Shiloh Teethborn, Protagonist of Hexborn
From Chapter 1 of Hexborn:
Muttering curses, covering her humiliated tears with whispered words of rage, Shiloh's hand shook as she undid the hooks holding her jacket closed beneath her heavy cloak. Cold weather came early to the Teeth, and she was accordingly dressed for a winter journey. Beneath her quilted leather jacket was a sweater of wool, and beneath that a tunic of embroidered linen that fell to her knees. They did not wear corsets in the Teeth; corsets were a vanity for the irreligious of the flatlands.
Her skirt was calf-length, as was the mountain custom, the better to keep it out of the snow and mud. She wore wool leggings beneath, attached to a garter, and knee-high boots. Her boots were starting to look worn, but they were sturdy and whole and would make it through the winter.
Everything she wore was dark in color: warm browns, deep greens, rich blues. Only small children were permitted rowdy reds, yellows, and pastels. No one dressed in purple, of course. The only thing she wore that caught the light was the hook that served as her left hand.
A curl of pale pink hair fell in front of her eyes, and she tucked it impatiently back behind her ear. Like all the women she knew, she covered her hair year-round when outside the home, most often with a hood, but sometimes with a scarf in warm weather.
The leather straps that held her prosthesis buckled beneath her sweater and over her linen, looped beneath the opposite arm, and crossed her upper back before moving down her half-formed left arm, which ended a few inches below the elbow. Her father had taken great pride in crafting her false limbs as she’d grown, experimenting with different materials and different shapes of hooks, always seeking beauty and improvement. She smiled through her tears, thinking of him.
Shiloh wiped her running nose and then pulled back on her sweater and jacket. She folded the left sleeves and used her teeth to place a long pin to hold them neatly in place, so they wouldn't drag along, empty and forlorn. She pulled her warm cloak back around her, as if its bulk could protect her from feeling small, and she walked back to the man who held her life in his hands.
She shoved her hook toward Hatch, looking determinedly past his left ear. Her eyes were dry; her expression revealed nothing, but she could not hide the red nose that betrayed her earlier tears.
Shiloh is fifteen years old. Raised by a country blacksmith and educated by a disgraced and exiled priest, she suffers from an unusual ailment that has rendered her an outcast. In the world of Hexborn, the use of dark magic during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects, much like some medications or toxins in our own world can cause malformed limbs and other significant problems. In Shiloh’s country, children born with that type of damage are known as “hexborn.”
There is an enormous stigma attached to the condition, and the few such children who survive infancy are shunned as “unclean” all their lives. They are identified by their hair and eyes of unnatural colors and their missing limbs. They also suffer from recurring bouts of illness that mimic the effects of the curses their mothers cast while they were in the womb.
Why did I write my main character with a disability and chronic illness? There are multiple reasons. I wanted to show that someone can be a hero without being healthy. I wanted to show those readers who struggle with medical issues that a fantasy heroine can look different like they do, get frustrated and discouraged with her health like they do, and persevere like they do. And I wanted to show readers who are excluded and bullied that heroes are not always popular, but the people who really matter will appreciate you regardless of the things that make it hard for you to fit in.
But this isn’t tokenism. Shiloh’s illness and her resulting isolation helped to form Shiloh as a person. It taught her to be strong and compassionate. It taught her to desire a more just world. And it taught her that there is a real cost to the use of evil magic. All of these lessons will come into play over the course of her story.
Shiloh has endured a lot in her young life: the taunts of her neighbors, repeated attacks upon her village, the physical pain of her condition, the poverty and harsh weather of her mountain home, and the recent deaths of her father and her beloved teacher. She will need all the strength she has acquired in order to survive her next adventure. The king’s notorious fixer, Silas Hatch, has arrived to bring her to court to attend school at the Royal Academy of Mages. If there is a school more dangerous than Hogwarts, this is it.
Is Shiloh ready? What do you think? Are you interested enough to want to learn more? If so, please do take a moment to head over to Kindle Scout to nominate Hexborn for publication. Everyone who nominates it will receive a free copy of the e-book if it is chosen. Thanks much, and Happy Reading!
Book Link for Scout Campaign
Author Links for A.M. Manay