Zoë Marriott's Reviews > The Hand, the Eye and the Heart

The Hand, the Eye and the Heart by Zoë Marriott
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it was amazing

Q: Is it true this book is a retelling of 'Mulan'?

A: It isn't a direct retelling of any one story. It is heavily inspired by several different versions of the Ballad of Mulan - including the original poem and many subsequent, ever-evolving retellings within Chinese culture such as the Chinese Opera. The original spark of inspiration came from my frustration with Disney's Mulan and my interest in the subtext of the song 'Reflection'. But the main character of The Hand, the Eye and the Heart is not Mulan. The protagonist of this book is Zhi. It's really important to me that this is clear, because Mulan is such a revered and significant figure and I'm not seeking to mess with her. So I'm not claiming to retell 'the true story of Mulan' here. Zhi's journey definitely echoes Mulan's - but this is about paying homage to a legendary heroine and a heroic archetype, not subverting or revising Mulan's story.

Q: Is the book set in China?

A: It's set in an imaginary place called The Land of Dragons or the Red Empire. This (again) is heavily influenced by Chinese history, especially the Tang Dynasty - but only in the same way that, say, George R. R. Martin's Westeros is influenced by England in the Middle Ages. It is not intended to be a historically accurate portrayal of China. It's a fantasy. There's magic and all kinds of made up people and places and events, as well as many people and places and events which take history as a jumping off point for fantastical extrapolation. The Big Bad, for example, is a mixture of a bandit King referred to in one version of Mulan's story (a man called Leopard Skin) and a real general who rebelled against the Emperor during the Tang Dynasty.

Q: So is the main character really trans?

A: I think of their gender identity as falling under that umbrella, and wrote them with the intention of presenting them to my readers that way - personally, I believe Zhi to be what contemporary westerners would probably call gender fluid or maybe, more broadly, non-binary. But readers are free to interpret the character's gender in any way they like (so long as they don't try to say that they're cis! Definitely not cis).

Q: Did you have sensitivity readers who were Chinese or trans?

A: I was actually lucky enough to have advice and support from several trans and non-binary people throughout the writing of the book. Once it was finished I had two trans sensitivity readers. One is a dear friend (and fellow YA writer) who kindly offered to read the first draft. The other is a very talented young poet who we found through the organisation Inclusive Minds, and he read the nearly-finished version. I tried my absolute best to act on and incorporate every comment or suggestion that both of them made. I also had really valuable help from several readers (and friends and family members of readers) of Chinese and East Asian heritage throughout the writing of the book, and a sensitivity read from another lovely friend who is not only Chinese, but also an English professor at Singapore university. She made quite a difference to the finished product too. I thank the writing gods for all these amazing folks.

Q: Is it true that you're an LGBTQA+ writer? Are you trans?

A: I identify as queer, yes. But I don't really think that writers should have to offer up a list of their marginalised identities on demand as part of discussion of their work, so even though I'm happy to talk about my queerness at other times, I'd prefer not to go into it now. I will say that the book is not #ownvoices.

Q: When exactly is the book out?

A: April 2019!

Q: When can we see the cover?

A: I don't know - but you can bet your sweet bippy I'll post it the millisecond I'm allowed to.

Q: Can we read some of it?

A: When it's copy-edited and proof-read my publisher might let me post some extracts, or maybe a free sample will go up on their webste. I will ask, I promise. I'm excited to share it with you.

Q: Is this the never-ending manuscript that just keeps getting longer that you're always moaning about on Twitter?

A: Er...yes.

Q: How long is this thing anyway?

A: Currently? I mean, it's hard to really say, it's not typset and nothing's set in stone...

Q: Just spit it out!

A: It's a bit over 100k, all right? That might come down. Or it might go up. I don't know, I'm just the writer. Anyway, it's in the same general length bracket as Shadows on the Moon.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 28, 2018 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Ellie (new)

Ellie What is come out in the US? If so will it be an audiobook? I am blind and I do have a hard time reading it in a different way.


Zoë Marriott Ellie wrote: "What is come out in the US? If so will it be an audiobook? I am blind and I do have a hard time reading it in a different way."

Hi Ellie,

At the moment this book doesn't have a US publisher, and there aren't any plans for an audiobook. I'm really sorry. If it were up to me both those things would be different. All I can do is right now is cross my fingers that a US publisher or audiobook company may decide to buy the rights to the book and produce something in the future.

Best Wishes,
Zoe x


message 3: by Eafiu (new) - added it

Eafiu I really can't wait to read this one!


Zoë Marriott Eafiu wrote: "I really can't wait to read this one!"

:) :) :)


message 5: by Barbara (new) - added it

Barbara Strickland Looking forward to this, love all your books


Zoë Marriott Barbara wrote: "Looking forward to this, love all your books"

Thank you!


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