Trans Representation in Sistersong | Book Review

Sistersong
by Lucy Holland

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Author: Lucy Holland
Published: April 2021
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 405 [paperback]

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for a copy of this in exchange for review


First thoughts

This was amazing! This story is captivating and something unlike anything else I’ve read. The characters are brilliant and the trans-rep seemed to be done very well. A must-read, without question.

Sistersong

This is the story of three sisters set a long time ago. They live in a fort and are the princesses, but the invasion of the Romans has left its mark on their lands and the old, pagan ways are dying out in favour of Christianity.

The book follows these characters as they hold onto the magic (literal magic) of the old ways, and it rotates between their three perspectives: Sinne [sin-ay], Riva [re-vah] and Keyne [kain]. Their tales interweave as each of them holds dear to different hopes and aspirations. With the arrival of a mysterious man, Tristan, the sisters become divided trying to work out if his intentions are good or not.

Why this is worth reading

First of all: trans rep! Keyne is our transperson in this story and it makes for such an interesting narrative, given the period that it’s set in. She constantly battles with wanting to be seen as a man and her pronouns slowly change throughout the story—in a seamless effort on the author’s behalf—until he is only referred to as a man.

Not being trans myself, I won’t labour on this point because it’s not really for me to judge if this has been done well or not. But from an outsider’s perspective, this seemed to be done well and I enjoyed the inner turmoil and plight to prove oneself that comes from Keyne’s story.

Secondly, the setting and the magic is just glorious. The imagery of the fort as this old, celtic castle is beautiful. And the presence of old magic from the old ways brings another level to the story that is beautiful. Each of the sisters (/Keyne) has different affinities when it comes to their connection with the land, and that was really fun to explore. But I’ll let you read it yourself to find out what it is that each of them can do.

Overall, this story is just addictive to read. There is so much happening and everything is really high stakes. It’s so hard to put down because just when you think you’re coming to a good stopping point, something really dramatic will happen and you have to keep going.

A tale for siblings

Anyone out there with a sibling will love this book because the fraught relationship between the sisters (/Keyne) is so relatable. The squabbles are hilarious and the highly-strung relationship between Riva and Sinne, in particular, made me smile as I related to that loving yet difficult bond.

Summary

I can’t recommend this enough, this story is going to stick with me for a while. I really enjoyed exploring the world and the fast-paced action that occurs throughout. This really is a book about the bond between the three siblings and how they attempt to overcome adversity: whether they succeed or not is for you to find out.

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