Danger Gal Friday: Vignette Stonemoss

This week’s Danger Gal Friday profiles Vignette Stonemoss as portrayed by Cara Delevigne in the new Amazon Prime fantasy series Carnival Row.

Labeling Carnival Row simply a fantasy seems misleading when so many people can’t decide just exactly what genre the show belongs to. A rarity in that the show isn’t based on a prior novel series, Carnival Row has been described as a “Victorian fantasy world,” an “allegorical, fantasy crime thriller,” and also a Steampunk Faerie Mystery Romance (my favorite).

One reviewer wondered: “I’ll be fascinated to see how people react to Carnival Row—as you might imagine, this is the kind of show that, for certain people, will be Very Much Their Kind of Thing.”

To which I say, hello, this is indeed Very Much My Kind of Thing. The extended world-building that such a sprawling story requires is a plus for me. There’s even a map available like any proper, self-respecting fantasy should have.

As much as I enjoyed the world-building, though, it’s the characters that keep me in a story and this was the reason I binge-watched the entire series over two days. One of the important aspects of a Danger Gal is understanding what defines her—loss, love, anger, etc.—and what role she plays in that drama. People have been trying to define what makes a “strong female character” for a long time, but for me, the differentiating element is a choice. We often refer to this as “agency,” but it’s not so easily defined.

Much of Vignette’s life is intertwined with loss and pain, but she chooses not to let those experiences erode who she is in her heart. Delevigne picked up on this aspect of the character when she said in a DigitalSpy interview: “Usually hurt people hurt people, and she doesn’t. She tries to live with compassion and forgiveness and love. That’s the most endearing quality about her.”

Plus, I found it so refreshing that for a good part of the story the Romance heroine is the supernatural character rather than reacting to a supernatural boyfriend. Make fun of the wings if you want, but Vignette has them and Philo does not (I promise, no spoilers). Also, several reviewers have aptly described Vignette as a “warrior-librarian”. I kind of thought all librarians were bad-ass? You have seen The Magicians, right?

If a bad-ass librarian with wings isn’t enough to draw you into this story, then how about the abiding friendship between Vignette and Tourmaline—that started before and continued after their relationship? Vignette isn’t define by the external events of her life and she’s not limited either by who she loves.

It’s Faes Before Braes, dude.

So, let’s see, we’ve got a:

  • Steampunk Faerie Mystery Romance — check
  • Supernatural, pan-sexual pixie (with wings) — check
  • Warrior-librarian who will defend her books to the death — check

These are all great, fun things, but my favorite aspect of this show is that—from The Burgue to Tirnanoc—girls run The World. In addition to a heroine with heart and a plan, we find other female characters similarly turning aspects of The World upside down. Check out these other strong female characters in Carnival Row:

  • Imogen Spurnrose: This seemingly stereotypical Victorian lady is actually running off exploring other continents with her favorite Faun
  • Piety Breakspear: You might think she’s just the Chancellor’s wife, but instead she’s playing politics in secret all to arrange for her son to rule The Burgue
  • Afissa: A Faun indentured servant working for the Spurnroses who knows how The World really works
  • The Haruspex: Fae fortune-teller who goes by a title like a magical Beyonce or Prince (oh, wait)
  • Portia Fyfe: This Victorian lady owns a business and goes after Philo until she realizes he can’t be part of the life that she wants

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