One of my most anticipated YA novels this spring was Danielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird. Having just finished the book this weekend, I can say that anticipation was completely warranted. For a full review, check back tomorrow, but today I’m pleased to bring you a guest post by Danielle as part of her blog tour. I asked Danielle whether and how Stolen Songbird subverted the classic trope of the The Prophesied One. The following was her answer.
Does Stolen Songbird Subvert the Trope of The Prophesied One?
When I saw Mieneke’s blog post suggestion to discuss how Stolen Songbird subverts the trope of The Prophesied One, my first reaction was: I haven’t read that book. I was about halfway through drafting an email to complain that my procrastinating self didn’t have time to read a novel for the sake of a blog post nor did I have any intention of dissing another author’s work when it finally occurred to me what she was actually asking me for.
Now that you all think I’m dumber than a sack of hammers without handles and whiny to boot, let me beg the excuse that I haven’t had a proper day off since January, so I’m not firing on all cylinders at the moment. The whiny part is normal.
My second reaction was: my book subverts tropes? I can already tell I’m losing IQ points by the second, so I better stop confessing my mental lapses and come up with something good.
In my opinion, authors write with two types of intent: conscious and subconscious. Often there is a theme or issue we want to address with our work like diversity, equality, sexual identity, oppression, etc., and sometimes there are certain clichés or tropes we want to avoid because we don’t like them. But just as often, I think our work subconsciously reflects our likes, dislikes, interests, fears, and concerns. By way of examples, I can say that I actively tried to avoid making Cécile into a Mary-Sue character because that’s something I dislike. I can tell you in all honesty that I didn’t purposely attempt to subvert The Prophesied One trope, but going back through my manuscript, I can see how people who have read it might say that I did.
The Prophesied One is an individual named or alluded to by a prophetic telling. These people are usually plucked from normalcy to accomplish an extraordinary task like saving the world from evil, and the realization of this fact usually comes along with the discovery that there is something special about them that makes them uniquely capable of accomplishing said undertaking. The prophecy is always correct and inevitable; and generally speaking, no one questions where the information came from or how the heck the person/entity giving the information can see the future. The prophecy is always fulfilled by the end of the story.
I’ll be the first one to say it – the extended blurb of Stolen Songbird that you see on Goodreads would make a pretty good substitute for this definition. Cécile is an ordinary farm girl kidnapped by trolls because she fits the description given in a prophecy. The trolls believe that if they follow the prophecy’s directions and bond Tristan and Cécile, the five hundred year curse will be broken and they will be free. And while Cécile is captive, she realizes she isn’t just a farmer’s daughter, she’s a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever. Total tvtropes.org fodder, right?
Spoiler Alert (Except not really, because everyone knows this): The trolls follow the prophecy to a T, including permanently mind-bonding their crown prince to a human, and the curse does not break. Not even a little bit. Cécile utterly fails in her task as The Prophesied One. And this happens quite early in the book.
And that’s because the evil the trolls need to be saved from isn’t the curse – it’s themselves. The back cover of the book that you’ll pick up in stores says: “But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for…” The one doesn’t refer to specific person, but rather to a specific type of person – someone who is willing to champion their cause despite the risks. Cécile has the option of doing nothing, but instead she chooses to do what she can to help the subjugated half-bloods. Not because of a prophecy, not because of Tristan, and not because she’s uniquely capable of accomplishing the task, but rather because she possesses the very human qualities of empathy, compassion, willpower, loyalty, and bravery.
Does this mean the trope has been subverted? I think that’s a judgment that only readers can make; and given there are two more books in the trilogy, it might be early days to make that call. The only thing I will say is that the series as a whole is not about fated destiny, but very much about choice. I hope you will all enjoy reading it :-)
Bio (taken from publisher’s website): Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance.
But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.