The Gremlin’s Library: “The Water-Bearer and the Hawk-King” by H. Pueyo

“Yet one day the lord of Zaltana fell ill, choking on his own tar-black blood, and there was no medicine that could cure his pain. Only one person in the whole kingdom knew the answer to his ailment: Gaíra, he and she, man and woman, healer and witch, hiding in the depths of the forest and capable of turning water into cure.”

-H. Pueyo, “The Water-Bearer and the Hawk-King”, Lackington’s Issue 20: Birds

This lovely little fairytale about a tyrant shapechanger and an explicitly-genderfluid (!!) healer-witch is written exactly the way fairytales should be; explaining only what is absolutely necessary and mixing the boundaries between metaphor and reality with a casual grace. I really, really enjoy H. Pueyo’s writing and I’ll be on the lookout for more.

I particularly love that Gaíra isn’t just androgynous or referred to with they/them pronouns; the pronouns alternate between he and she with every use, and it takes a special use of language to make it always clear who’s being referred to. The other characters are interesting, but Gaíra the water-bearer is what got me invested.

TW for captivity/kidnapping with some definite sexual overtones, although the sexuality is mostly implied/kept vague.

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