Photo credits: ready made (pexels)
Edited by Vaishali
Title: The Shadow of Theron
Author: Age of Shadows #1
Author: Kathryn Troy
Genre/Themes: Fantasy Romance, Fantasy Fiction
Epic Fantasy/Fantasy Adventure
Publisher: City Owl Press
Publication Date: February 28th, 2023
Digital ISBN: 978-1-64898-297-2
Print ISBN: 978-1-64898-296-5
Page Count: 546
If you're taken by the mystique-inspiring cover illustration to Kathryn Troy's The Shadow of Theron, planned to be the first book in her Age of Shadows duology, you'll want to know so much more about this very fresh-off-the-press 2023 release that will surely gather a rambling readership. Fantasy Romance feels like a theme of the moment, especially for me since I have loose goals to read more of the sub-genre for the rolled-out reading year ahead, and to enter the bustling sweep is something fresh, epic and fantastical with action, sorcery, treasured relics, adventure, a central rivalry, a plot that thickens, worldbuilding expanse and a romance to sweeten the deal. In simple terms? You'll be bestowed with a blended fictional feast for the banquet equivalent that is your self-multiplying TBR stack. With an author-dubbed description that sees this 'loosely Inspired by Zorro,' a fantasy fiction caper should be anticipated!
A budding writer and a book that's as fresh on the scene as this book’s scriber, I'm here with a bite for the moment, a very relevant and timely digest for accelerating attitudes. We've been regaled with all manner of characterised heroine, and most of us have been hard-hit at some point in our reading life with the overdone, unconvincing masculinised female lead that's known to infiltrate the genre like an army of aged hitmen with the refined qualities to match, fire lighting up their stride. Toxic femininity at its finest? Here's our selected topic of discussion: unrealistic traits represented in the women we want to read about. We've all got an opinion, and Kathryn shares her schooling token of value in this piece that defends the damsel and de-champions the showstopping heroine. Whatever your take, personal central character preferences or collected opinions from the amassed bookish knowledge you've collected of the archetype, Kathryn's unneringly true-to-life piece makes for popular, inclusive and very relatable reading as she expresses, in no ambiguous terms, a much-needed perspective on the stereotype, its failings and the dangers to come from an unchecked, self-fulfilling woman on the warpath. And what it otherwise means to be a 'strong' female lead beholden to a disparaging typecast. That our treasured fictional trailblazers need not be defamed nor any less spectacular for donning their flaws. Read on and rule on... while remembering that vulnerability, authenticity and human fallibility are much the force that be with you. Enjoy!
Make sure to scroll down for all the links so you know where to get your copy of the opener to the Age of Shadows duology!
In Defense of Damsels in Distress
Let me start by saying that Xena, Warrior Princess is my hero. She’s a badass, kick-ass heroine, and almost everything I do is in some way inspired by her.
But I’m not an action figure.
Not only have I become bored by the large majority of fantasy books that feature female main characters acting like superheroes, but it’s problematic in more ways than one.
Let’s start with the issue of believability. Do I believe that a character who, say, is just old enough to be a lead in a YA book and dwells on predictably adolescent emotional hangups is also old enough to be a trained assassin? Absolutely not. Is it plausible that a heroine can, in her first foray into magic, monster-hunting, portal-traveling, or what-have-you, be effective enough to save her world? Gimme a break. What about the supremely overused premise of a female who knows nothing of her fictional special abilities at the start of the book and yet is the most powerful and consequential person in her universe ever? GTF outta here.
Fantasy is based on the fantastic, yes. But it’s not the characterization of fantasy heroines that should stretch the realms of believability. Yet that’s what books offer up time and time again.
Perhaps more important than this is how “strength” is defined. If a female character doesn’t tote weapons and talk about killing people with brisk nonchalance, she’s considered not strong enough, certainly not strong enough to be a lead in her own story. That’s a huge problem. Such a narrow focus on physical strength and combat capability in determining whether a woman (or any) character is strong succeeds in doing the exact same disservice to women that made writers shy away from the “damsel in distress” trope in the first place, only in reverse. Now, it is outdated, and I would argue, toxic, masculine traits that are used to define women as “strong” and therefore worthy of a reader’s consideration. Would we say, for example, that female slaves of the past were not strong?? Would you say that women who suffer(ed) through the damage and destruction of patriarchal societies were not strong, their actions not worthy of consideration?? Whatever happened to determination? Perseverance? Resilience?
Human beings and their fictional counterparts, be they male, female, both, or neither, are not invincible. None of us is an action figure. We have strengths, not just a monolithic physical strength, and also weaknesses. Shying away from depicting female characters with weaknesses leads to characters that are less lifelike, less human. Being physically or mentally weak does not make anyone any less human. Being victimized does not make them victims. And it does not make characters who share such human limitations devoid of literary value.
Seraphine Alvaró, the female lead in my latest book The Shadow of Theron, is not depicted as physically strong. She’s described at times as being waif-like and ethereal, a slip of a girl, and she lives in a semi-patriarchal society to boot. Early in the submission process, I was asked by a prospective publisher to dramatically re-write her character to make her more action ready. I politely refused. Fundamentally, I disagreed with their opinion that she is not a strong enough character because she does not fight her way out of jams.
Rather, she thinks her way out of them. She is the smartest, worldliest character in the book. By design. It felt more authentic to me to demonstrate a character whose world imposed limitations on her, and to demonstrate her wit and resourcefulness in navigating her environment and coming up with solutions to the challenges that she faces.
And she doesn’t face them alone. That is another major pitfall of the taint that now accompanies the “damsel in distress” trope. In order to not be a victim, in order to not be useless, a female must be capable of doing anything and everything on her own. That’s not how human beings work. It’s not healthy, either. It’s another toxic holdover of America’s obsession with rugged individualism that devalues a sense of community, belonging, and asking for or relying on the help of others. Operating on that premise is certainly not how authors can establish interesting, meaningful relationships between their characters. Especially in romantic fiction, a pairing of people should be one in which the positive and negative of each individual are acknowledged, and that the strengths of each complements the other.
To summarize: the literary world has made strides in how women are represented on the page. But overcompensating and overcorrecting by giving female characters the roles that their male counterparts traditionally played simply shows how much work we have left to do.
- By Kathryn Troy
TEASER EXCERPT !
Lysandro moved along the edges of the room, circumnavigating the central space occupied by countless dancing couples. Then he saw her. At the far end of the hall, the normal view out over the coast had been replaced by a painted backdrop of the Maghreve Desert, at the very farthest border of Mirêne. With her arms wrapped around herself, Seraphine looked out over the artificial horizon. She wore a sleek ivory dress covered gold and copper crystals that left her shoulders daringly bare. That now familiar ache that hadn’t left him since this morning grew more pronounced.
As he observed the faraway, wistful look in her eyes, he realized he recognized it—homesickness. He took a deep breath and called on well-used skills to smooth his nerves and keep them tightly tucked away under a charming façade.
He inhaled the hypnotic scent of her hair again as he stood close to her, and almost lost his nerve. He agonized over what to say, knowing he might have only one shot to get her attention.
“Is the city of stars as beautiful as they say?”
She turned to face him, and he saw the truth in her eyes.
THE BACK OF THE BOOK...
THE SHADOW OF THERON
- B Y K A T H R Y N T R O Y
A big thank you to the author, Kathryn Troy, for getting in touch to share The Shadow of Theron with me! Important links below...
W H E R E Y O U C A N F I N D K A T H R Y N A N D H E R W O R K
● Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow...
● Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Th...
● Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/kin...
● Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kathryn.troy
● Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bathoryscl...
● Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/s...
● Blogspot: https://kathryntroy.blogspot.com/
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