- Karen Frost
What Makes the "Destiny and Darkness" Series Different
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
It's hard to find YA fantasy fiction with queer female protagonists. And I mean protagonists, not the best friend or the girl in the background whose name you immediately forget. In fact, the only ones that I can think of having read are:
--Malinda Lo's "Ash"
--Malinda Lo's "Huntress"
--Tamora Pierce's "The Will of the Empress" (technically, there are four protagonists)
--Sam Farren's Dragonoak trilogy
--Sarah Glenn Marsh's "Reign of the Fallen"
--Audrey Coulthurt's "Inkmistress"
There are more. For example, Coulthurst's first book was "Of Fire and Stars" (I haven't read it yet) and I had to abandon Sarah Fine's "The Cursed Queen" for my own sanity. But the point is, one can potentially count on all twenty fingers and toes the whole of YA fantasy with queer female protagonists, and perhaps on one hand how many of the authors of those books are queer themselves. Which says a lot about the mainstream publishing industry's interest in female YA protagonists (tepid) and about queer content in general (almost non-existent).
Yesterday while taping a podcast with a friend, I was asked what made my books in the "Destiny and Darkness" series different from the ones I listed above. One answer is, "Well, they're all high fantasy, so the difference is really just in plot and character personalities." It's technically accurate. "Reign of the Fallen" deals with necromancers, "Ash" is a twist on Cinderella, and "Inkmistress" involves demigods and a girl who can turn into a dragon. When viewed objectively, they all fall in the same genre and share similar characteristics. (Sooo if you liked those books, you're likely to like the "Destiny and Darkness" series...)
The answer that I gave instead, however, was that as a reader, I wished the authors of those books had done a slightly better job building up their romance component. With some exceptions, the books tended to rush or shortchange their romance. "Reign of the Fallen," which created a fantastic heterosexual love story in the first half of the book, fell flat in the second half in trying to lay the groundwork for a lesbian love story. The ending of "Ash" seemed to come out of the blue. And "Inkmistress" never established either of its lesbian pairings in any accessible way. (That is, in my very subjective opinion, because I'm sure thousands of readers will happily and vociferously disagree with me.) Of them all, I thought the Dragonoak books did the best job of creating engaging and credible romantic relationships.
So one of the things that I wanted to do with the "Destiny and Darkness" series was to create a romance that would engage readers. I didn't have to fit every stage of the relationship into a single book. I had time to interweave emotions and relationships with the larger fantasy plot. This would enable the establishment of chemistry between characters in a way that might have been shortchanged in other books. Did I succeed? That's not for me to assess, but I hope so. The "Destiny and Darkness" series is fantasy, but I hope that for young readers who enjoy a little romance in their fantasy, this stands out as a book with fully-formed, credible same-sex relationships.