Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013 and Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night Series, Book Three) is forthcoming in January 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.
by Helen Lowe
In “Fantasy Heroines That Rock My World” I shine a spotlight on my favorite Fantasy heroines, not only revealing who they are but why I believe they kick butt and take names as characters.
A long time standout in my cast of favorites is Elfrid, the “Princess of Flames”, from Ru Emerson’s book of the same name. At face value, Elfrid’s arc might seem to be somewhat stereotypical for a Fantasy heroine. She is the “misfit”, illegitimate daughter in a family of legitimate half-siblings, and is also adept with weapons in a society that disapproves of women warriors. Exiled with her deposed father (nods to Cordelia and King Lear), Elfrid returns eight years later, impersonating a famous, fighting Archbishop (Gespry of Rhames) to wreak revenge on her half-siblings and endeavor to save the kingdom from their tyranny.
Yet although that is the basic plot, Elfrid is not in the least bit stereotypical. Here’s why: firstly, she’s not only good with weapons, she is an effective warrior – but in a matter-of-fact way that I really like. When the chips are down, she both knows what to do, and proceeds to take care of business. This includes both in battle, where she has to emulate Gespry’s fame as a general, but also in duels:
“Hyrcan’s sword pressed down, slipped harmlessly away as [Elfrid] executed a swift, circular movement of the wrist. Three clashing blows rang out.”
It would still be easy to write a cardboard cut-out woman–warrior, though, but Elfrid works because she is very much a real person. The fabric of her relationships—with her exiled father, the loyal companions surrounding the ostensible Gespry, and both old friends and enemies when she returns home—is very much the heart of the book. Elfrid is convincing, too, because of her combination of determination and uncertainty as she walks the knife edge of deception, for high stakes.
“There were long. awkward silences between the King’ words, silences into which anything might be read, and her own inner sense caught radiating suspicion, fear, uncertainty. Alayya, Elora, if he has suspected, if he suspects – ”
I also like that Elfrid is unarguably equal in all her relationships, including with the man she loves. When they first re-meet after eight years, she is prepared to kill him to maintain her imposture and protect her companions, at least until she can be persuaded of his good faith. But after he has sworn to her, she is also clear that:
“…we ride … as equals, you and I, or not at all.”
Loyal to those she loves and respects, strong of arm and of will, but also fairminded, both a warrior and a leader – it’s hardly surprising that Ru Emerson’s Elfrid continues to rock my world.