In Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older, Sierra (the protagonist) encounters a trio of powerful spiritual entities, the Sorrows. They seem to see her as "impure" in some sense, to the extent that they won’t even touch her:
Back, Septima! another voice howled. Do not touch her. The child is stained.
“Stained? What are you — is that why you send others to do your dirty work for you? You won’t touch us normal people?”
You are impure, the three voices whispered together. Just like your grandmother. We thought if you were willing to hear us out, to purify yourself, you could one day be amongst us.
What about her, exactly, do the Sorrows see as impure?
- Do they consider her impure because she is human, or mortal? Sierra’s response in the previous quote suggests that that’s what she believes the Sorrows are implying.
- Do they consider her impure because of her race or ethnicity? Given the general links between magic and one’s roots in the novel, the Sorrows might see people not of whatever group they are linked to as impure.
Neither of these quite seems to work, though, because race or ethnicity (let alone humanity) doesn’t seem like the sort of thing someone could change, and the Sorrows seem to think there’s a definite possibility that Sierra could somehow become “pure,” and join her power to theirs. I suppose the Sorrows might believe that Sierra could “purify” herself by dying (and thus no longer being mortal), but it sounds like they think she could join them long after being “purified” (“You could one day be among us.”) What’s more, if just being mortal or human is enough to render one “stained,” why would one of the Sorrows have forgotten this long enough to make a move for her?
What, exactly, do the Sorrows believe renders Sierra impure? And how do they believe it could be removed?