An Open Letter to Voya (Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury)

This is part of a series called Margin Letters, where I write open letters to fictional characters of content I love. This particular installment is a stop on the blog tour for Blood Like Magic organized by TBR And Beyond Book Tours. Please see publication information and read my non-spoiler review here.

Voya Thomas is the main character of Blood Like Magic. After failing the task she needs to be inducted as a full-fledged Thomas witch, she is given another chance by the ancestors to save her magic and her family. This time, though, the stakes are much higher: kill her first love, or else her family loses their magic.

Dear Voya,

Keis isn’t the only one in your head, and I’m sorry that I can read your thoughts from oceans and years away. I’m Nae, and I’m reading your story in 2021–a few decades before your time–and in a country 13 time zones away from yours.

It’s both strange and exhilarating to meet you when I did, as if we did a beta matching program for fictional and real people. I hope you can see me now as I pore over your life on the page, quietly sobbing over the same kind of pain over our choices and the worlds that would fall apart with the wrong step.

And, oh, if you’d let me, I would give you the biggest hug enough to keep painful words from shattering your soul:

“Voya, who can’t choose at all and Voya, who can never make the right choice. Two halves of a coin worth nothing.”

It hurts to hear directly from your own relatives how your worth is tied to what you can provide them and how their expectations from you trump your identity and happiness. Not eavesdropping could have shielded you from the worst of the comments, but it’s more sobering to know what they think when you’re not around. That kind of betrayal stings, as I’ve learned firsthand when I eavesdrop on relatives who are frustrated by my refusal to conform to the plans they laid for my future–plans that did not include consulting me in the first place.

It’s not that simple, I know. We both live in cultures that prize our connectedness above all else. We are raised to consider what our actions could mean for our parents, for our siblings, for our family name, and for our reputation in the community. These values become even more distinct when we are raised in the diaspora and have everything stacked against us.

Would it hurt less if this expectation is rooted in a desire for world domination or in a quest to be the most powerful witch family in Canada? Probably not, but the act of seeing someone as a ticket to strengthening the clan would be more understandable. But it’s not the case. It’s a matter of keeping the family safe and normal and together just like the old days. It’s not a bad wish in itself, but your freedom shouldn’t be the price. And sometimes, it’s the small, harmless, and sincere wishes that chip away at our defenses until we are fragments washed away into oblivion.

All of these truths cannot cancel out the need for your own identity. You are not worthless outside the Thomases, Voya. You are you. You are beautiful and lovely and strong. You have so much to scream into the world, and your love is so big and deep that it fiercely surrounds everyone you hold dear with the force of a thousand infernos. But though this love keeps you strongly connected to your family, love does not get to erase all the parts that are your own.

You are not weak for being paralyzed over this decision. You are not selfish for wanting to consider all possible alternatives when you know in your heart there is something amiss. You are not whiny for pointing out that someone’s life is on the line. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of our own frailty and lack of guts. Often, it’s the narrow-mindedness imbued in our context that keeps the pressure and blame on an escape goat such as you. And often, we are raised to see this as normal, until one day we realize that we can rise above our flawed system–whether out in society or within the intimate spaces of our home.

Choosing is raw, messy, and vulnerable. It asks us to confront our own thoughts and to subject ourselves to opinions both solicited and unwanted. I’ve drawn from your strength while making my own decisions, and if I may, I offer you my own as you deal with the aftermath.

We can survive.

We are strong.

To a future we decide,

Nae

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