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When Identities are Forced Upon Us: Furyborn and Prophecy} ?> Prophecies are a staple plot device in fantasy fiction: they reveal information, advance the plot, and create intrigue around characters. But they are also subject to interpretation. The way they are understood often has more impact on the story than the prophecy itself.
For example, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry finds out that there is a prophecy about him. But, the prophecy doesn’t mention him by name, just that “the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.” As it turns out, two boys were born at the end of July: Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Though Voldemort chose Harry, he could have chosen Neville just as easily. Voldemort’s interpretation of the prophecy is what led to Harry becoming the Chosen One, not the prophecy itself.
Interpretation of prophecy is one of the major themes in Furyborn by Claire Legrand, because the identity of the protagonist, Rielle, becomes wrapped up in one.
In Furyborn, the people of Celdaria have lived with one central prophecy for hundreds of years—one day, two Queens will rise: the Sun Queen, who will save the world, and the Blood Queen, who will destroy it. In this world, people have the ability to manipulate one of seven elements. However, while magic users need to channel their powers through something, these two Queens will have the ability to perform magic at will—and they will be able to manipulate all seven elements simultaneously.
Rielle has been able to use multiple elements her whole life. But, after causing a fatal accident with fire at the age of five, she and her father have kept her abilities a secret. She only reveals her powers when her friend, Prince Audric, is in danger and she saves his life. This, of course, captures the attention of the King and the Archon, the head of the Church. The Archon decides that they must determine whether Rielle is the Sun Queen or the Blood Queen by testing her abilities with each element; if she shows that she is loyal to the King and her country, and that she is in control of her powers, she will be named the Sun Queen and gain all of the glory and responsibility that comes with that office. If she is deemed the Blood Queen, she will be put to death.
I appreciate how Furyborn uses prophecy, because this novel subverts and twists it to become a vehicle for Rielle’s character development rather than a tired trope: instead of waiting for the prophecy to reveal which Queen Rielle is, the Church decides that it will be her choice. But, when her options are glory or death, is there really a choice at all?
Rielle is determined to become the Sun Queen. But, in an interesting use of narrative framing, the prologue of Furyborn reveals that Rielle is actually the Blood Queen. With this knowledge in the back of our minds, we watch Rielle work hard to prove herself to her country, but struggle with the seductive nature of her power.
Rielle essentially markets herself as the Sun Queen, performing the tests in front of an audience and dressing as the patron saints for each element, thereby becoming a hero to her people. While I believe her intentions are genuine—who really wants to believe that they are destined to bring destruction to their loved ones?—she also plays up the part so that people won’t see how dark her inner thoughts have become. And then, in a crucial moment after an attack she is partially responsible for, Rielle lies to make herself look like the victim.
Rielle’s deception comes from her instinct for survival, and I can’t blame her. Most of us have, at one time or another, lied because we were afraid of how others might see us; I did this during high school because I was not one of the popular kids and I wanted to fit in.
But, the thing is, some secrets—like sexual orientation and past abuse—are scary and life-changing, and people should not be forced to reveal them when they are not ready. In a way, Rielle is forced to reveal her power because it’s the only way to save her friend. And, following that, she is thrown into a series of tests because the people in charge are afraid of what she could become. She does not have the chance to come out to her friends at a time of her choosing, or advocate for herself in front of those who have power over her.
We like to choose identities for ourselves; we like to say “this is who I am and no one can change that.” But, identities are also malleable. They change with time, circumstance, education, and experience. The person I was at 19 is not who I am now at 29. There’s an interesting note in Furyborn about the Archon: he has no name or identity outside of the Church. Rielle suffers the same fate, I think, by being one of the chosen Queens.
Chosen Ones react to their prophecies differently; some take to their new identities right away and others are more reluctant. We may not have prophecies that destine us for grand quests or evil foes, but we are chosen nonetheless. We all have things, both great and terrible, that shape who we are. Like Rielle, we can choose to work with what life brings us and carve out identities for ourselves with the hope that things will be brighter in the end, even in the face of despair. Prophecies do not have to define us.
Furyborn, the first book of The Empirium Trilogy, comes out May 22.
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