But in The Fates Divide, the sequel to Carve the Mark, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to write about a different kind of girl. Enter Cisi, older sister of one of my two main characters, Akos. Cisi doesn’t know how to throw a punch. And she doesn’t get things done by force.
She can’t — and I mean that quite literally. In the world of Carve the Mark, every person has a currentgift, an ability they develop during adolescence that often has some kind of negative tradeoff. Cyra can cause powerful pain, but she constantly experiences it herself; Cisi sets people at ease, but she can’t knowingly make them uncomfortable. That means no asking uncomfortable questions, definitely no punching, no arguing—no battering ram.
Instead, Cisi has to fight for what she wants in a different way: subtly, and with great care. When she thinks something is going unsaid, she asks questions to lead someone else into saying it. She lets people think the good ideas belong to them, content to stay in the background as long as she’s getting what she wants. And what Cisi wants, in The Fates Divide, is peace, with minimal bloodshed. She constantly straddles the line between manipulation and simple suggestion in her friendship—and romance—with Isae, the fated ruler of Cisi’s home planet.
Essentially, Cisi plays the role that many women have been forced to play throughout history. The cliché of “behind every great man, there’s a great woman” is a cliché for a reason: because if women want something done — if they want something, period — they often can’t just ask for it. It’s seen as pushy, or aggressive. We are seen as bossy and frigid, or on the other side of things, hysterical and irrational. Instead of being direct, we have to learn how to speak in subtext, in minor shifts in tone and language — and if we don’t, like I mostly haven’t, we come up against resistance or dismissal. It’s not fair, but it is real.
Cisi is my way of exploring that traditional woman’s role. Of finding a story worth telling in a story that’s harder for me to tell. Because the women who make history, even in a galaxy far, far away, aren’t always the ones who wear the crowns. Sometimes they’re the soft-spoken, smiling ones standing off to the side, getting everything they want.