like that! (And I wonder why I have so much trouble finishing stories…)
How many genres have you written thus far in your writing journey?
Uh. Probably quite a lot if you count subgenres?
Fairy tale retellings
Urban fantasy (yes I write urban fantasy. yes I still carry scars from the bad urban fantasy I read as a teen. We exist ❤ )
Vampires! Only ever short stories, but they are legitimately fun to write about if you wipe the bad memories of the Twilight copycats from your head
Dystopia but we don’t talk about that one because it was really bad
Writing about Celtic fairies literally got me into writing
Historical fiction. I don’t write a lot of it, but I have written one or two short stories!
I’ve also written a short story about superheroes?
I’ve written mysteries if you count the halfhearted attempts when I was seven that I didn’t finish lmao
I’ve written contemporary sometimes! It’s not the genre I most commonly write in but I do really like attempting to make ordinary life feel magical? It’s very fun and nice?
I remember I wrote one flash fiction piece about aliens when I was fifteen
I can’t think of anything else but I’m quite possibly forgetting something.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my exhausted rambling! Please tell me about your favorite things to write and/or favorite plot bunnies in the comments, I want to know. Also, even though I didn’t tag anyone, feel free to steal it if you want!
So I had a wild week. First something very weird and probably magical happened to me (no, seriously, I walked into the campus gym and ended up in a completely different building and I’m pretty sure I was put under a glamour), I came out to my parents as nonbinary which did not go extremely well but I’m mostly okay, and my counselor told me I’m autistic and have ADHD (absolutely not the worst thing that’s happened to me this week and I’m pretty happy with this, actually!). But yeah, it’s been a lot.
Anyway, I got tagged by Jenelle to do a wonderful tag she created about fandoms!
What’s the first fandom you remember becoming a part of?
I read Fellowship of the Ring at age seven, which makes it my first novel! I don’t remember it being that hard for me, and my theory is that I read lots of saint stories written in a more literary style, so I already had a large vocabulary from that. Anyway, Lord of the Rings holds so much nostalgia for me, and Pippin is my favorite character and has so many ADHD vibes (yes I WILL celebrate finally going to a counselor by dumping all my headcanons on you)
What’s the newest fandom you’ve come to enjoy?
I legitimately have no idea. My fandoms all exist in some gelatinous space in my brain and I do not know when they enter or when they leave.
I’ve been watching a drama called Mr Queen lately though, and I’ve been enjoying it so far! It’s about a playboy who gets sent back in time to Joseon–but he’s in a girl’s body, and then things take a turn for the bisexual. I think it’s a remake of Go Princess Go?
What’s a fandom guaranteed to give you feels?
Untamed 😭 I really got into all the queer stuff with chivalric vibes at age 17. (If you know of any stories that fit this description, please! Rec me some stuff!) This story…It is epic fantasy, but it takes time to really get into the little stuff too. Like yes, Wei Wuxian is solving mysteries and trying his best to stop the Wen sect from taking over, but also Lan Zhan likes rabbits and that is also very important.
Anyway, the relationships set up in this story (not just the romantic ones!) are so well done and so beautiful and…
If I die, at least I will die by your hand, Hanguang-jun.
*SOBS FOR ETERNITY*
Also, Wei Wuxian has ADHD and Lan Zhan is autistic. I don’t make the rules. Like it’s not canon because they’re in ancient China but they REALLY feel like they’re coded that way to me.
What’s a guilty pleasure fandom of yours?
Pfft. I don’t have guilty pleasure fandoms. I don’t feel guilty about anything–
Okay, maybe I have one guilty pleasure fandom.
What’s the weirdest fandom you’ve heard of/are a part of?
I’m not going to get into the weirdest fandoms I’ve ever heard of, because that’s a conversation that would go on forever (probably Supernatural, though), but the weirdest fandoms I’m a part of is a conversation that would go on forever, too.
Let’s see, Untamed is obviously deeply weird (*coughTortoiseofSlaughterisagirlbosscough*), Twilight is deeply deeply weird, My Country is weird in that none of the writing decisions make sense but it somehow manages to hold together by the skin of its teeth, all of Arthuriana feels like it was written by people on shrooms…You get the picture.
Favorite popular/widely-known fandom?
…Probably Arthuriana? Not everyone knows the nitty-gritty details, but most people (in America, at least?) know SOMETHING about it.
Favorite bookish fandom?
I can’t make choices, send help!
The one that’s fresh on my mind is We Hunt the Flame, though, because I just finished the sequel and it was Very Good. It’s not a perfect book–some dumb stuff happens in places–but it’s so beautifully self-indulgent and the writing style is so good. People call Nasir the Prince of Death, because that’s not overdramatic at all. And let’s not forget Nasir’s slutty, perpetually done brother. This book has everything. Angst. Found family. Stupidity. I could go on.
What do you consider your ‘homebase’, a fandom you can always come back to?
Arthuriana, so much. I love those idiots and the absolutely insane things they go through.
But also probably Untamed. It feels so nostalgic for me, even though I only got into it a couple years ago.
What’s a fandom you know all about…but aren’t actually into it?
*slides you my essay-length posts on Every Popular YA Novel because I am a grinch*
No, seriously, I had negative hyperfixations on some of thesebooks. (Does anyone else get that? Where it’s exactly like a hyperfixation but you hate the thing? It’s honestly annoying to experience.)
Oh, also Redwall when I was nine but let’s not talk about that.
REDWALL MADE THE FERRETS AND FOXES EVIL. HOW DARE THEY. ONE TIME A FOX CAME UP TO ME AND TRIED TO CUDDLE AND IT WAS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. REDWALL IS PRO-MICE PROPAGANDA. DON’T LISTEN TO IT. #FriendsNotVermin
Which fandom has the best characters?
i am dead
pls don’t ask me to make decisions
It’s Untamed. I will answer Untamed for every question and you can’t stop me
Name your all-time favorite ship.
Uhhh Wei Wuxian/Lan Zhan? Gawain/Lancelot? Hua Cheng/Xie Lian? Seon-ho/Hwi? Xuanji/Sifeng? Emma Woodhouse/Frank–(*gets shot by Jane Austen fans before I can finish the sentence*)
What’s a fandom you’re curious about joining?
The Gothic literature fandom seems like it really has it going on. I too want to fantasize about committing crimes against humanity and swanning around in medieval castles.
Greetings, ladies and gentlefolk! I have not been editing the stories I put online lately very much, so I’m sorry if this sucks please don’t kill me ahhhh
I realized I sometimes had trouble writing sapphic stories (@ internalized homophobia), so I wrote a ton of flash fiction in order to try and fix that! And they are all set in uni because I am in uni and it’s terrible! I also made picrews for most of my characters because I found a cute one. And then I made them all with different pride flag backgrounds because pride flags are pretty and I love stripes.
I’m kind of starting to come around to contemporary as a genre. Fantasy is still my favorite, but there is something about the romanticization of everyday life that I love. I do have a hard time finding contemporary stories that I like, but! There are a lot of great contemporary authors out there! And I have a hard time finding stories I like in general. Contemporary romance is honestly a pretty cute genre, and I feel like I’ve been kind of unfair to it in the past (internally, not on the blog).
Anyway, I got the list of prompts from a tumblr blog I stumbled across
prompt: “hey i’m late on our first day and oh no, the only free seat is next to you. wait do you have a pen?”
This has a swear word in it but I’m pretty sure that’s the only content in these?
Also, I love my absolutely bizarre descriptions. ‘handwriting like a 19th century scholar’s if that scholar were really drunk.’ I don’t know what tf that means but it made me laugh. so
The girl next to Miyeon yawned and stretched her arms out. The professor sent her a withering glare, which she answered with an off-center grin. “Sorry for being late,” she drawled, having come in twenty minutes after the start of class. She did not sound sorry at all.
She had wild red hair and dark eyes. She did not look like she gave a fuck about anything. Miyeon was not sure if she should be annoyed or in love.
“You have a pen?” the girl muttered. It took Miyeon a moment to realize she was talking to her. “I forgot mine. I forgot my entire bag, actually.” She was currently taking out a large stack of post-its from her pocket.
Miyeon blinked twice, suddenly not hearing the professor’s lecture on Latin verb endings. She took a pen out of her backpack, fumbling it twice, and slid the pen over to the girl, her ears slightly pink.
“Thanks,” she said, writing down her notes. Miyeon pushed down a smile.
A minute later, the girl slid a post-it note over. “You’re cute,” read the note, in impossibly scrawled handwriting.
Miyeon picked it up in her hands, unsure how to answer. Should she say that she wasn’t currently looking for a relationship? That wasn’t necessarily true, and moreover, would have been presumptuous. It was just a comment. Should she tell her that she thought the girl was cute too?
“What’s your name?” Miyeon’s handwriting looked like that of a disaffected 19th century scholar, if that scholar was really drunk.
“Katherine. God. Call me Kate,” she muttered, looking up at the teacher to see if they had noticed them talking.
Miyeon smiled a bit. She tugged the post-it over and scrawled her phone number down. She supposed it wouldn’t hurt.
She turned toward the professor, determined to listen now, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kate give a quiet fist pump under the table.
prompt: “we got paired up for a presentation but we’ve never really spoken and you’re pretty nice despite what other people say”
Oh, wait, this one has another swear word. These are the only ones, though! I double-checked. This story was the hardest for me to write and also the one that veered the farthest away from the prompt
Okay I reread this and wtf is this you can tell i wrote it at like. 3 am
Deryn coughed as she slid into the seat beside Nehama. Nehama’s short black hair fell into her pale face as she stared at her phone with enthralled intensity. She was pretty. Or at least Deryn thought so. She had a soft spot for aquiline noses.
“They say you’ve gotten into a fist fight over ten pounds,” Deryn noted. “And that you’ve singlehandedly stolen the girls of half the men in our dorm. Of course, I don’t believe that one, because Simon is a fucking liar and I don’t believe the girls who would date the men in our dorm have half such good taste.”
Nehama looked up. “Well, you’re right there,” she said. To Deryn’s annoyance, she didn’t seem to register it as a compliment or flirtation, but rather as simple fact. “Tell Simon that his girlfriend is straight and he drove her away all by himself. Of course, I’m not saying I didn’t help.” A rather ferocious grin cut across her face. “In the form of advice,” she added, in response to Deryn’s raised eyebrow.
Deryn nodded slowly. Well, she had not denied the first one. “My roommate tried to tell me all about how you stole her microwave platter when she lived with you,” she said, a smile beginning to crack through her expressionless face. “I remain unsure what she was going on about.”
Nehama threw her head back in a sharp laugh. Deryn couldn’t help but laugh along with her. “She was a–” she paused, lost for words. “Strange. She was strange.” She looked down, almost seeming pensive. “Why are you telling me this?” she asked, her voice casual.
Deryn looked down. “I like to get a good idea of who I’m dealing with,” she said happily.
Nehama crossed her hands behind her head. “And do you have a good idea?” she asked. It was a challenge, but it was a playful challenge.
Deryn looked up at the ceiling, thinking for a minute, and then nodded. “An idiot,” she said. Nehama’s face slowly settled into a scowl. “I like stupid people,” Deryn protested. “Let’s get a coffee together sometime.”
Nehama leaned back slightly, opening her mouth and closing it again. “You mean—” she said finally. She didn’t respond for a moment.
“Yeah,” Deryn said. She crossed her arms. “You aren’t so bad. People are ridiculous. And I think you’re cute.”
“It’s not the weirdest way someone’s asked me out,” Nehama said, a reluctant smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “So sure.”
They shared a mutual, evil smile and returned to their respective tasks.
prompt: “so i totally didn’t spend that entire lecture doodling/on my phone and i had no clue what i was being taught pls help”
I literally love this one so much
The images are a little blurry but I give up, WordPress has defeated me
“Uh.” Gyeong-Suk coughed awkwardly.
“Go away,” Ha-Yun said. They sat on the floor in their apartment that smelled of mold. Ha-Yun’s brown hair was twisted up in a high bun, and she wore an over-sized sweater that she had sewn herself—a dusty pink sweater that she had copied from a 300 dollar one in a magazine.
Gyeong-Suk sat in the center of a notebook circle, looking like she had been summoned from hell in a strange ritual. “Please,” she said. “The lecture was so boring. I couldn’t listen to it. It melted my ears.”
Ha-Yun rolled her eyes. “You were on your phone.”
“Eonni,” Gyeong-Suk said. “You’re so smart. Please let me read your notes.”
Ha-Yun hesitated and slid her the phone with her lecture notes. “I love you. You idiot.”
“Thanks so much,” she said. The full sentence finally hit her. “Oh.” She coughed. “I love you too,” she replied, blushing.
Ha-Yun bit back a sarcastic reply and a smile.
prompt: “it’s 3am and the library is pretty empty but you’re sat there stressing at your laptop, so i brought you a coffee and a bag of chips from the vending machine”
Are any libraries open after 3 am???
This was the first one where things just really clicked for me, which you can tell since it’s about 300 words longer than the other ones
I named a lot of these characters by randomly picking names from Nameberry
Kathleen bit her lip, deeply focused on whatever-it-was on her computer. Probably something for her organic chemistry class. She’d been ranting about that class the most lately.
Mahaila leaned her head into her hand, watching her. She could study Kathleen’s hands for hours. They were long and delicate and spidery, hands that belonged to a pianist or a craftsman. Kathleen’s skin was deep brown, and her eyes were large and expressive. She was the most beautiful girl Mahaila had ever seen, except for herself, of course.
She coughed slightly, but Kathleen didn’t so much as glance at her.
Mahaila was, in general, widely considered to be charming, both in platonic and romantic contexts. Sometimes, in fact, she could be a little too charming and create trouble for herself. It was a trait that had gotten her places, though, and she wouldn’t have traded it for the world—but she would have traded it for Kathleen. She didn’t think Kathleen had ever looked at her as anyone more than someone to study with.
She didn’t think Kathleen looked at most people as much more than someone to study with, but that didn’t take away the sting.
She sighed and shook her head, looking at her. No one else was in the library. It was now three in the morning, the windows pitch-black outside, and no one else was desperate enough for a grade or a friend to be here.
“You should sleep,” Mahaila said finally. “You’ll get better grades if you sleep.” She sent Kathleen a teasing smile that was lost on her, for Kathleen did not once look up from her notebook.
“You can if you want,” she said. Her voice was hoarse. She hesitated, her hand held in suspension above the page. “It’s not like I’ll be able to sleep anyway.” The statement was a raw admission of guilt, and Mahaila couldn’t for the life of her figure out what she’d just wandered into.
“I think you can talk to doctors about that,” Mahaila ventured—
“Don’t have enough money.” There was no sound for a moment but the clatter of the keyboard.
“Oh,” Mahaila muttered. She stood up and stretched. Well, at least she could do something for the poor fool. She wandered outside to the library entrance and got a coffee from the vending machine. She came back and placed it next to Kathleen’s keyboard.
Their hands brushed. Mahaila froze. Kathleen jerked back, too. Mahaila wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one.
She decided to pretend it hadn’t happened, and Kathleen seemed determined to do that, as well. “What are you majoring in?” she asked.
Mahaila looked down to hide a smile. “Nothing half so difficult,” she said. “Although it is hard, I guess. Literature.”
They didn’t speak for the rest of the night, but it was enough. It turned into a ritual for them, over the next week. They stayed up late at the library. Mahaila brought Kathleen a coffee when she started to look too tired or frustrated. Mahaila pulled one small conversation from Kathleen each time. Kathleen liked foxes. Kathleen could spend hours staring at the stars. Kathleen could be a bit spiteful. Kathleen was wonderful.
“My chemistry project’s almost done,” Kathleen said carefully one morning, taking a sip from her coffee.
Mahaila glanced up, her gaze guarded. “Oh, really?” she asked. She attempted a smile. “Congratulations.”
Kathleen nodded and thumbed through her notes. The morning sun streamed through the window. “So I guess I won’t be coming here as often,” she muttered. Mahaila fancied she sounded disappointed.
“I guess not,” Mahaila said, subdued.
Kathleen stared intently at the floor. Her eyes had never been as expressive as they were now. She looked flooded, overwhelmed. “I don’t want to finish my project,” she said finally.
Mahaila chuckled to herself. “Weirdo,” she teased, shaking her head.
“No, that’s not true,” Kathleen said. A frown creased her forehead. “I want to finish my project. I don’t want to stop spending time with you.”
Mahaila’s breath caught. She looked up and stared. Had they finally become…friends?
“I never thought I’d feel this way for anyone. There hasn’t ever been anyone I wanted to spend this much time with.”
Mahaila flicked her eyes upward and prayed for patience.
“I want to spend…a lot of time with you,” Kathleen said, her voice as raw as when she confessed that she could not sleep. “Mahaila, do you want…do you want to get a coffee together after class?”
Mahaila took a moment to gather herself together. “Are you…asking me out?” she said, before she could think better of it. Of all possible outcomes, she hadn’t expected this.
“I guess,” Kathleen said, her voice suddenly watery. “I’m asexual. That doesn’t matter, does it?” She stared up at her. Mahaila couldn’t help but feel her soul was being dissected.
“Of course not, of course not.” She waved her hands. “I’d like to get a coffee together.”
They stared at each other for a moment, both of them fragile and unsteady. They sat down. But now Mahaila sat next to her, and they did not flinch away from each other when their hands touched.
prompt: “you came over to hang out but i fell asleep while you were playing video games and two hours later you’re still here”
personally, i think this story is pretty cute
Bahira woke up with a start and rubbed her eyes. “Dreamed I failed all my college coursework,” she muttered. She took a moment to orient herself. She was on the couch. The leak on the ceiling was still dripping into a bucket—an old emergency, already taken care of. Clanging came from the general direction of the kitchen. That was new. She should probably check that out. She sat up.
Someone was humming loudly and offkey. If someone had broken into her house yet again, Bahira was going to commit crimes. She grabbed a broom from beside the door and slammed the door open. The person in her kitchen dropped a pot lid with a yelp.
“Oh, it’s you.” Bahira’s shoulders slumped in relief. “You haven’t left yet?”
Finian shrugged. “Did you want me to?” She stirred the pot, which currently contained unidentifiable brown stuff. It didn’t smell too good.
Finian was a fat girl, with apricot-colored short hair and fair skin. She was beautiful, a god in a dingy apartment with a flickering lightbulb. Bahira’s lips quirked.
“Of course I want you to stay,” Bahira said with a yawn. “But I thought you would have gotten bored and gone home. I’ve been asleep for a while.” She checked her watch. “Two hours.”
“I got kind of caught up in the video game,” Finian admitted. “I wanted to make you dinner before I left. Sometimes you forget.”
Bahira nodded. That was true. She was not, however, looking forward to Finian’s cooking. “I’m sure your dinner will be wonderful,” she said.
Bahira leaned back in her chair, staring at the dying lightbulb until she had spots in her vision. She hated to bring things up and disturb the peace. She hated to let things stay as they are and rot.
“You like me, don’t you?”
Finian’s hand slipped on her spoon. She cursed, nearly dropping it. “Of course I like you,” she said comfortingly.
“I mean like like,” she said. Oh, she might as well say it. She didn’t move a muscle. “Love.”
“Uh—” Finian was starting to sound more and more panicked, and Bahira cursed herself for bringing it up. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do.”
Bahira blinked several times. She told herself it was to get the spots out of her vision. “I—I like you too,” she said, her voice quiet. “I guess.”
“I mean, we always knew, right?” Finian asked. She started to spoon the glop into a bowl. She paused, looking at the floor. “Let’s start seeing each other,” she said in a rush. “Make it official or something.”
“That sounds like a good idea to me too.” Bahira reminded herself to breathe.
She’d eat Finian’s cooking every day of her life if it meant that Finian would be there every day of her life. She’d give anything for her.
Finian cracked a smile. “That—That’s wonderful.”
prompt: “wow my lecture sucked ass, i’m stressed asf and here we are at the on campus bar at 11:59am waiting to buy a drink because it’s been that kind of a day already”
haha i accidentally put in a lot of my feelings about college and dysphoria and made this way too personal oops haha
I’m lowkey regretting my decision to mostly not edit these
Cole slumped onto the seat beside Abigail, downing her margarita before saying anything. The bar was dead quiet aside from the occasional clink of a glass from the employees. The lighting was dim. Cole nestled into a corner. It was a perfect place to hide.
“Bad day, huh?” Abigail asked with a quirk of her lips.
Cole grimaced. Everything felt uncomfortable. Her name, her clothes, people’s perception of her. “Kinda,” she said. She shook her drink around, enjoying how the ice clinked together. “Nothing makes sense.”
“Nothing ever makes sense,” Abigail said comfortingly. She chewed on her lip, considering her. “This is probably a bad time to bring up…what I wanted to, then.” She coughed.
Abigail showing any sort of foresight was rare, so Cole made sure to thank her. They sat still in silence that grew heavier the longer it went on.
“Look—” They finally both said.
“You can go first,” Cole said.
Abigail waved her hand at her in a motion to continue. Cole sighed and rubbed her forehead. She didn’t really want to explain…anything.
“I don’t feel like a guy,” she muttered. “I don’t get it. I’ve started referring to myself as a girl just because it makes me feel better. My teachers suck. I’ve been barely able to stay on top of my homework and now more is just piling up. I literally hate it and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to graduate.” She took a deep breath. “Sorry. What were you going to say?”
Abigail opened her mouth, changed her mind, and took a long sip of her beer. “That’s a lot. So you’re trans?”
Cole had never really thought of herself that way. “Yeah, I guess.” She shifted, stretching out her legs. There was a squirming sensation in her stomach. “This is like when I found out I was asexual because I accidentally clicked a Wikipedia link,” she muttered. “Except more painful.”
“How come you wouldn’t be able to graduate?” Abigail sank into her seat and leaned forward, looking like she was resisting temptation to grab Cole and physically shake answers from her.
“Well, I don’t…” Cole scratched her ear. “I don’t know,” she admitted.
Abigail nodded, hanging onto her every word.
“I guess I kind of exaggerated that part to myself,” Cole said, coughing.
“Do you still like the name Cole?” she asked.
“Uh…” Cole hated having to make snap decisions. “I guess,” she said. “I might change it later, but…” She shrugged. “It’s fine.”
Abigail patted her hand. “If you have problems with your homework, I can help,” she said. “I’m not as busy this semester.”
Soft jazz music came on the radio.
“Thanks,” Cole muttered. “So what were you going to tell me?”
A pink flush spread over Abigail’s cheeks. “Well, uh…” She coughed loudly. “It’s fine, I can tell you later.”
Cole tilted her head almost imperceptibly.
“Well, I was going to ask you out,” she admitted. “I always pick the worst timing on these things. One time I asked a guy out and it turned out his dog had died that morning. It was the worst experience of my life.”
Cole almost cracked a smile. “If you’re interested in girls, I’ll accept,” she said.
Abigail laughed. “Honey, I’m bi as—” She coughed. She’d said a little while back that she’d been trying to cut back on swearing, but she rarely followed through on those kinds of things. “AF,” she said instead. There was room for all things to change.
Cole gave her a fistbump. “I like having a girlfriend,” she said, with a smile. “Thanks for helping me get things worked out.”
“I like having a girlfriend too,” Abigail said, with an absolutely devoted smile. “You’re welcome.”
Hopefully this wasn’t too terrible! I don’t really mind showing my practice stuff, though
My sister refused to read through my stories before I posted them, so I’m cyberbullying her now. [Edit: I meant to edit this sentence out, I–oops]
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.