No Man of Woman Born (Ana Mardoll)

No Man of Woman Born is a short story collection by Ana Mardoll.
Finished on: 6.6.2019

The short stories in this collection all revolve around the observation how easy it is to be “no man of woman born” when you stop thinking of gender in the binary or as something set at birth. Every story is another interpretation of it, another subversion of this old prophecy. It’s a beautiful, entertaining collection and a crash course in getting used to neopronouns.

The book cover showing a woman clutching a giant sword.

Tangled Nets

Wren is a fisher in a small village – a village that is dominated by the lottery that picks one of them as a sacrifice. But not this year. This year, xie has different plans.

I really liked the world-building in this story and the critical eye Mardoll casts on it. He manages to create a vibrant atmosphere in only a few words. Wren’s characterization was also really good, I could understand xer decision very well. The way the prophecy was subverted here was rather simple, and that’s not a bad thing at all. In short, very nice story.

King’s Favor

Caran needs to leave Northnesse where the witch-queen rules. It should be okay – the witch-queen usually doesn’t have a problem with people leaving. But things don’t go without a hitch for ner.

This story really pulled me in. Caran is an excellent protagonist and I also instantly shipped ner with Janeida (as was very much intended, so that rally worked). And I found the witch-queen very creepy. A really cool story.

His Father’s Son

Nocien is an orphan, living with Master Hilon and his sons. Hilon offers Nocien a place in his family through marrying one of his children. But Nocien has sworn an oath to his birth father and he can’t give up on that.

His Father’s Son was the first story in this collection where I was completely emotionally invested. When Hilon accepts Nocien for who he is, I was basically crying. Generally I was completely into this story.

Daughter of Kings

In Finndís’ kingdom there is a prophecy that a daughter of the queen’s lineage will one day unite the clans. Ever since, her family has been trying to produce daughters, but her father is settled with sons. At least that’s what he thinks.

Ok, I also really loved this sotry. I loved Finndís and her companion Torjei. One could read some romantic potential into their relationship, but I am thinking more about her ex-fiancée for that romantic part. Either way, it’s a lovely, lovely story. I liked the hint that Finndís isn’t the only trans character. And I adore the witch!

Early to Rise

When the good King Juste and the fair Queen Osanne have a child – Princess Claude – the entire kingdom is in uproar. But when the fairy Lady Mélisande belives herself to not be invited, she curses Claude and changes the course of her life forever.

This was probably my favorite of the entire collection – I have never read Sleeping Beauty quite like this, and it’s brilliant. The fairies first, then genderfluid, aromantic Claude where nothing quite happens like its supposed to happen, and finally the solution to the story itself. Simply great, all of it!

No Man of Woman Born

The prophecy is clear – no man of woman born can harm Fearghas. So, people started to found schools for all the people who aren’t men born of women. Innes is one of the people training in Màiri’s school, although he will soon be a man.

I loved how many people run around in this story who fulfill that criteria, and how that is just major side-eye towards Macbeth. I also liked the characters. I did foresee the solution in this one but I liked that it wasn’t that much about fulfilling the prophecy in this story. And that Innes doesn’t actually know his gender.

The Wish Giver

The Wish Giver is the mother of all dragons. She grants wishes to those who defeat her in honorable combat. Which is definitely easier said than done. But that doesn’t keep people from trying. One day, a little child makes their way up to the dragon.

The Wish Giver is a short, sweet finish to this wonderful collection. I loved the dragon. Basically, the story is one prolonged aww. It’s just supercute.

Summarizing: excellent.

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