Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Here’s a guest post about Snowspelled over at Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog.

This post is also about the misnamed chronic fatigue syndrome, which as I hope we all know these days has been utterly mishandled by much of the medical profession since that appalling drivel published in Lancet a decade or so ago. You may be aware that Stephanie has suffered from CFS for some time. Here she speaks about that:

It felt like a fairy’s curse descending out of nowhere when I got sick in 2005 and never got better again. I was a healthy 28-year-old who loved to hike and jog and travel, but suddenly my head swam whenever I walked for even half a block. When I spent twenty minutes upright in my kitchen, cooking muffins, I had to collapse afterwards as my teeth chattered with exertion. Worse yet, the doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong with me…so week after week, I had to call in sick to work with no explanation and no prospect of any cure.

I hope that fewer people have such difficulty with diagnosis today.

Anyway, here is the connection:

[L]ike me, Cassandra [the protagonist of Snowspelled] spent her life working towards an ambitious goal – in her case, to change her society’s rules and become the first lady magician in Angland (where ladies, being the more practical sex, are meant to stick to politics while men see to the more emotional and tempestuous magic) – only to find herself derailed in her mid-twenties by a horrible, life-changing incident that takes away her ability to cast magic…and with it, not only her goals and dreams for the future but also her entire definition of herself.

This is an interesting reflection of life through the lens of fantasy, and to me it helps explain why Stephanie so definitely avoided a magic cure for Cassandra’s problem — because in real life, often there are no cures.

I have read Snowspelled, btw, though I haven’t quite got around to finishing a review. It’s quite charming, and the way Cassandra solves her problems without a magical cure for what ails her is in fact one of my favorite details.

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