Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sending Up the Librarian Trope

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy
A week from today sees the release (finally!) of THE PAGES OF THE MIND and the concurrent release of my duet of novellas with Grace Draven, FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM.

Both the novella in the duology with Grace, THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN, and THE PAGES OF THE MIND novel are told from the point of view (POV) of Dafne Mailloux, mild-mannered spinster librarian who assisted the heroines on their epic journeys in the original Twelve Kingdoms trilogy.

 Dafne was never meant to be a heroine, in more ways than one.

First of all, she was a secondary character, if that - and a surprise one. When the heroine of THE MARK OF THE TALA, Princess Andromeda (Andi), needed information, Dafne stepped up to point her to the correct scrolls. Then she turned out to be both wry and warm - and she told Andi something that no one else would. I expected her to stay in her library, but - to my surprise - she went along when Andi fled the castle to go into hiding.

Dafne continued to take her own path, in her gently stubborn style, carving her own destiny alongside my three princesses. She never quite did what I expected.

Nor did I expect her to be one of the most popular characters in the series.

From the beginning, readers asked me if Dafne would get her own book. The question surprised me at first, because I never saw Dafne as heroine material. Nor did she, for that matter. Dafne fully expected to continue to lead a quiet life of study, giving good scholarly advice, and manipulating politics from the safe shadows behind the throne.

I end up on a lot of panels discussing the "kickass heroine." There's a lot of reasons for this, that could probably be a book, but one thing about writing Dafne's story that gave me joy was redefining both "kickass" and the librarian trope.

Dafne isn't particularly shy - but she is retiring. The library and books offered safety to her when she was a child orphaned by war and raised by her conqueror. She has good reasons for keeping to the background. And, it turned out, a deep agenda I only realized once I got inside her head. Though Dafne ultimately goes on an academic's quest, she's forced into a different kind of heroism. She becomes kickass through necessity - and out of love.

But she doesn't radically change into an entirely different person. She doesn't learn to wield daggers like Jepp, or a sword like Ursula, or magic like Andi - or even Ami's weapon of choice, her devastating beauty. No, Dafne's skill is her incisive intelligence and long-earned knowledge.

She's a kickass librarian - and it's through being who she is that she discovers the real treasure.

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