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No Man of Woman Born

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Destiny sees what others don't. A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father's death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he's ever known. A little gir Destiny sees what others don't. A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father's death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he's ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny. From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character's gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.


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Destiny sees what others don't. A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father's death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he's ever known. A little gir Destiny sees what others don't. A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father's death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he's ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny. From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character's gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.

56 review for No Man of Woman Born

  1. 5 out of 5

    Xan West

    This collection grabbed my by the heart and by the throat. It was an intense and emotional read for me, and I'm so grateful it exists in the world. These are stories that are very clearly written for trans and/or non-binary readers, and they made me cry in the best way. Read my full review on my blog. Content Warnings: There are content warnings at the beginning of the book, listed by story. Some general ones here: (view spoiler)[ border walls, genocide/population purges, violence, self harm, self This collection grabbed my by the heart and by the throat. It was an intense and emotional read for me, and I'm so grateful it exists in the world. These are stories that are very clearly written for trans and/or non-binary readers, and they made me cry in the best way. Read my full review on my blog. Content Warnings: There are content warnings at the beginning of the book, listed by story. Some general ones here: (view spoiler)[ border walls, genocide/population purges, violence, self harm, self sacrifice,  misgendering, ableism, sexual violence, death of family members, parental bigotry, murder, governmental oppression. (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shira Glassman

    Rarely do I run across a book so needed as No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll. Uplifting representation for nonbinary (and binary trans as well) characters in fairy tale and epic fantasy settings, by a nonbinary author is something I see people asking rainbow book blogs for practically daily. Plus, it has the bonus of being a collection of shorter fiction instead of one long novel, which means there are more chances for each individual reader to find something to satisfy them, as well as more c Rarely do I run across a book so needed as No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll. Uplifting representation for nonbinary (and binary trans as well) characters in fairy tale and epic fantasy settings, by a nonbinary author is something I see people asking rainbow book blogs for practically daily. Plus, it has the bonus of being a collection of shorter fiction instead of one long novel, which means there are more chances for each individual reader to find something to satisfy them, as well as more chances for different kinds of representation. Want to fight a dragon (or ask it for help?) Want to defeat an evil monarch or witch? Want to find the magic sword, avenge your father, or play around with magic plants? There is a place for you on these pages, trans readers. As Mardoll points out in the foreword, these stories are written for a trans audience, with cis readers welcome but not centered. What that ended up meaning for me, as a cis reader, is that every so often I had a little “OH” moment in which I realized that the protagonist of a particular story wasn’t out as their actual gender yet to the other characters. That’s because the author uses the character’s actual pronouns throughout, rather than misgender them until they come out to the other characters. That was neat! Fair warning that this anthology has a very specific focus, i.e. answering the question of how trans people fit into a world with gendered prophecies. This is intentional, not accidental redundancy. After all, I can only imagine how alienating that feels for a trans fantasy fan, when they run across this gimmick time and time again and wonder whether or not the universe they’re currently reading would validate their gender. Well, in this book, yes. ALWAYS yes. That’s basically the point. As someone whose tastes in fantasy run toward the intimate and character-driven, I appreciated the narrow framing of each of these stories. A teenager from an impoverished fishing family grieving a dead sister, a young man interacting with the chieftain who took him in and became his mentor after his family was attacked in a raid, a closeted princess out riding with the bosom companion assigned to her in childhood – I’m grateful not to have to keep track of the details of several nations and nobles and chess garbage. These are visceral and emotional stories made up of families and sympathetic protagonists with relatable goals. Some specific notes on the stories – “Tangled Nets” was pretty much exactly what I'd want out of a "no man or woman can XYZ but I'm neither so watch me backflip my way to victory" prophecy story. It has a villainous dragon – which if you know anything about me you know that this isn’t a structure I like to inhabit – but the storytelling was so effective and the socioeconomic issues discussed –shades of “The Lottery” and Hunger Games in a fantasy fishing village -- are so gripping that I’ll let it pass. :P I also appreciated the way the evocative descriptions of eating fish made me hungry for fish. "King's Favor" focuses on a megalomaniac, royal version of Rogue from X-Men who wants to be the only living witch in her kingdom, and the William Bartram-like "weakest witch you'll ever meet" who defeats her with plants. This one has shades of nonbinary/f romance with a warrior woman, although it could probably be platonic flirting, too. “His Father’s Son” was my favorite. A teenage trans boy’s family was attacked, his father and brothers killed, and his mothers and sisters scattered in the struggle. He’s not out to the mentor figure who took him in, who reluctantly allows him to go off to avenge his father, but things work out in all the good ways by the end of this one. Special note that even if you think the women who are sleeping with other women are going to die, they aren’t. Anyway, this was my favorite in terms of storytelling and also in the specifics of the prophesy subversion. And it even has shades of the Pesach story. Ha! (How about that as an alternative way for Moshe to escape? Pharaoh was only going around killing AMAB babies, after all… ok bye) "Daughter of Kings" is the one with the closeted trans princess. I love the creative quicksave to the rest of the cis nobility once she's out of the closet as female. Mardoll also shows how easy it is not to deadname a closeted character once you decide as a writer that it matters to you. Cis writers, and trans writers who haven’t thought of this particular method yet, take note. I really enjoyed her relationship with her “assigned friend”. “Early to Rise” plays some cute games with the technicality of the phrasing in the Sleeping Beauty curse. I’ve never seen a Sleeping Beauty retelling where THIS happens – not telling you what, because it surprised the hell out of me. This one stars an aromantic prince/princess (Claude is genderfluid; how did we get two fantasy books with aromantic, genderfluid Claudes in the same summer?). “No Man of Woman Born”, the title story, pairs an unresolved gender issue with an unresolved plot issue; whatever happens, is going to happen beyond the scope of the story. Clever juxtaposition, thematically, although not having the plot part resolved did make it less satisfying to read and made it feel more like literary fiction than a fairy-tale or fantasy. It did have a wonderful line, though: “There’s no prophecy that will prove my gender is mine. But I’m happier with my new name and pronouns than I was before, and that’s all that matters.” The final story involves a little trans girl asking a dragon to make her a girl and was cute but for me personally not as compelling as the others. This is a really solid collection and I will do what I can to help people find it. “I confess I once thought to gain a daughter with you, but I would be just as blessed to count you as my son. Come with us.” --His Father's Son

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brigid Keely

    I should note that I received this as a review copy, with no compensation for my review. This is an anthology of reworked short fairy tales/fantasy stories about dragons and swords stuck wantonly into stones and prophecies, most of which are gender based. Mardoll is bisexual, on the ace-spectrum, transgender, and autistic and these stories very much reflect xer lived experience, assuming that their lived experience also had dragons and prophecies and polyamorous warrior clans, etc. Xie is also a I should note that I received this as a review copy, with no compensation for my review. This is an anthology of reworked short fairy tales/fantasy stories about dragons and swords stuck wantonly into stones and prophecies, most of which are gender based. Mardoll is bisexual, on the ace-spectrum, transgender, and autistic and these stories very much reflect xer lived experience, assuming that their lived experience also had dragons and prophecies and polyamorous warrior clans, etc. Xie is also a very good writer. Reworkings of traditional fairy tales are nothing new. There's a million anthologies with their own spins on fairy tale retellings. They're set in outer space, they're set in modern times, everyone's a witch of some sort, the bad guys are redeemed or are secretly working for the benefit of the good guys, there's a bureau of fairy tale characters investigating other fairy tale characters, everything is feminist either earnestly or satirically. This specific volume of fairy tale retellings has a fairly unique spin: Each story features a protagonist who is trans, gender queer, nonbinary. There's no Tragic Queers. Each story has both content notes/trigger warnings and neopronouns with pronunciation guides. It's a very accessible set of stories that clearly outlines what to expect... which can be quite a relief as the reader doesn't have to brace for the inevitable yet unexpected dead naming, shaming, threats, etc. ... Part of the relatively recent push for "own voices" in writing and publishing is to enlarge the body of work that we get to enjoy, to experience stories we wouldn't otherwise feel and experience; it's to reflect ourselves and see ourselves as valid, as well as to see others and see their validity. "No Man of Woman Born" validates like hell. It looks out at people who are trans, who are gender queer, who are lost, who are building their own families, who are afraid of being shut out of their communities or families, who are brave, who are not brave, and says hey. It says, I see you. It says, you have a place in the world and you belong. It says, you can exist, it's ok to exist, it's ok to make room for yourself at the table and demand a place setting. Expanded Review Here.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elle Maruska

    Oh this was such a wonderful collection of fairy tales!! Each story deals with prophecy--a common trope in fantasy--but in new and wonderful ways that play with genre conventions. There is so much love and respect for the characters in each story; no one suffers unnecessarily, there's no hurt just for the sake of hurting, and while each story does address issues of violence, death, and cruelty it's never gratuitous. Characters are given the space to complete their arcs without the unfortunately Oh this was such a wonderful collection of fairy tales!! Each story deals with prophecy--a common trope in fantasy--but in new and wonderful ways that play with genre conventions. There is so much love and respect for the characters in each story; no one suffers unnecessarily, there's no hurt just for the sake of hurting, and while each story does address issues of violence, death, and cruelty it's never gratuitous. Characters are given the space to complete their arcs without the unfortunately all-too-omnipresent-in-genre threat of pain thrown in just for shock value. I love so much how gender isn't a plot twist in these stories. Gender isn't a surprise. Even when characters' genders aren't revealed right away, the reveals are treated with love and respect and kindness. This is the sort of book I want my nine-year-old daughter to read when she's ready because of how gently and lovingly it addresses gender as fluid, varied, changeable, and personal. These stories are the stories I wish I'd had when I was younger, to see the possibilities inherent in gender, to see characters that reflected my own confusion and fear. I'm so happy this book exists and I know it will be so important for readers desperate to see themselves in stories of magic, courage, love, and joy

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Field

    This book is So Important. I feel that it should be required reading in primary- and high schools. The stories themselves aren't at all complex. At heart, every single one of them are a fantasy story involving a prophesy that has something to do with a character who is a gender outside of what they were assigned at birth. They were so obviously written with a trans audience in mind rather than a cis one that my heart sang. Although every single book in this collection was a standout success, I h This book is So Important. I feel that it should be required reading in primary- and high schools. The stories themselves aren't at all complex. At heart, every single one of them are a fantasy story involving a prophesy that has something to do with a character who is a gender outside of what they were assigned at birth. They were so obviously written with a trans audience in mind rather than a cis one that my heart sang. Although every single book in this collection was a standout success, I have managed to narrow it down to three individual favourites to absolutely rave about. "His Father's Son" involved a young man called Nocien who witnessed a massacre of his family after a powerful man tried to unmake a prophesy saying that a son from this particular family would be his undoing. It wasn't just Nocien that I loved, however, but the relationship he had with his adoptive father, and the open ways in which he spoke about Nocien becoming a son to him in marriage that caught my heart and stayed in my head long after I'd finished reading the story. "Early To Rise" is probably the short story in this collection that I've heard the most about from other people who have also read this, and it's impossible not to understand why. Claude is me in a Sleeping Beauty retelling. True to the fairy tale, this character is cursed to sleep until she is kissed by her true love. Unfortunately, the curse doesn't take it into account that Claude is not always a girl. I loved the way Claude talked about their gender all the way throughout this story. "The Wish-Giver" is the last story of this collection and is honestly the very most perfect way to end a collection like this. I love all stories to do with dragons and children (just see my review of Heart of the Dragon if you don't believe me) and this was all the best parts of every other story in this collection condensed into a perfect little snippet that I could read over and over again and never get sick of it. A definite rainy day story of a child who asks a dragon to fix the problem of the rest of the village not seeing her as a girl. Seriously, this is an anthology that the world needs, and I'm so so happy to see it actually exists.

  6. 4 out of 5

    ren

    this was delightful little book. all stories are good, but my favorite was the one that give the book its title, "no man of woman born". the last one also had me grinning at my kindle. 4.5 stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rowan MacBean

    I. Love. This. Book. Give me all the trans/enby characters beating the bad guys because they aren’t what the bad guy expected. I already loved the trope of gender-specific prophecies being beaten by loopholes; now I love it even more.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    This felt so incredibly kind to me. It's not that all the stories take place in societies/cultures that widely understand and accept trans and nonbinary folks, but more that the narration always affirms them. It uses correct pronouns and names for trans and nonbinary protagonists all the time (even when other characters don't know these), and in the case when another character comes out to the protagonist, the protagonist asks and promptly changes pronouns and titles for the character in questio This felt so incredibly kind to me. It's not that all the stories take place in societies/cultures that widely understand and accept trans and nonbinary folks, but more that the narration always affirms them. It uses correct pronouns and names for trans and nonbinary protagonists all the time (even when other characters don't know these), and in the case when another character comes out to the protagonist, the protagonist asks and promptly changes pronouns and titles for the character in question. The stories also almost always include characters who are are supportive, even if not everyone is. These relationships were some of my favorites. The sibling relationships in "Early to Rise" are the ones I loved most in the entire book. The relationship between the princess and her assigned companion in "Daughter of Kings," as well as the brief interaction with the elderly lord. The mentor/adoptive father-son relationship in "His Father's Son," as well as the other familial relationships. Also a note on the cultures/societies: we see some misgendering, but not deadnaming as far as I can remember, and we don't really see other forms of anti-transness. The stories are really character-focused. I wouldn't call them low stakes -- there are often pretty high stakes going on, even in the lives of the protagonists -- but the stories aren't sprawling with a lot of characters and places and complicated politics. All of that might be going on, but we see it filtered through the lens of our protagonists and how the world and prophecies affect them personally. It definitely contributes to the comforting feel of the collection for me. There are content warnings for all stories in the table of contents and at the beginning of each story. There are also pronunciations for neopronouns at the beginning of the stories they're used in. There's one aromantic character, Claude in "Early to Rise." Claude doesn't really have words for their aromanticism, and they're questioning to some extent, but they're pretty sure they don't and won't have the True Love of their prophecy. And this is resolved in such a beautiful, unique way (that also involves their genderfluidity) that ends up valuing a type of platonic relationship that I didn't expect.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is a really fun collection of fairy tale and fantasy stories about trans people and gendered prophecies. If your spell specifies that "the princess" will fall asleep when she pricks her finger with a spindle, what happens when the royal kid turns out to be genderfluid? And if you're an evil king who "no man born of woman" can kill, then every woman, child, and enby who can hold a sword is going to be out to get you, as well as anybody who can skirt that "of woman born" loophole. Highly reco This is a really fun collection of fairy tale and fantasy stories about trans people and gendered prophecies. If your spell specifies that "the princess" will fall asleep when she pricks her finger with a spindle, what happens when the royal kid turns out to be genderfluid? And if you're an evil king who "no man born of woman" can kill, then every woman, child, and enby who can hold a sword is going to be out to get you, as well as anybody who can skirt that "of woman born" loophole. Highly recommended. If you need something sweet and fluffy, read The Wish-Giver first.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Mardoll’s fairy-tale retellings are hella satisfying, with a focus on magical validation of gender identity. Prophecies are fulfilled by trans characters instead of c-sections, and it’s great. The writing flows nicely, apart from neopronoun use which I need the help getting used to anyway, and this indie-published book has about the same number of misused homonyms as your average mainstream publication. I would rate this 100% worth the buy and I fully intend to push it on my friends.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Moss Aphelion

    I am beyond grateful that this book exists. That there is fantasy for and by and about trans people. That it has a variety of characters with a variety of pronouns. That it is all Content Warned for appropriately. I'm just very happy to have read a collection of stories the re-conceptualize the fairy tale fantasy myths of my childhood. (I feel like this isn't coming across enthusiastic enough. It's just cause I'm sleep deprived. 'cause I stayed up late reading.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Linsky

    Quite delightful, and filling a much-needed-to-be-filled niche. I would love to see any and all of these tales expanded upon, enlarged to become books in their own right; particularly those which left me saying, "Yes? And then what happened?" A bit more explanation than just how to pronounce the neopronouns, however, would have been welcome. What do they designate? How am I to understand what the people using them are saying about their selves, their identities?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    This collection of short fantasy stories starring transgender and non-binary characters gives me the warm fuzzies. The variety of stories told is impressive and a credit to Mardoll. My one regret is that some of these stories aren't fleshed out into larger novels. I loved these characters and wanted to spend more time with them.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    This is an imaginative collection of short stories centered on characters that are trans and/or nonbinary. They were all really good and I enjoyed getting a perspective on the fantasy genre that I wasn't used to. (Although that's my fault for not seeking more of those stories out!) My favorite story was xer take on Sleeping Beauty, but I am also a sucker for fairy tale adaptations!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    A pleasant book of fantasy stories based around gender and prophecies. A little rough in places. Like when you read your favorite author and go back to their first book

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Sammis

    The short story that gives this collection its title is my favorite.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Right from the start, the Author’s Note made me emotional as all get out, and every story in this collection is wonderful! Some I enjoyed more than others, but each of them are lovely and worth reading. For short reviews of each story, check out the full post on my blog!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wench

    oh my gosh this is SO WONDERFUL i have trouble finding the words Reading this makes me so happy, and joy-filled. There's so much in here that is just life-giving and I am sighing all the happy good book sighs and making all the squees. Seriously SO GOOD

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Grant

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cu

  22. 5 out of 5

    Serenity

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mallory

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lily Vulcano

  25. 4 out of 5

    T

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ash

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Joy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Bernhardt

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hollie Beg

    SO DELIGHTFUL. I’ve been following Ana on Twitter for some time, I remember when xie posted a long and awesome thread with snippets of nonbinary heroes defying gendered prophecy, and I’m so happy this wonderful book came out of it. It’s a book of short stories, and since Ana is very good at creating characters, I found myself really wanting to spend more time with some of them (particularly Innes and family), but that’s a pretty great problem to have. Xer version of the Sleeping Beauty story is SO DELIGHTFUL. I’ve been following Ana on Twitter for some time, I remember when xie posted a long and awesome thread with snippets of nonbinary heroes defying gendered prophecy, and I’m so happy this wonderful book came out of it. It’s a book of short stories, and since Ana is very good at creating characters, I found myself really wanting to spend more time with some of them (particularly Innes and family), but that’s a pretty great problem to have. Xer version of the Sleeping Beauty story is just brilliant, and it was lovely to see The Wish Giver, a story I loved on Ana’s Patreon, wrapping everything up.

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jenni Calvert

    Wonderful stories This is an excellent collection of stories, beautifully written and wonderfully validating. The titular story nearly had me in tears with its gentle discussion of the complexities of gender, and with how much I felt seen by the narrative

  32. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)

  33. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Goldstein

  34. 4 out of 5

    rory

  35. 4 out of 5

    Annika Barranti Klein

  36. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

  37. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

  38. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  39. 4 out of 5

    Nilukka

  40. 4 out of 5

    Ekaterina Trayt

  41. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  42. 5 out of 5

    もり

  43. 5 out of 5

    Max

  44. 5 out of 5

    Quartzen

  45. 4 out of 5

    Abi (The Knights Who Say Book)

  46. 5 out of 5

    Thesincouch

  47. 4 out of 5

    Parker Goodreau

  48. 5 out of 5

    Mina

  49. 4 out of 5

    Dabney

  50. 4 out of 5

    Mayela

  51. 5 out of 5

    Jade

  52. 4 out of 5

    James Hiwatari

  53. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

  54. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

  55. 5 out of 5

    Lulu (the library leopard)

  56. 4 out of 5

    Lily

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