The story opens with a middle-aged weaver named Uiziya pouting in her tent, resentfully waiting for her exiled Aunt Benesret to return and teach her the fourth of the Profound Weaves.
A nameless Khana man in the same encampment, recently transformed by magic, decides Uiziya’s Aunt Benesret should give him his name. He persuades Uiziya to travel with him to find her aunt.
Their journey through the Great Burri desert–she on a flying carpet, he on sand skis–has a dreamlike, Otherworld quality. We soon learn that Uiziya’s relationship with her Aunt Benesret is complicated and deeply troubled.
After an almost fatal encounter in the desert, the two point-of-view characters go to the city of Iyar, where the Khana minority is rigidly separated by gender. The nameless man struggles to embody, and trust, his masculinity after many years forced to live as a wife and grandmother.
The two run afoul of the all-powerful Collector. Uiziya must create the fourth Profound Weave if she, the nameless man–and the goddess Bird–have any chance of survival. To do this, Uiziya allies with the dead haunting the Collector’s palace:
…you had to listen to the dead. To know them deeply, to attend to what had been silenced, to care enough to help the dead speak again through every thread that made up the great work.
The ending is pitch-perfect. I read it, then immediately reread the entire book to savor every nuance.
The Four Profound Weaves is a unique and haunting fairy-tale that lingers long after reading. The magic is fascinating, if a bit obscure. The weaves are created from four elements:
Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night
A remarkable addition to pagan-inspired fantasy novellas, The Four Profound Weaves, is a wonderful parable exploring transgender experience, the cyclical nature empires, and the power of faith and courage.
[Lyri Ahnam long yearned for a pristine Fairyland outside of this world, then met a gnarled crone-oak in a Missouri forest and awoke to the magic all around us. Lyri channels poetry from the forests of the Ozark borderlands. Visit www.lyriahnam.com to learn more.]