The Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, The Oracle’s Queen
During my end-of-the-summer travels I was reading Lynn Flewelling’s trilogy that begins with The Bone Doll’s Twin, mostly because all three of them are small, packable paperbacks. I don’t remember who recommended The Bone Doll’s Twin to me, but it must have been because of the mentions of necromancy.
In these three books, there is a race of hill magicians who hide their powerful magic because they have been called (unfairly) “necromancers” in the past. They get that label because they can do things that the people and even the more classically trained magicians in the fictional country of Skala don’t understand. In fact, Skala is getting more suspicious of magicians in general, thanks to the nefarious plottings of Niryn, a sort of grand inquisitor of magicians and Grima-like advisor to King Erias, a royal usurper whose throne is traditionally held by a female.
The real heir to the throne of Skala must be hidden, because Erias kills all the royal girls. So in the first book, we learn about how the heir is born with a male twin who is killed right after his birth in order to provide her with a male “skin” as a disguise against her royal uncle. The twin has drawn a breath before he is killed, however, and so he becomes a ghost/demon that mostly only his mother and his twin can see. His grieving mother sews some of his bones into a rag doll, and after her death, the surviving twin, named Tobin, learns how to control the brother’s ghost with a simple spell.
In the second book, Hidden Warrior, Tobin learns, to his surprise, that he is actually a girl, hidden by magic which isn’t strong enough to entirely hide the first menstrual period, although Tobin visits the hill witch and she patches the spell so he can live longer as a boy and survive to take back the kingdom. In this second book he has to gradually come to terms with thinking of himself as “she” and figure out what this eventual transformation will mean to his close relationship with his male squire, Ki.
Tobin is still working on those feelings when, at 15 years old, he is required to publicly address the garrison at his home estate and tell them that he is a girl and the heir to the throne of Skala. To do this, he must cut the bone out of the doll, strip completely naked in front of the crowd, and cut the piece of bone that reinforced the spell out of his own breastbone. Once he does this, “white fire engulfed him, so intense it was icy cold” and then he finds
“strange skin covering his arm. From fingertips to shoulder it hung in loose colorless shreds like a rotted glove. His whole body was the same; his skin was in tatters around him, flayed by the horrendous magic he’d unleashed. He rubbed gingerly at his left forearm and the skin fell away, exposing smooth, whole skin below….Tobin was dimly aware of a growing murmur as she stood and looked down. Her boy’s genitals had wizened to dried husks. She pulled at the loose skin above them and they sloughed off and fell away.”
One of the first things she decides is that she must take a woman’s name, and so she takes the name of Tamir, one of her ancestor Queens.
In the third book, The Oracle’s Queen, Tamir gradually takes control of the kingdom, doing good where she can and trying not to do evil, although the magicians know that “evil will always lie at the heart of all she accomplishes” because of the killing of her brother. She proves herself a brave warrior and a capable leader, making peace with the hill magicians and bringing together people who fought for Erias and his son until none are left to oppose her and everyone, especially Ki, realizes they have fallen in love with her.
It’s a good heroic fantasy tale with a trans-formative and trans-gender hero, and good reading for traveling.
Are your summer travels over? Mine are, and I’m just now finishing the initial organizational activities for the Writing Center and the class I’m team-teaching this fall.