One of the more interesting books I read last year was Girls of Might and Magic – a short story collection put together by a group working to highlight diversity in fantasy. My favorite story in the collection was about a young woman with a lame leg, who couldn’t quite walk properly, but who set out in a small boat to defeat the sea and find the treasure her family was searching for.
I meant to note down the name of the story and the author, but it was in the middle of the book and I got distracted by the next story, and the next, and so on. Then, a few days ago, I came across a list of books put together by K.R.S. McEntire, one of the organizers of the anthology.
Bells of recollection began to ring, and it wasn’t long before I’d pick up By Wingéd Chair, by Kendra Merritt (the name of her short story in the anthology is Chasing Waves).
The story takes place in something reminiscent of Victorian-era England (but I could be wrong), and our heroine (Merry) is a young woman with a talent for magic, an attitude problem, and a wheelchair.
There’s also lost knowledge, an evil usurper, memory-eating demons (yes, Merry, I know they’re not actually demons), a handsome young man, and a failure of communication. In short, it’s got all that good stuff a fantasy adventure story should have (no, there are no dragons, but it’s still great, okay?).
What I’ll whine about
As it turns out, I’m not really a big fan of fairy-tale retellings. My mind kept going back to my own understanding of the original story, and it wouldn’t stop trying to map the two together. This irked me a little, since if it weren’t for the names of the characters, I might not even have picked up on that it was a retelling.
I’m not so good at spotting those similarities.
What I’ll gush about
Despite what I just mentioned about this being a fairy-tale retelling, I also want to highlight the positive side of it. This isn’t really the story of Robin Hood; it’s the story of Marion the Mage, told within the framework of the Robin Hood story.
Merry: I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to say Merry has an attitude problem, like I did above, but the words flowed nicely together, so I went with it. What Merry does have are mental walls and shields to keep people out, to protect herself and her feelings, from a world that doesn’t see her, and before anyone gets too close. This, combined with a tendency to speak her mind, leads to a number of entertaining exchanges between Merry and the other characters.
More than that, though, it’s heartwarming to see the walls come down, little by little, and how she eventually lets the world in – or lets herself out, if you will.
A charming and magical story of a young woman coming into her own, told against the backdrop of the Robin Hood story.