Shades and Silver by Dax Murray (Scions and Shadows #1)

The birthright of every Ástfríður is to know each metal in the earth, command it, bend it to their desires. To hear metal singing, some of it waiting just beneath the surface, so much of it deeper in the earth. If they wanted, they knew they could pluck that metal from the earth, melt it with a thought, and shape it as they pleased with a breath of air and their will.

Each Ástfríður must choose which metal they would wear upon their heads, denoting the path they would walk. They craft beautiful horns to wear on their brow, forged with the metal they wish to identify with.

But Britt does not know if they can choose the path they want, if they can overcome a past which has stolen their identity. The day has come for them to choose and they have no idea if they have any right to even try to.

And Astrid has never felt the pull of the metal at all. Wearing a forged circlet and horn, they try to navigate a world that they feel has rejected them, all the while fearing someone will learn their secret.

The Veil of the Ástfríður has kept them hidden from the world, and safe from intruders. Yet Britt and Astrid feel they are imposters in their own homes.

Afterimages is a duology about identity, doubt, and acceptance. 

COVER ARTIST: Merizilla Chan
PUBLISHER: The Kraken Collective
YEAR: 2021
LENGTH: 171 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Romance

Queer Rep Summary: Genderqueer/Nonbinary Main Character(s). 

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

“Shades” and “Silver” are a pair of stories set in a world where each person choses their metal(s) and crafts their horn when they come of age. It’s a society without delineations of gender, and part of why it works so well is that it’s not trying to use metal horns to replicate some version of gender. Instead, the horns are a social signifier, a rite of passage, and a way of claiming one’s own identity and declaring some aspect of personality to the community. These are all things that gender facilitates in many parts of our world, but this novella illustrates very well how something else can fill those social needs, especially in a fantasy setting unconstrained by actual abilities.

Things I love, in no particular order: The discussions of the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury, the feeling of a gap between who you could’ve been, if this hadn’t happened, and the reality of living with the person that does exist, and making some kind of peace with that; The horns are a thing that has many of the social functions that are filled by gender in the real world, but are not attempting to be a one-to-one parallel. If anything, the parallels are fluent and aspirational, something someone chooses, informed by their past, but not bound by it, deeply related to who they are as they come of age. In "Silver", there’s an exploration of what happens when you have to fake this thing that everyone else has, that they just assume you’ll be able to do too, and how hard it can be to know, if it’s safe to tell, and when other people have a vested interest, in you continuing to fake it. 

Minor CW for injury detail, emotional abuse.

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A pale person with long silver hair and a silver and copper horn on their head.


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