What I learned from Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted was my favorite book when I was 12, is my favorite book right now, and might be my favorite book forever. As a lover of fairy tales, balls, and evening gowns, every version of Cinderella was a treat, but this one felt like it was made just for me. Because in this version, the girl doesn’t need to be a princess, actually gets to know the prince, and then saves herself.

In the fairy tale land of Frell, there are giants, elves, princes and curses. Magic is real, and so are mean girls. Ella is under a curse to always be obedient, so she has to follow every order anyone gives her. Every “go to your room,” every “go jump in a lake,” everything. She meets a prince, because this is that kind of story, and they fall in love. But she knows that her curse would put the prince and her kingdom in danger, so she gives him up. Her mother dies, and she knows of grief and fear. It is that kind of story, too.

I revisited Ella Enchanted recently and wondered why I ever read any other book when everything I need to know was already in its pages.

This book is what taught me that men will always give you grief if you want to do something all on your own. In Ella’s case it’s when she runs away from finishing school and asks for directions to a giant’s wedding. Upon hearing she wants to walk her journey alone, sometimes at night, the shopkeeper laughs at her. In my imagination, he gives her what I’m sure is the same exact look the guy at work gave you yesterday when you said “No, actually, I’ve got this.” Ella continues her journey and doesn’t think about the shopkeeper again. I think about him often.

Later on, Ella meets a different kind of man. Her father loses all his money when he gets caught trying to swindle a client. To gain back some of their fortune, he decides to marry Ella to a rich old man. He orders her to eat drugged mushrooms (our fairy tale’s version of ecstasy, perhaps) to lower her guard and make her more “flirtatious.” When this skeezy old man, who ends up not being rich enough anyway, learns that Ella is only 15, he says “You have a loving heart. I see that. More woman than child.”

And that is when I learned that gross old men will always make excuses to justify preying on young women.

There are some good guys in Ella’s life too, but while reading her story I learned even the good guys can disappoint.

Prince Char is an undisputedly good guy. He doesn’t fall for evil stepsister Hattie’s shenanigans, and his faults are things like “loves his family too much.” But all it takes is Ella dumping him for him to conjure up names for her that certainly wouldn’t be allowed in polite, princely company. Names like minx, flirt, harpy, siren, enchantress, temptress, and monster. Char is a good guy, yes, but he is also the epitome of princely privilege. When Ella dines with him (this is a fairy tale, remember, so she doesn’t grab dinner with him, she dines with him), everyone in his company waited to eat until Char began eating. “It was so natural to him I doubted he noticed,” Ella thinks. That’s as good a definition of privilege as I have ever heard.

The lesson from Ella Enchanted that took me the longest to learn–that I am still learning–is the one that Ella also struggled with the most. Ella had to follow orders because she was cursed. I follow orders because I am a people pleaser and fixer in a world that teaches women to be people pleasers and fixers. Following the rules is how I made my way through life: I did my homework, I read the directions, I didn’t stay out past curfew.

Ella was my first fictional example of a woman who knew that following the rules wasn’t best for her. She followed orders, technically, because she had to, but she did everything she could to fight back. In my world, doing anything to make yourself more difficult was revolutionary. When her dancing instructor at finishing school told her to raise her feet higher, Ella raised her legs above her waist. When her stepsister told her to clean up a dustbunny, Ella picked it up and then shoved it in her sister’s face. She rebelled in any way she could, over, and over, and over. She was my first rule-breaking role model.

I have had other rule-breaking role models in real life, and they have been invaluable to me. When I see another woman decide she doesn’t have to wear what’s appropriate, or be nice when people are rude to her, or stop everything to answer an email, I get a little stronger, and saying no becomes a little easier. Ella had to learn how to say no to break her curse, but we both had learn how to say no to survive.

I extremely proud that I make my own money and pay all my bills. I work hard, and I’m good at what I do. I am a grown woman, and I can do whatever I what. But sometimes, still, I forget I can say no.

The other day, a complete stranger told me to do something I didn’t want to do to make his life easier. And I, a grown ass woman, said “Do I have to?”

Ella says the same thing, when she wants someone to reconsider their order, if they said something hastily or sarcastically. Ella had to obey. I do not.

I quickly gained my composure and remembered that this man I do not know has no power over me, but it was scary to realize how easily I slipped back into the dynamic of a man giving orders, and me following them.

In the year of Shonda saying yes, I kept the word “no” on my lips. Like many young women in a mostly male workplace, I was often taken for an assistant instead of a peer. Workplace dynamics are tricky anyway, and when you want to be seen as someone who is helpful, it is very easy to end up doing everyone else’s job and not your own. So I said no. No to small tasks that I knew I could do, and to big tasks I knew I couldn’t. Like bullies on a playground, eventually the boys I worked with stopped trying to push me around.

It’s time consuming, to say no. I have to weigh my options, who is asking, if I sound too aggressive, if I really want to do it, what will it look like if this email gets forwarded. Sometimes I thought I would crumble under the weight of saying no, but instead it built me up.

Now I say no, all the time, just for fun. I’m horrible at board games because I never follow the rules, I just make up my own. I don’t participate in karaoke. I don’t answer all my emails or texts. If I don’t like the way someone is speaking to me, I hang up the phone.

I recognize that, like Char, I have privilege that allows me to say no often without real threat to my life or livelihood. I hope that, unlike Char, I notice when others don’t.

Ella noticed. Ella noticed everything. She was kind, but not always nice. Ella broke the rules and broke some hearts. Ella married a prince and then refused to become a princess. In saying no to one happily ever after, she created her own. And that is what I am most grateful for learning.

to do lists of the semi-adult: episode 17

to do lists of the semi-adult

Jewels and I are lifelong readers, and the books we’ve read as kids have made a huge impact on our lives. And I’m so glad they did! In this episode of To Do Lists of the Semi-Adult, we talk about the books we loved the most.

Obviously we started with Harry Potter–you’ve met us before, you knew this was coming. Harry Potter was the no. 1 book that opened my eyes to how fun it is to talk about books! And for that I will be forever grateful. I was on all the messageboards, reading all the theories, and I had a blast. Harry Potter also, of course, has wonderful stories about friendship, heroism, and social justice, and growing up with that series has def made me a more compassionate person.

Jewels also mentioned how hearing about Mary Shelley’s story writing Frankenstein helped wake her up to the unfairness of sexism, and how To Kill a Mockingbird introduced her to an unreliable narrator. Both books are instrumental in developing critical thinking, and realizing that the way the world is presented to you doesn’t have to be the way it really is.

Both of us have read and enjoyed Twilight, and Jewels mentioned that it was a book that taught her writing doesn’t have to be revolutionary and perfect to still tell a good story.

Ella Enchanted is a book for me that also introduced ideas of sexism and women’s agency, even though I didn’t have words for what I learned from that book until much later in life. I’d still recommend it to anyone as an adult–but don’t judge it by the movie, which is way more cartoon-y than the book.

We both really loved the Baby-sitters Club books (who’s your fave babysitter?), especially the mysteries. Turns out I read fantasy, horror, and mysteries as a kid and still pretty much stick to reading fantasy, horror, and mysteries as an adult.

In our lightning round, I said I am currently reading Bitch Planet (check out a great interview with Bitch Planet’s artist) and everyone should read it because it’s SO GOOD.

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or by using our feed link. You can also always find them on my Podcast page. You can find me right here at Rae’s Days, on Instagram, and on Twitter. Jewels is at Oven Lovin, on Instagram, and on Twitter.

the royal we

the royal we

Becoming a princess may be a fairy tale we’ve all grown up with, but finding a relationship where you are loved in spite of your flaws is a true happy ending. Both Bex and Nick make mistakes, but that both of them are allowed to be imperfect but still in love is what makes The Royal We so touching.

Unfortunately, as real life knows all too well but fairly tales gloss over, love isn’t all it takes to make a life together. And when you fall in love with the future king of England, the roadblocks to happy ever after are a bit bigger than in a civilian relationship. Like a sledding hill compared with Mount Everest.

Bex Porter, American exchange student to Oxford, and Nick Wales, as in Nick OF Wales, future king of England, begin their relationship as all the best relationships start: bonding over awesome terrible TV with awesome terrible snacks. Spending late nights eating junk food and watching the next installment of Devour, a supernatural American soap opera, is one of the truer ways to fall in love that I’ve ever read. (After all, weekly emails over a TV show is part of what drew me and my own man together–TV and true love are both magic.) And when the two give in to their feelings, finally, it’s sweet and charming and touching, and Nick is every bit a prince (the lowercase kind–a nice, caring gentleman).

But a paradise of twinkies and soap operas can’t last forever. Eventually their relationship will have to come into the light, like an evil twin vampire that is surely on an episode of Devour. And when the palace is through with Bex, she’s not sure she can still see herself when she looks in the mirror.

Not every love can withstand a family that changes the way you look and act to be their version of “acceptable,” and not every relationship is built to exist in front of vicious paparazzi and internet commenters. But the thing that makes Nick and Bex special is that they aren’t extraordinary. They don’t have a perfect love that can make it through anything–they have a real love that gets beat up, and is hard to hold on to, and can be full of doubts one minute and full of grace the next. Nick and Bex are not immortal, they are not angels, they are not superheroes. They are human. And that makes them perfect.

And their relationship isn’t the only great one in the Royal We. There are friendships built in college dorm rooms that last through grown-up jobs and real-life stresses. Bex’s twin sister Lacey and Nick’s brother Freddie provide some of the best support and create the worst obstacles, as siblings sometimes do. And Nick and Bex couldn’t have relationships with their fathers that were more different if they tried.

And like any great soap opera, there’s backstabbing and plotting; the sex is sexy, and sometimes scandalous; there’s sharp one-liners; and plenty of moments that made me laugh out loud and some that made me ugly cry.

The Royal We is so funny, warm, and full of life, it will be the perfect way to warm up after this dreadful winter. It comes out April 7, but you can get the first seven chapters for free right now on Amazon.

vin from mistborn, in her mistborn cloak

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Vin from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is a great leading lady to start off my year of leading ladies (one of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more books by and starring women).

Sanderson uses clothing to distinguish his characters and their emotional states–which is pretty much how clothing works in real life, too. I’ve drawn Vin before, when she was at a ball, but this Vin is in her Mistborn cloak and in her element.

Vin has used disguises her whole life to disappear into something less threatening so that people will overlook her. But her Mistborn cloak lets everyone know that she is special–and dangerous. She isn’t hiding her power anymore, she is embracing the part of herself. In her cloak, Vin is the Heir of the Survivor, possibly the Hero of Ages, and the Savior of Luthadel.

But, of course, that isn’t all she is. She also loves wearing dresses, and she is in love with Elend, and she cares for her friends. She is many things, and embracing one side of her doesn’t erase the rest of herself.

My drawing is ink and watercolor, and here’s a (very short!) slideshow of it coming to life.

My other posts on Mistborn are:

mistborn book two: vin’s biggest challenge may be dresses, not armies

At first glance, it look like a fairy tale. Vin has fallen in love with the young king of Luthadel, Elend Venture. She caught his eye at a ball, where she was hiding her poor upbringing. Her dresses were beautiful, and Vin danced with a grace few could master. And now Elend has proposed, so Vin could be a queen if she says yes.

But Elend only became king after Vin and her crew killed a terrible dictator and overthrew an oppressive government. Vin was graceful partly because she became a powerful Allomancer–a trained warrior and assassin with powers that draw from different kinds of metal.

And she doesn’t need a magic mirror to tell her she is the most dangerous person in the land.

Vin is a hero we don’t often see. She is small and beautiful, and she is also a powerful killer. Her role in her crew is essentially to provide the muscle. She can kill 10 men before another could get their sword out of its sheath. She is her boyfriend’s bodyguard. She also likes dancing and wearing ball gowns, and she wears perfume every day, often trying new scents.

But even the most powerful woman in all of the Final Empire struggles with what it means to be both feminine and powerful, both beautiful and strong. Especially when her boyfriend can’t do the things she can.

text from mistborn: the well of ascension

It kills me to think of how many women have thought this same thing–that by having talent or shining brightly they are offending a man around them. Just by being themselves, just by being a woman who happens to be good at something.

Vin has always struggled with her place in the world. As part of a thieving crew with an untrustworthy leader, she hid her strength and femininity to be unassuming and less threatening in a world full of men. When she joined Kelsier’s crew, and began to make real friends and discover her powers, it became helpful to them to play up her femaleness and use her to spy on nobility at balls. When she met Elend, Vin was pretending to be Valette, a clueless noblewoman in big dresses and jewelry. But none of those personas was the real Vin.

So after the Final Empire fell, Vin wasn’t sure what to be. She cared for Elend and became his bodyguard, and there was no one more powerful or vigilant. She gave up wearing dresses because she felt that a trained killer shouldn’t wear a gown–the dresses she wore were bulky, anyway, and didn’t let her move quickly. But being Elend’s love led her to play a role once more, and she accompanied him to a meeting with his father to discuss an alliance. To get ready to meet her boyfriend’s father, like many before her, Vin went shopping.

Tindwyl, a Terriswoman adviser to the king, and Allrianne, a noblewoman who makes no apologies for loving fancy things, are Vin’s shopping buddies. With their guidance, Vin finds a dress she loves that makes her feel beautiful. And with help from the tailor, adjustments to the dress allow her to move quickly and gracefully so she can still be the warrior she needs to be.

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Throughout the Well of Ascension, Vin struggles. She struggles with who she is and who she wants to be, and easy questions like what to wear become anything but simple. In the end, Vin has to decide on who she is. And if she can be someone who likes dresses and perfume, and someone who can control armies, and someone who is in love with a king, and someone who can kill an emperor god, and someone who gives hope to those around her.

Vin is all of these things, but embracing her complexities in a world that wants to see women as fitting only certain roles is perhaps her hardest challenge.
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the quiet power of sazed, from mistborn

sazed from mistborn

The Lord Ruler in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series ruled with a literal cloud of depression over his subjects. He tempered emotion through allomancy, a type of magic, and he hunted anything that would disrupt the status quo. In his eyes, all ska were the same, all noblemen served one purpose, and all rebellions were nothing but minor annoyances.

Vin and her crew tried to fight the Final Empire with armies and espionage. But a more subtle, and possibly more important, way of fighting the Lord Ruler was to celebrate uniqueness. To stand out, to aggressively be yourself in a place that hampered joy and hope, was a victory all its own.

Sazed, one of my favorites in Vin’s crew, contributed to the crew’s plan the best way he could–as a servant. Sazed is a Terrisman, the most valued servants in the Final Empire. He is calm and patient. He is smart and kind. And he knew himself well enough to know that when he wanted to fight the Lord Ruler, he could best contribute by using his unique strengths.

Crew leader Kelsier wanted to be the Hero with a capital H–the one in the forefront of the action, a visible leader. But Sazed was just as much a hero by being himself in a place that tried to squash his heritage, joy, and individuality. Kelsier fought the Lord Ruler in front of everyone in a town square; Sazed fought him by translating the text of something the Lord Ruler tried to keep hidden. Without Sazed’s quiet thoughtfulness, the crew would fail wether they had a great leader or not.

Sazed honored his people, and all people, by remembering for them, as a Keeper. The Keepers searched for memories of other cultures, languages, religions, and any knowledge they could find, and kept the memories stored away until the Final Empire fell and people would need them once again. Sazed was always willing to teach and share his knowledge, and he often tried to match religions to the people he knew, to find a religion that fit their personality.

Sazed knew the truth–he knew many truths. He knew that one religion does not fit all, and that by fighting for individuality, he was toppling the Final Empire one unique memory at a time.

I drew Sazed in his formal robes, which he would wear accompanying Vin to a ball. All Terrismen wear similar robes to indicate their status, and their colorful embroidery sounds like a delight amid the gray depression of the mist. My drawing is ink and watercolor in my sketchbook. I might go back in and add more color to it later, but I sort of like the idea of keeping it colorless except for his colorful Terrismen robes.

illustration of vin from mistborn, at a ball

vin from Mistborn

Vin is a survivor. She is resourceful and smart, overcoming beatings on the street to become a valued member of a thieving crew. Vin is a fighter, no matter if she’s stealing from the rich or dancing among them.

There were a lot of things I love, love, loved about Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire, the first in the Mistborn trilogy, besides the main character, Vin. The storytelling is complex and layered, the world is detailed and interesting, and the characters are human and tragic.

Within the great story and characters, Sanderson used clothing to help build his world. A uniform helped unite an army, a cloak for the magical Mistborn helped them hide in plain sight, and a dress helped Vin spy on the nobility.

She didn’t need shadows or corners–she just needed a mask of sapphires, makeup, and blue fabric. — Mistborn: The Final Empire

With make up on her face instead of ash, and a shawl on her shoulders instead of her Mistborn cloak, Vin infiltrated the nobility by attending ball after ball. And instead of seeing a streetwise thief, the nobility was blinded by her dress and saw instead a nobleman’s daughter.

Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life – Bill Cunningham

In our world, clothing and fashion works much the same way. I don’t usually need to spy on nobility at fancy balls, but I do need to convince people I’m a professional at work. So like Vin, I dress the part and it helps fortify me for the role I need to play.

The more Vin acts like Valette, her noble persona, the more she realizes that this confident noblewoman is just another side of her. But becoming more comfortable among the people she means to eventually fight–and actually seeing them as human–causes trouble for Vin and her crew as they plan a heist bigger than any they’ve tried before.

I drew Vin going to her first ball, when she realized that the dress and makeup were just another disguise she could hide beneath. The drawing is pen and marker. I would have liked to make her dress a lighter, dreamier blue, but I wanted to work with the markers I already own. I can’t wait to take a look at some of the other uniforms and clothing in Mistborn, and delve into some of the great parts of this complex story.

more women please (on women in books and comics)

comics rae's reading

I love the Harry Potters, the Quentins, and the Kvothes of the literary world. They are believable, flawed characters who are a hell of a lot of fun to read about. But sometimes I just get tired of watching boys have all the fun and get all the glory.

Not to say there’s not terrific women characters in these books as well. Harry Potter, the Magicians, and the Kingkiller Chronicles (my small, biased sample) all have really interesting, varied women who do real things that influence the story.

But I want to see more leading ladies.

This doesn’t mean we need fewer great adventure stories with men at the helm, it means we need more of them with women leads. It doesn’t take anything away from the complexity and enjoyment of what’s already out there to add to what’s already good. More women, more diversity, more stories. Because from that we get sharper and more human storytelling, which can only be a good thing.

A few weeks ago I asked on Facebook for recommendations of books with women leads (specifically fantasy or quest adventures because that is what I like). We came up with a great list that includes Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Mary Robinette Kowal’s glamourist histories, the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and more. (And I’m assuming we all already know about Divergent and the Hunger Games.)

I haven’t read all the books we talked about–I’m putting Mistborn at the top of my list. What I have read this year that I’ve been really excited about is comics. I’m relatively new to the comics world–I first read Saga and Sandman last year–and I wish it hadn’t taken me so long. The books I’ve read this year have diverse, provocative storytelling based on complex human (and not so human) characters.

And by chance, just about every series I’ve picked up this year has a woman lead: Saga, Sex Criminals, Wytches, and ODY-C.

I couldn’t have planned a better introduction to comics than Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, if I tried. It is a creative, complex space …saga (sorry!) and it’s touching and funny and brutal and smart. Hazel, the daughter of two lovers who are on the run from their warring home planets narrates Saga, so we are literally in the head of a woman telling this story. Alana, Lying Cat, Izabel, Gwendolyn and more (more! there’s so many great women in this comic I can’t even list them all) make sure that women are not only included, but they are at the forefront of this story.

In many fantasy stories I get super bored reading sex scene after sex scene from a straight man’s perspective that focuses on the size and shape and smoothness (barf) of some girl’s breasts. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals is just as dirty as it sounds, but the perspective on sex (and life) comes from Suzie, the main character who can freeze time when she orgasms. Sex criminals is full of sex and crime (obviously, I guess), but it’s really a story about being vulnerable to another person and being brave enough to share your fears and secrets with the world. It takes themes of gender issues, sexuality, and hiding who you are and mixes them with bank heists, sex toys, and intergalactic police.

I love horror, but finding leading women in horror is few and far between. (Can you think of some? Let me know). Lucky for me, Scott Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth’s Wytches’ lead is a young girl, Sailor, who moves to a new town where something is lurking in the woods. Sailor and her family are trying to escape a tragedy and make a new start, but the wytches don’t appear to forgive and forget. Wytches takes on fear, bullying, and family–which at times can be pretty scary, am I right?

I heard some buzz about Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C before I read issue no. 1, which just came out a few weeks ago, and, boy, is it earned. The absolutely stunning art accompanies an updated version of the Odyssey. Set in space, this Odyssey is full of women. Just about every character is a woman (or a sebex), and there’s warriors, lovers, parents, and, of course, Captain Odyssia. It was a blast to read and I can’t wait for issue no. 2.

If you, like me, are thirsty for new and exciting characters of all kinds, please check out some comic books. If I never picked one up I’d be missing out on some of the best stories of the year.

 

the magician’s land and a good meal

the magicians land

The Magician’s Land (Kindle here) is the final book in Lev Grossman’s trilogy that follows Quentin Coldwater and his friends as they first learn magic, and then learn that magic alone isn’t enough.

This fantasy series has magical spells, beasts, and worlds, but what Quentin’s friends must really face is reality. It can be dark, but the Magician’s Land is also a great adventure and can be fun, funny, and touching.

One of my favorite parts was not falling into other worlds or chasing mysterious super-magicians on a magic carpet–though that was all fantastic fun–it was when a character needed to be reminded of their humanity.

And all it took was some bacon. Well, bacon was a start. This character was given freshly cooked bacon, some excellent chocolate, champagne, and more, to help remind them that being human can be delicious, and good, and the food that feeds your body can also feed your soul.

Which got me thinking: What would be on my plate if I needed a serving of love and compassion?

I’d need a hot cup of good coffee to start. It feels good to hold in your hands. It’s a ritual to pour and stir and hold and drink. And it reminds me of my mom, which is a pretty good place to start if you need to feel human and loved.

I’d also like just-baked cookies. Another treat to smell and to eat, the kind that are warm and gooey from the oven. I have only good memories of baking cookies, and I hope that never changes.

And crisp, cold beer. It almost doesn’t matter what kind, but if I could pick, it would Allagash White, or some other wheat beer, with a slice of citrus.

If I still needed reminding that being a human can be a wonderful thing, find me a hot shower, an ocean, and a baby to hold. I’d be pretty convinced after that.

So tell me, please, what would be in your remembering-humanity-is-great meal?

neverwhere by neil gaiman

rae's days neverwhere illustration

When I was little, I played a game with a friend of mine who was a very talented artist. We would design a house for her iguana (his name was Mikey) and draw rooms on different sheets of paper. She and I would hatch different designs, and she would turn our ideas into pictures. We’d end up with pages and pages of rooms and hallways that we could move and reshuffle to make a mansion-sized house of cards. In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (Kindle here), Door’s family’s entryway to everywhere reminds me of this game. When Door enters this room, she sees images of all the rooms her family has access to as part of their home. No matter how far away these rooms are, Door’s family can open the door and walk in.

Door’s family can open doors, and this game opened our imagination. (Essentially, I guess, that’s the same thing.) When you’re little and playing pretend, the world is full of possibilities. But as Richard Mayhew finds out, the adult world can often leave you feeling trapped–trapped in a loveless relationship, a dead-end job, or without a home and on the street.

When Richard stops to help Door, he opens his heart and mind once more to new possibilities–but like any new opportunity, it begins with Richard facing extreme difficulty and unimaginable torment.

Because after Richard recognizes Door as a person, one who happens to need help, he is thrust from his world in London Above and into her world of London Below (which are, pretty much, exactly what they sound like). As a result, no one in London Above notices Richard is even there. His ex-fiancee draws a blank, his desk at work is gone, and his home is sold right out from under him despite his cries of protests. (Is there anything more demoralizing than being completely ignored?)

So Richard heads to London Below, where he finds the rest of those who slipped through the cracks. Like Croup and Vandemar, two peas in a murderous pod, or Hunter, the beautiful guard focused wholly on her prey. (I’d have to watch my back, but I feel like I’d like to meet almost everyone in London Below.) Richard does his best to find his way, but this world is completely new to him and he doesn’t understand what everyone else seems to inherently know.

Everyone, at some point or another, has felt like Richard Mayhew. We’ve all felt ignored and abandoned, and hopelessly lost.

But Richard has the gift of recognizing the humanness in others (even if, in London Below, they aren’t all exactly human). To recognize another person, to say, “I see you, and I respect you, and I accept you,“ is the greatest gift we can give and sometimes the hardest thing to do. But respect saves lives (and souls), and this is what keeps Richard safe through his journey in the underworld of London.

Richard has a gift, but he let it get buried in the everyday nothings of everyday life that can weigh us all down. Lucky for him, and for those who pick up Neverwhere, Door opens his imagination once again to fun–and funny!–adventures.

Illustration is pen and ink; links are affiliate.