Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!
About Margaret Owen
Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, Margaret Owen first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions.
The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.
Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations, and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.
My first heroine was a mystery.
I think I was seven when my grandmother gave me Nancy Drew and the Whispering Statue; I know I didn’t have my glasses yet, because I had to read it with my nose quite literally pressed into the book. It was the first chapter book I read, and certainly one of the few that presented a teen girl’s curiosity and intuition as valuable, rather than signs of a busybody or a know-it-all.
There were many heroines after that. Lucy of Narnia and her valiance, Meg Murry and her miraculous flaws, Ella of Frell and the power of saying no. (And a special shout-out to Daine the Wildmage, who was very instructive in the power of wrecking your enemy’s tax records.)
But I found most of these heroines before I was 13. By high school, I wanted SFF books that tackled more mature topics than what the Children’s section offered. My few trips into adult fantasy, however, found heroines dragged through humiliation, degradation, and assault seemingly as a standard. Instead, I found myself turning to manga and anime to fill the gap.
So this brings me to the heroine I wish I’d had in high school: Alice Kingston of A Blade So Black.
See, teen me was very into Sailor Moon, and Buffy, and stories about teen girls fighting monsters and navigating first relationships and dealing with friend/family drama (and maybe discovering they’re secret royalty along the way.) Teen me also loved drawing (and I still do), and writing (still love that too.) I filled stacks and stacks of sketchbooks and notebooks with art and stories…that no one saw for years, if ever.
If bookworms and nerdy girls existed in popular media, it was either as a caricature, a punchline, or as the Before of a makeover montage. And they were Mathletes, quirky artists, secret romance novel fiends, always outcasts. They weren’t allowed to enjoy video games or D&D, which were distinctly boy interests. Meanwhile, in the real world, I was acutely aware that I was swimming with sharks in my school halls. At that point in time, being into something as nerdy as anime was as good as tossing chum into the water.
Alice, though. I wish I’d had Alice.
Alice Kingston unapologetically kicks monster butt. She has badass powers, and badass weapons. She has friends, and crushes, and a grand destiny, and a curfew.
She’s also a huge, huge nerd — just like I was. She likens her mentor to Obi-Wan, she wears Triforce shirts, she quotes Sailor Moon while dusting monsters. Heck, she starts the book in Sailor Moon cosplay. Her love of all things nerdy is a big part of her relationship with her father. It’s integral to who she is, the choices she makes, how she interacts with the world. And none of it is treated as a punchline.
I’m glad the YA readers of today have a heroine like Alice, for many reasons. And I know teen me, with my sketchbooks and spiral notebooks and VHS tape recordings of Sailor Moon, would have been so happy to know her too. She’s not an outcast, she’s a nerd. And she’s my hero.
Title The Faithless Hawk
Author Margaret Owen
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date August 18th 2020 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in The Faithless Hawk, the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.
As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.
With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows―and add numbers to her monstrous army ― Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.
A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows ― secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.