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Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield

Armed in Her Fashion (edition 2018)

by Kate Heartfield (Author)

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193774,494 (4.25)1
Title:Armed in Her Fashion
Authors:Kate Heartfield (Author)
Info:ChiZine Publications (2018), 285 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:read in 2019, fantasy, historical fiction

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Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield



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Pros: very feisty women, lots of history, clever integration of the hellbeast

Cons: writing was a little dry at times

When her revenant husband returns to the besieged city of Bruges and reveals he’s hidden a fortune, Margriet de Vos demands her rights: a third of that wealth belongs to her, the rest to their daughter. Her husband now serves the Chatelaine of Hell, and intends to give her this gold. But Margriet won’t be deterred. Neither war, the King of France, nor Hell itself will keep her from getting her due.

Meanwhile, Claude a transgender man-at-arms and former guest of the Hellbeast also wants the de Vos treasure, or rather, a mace he unwisely sold to Margriet’s husband and now needs back.

The story is mostly told from Margriet’s point of view, though there are a few scenes from her daughter and Claude’s viewpoints as well. Margriet is very feisty, willing to fight over a sou if she feels she’s owed it. Her daughter’s much kinder but has little agency, as her mother’s overprotective and often overbearing. Margriet supported the family by working as a wet nurse, which isn’t something that comes up often, though historically it was a common thing. It was also nice seeing a middle aged woman as the protagonist, especially one who is near-sighted in an age where glasses can only be afforded by the elite.

Claude was a great character. It’s awesome to see often overlooked people in history and, while misgendered through a good part of the story, the author always maintains his understanding of who he really is. Though they were short scenes, I really enjoyed the revelations regarding aspects of womanhood he’s missed (like breast binding) and how he survived in a soldier’s camp.

The author cleverly integrated her mythological aspects into actual history. At the end of the book she cites a Flemish painting that was her inspiration for the book, and it added an entire new layer to the story itself.

The writing can be a bit dry at times, in that it’s not a particularly fast paced or adventurous tale. There’s a lot of sitting around and talking or walking between cities.

If you like medieval history or want a historical fantasy that’s different from the norm, this is an interesting read. ( )
1 vote Strider66 | Feb 12, 2019 |
Kate Heartfield's Armed in Her Fashion is a dark, gritty fantasy set in well-researched 1328 Bruges and environs. Not only does she realistically portray a transgender character within the period, but her entire cast feels real, from her near-sighted wet nurse protagonist to the very chatelaine of Hell. This is a fantastic read. ( )
1 vote ladycato | Jan 17, 2019 |
First, a content warning: this book has a trans character who is misgendered by friends and enemies and, as a trans man, is forced to wear women's clothing. But I will say that the trans character's identity is not a plot twist; he is who he is from his first introduction. He asserts himself against both enemies and friends. He is also given a happy ending and he does not experience any sort of sexualized violence. In fact there is little sexual violence in this book as a whole, which is more than a lot of medieval fantasies can say.

Wow this book was A WILD RIDE.

In the best way possible! You have ferocious chimeras, a massive beast that may literally be Hell, duplicitous kings and legal drama, plague-spreading zombies, and best of all, a small bedraggled group of widows standing firm against all the powers of hell and earth.

Medieval fantasy gets a bad rap that, for the most part, it deserves. It tends to tell the same stories over and over again, with the same sort of characters fighting the same sort of battles against the same sort of enemies. This goes against everything the Middle Ages in Europe actually WAS. It was a deeply weird era where peasants rebelled, clergy debated the natures of humanity and the divine, and there was far more diversity than most gritty beard-filled epics ever touch.

This book however is diverse. You have characters who are mostly women. The only main male character is trans. You have characters of color, showcasing that medieval Europe was far from all white. You have queer characters--the aforementioned trans gay man-at-arms. You have disabled characters and older women and all of them are given the same sort of heroic presence a noble knight might have gotten in a different story.

Heartfield writes about war and about the weapons left to those who are marginalized by a patriarchal society. Children fighting with bricks and stones. Women fighting with their words, with enchanted distaffs and giant hammers. Women fighting hell and earth to get what is rightfully theirs. Women fighting for each other, alongside one another, sacrificing for their children, their friends. Widows who are terrified but stand up to the Chatelaine of Hell and the King of France to secure their rights as best they can.

This book is as weird as the Middle Ages were. Giant water snakes, exploding chimeras....that's only part of the wonderful weirdness. If you're tired of the same old knights and swords stories, I highly recommend this book. ( )
  ElleGato | Sep 27, 2018 |
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