Writing on Reading // Queer Retellings

DSC_0245 copy

So, I kinda went hard ranting on twitter the other day. I went hard, because I had just read two short stories and one anthology of queer retellings of fairytales, and they were all tragic disappointments. I was dissecting why, how, what the fuck… and then I realised I actually had a book blog. Like, a space on the internet specially carved out for me to talk about books and reading.

And I was also debating whether to repost my reviews for those novellas here, considering the gist of the short write-ups was ‘disappointing’… why not turn it into one big rant about the concept as a whole?

Brilliant idea. So, here I shall.

Here’s the thing. A really, really high portion of LGBTQ fiction out there is a retelling of some sort, or a queer ‘twist’ on an existing story. Fairytales and folklore are the most common, but plenty take on myths, or classic literature. In such a small genre – compared to hetero fiction – this becomes really apparent, because of how very little LGBT fiction is being written, published and self-published. When so much of it has a blurb with ‘a gay/lesbian twist on the classic story of X’, you really have to sit back and look at what these stories actually are.

Continue reading

Review // The Well // A murder mystery with a few twists

thewellbanner

Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! And finally, a novel that I’ve requested has turned out to be genuinely good!

It’s a sharp, concise mystery novel, focused on the murder with a M/M romance.

This isn’t an adventurous or genre-changing plot but it made a damn solid novel for an afternoon at home. Twelve years ago a group of teens – Haven, his cousins Linsey and Elise and a few others, including the boy he’d had his eye on – broke into an abandoned haunted house to hold a seance. By morning, Elise had vanished. Twelve years later, Haven is contacted by his old crush, Pierce, and his twin – now paranormal investigators – for help in hunting down the truth. The plot is a page-turner, no wasted words in telling the story of ~what happened on that spooky night~ – and the added diversity is always a point in a book’s favour.

well.png

It was really good fun! The unfolding investigation always kept me interested, it was easy to follow and the conclusion and eventual murderer reveal wasn’t contrived at all. There were some really great, genuinely suspenseful moments towards the end of the novel where I couldn’t stop reading and didn’t want to – I would have read this in two sittings instead of three, thanks to work lol. The twists in the mystery were fun and definitely heightened my interested instead of making it convoluted, and the paranormal twist was especially fun – I enjoyed that it was used, primarily, for a really emotional touch rather than spooooky happenings. I was actually quite pleased with how the ending focused on resolving the murder for the mystery as well as in an emotionally satisfying way.

The M/M romance was a really nice addition

The ridiculous teenage longing and resulting adulthood reunion was sweet and added more emotion and depth to a story that always had plenty. I enjoyed that Haven’s emotional connections were given equal importance between his lost cousin and his love interest – in a mystery novel Elise would have taken precedence, and in an M/M novel her importance would have been (rather stupidly) downplayed in favour of ~sexy gay love~ so I’m glad Sexton gave both aspects the pagetime they deserved to be explored. And yet, because this was a mystery first and M/M romance second, the romance plotline in the present section wasn’t as compelling as it could have been – it was a sweet complement to the mystery, but this novel would have gripped me even more if it had put more effort into the relationship building.

My only qualm, really, is that I wish there had been more

And not because it was lacking – I just genuinely had fun with it, and felt more could only improve the experience. I really did enjoy all the characters, the various dynamics going on between the supporting cast and the mains. I would have adored this if it had been a 400 page novel. Sexton is absolutely a competent writer with great, clear prose, but this barely scrapes up to 200 pages – it did a lot of things that I enjoyed but it only touched upon them, the fast-paced plot taking precedence. The flashback chapters were perfectly concise and well paced throughout the novel, I wouldn’t change them, but I would have loved more on the present day. If it had gone into greater details on the facets of Haven’s life, as a writer, on living life after such a great tragedy; on bringing the town of Hobbsburg to life; on injecting even more tension and longing into his relationship with Pierce, or exploring Pierce and Jordan’s life… honestly, I enjoyed all of it, I would have happily read more Sexton had to write about any part of this story.

Overall, 4/5. A lot of fun, and I could have easily read more – I wish there had been more.

Review // The Watchmaker of Filigree Street // Magic, Watches and a Love Story

watchmaker banner

So, someone must have let slip to Natasha Pulley what my literary kinks are. It is insane how much this book pandered to everything I love. Victorian England? Set in the only part of London (South Kensington) I know well? Meiji era Japan? Diversity in historical settings? Spirited female scientists and the existence of migrant communities throughout history? Japanese linguistics? Hell, even foreign affairs offices, blithely teasing me about my career goals? And most important of all – a happy, loving queer relationship ❤️

It’s about a telegraphist, Thaniel Steepleton, in the London Home Office in the 1880s who goes home to find a mysterious pocket watch left in his room – months later it ends up saving his life from a bomb. He seeks out the watchmaker for answers, and finds Keita Mori, a Japanese man with secrets of his own. And from there, their relationship begins.

DSC_0187 copy

The packaging of this novel was definitely misleading – but for me it ended up being a pleasant surprise.

It very much wanted readers to think the novel was going to tell a completely different story than what it ended up telling – and I think this is the root of a lot of the negative reviews I see for this. This is definitely a trend I’ve noticed very specifically with LGBT+ fiction in literary or speculative genres – publishers try to remain as vague as possible about the very central LGBT+ content inside in every way possible. And I think it would help readers to enjoy it more knowing exactly what it was going in.

The blurb seemed to hint at maybe a historical crime thriller, or maybe a Holmesian mystery with supernatural threads – and those elements were there. But that wasn’t the story. The story was, above all else, about a magical romance between two men. It’s about how Thaniel Steepleton and Keita Mori find each other, come to love each other, and the magic within Mori that brought them together. It’s about knowing you’re going to fall in love with someone before you even meet, simply based on thousands of possibilities of how your lives are going to unfold – chance and magic. And I have no doubt very different elements of the book would have been emphasised in marketing if either of them had been female – but. That’s another rant.

adored their romance. I loved how the writing portrayed their unfolding relationship; thoughtful and slow, almost drifting along. It was a way of writing the relationship which, by the climax of the novel and of their relationship, makes a alot of the novel make a lot more sense in retrospect. Every scene between the two was very atmospheric – their world in Filigree Street came to life for me. I loved their characters, I grew so fond of Thaniel and so charmed by Mori. I could read any number of novellas about Mori and Thaniel’s post-novel life, oh my god. The author has a short story online from 2010 which inspired this novel, and if it’s as lovely as the story itself I definitely want to read it.

EDIT: half an hour after posting this review I discovered the author is writing a sequel about Thaniel and Mori due to be published next year. I am blessed ❤️

Everything else, really, was dressing to complement the romance.

The historical settings of late Victorian England and its troubles with Irish nationalism, the sweeping political changes in post-civil war Meiji Japan, the rapidly evolving technology of the time, the difficulties of women in academia and public spaces in this time, and the magical realism in this world where clairvoyants and seers are rare but accepted – but, oh man, I found it such an interesting dressing. There wasn’t a great deal of synthesis between these events and the Thaniel/Mori love story at the heart, which was definitely a failing.

Even though I say that, I also found it no great coincidence that this character whose magic made all those around him see him as dangerous based simply on just could be and potential to – and that this character was a queer man, a stigmatised ill-begotten son in his own society and a racial minority in British society in an era with the “Yellow Peril”. This was never really explored in the novel, but it didn’t escape my notice.

I liked all the supporting characters too – even if they weren’t drawn out in great detail or even did a whole lot, there was something about them that seemed vivid to me. Dolly, Fanshawe, Ito and Matsumoto were are ally enjoyable for me – even Annabel, who only had a few speaking lines, was a distinct character for me from the way Pulley painted her from Thaniel’s perspective.

There was one main thing that left me unsatisfied.

And pretty damn conflicted overall, too – and that was the character of Grace. Initially she had all the fantastic qualities of female characters that I enjoy – especially supporting female characters in M/M novels – but she ended up being more of an antagonist force. While I understand why – the decision Thaniel has to make between Grace and Mori is the central conflict of the novel in the end – I just didn’t like that Pulley made that decision. Grace could have been a very fun secondary heroine – she had a lot of character, she was stroppy, headstrong and selfish, focused on her goal of becoming a scientist and to make a grand discovery, to a fault, but good-hearted, with a lot of room to grow. These qualities, that were fun in the beginning, actually manifested in a way that made Grace a very unpleasant person by the end of the novel. I wanted her to leave, to let Mori and Thaniel’s relationship be, and it was too much of a ‘ew get the horrible WOMAN away from the gay ship’ experience than I’m EVER comfortable with. I don’t think Pulley was trying to villainise Grace, considering her ending, but it very much left me with a reading experience I’m very uncomfortable with when reading M/M content.

I found the prose itself lovely – a little slow, but for me it came off considered – and the dialogue was all strong and delightful… but at times the execution of certain scenes didn’t work, especially towards the end of the novel. There wasn’t enough tension being built into the writing, but there was enough that through the context of the story I was able to feel the build up and climaxes so it wasn’t left lying completely flat – but I don’t think she quite managed to land the ending the way she wanted to. Honestly, it read like an author’s first novel – which, hey, it was.

Definitely a 4/5 – I adored it, but there were some little flaws which were just too much for me to ignore.

Review // Under the Udala Trees // Sexuality, Religion and Ethnicity in Wartime Nigeria

udalatreesbanner copyThe Author’s Note at the end of this book points out three things. Firstly, that same-sex relationships were made illegal in Nigeria in 2014, punishable by prison throughout the country and by death in the north; secondly, that Nigeria was surveyed the second religious country in the world.

Thirdly, that the novel sets out to provide both a voice and a place in history to LGBT Nigerians. It does it, through the perspective of a Nigerian lesbian, Ijeoma Okoli. It shows her life, the life of other lesbians, of others in the LGBT community in Nigeria. It shows how homophobia in Nigeria chokes people; LGBT people, the people in their lives with, as the protagonist says late in the book, ‘the weight of tradition and superstition and all of our legends‘.

 This, the cultural, national and religious context of Under the Udala Trees is the first thing that sets this novel apart from countless others that the interaction between young LGBT people, religion and culture. Ijeoma is a lesbian, an Igbo in Nigeria, a Christian. As a Western reader, I deeply appreciate these different types of narratives – being able to connect with a life so unfamiliar to my own, and at the same time become acutely aware of the differences in experiences between myself and other girls, other queer women, other humans.

DSC_0131 copy

This novel is a historical fiction, covering the events of Nigeria in the 1960s to life in the 1980s.

Of all of Africa, I’ve had the most interaction with English language Nigerian literature – the giant of modern African literature, Chinua Achebe, as well as Chimamanda Adichie, Nnedi Okorafor and Helen Oyeyemi. Themes of post-colonialism, ethnicity, religion and relationships were all prominent in these authors’ works, but this is the first piece of Nigerian – hell, African – literature I’ve read that also included LGBT themes.

The entire book is heavy in subject matter

The events covered by this book are harsh. Honestly, it took me so long to read despite it’s short length because throughout all of July my post-op wisdom teeth surgery pain evolved into a chest infection and accompanying flu. When sent home sick from work, I didn’t want to read this book at all. Starting immediately in the middle of the Biafran War – a civil war in the 1960s between the secessionist state of Biafra and Nigeria.

Her childhood, the first half of the book, is tied to the experiences of Biafrans. She comes of age during this war, discovering her sexuality in the midst of constant destruction and slow starvation. Her adulthood, in the shadow of the war, is tied to the experiences of LGBT Nigerians; of compulsory heterosexuality, the insidious, casual homophobia that permeates all of her society, violent hate crimes, and the underground LGBT community that survives, surives, survives.

The writing gave strength to both the story and the themes of the novel.

There’s something soft in the tone of Okparanta’s prose, despite the weight of the story. It’s not overwhelmingly tragic, nor brutal in its writing. Ijeoma is quiet, but speaks to a purpose – the framing of the story is, in fact, Ijeoma’s own reflections from the present day. Her narration can be curt, weighed down with misery that comes from the retrospection, absolutely devastating in its sharpness. But her personality in the story, in her interactions with other characters, is playful, thoughtful and kind; emotional, which compounds both her inner torment and her love for others. It makes her development, the way her personality changes as she grows up and is affected by the way her country, her culture and her religion views people like her – beaten, worn down, choked by the weight.

I also appreciated the use of code switching within the text, from English to Igbo to pidgin. It gave me such a rich reading experience. The traditional Nigerian songs, stories and fables that Ijeoma passed onto the reader, learned from her father and her friends and her culture, was used to a fantastic effect within her own story and growth. There was also a fascinating transition from Ijeoma’s reflection on Christian stories to these Nigerian stories as the novel progressed, as she grew from youth to adult.

Themes of questioning Christianity, especially it’s stance on same-sex relations, certainly isn’t new to me, but was fascinating in this novel.

This novel provided nothing that I, a bisexual, formerly Christian girl haven’t thought or read before. My first date was to a Christian bookstore, and now I’m only tenuously agnostic – you fill in the gaps, lol. I doubt to many other Western readers it would be either. Yet, the cultural, ethnic and historical context of this novel rendered this exploration utterly unique to my own experience.

Ijeoma’s relationship with her lesbianism is tied to many things; other women and her culture’s religion. When focused relationships with other women, be they going well or poorly, there is more peace within Ijeoma. She can deal with the course of relationships as many others do. The torment and guilt over her orientation becomes pronounced when she relates this side of her to her religion. And Christianity is tied to many things in her life – her mother, who has been deeply traumatised by the war, most prominently, others in her community, and also her culture and her ethnicity.

I was left wanting with the characters, however.

I enjoyed Ijeoma, and thought her mother was wonderfully complex, especially by the end of the novel, but I felt most of the secondary characters were lacking in dimension. I failed to care for Amina, Ndidi or Chibundu as much as I liked. The bond between Amina and Ijeoma was touching, a solace for each other amidst the war, but I never quite saw what Ijeoma saw in her afterwards. She just wasn’t drawn well enough. I did see the attraction between Ijeoma and Ndidi but she didn’t feel as fleshed out either.

Also, spoilery spoilery thoughts: I wish a bit more time had been spent on why Ijeoma had married Chibundu. I do understand why – the rise in hate crimes, societal and familial pressure, what Ndidi said – but it happened so quickly. But her relationship with Ndidi was going really well, her life was functioning quite well – I understand her motivation to give it all up for marriage as presented, but I’m not sure I buy it. In the novel Ijeoma basically goes ‘okay, well, might as well!’, just about. It’s such a contemplative, introspective story throughout the rest of the novel, it felt like a bit of a glaring gap. I also am of two minds about Chibundu’s character overall – I thought I was going to see some more complexity to him, from the first chapters of their married life, but he turned into a genuinely unpleasant person. I had hoped he would continue to show this complexity with his relationship with Ijeoma, but… I’ve seen men I’ve respected and trusted turn into cruel and spiteful individuals, just because female partners turned out to be lesbians. It’s unnervingly realistic.

I am so so happy she and Ndidi got back together in the end, though. They were gorgeous. I could read another novella about their life together, with Chidinma. Gay parents, my weakness

 ❤️

Overall, 4/5. A heavy, devastating story, but an important one, one that bring an important voice to LGBT narratives.

Book Review // Something Beautiful // Two Friends and a Lifetime

smthbeautifulbanner

I was so wonderfully given the opportunity to read this book through an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! Cheers, NetGalley!

Something Beautiful is a novel about two friends, Cordelia and Declan, who had known each other since they were three, and following them through years of their lives together, as Cordelia struggles with mental illness and Declan comes to terms with his sexuality.

It’s very much a novel driven by issues

Not just LGBT+ issues. Losing friends through distance, navigating turning from friends to lovers, careers, loss, grief – Something Beautiful covers all of these.

I felt the delivery came with mixed results, however. The writing was good, it told the story in a very easy to read and compelling manner, and it was always emphasising the emotions of the characters and their inner thoughts. The dialogue was nice, too, and went a long way to building character.

I wish the novel was 150 pages longer, though. I feel it could have benefitted from some breathing space between covering all the major events of ~38 years of Declan and Cordelia’s life. The introduction of Cordelia’s mental illness felt very abrupt, and almost as abruptly left the story at a certain point as well. This novel has some pretty dramatic stuff go down in ~200 pages, and at points I wished there was more space in between to both break up these emotional points, and flesh out the world and lives of these characters more.

There were also points where I felt the novel veered from a nuanced portrayal of these issues to a ham-fisted, near-preachy attitude – this mostly came from Cordelia, I noticed.

The LGBT+ issues this novel touched upon, unfortunately, left me unsatisfied

I had a mixed response. I identify as bisexual, I’ve been engaging with LGBT+/queer stories for years. My textual reading habits and personal experiences tell me this novel was portraying the life and relationship of a bisexual man. I was expecting a novel that would explore what it means to be a bisexual individual in an opposite-sex relationship – and it certainly did.  There’s a lot to unpack in that situation, with a distinct set of issues to tackle, and it’s something you don’t see in mainstream LGBT+ stories. The opportunity to see these issues explored was what made me interested in reading this in the first place.

However, when it came to articulating this, the focus was placed on what Declan called the ‘complexity of my fluid sexuality’.

Which… it is valid, sure. There are individuals who reject labels, or choose broader umbrella terms like queer, as Declan does at one point. But the ‘No Bisexuals’ trope is very prevalent in fiction – where characters who exhibit bisexual behaviour or characteristics are either categorised only as ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, and almost always say they ‘don’t use labels’ or ‘just like both’. It’s a trope that, in the long term, is problematic.

To me, a bisexual woman, I was able to relate to Declan’s sexual preferences to my own experiences in my sexuality. Preferring the same sex overall, but finding certain individual opposite-sex people particularly attractive – that’s a perfectly valid form of bisexual attraction. I didn’t see anything particularly complex about it. But, that’s my reading.

The characterisation was solid, and made for a sweet story overall

Declan and Cordelia were both distinct character voices. I ended up liking Declan’s voice more. It felt more nuanced. Softer, more reasoned, yet Declan didn’t feel things any less than Cordelia. Her voice and responses always felt… very sharp and intense. Which works because of her mental health issues, but since the focus on this disappeared in the 2nd half of the novel, I mostly attribute it to the really heightened sense of drama.

I liked the characters’ vulnerabilities, and both their hesitancies and their honesty in revealing these vulnerabilities to each other – both as a result of their long-term friendship. Their relationship was very sweet, but it was also flawed and fraught with troubles – realistic.

Again, I’ll come back to wishing the novel was longer. I would have appreciated the opportunity to get to know each main character without the other. They clearly had very major things in their lives, separate from the other – Adam, their careers, Peter – but it was never given a lot of focus. It made the novel feel more bare, almost claustrophobic with the sole focus being on the relationship between these two, with the attempt to chronicle their lives. It left the novel feeling weaker than it could have been.

Ultimately, I’d rate this 2/5. A quick read, portraying some real issues with a good intention, but I would have liked to see more from the novel and more perspective from the author.

Series Review // Kirith Kirin & The Ordinary // sci-fi and fantasy entertwined

ordinarybanner

First post!

Why not start out with some of the most interesting experiences with genre fiction I’ve had lately, let alone LGBT+ fiction.

Two books by Jim Grimsley, a prolific novelist and playwright

He was writing gay fiction for decades before turning to fantasy with Kirith Kirin. I had read his novel Dream Boys before his SFF stuff, and it was a lush, emotive, compelling and really fucking oddly surreal read. I still don’t know what to make of it, except maybe that it’s a novel that speaks of an experience of being queer entirely outside of my own, and what could I have to make of it?.

Kirith Kirin gave me a similar impression in many aspects. I read it at the end of 2015, so my memories are hazier now. It’s a very classic epic fantasy premise – a humble farm boy, Jessex, joins his uncle in the army of Kirith Kirin, a dethroned King fighting to regain his rightful kingdom. Jessex finds himself at the centre of an old prophecy, learns magic, fights for Kirith Kirin – and falls in love with him.

It’s the relationship between Jessex and Kirith that drives the novel

I love epic fantasy despite all the problems in the genre, and this novel gave me such a classic, fantastical premise – of the prophesised hero and the legendary King fighting to restore peace and the natural order – and then made it unapologetically gay, so much so that normal high fantasy romance trappings – like epic declarations of soulmate bondings in ancient sacred magical shrines with mystical ceremonies and all that – applied to a same-sex couple seemed indulgent.

It was fantastic. When Jessex and Kirith become a couple, there is still much more to their story to be told and Grimsley keeps it interesting, something definitely hard in any romance writing. They became one of my favourite types of literary couples, the kind where after they get together the story’s plot and conflict is faced by them together as a team.

(I will say though, YMMV regarding the age gap between Jessex and Kirith. It’s magic immortal-but-looks-young-and-sexy King and farm boy prophesised hero, and often those age gaps feel negligible, but Jessex is also firmly a teenager, barely ‘of age’ and this is a point that’s made. It never, ever feels like anything less than a relationship of equals. But, you know. That’s there, it certainly didn’t serve much of a purpose)

The supporting cast were also very enjoyable, appealing characters, with Grimsley alluding to a rich mythology and history with each of Kirith’s companions. There was a mix of fierce leaders with some frankly adorable character interactions!.

The worldbuilding was utterly incredible.

I appreciated the character-driven story, but I don’t even think I can put into words what I think of the worldbuilding in this novel. It wasn’t a terribly long book, but he just about fit in as lush a fantasy world as I’ve seen in the staples of epic fantasy. Truly the only thing stopping it from being up there with A Song of Ice and Fire’s Westeros or The Wheel of Time’s “Randland” is that it’s just one book. The prose was just gorgeous, the descriptive passages are so detailed and conjure a genuinely beautiful fantasy world. The thought put into the magic and the many races and kingdoms in this world, just for the one book, is incredible.

And my god, the linguistics. For me, fantasy languages are tricky things. Frankly, Tolkien destroyed all competition for hundreds of years to come. He helped create the modern fantasy genre with his books that were just vessels for his many languages. So now, most fantasy that gets too enthusiastic about their made-up words and terms, for me, just seems like a lot of superfluous effort – often because compared to Tolkien, none of it does anything for the story whatsoever. Just a bunch of clever kids showing off how clever they are. Not in Kirith Kirin though. The language is so detailed and thought out and serves a purpose, in constructing the society, the religion, and the magic. Oh the magic.

Sadly, the execution failed it from becoming a genuine favourite.

Because, while the magic system was seriously one of the most impressive magic systems, for how detailed and developed it was, and also how alive it felt, it was also delivered through a lot of info dumps. In the grand epic magical war, the descriptions of the magic could drag it down. Battle scenes, although their depiction of magic was well written, became dry rather than exciting, and I was simply skimming to get to the next scenes between Jessex and his comrades.

Now, I just finished its sequel-of-sorts, The Ordinary.

Grimsley takes the fantasy world of Kirith Kirin, several thousand years in the future, and changes everything.

The premise of The Ordinary is the Hormling, in a futuristic, spacefaring society caught in a war with robots, discovered a gate through space and time to a technologically backwards world and have been exploring this world for decades now. A delegation is sent to meet with this world’s leader, including the linguist and trader Jedda Martele – who gets caught up in this world as magic and technology clash.

This world of course is that of Kirith Kirin’s, thousands of years after.

The plot that unfolds is very interesting. The sci-fi society of Jedda and other characters isn’t as deeply explored as the world in Kirith Kirin, but still interesting. It was a society of conformity and habit; all citizens were linked and recorded, mentally, through technology, and as people who grew up in space they were constantly terrified and unnerved by the wide open fantasy world they were set to explore. Jedda explores this world through the eyes of a linguist – a very believable one, her narration always pays attention to shifting dialects and etymology – and the first half of the novel is very much the exciting build up to a war between civilisations

It was a fascinating experiment.

I think well worth a read for anyone who likes both sci-fi and fantasy. It pits magic and technology against each other, but on equal footing. The fact that I got excited and a little emotional when places and people from Kirith Kirin speaks of how much that novel really did make an impact on me – that when characters mentioned the Mother Goddess, didn’t quite name her, memories came flooding back and oh my gosh yes they’re talking about the YY-Mother! It was also a fascinating look at a fantasy world that evolves and changes rather than stagnates through the era, manifesting in the linguistics and demonstrating how languages themselves evolve, and what effect that has on cultures.

It features probably one of the most lovely, affecting F/F romances I’ve read.

The word that comes to mind for me is lush. The relationship between Jedda and Malin, Jessex’s niece and another powerful magician, was intriguing from the start, and only got more emotionally affecting as the twists of the plot were revealed. The way prophecy and time itself brought them together was gorgeous, as was the development of their relationship. The heat and magnetism of attraction appeared immediately, but Grimsley also took his time to show the deeper bond between the two and all its twisting stages of development.

(I was also basically in love with Malin myself. Beautiful, powerful, immortal magician queen meets lively young magician apprentice princess, all in one character. Her life story was just so… gahh hit the right notes, especially having read Kirith Kirin)

Everything queer in this novel made me so happy. What we saw, in various ways, of Jessex and Kirith’s relationship after the events of the first novel was, frankly, gorgeously romantic.

It had its downfalls, though, just like Kirith Kirin.

The drive of its initial plot peters out a little over halfway, with the climax mostly happening off-screen and really abruptly. The bulk of the novel serves as an exploration of the conflict between magic and technology, between atheism and god – especially an exploration of magic. Because oh man does Grimsley love his magic.

This is okay, because so do I, in the end. I love his ideas. I love how important same-sex romance is to his fantasy plots, with destiny and soulmates because yes, queer people need this too.

I’d rate the series an over all 4/5 stars – individually, I’d give Kirith Kirin 3/5 and The Ordinary 4/5.