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Armed In Her Fashion

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  54 reviews
In 1328, Bruges is under siege by the Chatelaine of Hell and her army of chimeras -- humans mixed with animals or armour, forged in the deep fires of the Hellbeast. At night, revenants crawl over the walls and bring plague and grief to this city of widows.

Margriet de Vos learns she's a widow herself when her good-for-nothing husband comes home dead from the war. He didn't
Paperback, 300 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by ChiZine Publications (first published April 24th 2018)
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Kate Heartfield It is loosely inspired by that story, yes! And by Pieter Bruegel's painting of that name.
Kate Heartfield The pre-order's not available yet, but I'll shout it from the rooftops when it is!

Edited to add: Several of the pre-order pages are up now (…more
The pre-order's not available yet, but I'll shout it from the rooftops when it is!

Edited to add: Several of the pre-order pages are up now (, Barnes & Noble, and some others.)

Community Reviews

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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  218 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I want to say this is a well-thought-out historical novel, and it definitely dovetails nicely with history, but let's face it: It's Hell on Earth.

In a lot of great stylistic ways, I'm reminded favorably of Peter Newman's The Vagrant, only it's right here and the minions of hell all speak French.

The novel is very female-centric, making this all kinds of awesome. Not all men are jerks, but all the revenant men definitely are. Add that to the laws which disenfranchise the lot of women, a cool atte
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
We understand medieval Europe as a war-torn place with a populous threatened by a capricious ruling class and harshly proscribed society with a powerful Church. The threat of damnation and devils was as real to these people as the grotesques favored in architecture of the time. In Kate Heartfield's debut we get a look at early 14th century Belgium from the angle that all the threats that the Church warns of are real and players in the politics of the time.

This is all told from the viewpoint of w
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a literal bang at the beginning, a slow middle ambling into a moderately fast-moving finish, and a main character a little difficult to connect with, this book shouldn't work. But work it does. The difficult main character had me rooting for her almost right away, despite her quick, harsh words and demeanor. Margriet de Vos' merchant husband, who, after going off to fight, has returned as a revenant to Bruges. He and other men have been returning to the town to draw out their relatives to a ...more
Kate Heartfield
Apr 29, 2018 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: my-own-books
Hello all! This is my own book, so I won't rate it, but I thought I'd use this space to include some news and updates.
1. First of all, the ebook version is now available! The paperback is officially available as of May 17, but I've heard that a few bricks-and-mortar bookstores have it now. If you've got an early edition of the paperback that's missing page 261, you can find out more about that, and how to get what ought to be there, here.
2. If you'd like a free review copy, you can now request o
Beth Cato
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, fantasy, historical
Kate Heartfield's Armed in Her Fashion is a dark, gritty fantasy set in well-researched 1328 Bruges and environs. Not only does she realistically portray a transgender character within the period, but her entire cast feels real, from her near-sighted wet nurse protagonist to the very chatelaine of Hell. This is a fantastic read.
Elle Maruska
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, a content warning: this book has a trans character who is misgendered by friends and enemies and, as a trans man, is forced to wear women's clothing. But I will say that the trans character's identity is not a plot twist; he is who he is from his first introduction. He asserts himself against both enemies and friends. He is also given a happy ending and he does not experience any sort of sexualized violence. In fact there is little sexual violence in this book as a whole, which is more th ...more
Sue Burke
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a fun book — and it just won the 2019 Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association’s Aurora Award for Best Novel. Congratulations, Kate!

A grumpy, greedy, dying widow, her head-in-the-clouds daughter, and a mercenary soldier who is secretly a woman join up with another rag-tag group of refugees fleeing medieval Bruges at war. The weapons against them include plague, revenants, and horrible animal-human-weapon chimeras sent by the Chatelaine of Hell, who has betrayed and imprisoned her h
May 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was very excited to read this book. I was looking forward to a crazy ass wild ride filled with Hell demons and historical references and kickass fight scenes, as alluded to in the summary on Goodreads. But, alas, I was left sorely disappointed. I don’t understand how it’s possible to make a journey to Hell, across zombie and animal-creature-armour-weapon-human-monsters infested Europe boring!? How is that possible? Honestly, props to the author for being able to make this unexciting. It’s a sk ...more
There were a lot of things that could have let this book down. The density of the specialised language - i.e. all the different items of clothing, weapons and armour which made me stop each time to look them up - the occasional latin, the characters not always being likeable, the story meandering in the middle, the late climax. But, miraculously, none of it did - this book was, instead, fantastic.

One thing that kept striking me as I read, was the fact that Heartfield managed to have such consist
Sandy Parsons
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Heartfield pulls off a neat trick in this engaging story. She manages to write empowered female characters with agency while remaining true to the historical setting of the time period. These aren’t your typical damsels in distress waiting in towers for their heroes to rescue them. But neither are they feminine analogs of the classic hero trope (save for one). Further, this isn’t done at the price of emasculating or cuckolding the male characters, who are simply unfortunate pawns of the forces o ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This. This. This.

This book is what I want to read. I want to read crazy historical fiction but with chimeras and hell beasts and transgender soldiers.

Would love to read more in this world, especially the Chatelaine's story. And Claude's. And Beatrix's.

Aceber Anilom
Jan 10, 2020 rated it liked it
This book came because my girl told me about a website that collects books written by a women that have won an award. This was my first book with a main character being trans. It was refreshing reading a trans character even though the rest of the book was not really my thing. It was historical fiction and women in power but I did not felt that they ere actually in power. Kind of like it but no. There’s no romance and I didn’t know I needed it but I did. But others may not and they may enjoy the ...more
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. 14th century Belgium is not a time I think about often, and certainly not on the relatively granular scale presented in this book, but it was fun! A cast of predominantly women going up against revenants and chimeras and Hell on earth.

Doubly fun to read a book by a local Ottawa author! Fantastical historical fiction is always a blast, even slower-paced versions like this one.
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: low-fantasy
It’s 1328, Hell has risen to the Earth to bring about the end times, and Margriet de Vos of Bruges wants her money back. So begins Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield's debut novel.

In Heartfield’s conception, Hell is not a place, but a gigantic living beast. The beast has surfaced at the behest of its Chatelaine, who can make fearsome chimeras by sacrificing soldiers and animals into the heart of the beast and commands an army of thousands of dead spirits. The Chatelaine has allied herself wit
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is probably my favorite new find of the year. What's not to love about a bunch of disgruntled women raiding Hell in 14th century Flanders? All the characters were well rounded, flawed, and likable, the prose was excellent, the historical background well placed, and the humor sufficiently dark. I only realized at the end that the whole thing was inspired by a Bruegel painting, and then I was even more impressed, because the book managed to bring the exact same dark-grotesque-humorous fe ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. Beautifully conceived and written, based on a Bruegel painting with its roots in Flemish folklore, this novel imagines a siege of Bruges in 1328 - but those laying siege are the Chatelaine of Hell and her monsters. And those who fight back? Widows - a band of women assisted by a trans man soldier - who face down Hell itself, spitting mad.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
There was a lot to the background of this story, and I wished I had more than a murky understanding of the world building, and the character exposition of everyone, what were there motives. What had happened?
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this book more than I expected.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-authors
I really didn't expect much from this but it was pretty awesome. It's set during the Peasant Revolt in Flanders but tells a story based on Pieter Bruegel's fantastic painting Dulle Griet. It seems to be fairly well researched and hits on a number of historic events of the era and how they might have impacted the characters in the story. I like that the magic and fantastical aspects weren't overpowered -- people had to figure out how to use any powers they had and they weren't always that useful. ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It drew me in and refused to let go...

I saw this book on a recommended reading list on and finally got around to downloading the sample chapters. I was so caught up in the narrative I had to purchase the full ebook immediately. I read it in one sitting, and will be rereading it soon, to savor all the little details I may have missed the first time.
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sff, highly-recommend
I liked this book. and I liked it even more after learning about it's inspiration in the legend of Dull Griet. Also was surprised and pleased to learn that the author is from Ottawa.
Michelle Johnson
Jul 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
This wasn't my cup of tea.
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Parts of a middle dragged on a bit and the ending was a bit rushed for my taste. There was also a great amount of printing mistakes in my copy. But otherwise I really loved this story.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: award-aurora-won
I really enjoyed Alice Payne Arrives, but not so much this one. There just wasn't much tension, and some narrative decisions left me eyebrow-arched. I struggled to get through it.
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
so so fun (for a book w the plague, zombies from hell & bruges) ...more
Lincoln Wert
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, horror
This was gloriously weird
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, strong-women
What a weird book.

A trans man-at-arms, a shrewish old wet nurse, and a spinster with a magic distaff march on the gates of Hell to reclaim a stolen inheritance. Also features a debate on whether zombies are legally dead.

It could be fantasy, it could be alternate history, it could be philosophy. It was definitely strongly feminist, in a somewhat similar way to Women Talking, where the worth of women is always defined in relation to the men.

But it did discuss that women are expected to give and gi
Jessica Strider
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pros: very feisty women, lots of history, clever integration of the hellbeast

Cons: writing was a little dry at times

When her revenant husband returns to the besieged city of Bruges and reveals he’s hidden a fortune, Margriet de Vos demands her rights: a third of that wealth belongs to her, the rest to their daughter. Her husband now serves the Chatelaine of Hell, and intends to give her this gold. But Margriet won’t be deterred. Neither war, the King of France, nor Hell itself will keep her fr
K. Lincoln
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes reading multiple books at the same time burns you out, sometimes there are serendipitous overlaps between themes. I have come to accept that much of any review is solidly based in the reading environment in which I have encountered that book.

I am encountering Armed in Her Fashion in the context of some feminist theory books and podcasts. And so the collection of women who form the main ensemble of this cast appealed to me as embodying many of the issues I was hearing about in the other
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Kate Heartfield is the author of Armed in Her Fashion (ChiZine 2018) and the two Alice Payne novellas, published by Publishing.
Armed in Her Fashion won the Aurora Award for Best Novel and was shortlisted for the Crawford, Sunburst and Locus First Novel awards.
She was nominated for a 2018 Nebula Award in the novella category for Alice Payne Arrives, and in game writing for The Road to Cant

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