Genre: Second World Fantasy
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About The Book
Nils is a healer’s apprentice faced with a difficult choice. Only men are allowed to be healers. But if Nils denies her heart and chooses that path, neither a healer’s status nor the balm of study will make up for losing a chance at marriage with the person she loves.
Instead, concealing her true self from everyone she knows, Nils risks a dangerous journey to the distant city, desperate to find a balance between life’s passion and heart’s life. But always, the question remains—can a healer’s songs truly work for a woman? And should Nils’s deception be discovered, she will be songbroken: shunned by her family, dismissed by her master, and denied any contract, vow, or relationship.
This is the book you tell other people about. Even before you’ve finished it, you’ll want others to know how great it is. It’s the book that you can’t decide if you want to rush through so you see how the conflicts are resolved or take it slow so you can savor the nuances.
The author, Heather Osborne, has created a rich, detailed world where gender is nothing but also everything. A child has no gender. They have gender neutral names and are raised to know they’ll choose their identity when they reach their majority at eighteen. Reproductive organs are not the deciding factor. Consideration must be taken for profession, family needs, and societal expectations.
The main character is introduced as Nils, but on their eighteenth birthday, they must choose whether they will be known by the feminine or the masculine. One choice could be bring love and the other could bring a profession that has been a lifelong dream, and Nils has to decide which fits better.
Nils has a difficult choice: listen to her heart or listen to what the world is telling her she should be. Osborne explores how every society has social constructs about professions, family, relationships, honor and integrity that can affect a person’s identity.
One of the things that was done so well in this story are the complexities of the relationships. Osborne did an excellent job of showing the shades of grey in love, hate, grief, friendship, and even romance. And with those nuances, we see the characters grow in realization of their own identities, regardless of what is expected of them by their families and society.
This was a clever, unique take on gender expression. It has an earthy, historical feel to the environment and is filled with complex, well-developed characters – a story that will leave you wanting more from this author.
I’m an avid reader who loves pretty much all genres except math textbooks. As a kid, my parents exposed me to everything from fairies, hobbits, and dragons to the biographies of interesting people around the world, interspersed with poetry, plays, and music. Into adulthood, I spent a lot of years with my nose buried in various textbooks. Now, I read whatever grabs my fancy.