A Beautiful Bounty: Duality, Justice and Self-Discovery in Shameless Fae, by Cilla Raven

August 20, 2020

“Always expect an arrow to the face, Z.”

Zinnia is a princess by day and The Ghost – a fae bounty hunter – by night. Her list of people who can be trusted is short, but her reflexes are sharp. She’s cunning, she’s fierce, and she is about to learn that the rules to the world aren’t exactly what she thought they were.

“I have to keep people at a distance, hold my tongue…and play the part of the future queen perfectly, even though I’d rather pull all the feathers out of my big black wings than stand on tradition, ignoring all the problems in our nation as if they don’t exist simply because it isn’t my place to do anything about them yet.”

Duality is both a blessing and a curse – a freedom and a binding – and it’s a major theme and moving force throughout this amazing start to a new series from Cilla Raven.

“Until a fae girl is married, her words will have no bearing.” As if my mind doesn’t work until I’ve had a cuff placed on my left wrist and a pretentious royal fae dick inside me…

There’s a whole lot of social relevance and plenty of heavy hitting points in this “airy genre fiction” if you pay close attention. Raven has created a window to a world sharply divided by caste and heavily impacted by social injustice and prejudice. In this world, castes are physically marked upon each fae and indicated by the color of their wings. Crossbreeding between castes is illegal and acting beyond your station in life is frowned upon. What’s a girl to do, then, when she desires to be more than just a pretty face? When she seeks vengeance for past harm? When she sees the hurt in the world but is not allowed to address it, ironically, within the bounds of her role as a royal figure – because, after all, she is only a girl.

“I realized pretty quickly that I’m happiest when I’m out hunting bounties, when I wear a disguise, when people don’t change who they are while they talk to me.”

Despite the chafing of the cuffs of royalty that bind her in the role of princess, Z finds power in her ability to hide in plain sight. It’s ironic that, only when she disguises herself in her role of The Ghost can her true self be seen and valued. This is the only time she truly has the freedom to think and act as she chooses, without the social expectations and limitations of her royalty and her father.

“Today, you were just a princess, just a small fae girl who couldn’t do anything to help your mom, but starting tomorrow, you will learn to be more. You will become everything you need to be to face this evil world – a fae that strikes fear into the hearts of those that would do you and yours harm.”

In the same way that there exists duality between Z’s existence as princess and Z’s secret life as The Ghost, there are also the dichotomies of good and evil, of innocence and maturity, and of before and after. There are two sides not only to Z, but also to the world around her (and the people within it), and often, the line between those two sides is thinner than you might expect.

“You will never be caught unprepared like your mother was tonight,” he paused for a breath before he continued, “You will become what she needed to be.”

Shameless Fae is, perhaps most importantly, a story of becoming – of self-discovery. As Zinnia ventures out beyond the walls of the city for the first time, so too does she venture beyond the walls of the preconceptions she has held and had reinforced her entire life. In order to move forward and find her way in the world, she must first learn to fully recognize her potential and to become what the world needs her to be. This is a heavy burden for one person to bear, but Zinnia has the Doconqueh to help divide that load and to travel with her on the path of discovery – both of herself and of the truth of the world around her – and I love the beauty of the relationships that Raven has woven into this group.

“He wasn’t checking off a box labeled, ‘sleep with the princess,’…He wasn’t looking beyond me at all. He was right there in the moment with me because I was what he wanted right then. Not my title, not my kingdom, just me…”

I won’t go too deeply into the relationships within the Doconqueh, so as not to spoil anything for you, but I will say that, what Z lacks or has lost in her own true family, she more than makes up for with this band of rebel misfits. She finds people who can see her for who she truly is and love her all the more for it, helping her to become who she has the potential to be, and who her people need her to be.

The only thing I found disappointing was that the romantic relationships developed so late in the story, and that there wasn’t much development to them even then. There were flirtations and even a significant encounter, but then that dynamic got shoved to the background of the story in a fairly confusing way – with a new character of romantic potential introduced at the end, before romantic developments had really been explored fully with the existing group.

All that said, I am incredibly eager to see what happens with all of these dynamics in the next installment of Fae Bounties, as I have theories and hypotheses galore, and there is so much amazing potential! I think Cilla Raven has crafted a beautiful world with so many parallels to issues we are facing in our own world today, and I absolutely can’t wait to see how Zinnia and her rebels deliver justice and find themselves – and one another – in book 2!

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