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November 6, 2019

Maiden, Mother, and Crone edited by Gwen Benaway ~ a Review

by MK French

Maiden, Mother, and Crone is an anthology of stories written by trans women involving various genres of fantasy. There is high fantasy of the sword and sorcery type, as well as alternate universes and supernatural creatures. Each story uses the classical tropes of fantasy, with heroines battling various challenges and progressing with bravery and cunning. These heroines are trans, and as Gwen Benaway puts it in her forward, "The reality of our lives as trans women is never far from the surface of our fantastical stories, but within their magical bounds, we have the agency and capacity to change worlds."

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

August 2019; Bedside Press; 978-1988715216
ebook, print (120 pages); fantasy
Gwen is the author of the opening story, "Mountain God," where magic can change the natal sex, but the Marked are discriminated more than the Unmarked, and Aoyas is also from a region that is considered lesser within the Empire. As a mercenary mage, she has just about every disadvantage possible given to her, but she has a strong bond with Rais, her fellow mercenary. No matter what comes their way, they're determined to stay together. Think of this as slice of life sword and sorcery, where the battles aren't just against bandits, but against the casual discrimination they both face.

Faerie is full of tricksters and magic in Audrey Vest's "Forest's Edge," taking Denya on a quest into the forest for something to help her daughter's illness. Its choppy present tense makes it feel like a fairy tale that had been unearthed, and we have the familiar trope of the fae stealing humans away or tricking them into eating food in order to keep them. Magic of different kinds is mentioned in Izzy Wasserstein's "The Vixen, With Death Pursuing," as well as the fascinating detail that mages who delve so deeply into their craft actually become the thing they study. Ellen Mellor's "Freeing The Bitch" features three trans women and one cis woman on a quest to free another woman calling herself The Bitch, which is really just one step leading to an even larger quest that reminds me a lot of various Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder campaigns.

Knights usually welcome the honor, but for Daphne in Alexa Fae McDaniel's "The Knighting," being called Sir is too much of a dissonance to bear. There's a similar aspect within Kai Cheng Thom's "i shall remain," where the narrator is worshiped for a Divinity exchange, and she had left Shining Daddy's side to forge a path of her own. "love that you cannot leave is not love," so she refuses to return simply to serve another's whims. Colonialization is wedded to science fiction in "Dreamborn," and our heroine is one of the natives seeking to restore the children of her village from the school where they had been abused by outsiders in the name of civilization.

The voices in these stories are varied and interesting, and contain not only fascinating concepts in fantasy, but characters that feel incredibly real. Sometimes the fact that the characters are trans are important, sometimes it's just another facet of who they are or used to be. That's as it should be, because the focus is on the story itself and the representation it offers for readers.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children.

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  1. that final sentence of your review kinda says it all. very interesting cover
    sherry @ fundinmental