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A Quick Thought on Antiheroines

Recently, the books I’ve read have had major antiheroines as the main character, as opposed to heroines. Alin from Alasan Alin by Krisandryka, Delilah Bard from Shades of Magic trilogy by VE Schwab, Evelyn Hugo from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Nova Artino from Renegades by Marissa Meyer, Eleanor from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and several others.

It is the same in movies. Take villain retellings like Cruella or just straight up “bad girls” like Number Seven of Umbrella Academy, or Amy in Gone Girl. To me, these are wonderful signs that popular culture is starting to shift from “girls have to be good”. It used to be that “when a girl is unlikeable, a girl is a problem” writes Roxane Gay in Bad Feminist.

It used to be that “when a girl is unlikeable, a girl is a problem” writes Roxane Gay in Bad Feminist.

Can a Girl be Seen as a Neutral Character?

Diana Wynne Jones, legendary author of Howl’s Moving Castle (and also my favorite author) admits in Reflections on the Magic of Writing that if she wanted to use a neutral character, she would have to use a boy. A girl character could not be seen as neutral. Especially not at the time when she was still alive and writing. Honestly, I wonder of this even now.

Rebellious Girls

My own Nisha from Nishaverse, although not quite an antiheroine (I think she is still considered a heroine), also has a rebellious streak in her. It’s not as obvious as the current main character for the science fiction romance draft I am working on, but it is there for observant readers to pick up. As I am working on the translation of Nisha to Indonesian (hopefully set to release before the end of the year!), one of the beta readers, a bright Indonesian preteen girl, actually commented that she was surprised with how Nisha behaved as a girl.

Aha, I say silently. This preteen girl is precisely the age target of the Nishaverse series. It is precisely my aim to show that girls do not always have to be good, obedient, nice, etc etc etc. Girl characters do not even have to be likeable. They can be bad. Rebellious antiheroines. Despicable. Wicked! Tear up the centuries of unrealistic male fantasy.

We are finally claiming back our messy, complicated images instead of plastic Barbie doll figures.

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Trilogy Review: Shades of Magic

This is the first time I’ve read VE Schwab, thanks to @yourstrulyjulietta! Throughout reading Shades of Magic trilogy I had a blast gossiping with Khloe from @bookies_cloudeleven, Feb at @feb_books and Heni at @heniaakbar. I think I finished the whole trilogy in about a week…

A Darker Shade of Magic

The first thing that stuck out to me was VE Schwab’s writing, which shone brightest in A Darker Shade of Magic, in my opinion. Brilliant play of words and sentences to evoke the mood of the whole thing. Next up are the characters. Kell, Rhy, Holland, the Dane twins, all fascinating. Lila Bard…well 😀 I think she’s a character you either hate or love, you can’t really be on middle ground with this one. The worldbuilding with four Londons / worlds (although we don’t see much of them besides Red) is a cool concept, although I kind of wish there was a bit more variety between the worlds, not just with the level of magic.

Shades of Magic series is branded as adult fantasy, but this first installment had kind of a young adult feel to it (not necessarily a bad thing, I love YA books), perhaps because of Kell, Lila, and Rhy’s struggles with their identities and figures of authority, which is usually a YA theme.

A Gathering of Shadows

Hmm, sadly A Gathering of Shadows gets a Middle Book Syndrome verdict from me. Not much happens for a looong time until the games (the magician’s tournament). When the tournament finally started it was great, but by then I was skimming Kell and Rhy’s POVs, especially because they got rather whiny. Lila’s POV learning how to be a pirate from Alucard on the Night Spire, although lacking in plot, is something I love because I highly romanticize pirates (and secretly want to be a pirate myself so there you have it).

I’ve seen some reviews on Goodreads really hashing it out on Lila’s character (she’s special, one of a kind, not like other girls) while some other reviews gush and love how bad-ass she is – therein in my conclusion you can’t really be ambivalent with Lila, you either hate or or love her. For me, the thing about Lila is that her character is consistent. From the beginning to the end she was selfish, up-in-your-face, too much, and very very gray. So I think if she actually started to behave (gasp) better it would be weird and almost disappointing. Like, I’m just counting on her to be a wild card and bring trouble. HOWEVER, I have noticed a disturbing pattern which carries on to the third book…

A Conjuring of Light (SPOILER)

Okay so the disturbing thing about Lila Bard is that all the women around her dies. Calla, her dressmaker, Kisimyr the magician, Ojka the assasin, the Queen, Princess Cora, and even Jasta the other lady pirate (whom I thought was a really cool female character). By now I’m rather traumatized and really hope the author lets more female characters survive (in the expansion of the series) because pretty please?

Aside from the above concern, I gulped A Conjuring of Light in A DAY (and it’s the longest of three books). It was thrilling and quite emotional! The best thing I like is the fall of the city, the chaos afterwards, and how they slowly come upon the solution. The romance between Kell + Lila and Rhy + Alucard was delightful. Me likes.

Holland’s character is…tragic. It kind of felt like the first book was about Kell, the second about Lila, and the third about Holland. His fate is tied, has been tied to his world from the beginning – gosh what a burden to carry bro.

So here is what I think is really cool about the 3 Antaris + 1 (Voldemort-ish) piece of black magic. Lila from Gray London has always wanted freedom, which she gets by moving to another world. Kell from Red London just always wanted to belong, which he also gets by staying in Red, and Holland gets the hard knock of brutal fate, but at least granted his dying wish to breathe last in White London. Osaron, the black magic from Black London just wants more more MORE, and he too gets it (if my prediction is correct about the open ending). Look, everyone gets what they want!

If you like Shades of Magic, I would highly recommend Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (my favorite author) or Broken Earth series by NK Jemisin.