Reasons for Inclusion: Many agender intersex characters who go by id/idre/ids. Relationships can take place between any genders. Poly relationships are accepted in Aeyrie society. Racial hatred is a major theme.
Delan grew up among the Walkers, but has never looked like them, and suffered endless mockery for this fact. Then a meeting with a strange creature- a person of another species- reveals that Delan is really an Aeyrie instead of a Walker, and introduces Delan to a new identity that isn’t the female or male Delan has never fit.
“Is everyone of your race both male and female?”
“Yes. My native language, H’ldat, has only one pronoun: Id, meaning a person of any gender. We use the H’ldat pronoun when we speak the Walker tongue also, since the Walkers consider the word ‘it’ to be an insult. They seem to think there is something special about being only one sex!”
“Id?” I said, bewildered by too many new notions coming at me much too quickly.
“Id, idre, ids. She, her, hers.”
Delan is a servant to the abusive and hateful sorcerer Teksan, who wants to involve id in his plot to destroy the Aeyries. Delan escapes, for a time, living with first the scholar Eia and then finding ids way to the Aeyrie community in the mountains. Delan is at last with people like idre, and everything seems wonderful, until Teksan’s rebels attack, guided by a curse Teksan placed on Delan. Not knowing if ids friends are alive or dead, Delan must travel to Triad, where the many species of the land live together in peace, and seek help from the leaders there.
I really like enclosed societies like the Ula (like boarding schools, spaceships, dragon Weyrs…) and I wanted to spend more time there, learning about their culture and relationships and inventions, so the fact that a lot of the story was taken up with Delan’s journey bothered me. But the scenes we did get of the Ula and Triad were worth the wait.
The extensive use of these nonbinary pronouns is one of the major reasons why this trilogy stands out. Aeyries don’t see gender in the same way Walkers do. It doesn’t matter to them whether someone can lay eggs or not, or who they decide to mate with. That’s just not a big part of their identity.
The next two books go deeper into the question of interspecies cooperation. In The Moonbane Mage, Delan’s descendant Laril is banished for fighting illegal duels. Bitter, angry, and lost, id is taken in by a devious Aeyrie mage who seems a good partner at first, but quickly turns abusive. The only people who can stand against Raulyn’s plots are Laril and the Walker woman Bet, and then only if they can overcome Raulyn’s influences over them, both magical and emotional.
Ara’s Field turns the focus back to Triad, where the residents are becoming complacent and ignoring the conflict outside their walls. When they do look outwards and organize peace conferences, well, that’s when the murders start. Bet and her allies must figure out what’s going on before the peace is ruined forever, even if that means reaching out to a completely unknown species.
I loved the variety of characters. Not only are there the flying, creative Aeyries and the land-based farmer Walkers, but there are the telepathic Mers, an all-female aquatic species that travels in groups, sharing one mind. When one is separated from the rest, she has to figure out an entierly new way of living. There’s also the Orchth, a sort of bear/centaur species living in the mountains. Their culture puts a heavy importance on storytelling, and these histories become important later on.
Each species has a different way of living, a different view of gender, and different grudges with the rest, but if they are to survive, they have to work together.