Reviews

Review: Failure to Communicate

34216194Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby

Genre: Science Fiction
Release date: February 14th 2017
Purchase: Amazon
LGBTQAI+: Bisexual polyamorous female main character, and at least one sapphic side character/potential LI.
Sex on page: No

As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she’s earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.

The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won’t risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can’t bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.

Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she’s beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.

I have seen several people recommend this book on Twitter as an amazing indie book with an #ownvoices autistic protagonist, and I was not disappointed. Failure to Communicate was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to read the sequel (not to mention the beautiful covers for both books).

Xandri was a detailed, three-dimensional protagonist who was easy to get attached to. I loved reading about the way she perceived patterns, people and the world, and I also loved the ways in which she was unique – for example, that nobody else thought to make friends with the ship’s AI. I also loved the many, many different alien species that were hard to keep track of at first, but once I got used to it I appreciated the thought and worldbuilding that went into making many unique species.

One of my favourite tropes in sci-fi on spaceships is the crew as family, and that really shone through here. While they had their disagreements and tension, Xandri’s crew held together, and they were especially ride-or-die for her. I loved the way most of them kept her needs in mind and helped her cope without making her feel like a burden, and how they (especially Diver) went out of their way to defend her.

This book also had mention of polyamorous communities, as well as a budding polyamorous relationship between central characters, although it didn’t become official in this book. Still, I absolutely loved the dynamic between the three of them and I’m eager to see more.

Failure to Communicate also had themes that went much deeper than fluff between crew members. The blurb starts with naming Xandri as one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, and pretty early on the book explains the way people now engineer their children before birth to get rid of any irregularities or neurodivergency. In a way, autistic and mentally ill people were wiped out – not by killing them outright, but by not letting them be born at all. While the crew knows Xandri and supports her, there is much ableism from strangers and the society in general – some of it unintended. Since there are only a few autistic people are left, all most people have to go on are inaccurate, generalised texts that show them as cold and without emotions. The level of ableism in this society was often sickening, especially towards the end (and yes, I was disappointed by Christa reverting to ableist comments even at 96% in the ebook).

The book also addresses gun violence and gun control, not only through the Anmerilli but also by directly referencing 21st century “Ancient Earth”, which was surprising but not unwelcome to see.

While these parts may have been difficult to read, I loved the way the book handled and addressed the deeper issues while also keeping them balanced with funny or heartwarming scenes.

Note: I do want to explain why I didn’t rate this book 5 stars, so I’d like to talk a little about my conflicted feelings towards the ending. Since this part is full of spoilers, I left it to the end.

First of all, I kind of felt Marco would end up betraying them pretty early on, and I also started suspecting that he was neurodivergent before it was revealed. I have to admit that when it was revealed, I felt really conflicted about making the traitor/villain be the only other neurodivergent person in the universe. I understood that the book was trying to subvert the trope of the mentally ill villain, but (at least originally) I didn’t feel like it did a convincing job. Still, later Xandri outright says that it wasn’t really his mental illness, but the torture he suffered because of it that lead him to be exploited. I still have some conflicting feelings about this, but I ended up accepting it.

I also understand that Xandri getting fired was necessary both to set up the sequel and to show the horrible ableism of this world, but – I still didn’t like it. The ableism was already clear, and more importantly, why the hell is mar’Odera still on the Council? He was nearly exposed as a saboteur, the other Council members grew distrustful of him, and then– the next time we see the Council, he’s still there, and a deciding person in the vote? It honestly just felt strange.

My rating: 🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿/5.

~ Alexa

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Reviews

Review: Ice Massacre

23272410Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

Genre: Fantasy, Mermaids, YA, LGBTQAI+
Series: Mermaids of Eriana Kwai, #1
Published: September 18th 2014 by Rogue Cannon Publishing
Length: 375 pages (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Author | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: Sapphic main character + love interest
Sex on page: No

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

This book was 2018 March’s Sapphic Book Club read hosted by @sapphicliterature.

I discovered this book several months ago – I was drawn to it by the beautiful cover, the fact that it had mermaids, and the intriguing blurb. Since it’s not clear from the blurb or the Goodreads tags, I didn’t actually know this book had a queer main character until much later.

I finally picked up the Ice Massacre for the Sapphic Book Club, and I am really glad I did. This book was action-packed and amazing, although darker than what I usually read… and definitely involving more character deaths.

I loved the all-female crew, and the way they interacted with each other. They have been trained as warriors, and yet they were still children, wanting to have fun and relax before things got real. Later, desperation and the will to survive created rifts between them. At some parts, I kind of felt like I was reading a female Lord of the Flies – which was a little disturbing, given that I hated the Lord of the Flies, but thankfully I was able to get over the association.

I also loved the plot, and the way things weren’t exactly how you – and the characters – thought at first. I loved the relationship between the two main characters, and how their loyalty towards each other crashed with the loyalty toward their people. I was a little worried that Meela’s sexuality would be left ambiguous, but if nothing else, then the ending of the book really makes it impossible to deny even with the most heteronormative lenses.

One major complaint I had was the pacing towards the beginning. The book starts with one chapter in present time, then a few chapters as a flashback, and then back to present time. Personally, I felt this was really weird and I would have preferred the flashbacks to be built into the main story gradually. I also didn’t enjoy reading the flashbacks in general – I don’t think the characters sounded like ten-year-olds, and it was a little off-putting.

As someone who is often bored by action scenes, I was pleasantly surprised when this action-packed novel almost always held my attention instead of just turning into a series of almost identical battle scenes. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

(Okay, but seriously though – what kind of person uses someone’s dead brother to make fun of them?)

Final rating:🧜‍♀️🧜‍♀️🧜‍♀️🧜‍♀️🧜‍♀️/5

~ Alexa

Reviews

Review: Smoke Signals

38880586Smoke Signals by Meredith Katz

Genre: M/M romance, Fantasy
Collection: For The Hoard
Published: February 28th, 2018 by Less Than Three Press
Length: 83 pages (Kindle Edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon
LGBTQAI+: Gay male protagonist, bisexual male love interest, lesbian author
Sex on page: Yes

Mike St. George figured that working customer support during the Black Friday sale at SmokeSignals, a game distribution company, would just feature the usual sort of problem customers. He wasn’t expecting an aristocratic, self-centered dragon to demand the company send someone to his house to install games in exchange for gold. And he definitely wasn’t expecting that to somehow put him in charge of working with and protecting the digital side of the dragon’s hoard of games.

But with a possible promotion in his future, Mike’s ready to take on anything. And while the blue-blooded Zali’thurg might be egotistical and prideful, Mike’s wrangled worse customers on a regular basis. At least this one’s cute, albeit in an ‘apex predator’ sort of way.

I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

#IndieAthon is off to a great start, because wow, this book was amazing.

It’s not often that you find videogames, customer service, Black Friday sales and real, actual dragons in the same story, but Smoke Signals certainly ticks all those boxes. There’s also an adorable romance, cultural differences that lead to awkwardness, dragon lore incorporated into modern human culture, communication about boundaries, knitting and cooking shows…

Honestly, I adored this story from the beginning to the end. First, I related to Mike’s customer service job and his difficult customers, and later I was pulled in by the gradually developing relationship between him and Zali’thurg. I also spent most of it grinning ear-to-ear – there are quite a few humorous parts or comments, and some really sweet gestures coming from both love interests.

While there is a quite explicit sex scene, even that is intriguing in terms of cultural differences, and Zali’thurg’s, well, dragonness. While he has a pseudohuman form that he often uses around Mike, I appreciated that this form wasn’t fully human and Zali’thurg still retained several characteristics of his species.

I understand that romance with a non-human character may not be for everyone, but personally, Smoke Signal was one of my favourite reads of the year.

My rating: 🐉🐉🐉🐉🐉/5

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC review: The Queen of Ieflaria

38108325I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Release date: February 19th, 2018 by Nine Star Press

I remember seeing this wonderful cover on Twitter and hearing that the book would be about queer princesses, and I immediately fell in love. And let me tell you, when I finally got to read it, The Queen of Ieflaria turned out to be everything I hoped for and more.

To say that The Queen of Ieflaria has queer princesses is technically true, but it’s a huge understatement. In fact, The Queen of Ieflaria has a main cast made of several unique, funny, supportive and fleshed out characters, most of whom are female. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was in love with not only both Esofi and Adale, but every single one of their ladies-in-waiting – all of whom had their own unique personalities and beautiful moments. (Lisette is definitely my favourite though, hands down.)

The only reason why I didn’t devour this book in one sitting is that I started reading it too late and had to go to sleep at 1am and finish the next morning. I adored the writing style, the characters, the plot… This book has princesses fighting in duels in dresses, princesses fighting dragons, talking magical creatures, good dragons, baby dragons, princesses kissing, princesses in love… I’m sorry, why are you still here reading this review when you could be pre-ordering The Queen of Ieflaria?

I loved how different Esofi and Adale were, and yet they worked together well and both helped each other grow, or see things from the other’s point of view. I especially enjoyed their different views on science and religion and how they changed (and yet still stayed true to themselves) during the book.

Note: While this first book unfortunately didn’t have any major trans characters, it did have minor nonbinary characters (referred to as neutroi) and even a nonbinary god, and referenced a canon magical way to transition, so I hope this will change in the future installments.

This is my new favourite book, and it might be yours, too.

My rating: ★★★★★💖

~ Alexa

Reviews

Review: The Lifeline Signal

33623041Falling isn’t always the last thing you do. Sometimes it’s the first thing.

Can you believe I’m actually the first one of my friends to actually add a review to this? What is everyone else doing with their lives?

The Lifeline Signal is a perfect sequel to Chameleon Moon. Just like the first book, it is incredibly character-focused: there are beautiful, unique, diverse characters everywhere in every sense of the word. This is almost an entirely new set of characters (while some of them appeared or were mentioned in Chameleon Moon, none of them were in the focus there) and yet everyone is connected, and everything has a place.

In The Lifeline Signal, something interesting is happening every moment – although much of these happenings are actually conversations, messages and pieces of information being revealed. With all these characters and storylines, you need to pay attention to get what’s happening, but it’s all the more satisfying when everything comes together.

This book takes place entirely outside Parole so you might miss or worry about some old friends left behind there, but I can almost guarantee that you will love the new cast – both the three teenage protagonists in the center of it all, and the adults (or at least slightly older people) supporting them. I certainly did. And, hey – some of these old friends do appear, and you might even find out more about them…

That being said, I am incredibly glad I chose to read every available short story before heading into this book*, because there were still occasional moments of “wait, how do these two know each other again?” or “okay, so which of the five messages currently in play is this one?”. Also, this might just be a personal annoyance, but having several characters spend the whole book worrying over something you, the reader already know is solved can get frustrating.

Despite the occasional confusion, I absolutely adored this book, and I really mean it when I say that the lines all coming together is incredibly satisfying once you figure out which goes where. Of course, there are still more than enough open questions for the sequel (whatever’s Regan doing, for example – but also, what on earth was that comment about Ash’s bones?) – and many reunions to look forward to. (Some with less patience than others. *squints at my faves*)

–Hey, look at that, I actually managed to write a semi-coherent review that wasn’t just screaming about how much I adore everyone! Especially the people Regan is dating. That particular polycule is my absolute favourite, and not only because of Regan (he’s just the central point for easy reference).

Representation:
★ nonbinary (xie/xir pronouns!), Tsalagi Native American, Arnold-Chiari Malformation main
★ bisexual, Indian American main
★ aroace, Vietnamese American, autistic main
★ Tons of other POC (including the families of the protagonists), a hijabi woman, other LGBTQAI+ characters (nonbinary, binary transgender, mlm, wlw, ace…), chronically ill and disabled characters, POLYAMORY, and probably other stuff I missed honestly.
★ The book is also #ownvoices for several aspects.

(Also, not really representation, but: cyborgs! fauns! lizard men! people with wings! I love this world.)

*Four short stories (Runtime, Always Be You, Happy REGARDS and The Library Ghost) are free on the author’s Gumroad. If you read those, you’ll have a pretty good idea of who everyone is. If you also manage to read You’re Not Going That Way (99 cents), you’re pretty much ready for the sequel. But I do recommend the whole Life Within Parole Volume 1 if you can afford it.

My rating: ★★★★★💖

~ Alexa 🐉

Recommendations

Recommendation: 10 Best Stories Under 100 Pages – Part 2

Here is the second part I promised – five stories between 40 and 70 pages that you should absolutely read.

The Stable Boy by Megan Derr – Amazon (Free!)| My Review | 40 pages

This is one of the two m/m short stories on this list – a fantasy story about two princes who have to overcome betrayal and curses before they can get married. While I felt like that the resolution could have been more detailed, I still enjoyed this story and rooted for the princes to be happy together.

The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang – Amazon | My Review | 46 pages

This dark reverse retelling of The Little Mermaid classic has a female scientist fall in love with and transform to join – well, not a mermaid exactly, but you’ll see that if you read this amazing short story. I adored it despite the fact that it broke my heart.

The love interest presents as feminine due to our standards and uses she/her pronouns, but she comes from a species with only one gender. There is also a nonbinary supporting character in the story who helps the main character. Warning: This story does not have a happy ending – it’s closer to the original Little Mermaid story than the Disney version.

Beauty, Glory, Thrift by Alison Tam – Amazon | My Review | 55 pages

I am Thrift and I want to leave this place, and see the far ends of the universe, and never spend another moment in stasis ever again. Take my hand and bring me with you…

Would you ever still a goddess? This thief would. The goddess Thrift is perhaps the most insignificant of her sisters, and yet she’s the one who gets to see the universe with the help of the thief who eventually captures her heart. This is an f/f short story set in space that you will absolutely adore, though I cannot say much more about it without spoiling the story.

The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz – Amazon | My Review | 65 pages

How do people even come up with all these beautiful and magical stories?! I can’t tell you, but The Cybernetic Tea Shop is a masterpiece. The main characters are a fully autonomous robot, Sal, a technician specialising in Raise AIs (small robot companions), and of course, Joanie, the hummingbird-shaped Raise AI herself. This is a story about a woman who can’t settle, a tea shop that is almost 300 years old, moving on, and finding new purpose. I recommend it to everyone.

Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb – Amazon | My Review | 67 pages

This is the other m/m story on the list – in fact, it is an #ownvoices story about a romance between two trans gay teenage boys, one of whom is Jewish. The author describes it as a “romantic, #ownvoices fairy tale for trans boys”, and nothing I can say would really explain it better than that. (It does deal with topics of suicide, although nobody actually commits it in the story.)

~ Alexa 🐉

Recommendations

Recommendation: Chameleon Moon + Others

Let me tell you about the Chameleon Moon universe and why I adore it.

(Disclaimer: I am not getting paid or compensated for this in any way, I just really love this author and this world, so here’s why you should love it too and also the best ways you can get extra content.)

Love yourself, love the people around you, and never give up. If you need help, reach out. If you’re drowning, make some noise. There are people who love you, who will throw you a life preserver. That’s what it all comes down to, love. That’s how we’re gonna get through this. And we are gonna get through this.

Chameleon Moon and its sequel, The Lifeline Signal are both hopeful dystopian novels by RoAnna Sylver. What is a hopeful dystopia, you ask? The world sucks, but we’re still here. We support each other, we carry on, and everything is going to be okay.

I cannot emphasize how much I admire the world, and especially the characters RoAnna Sylver created. Not only is the cast incredibly diverse in terms of sexual and romantic orientation, race, disability and personalities, but there is also a huge focus on anxiety, PTSD and related mental health issues. The story of Chameleon Moon is all about standing together.

I could talk forever about the different types of representation in Chameleon Moon, so let me highlight my favourite parts: it has several asexual and aromantic characters (although in the first book the aromanticism is only word-of-god), and also plenty of polyamory. Over here, there is a trio of three women (one of them transgender) married to each other with a kid. And over there… like 5-6 guys and nb people dating each other in all kinds of combinations. (There are also several nonbinary characters using they/them pronouns, as well as at least one of them using xie/xir pronouns – and it’s all completely natural.)

Another huge part of why I love the Chameleon Moon books is the author, RoAnna Sylver themself. They are not only an incredibly skilled writer with a wonderful soul (I mean, you have to have a wonderful soul to be this committed to writing books about hope and love), but they are also super approachable and open to me fans screaming at them about the various characters.

The best place where you can buy the author’s works is Gumroad – you can find all of the stories plus some extra stuff there (including What You Remember, the Chameleon Moon theme song, which is honestly worth every penny), and you can even choose to tip if you can. However, if for some reason you can’t afford the five dollars for the first book, it is actually cheaper on Amazon.

I actually got almost everything by RoAnna Sylver (the two Chameleon Moon novels, a bunch of short stories, as well as their other projects – Stake Sauce with punk gay vampires and Death Masquerade with 19th-century lesbian vampires) either for free or incredibly cheap – all through legal means and from the author themself. Two of the short stories, Runtime and Always Be You are free on both Amazon and Gumroad, and a third one, Un-Dead is included for free in the second edition of Chameleon Moon. (The ebook, at least – I can’t speak for the physical book.)

Signing up for RoAnna’s mailing list (link on the sidebar here) also gets you free stuff, and just paying one dollar per update on Patreon gives you access to a crapton of posts with extra content (with higher tiers getting you exclusive commissions!).

All in all, this is honestly one of my favourite book series, and apparently there are at least five books planned?! I’m here for the long-run, and you should be too.

~ Alexa 🐲

Recommendations

Recommendation: 10 Best Stories Under 100 Pages – Part 1

While 500-page novels can be wonderful, sometimes they just feel overwhelming and I prefer to read something shorter. In this post, I compile my favourite short stories or novellas under 100 pages that I read recently. These are ordered according to page numbers and not based on how much I loved them, because I love them all 🙂

I picked 10 short stories to share with you, but I decided this post would get too long if I posted all of them at the same time – so have the first five and look forward for the second part (with five stories between 40 and 70 pages).

Swelter by Jules Kelley – Amazon | My Review | 20 pages

This wonderful story is about a girl called Grace who attends her older brother’s wedding and hooks up with her childhood crush. Who is her brother’s friend and has a motorcycle.

I adored the writing and the characterisation here, and isn’t that cover just the most beautiful thing you have ever seen? Also, as you may have guessed from the title and the description, this story has some steamy scenes – be aware of that before reading.

Gunrunners by Cecil Wilde – Amazon (Free!)| My Review | 20 pages

Retired intersolar troublemakers (criminals, revolutionaries, lovers, spies, gunrunners) reunite for one last adventure, and perhaps a little redemption.

Things go well, until they don’t.

This is not necessarily a happy story, but it is also not necessarily a sad one.

There’s not much I can add to that description by the author. It was amazing to see older queer characters, one of whom is nonbinary, getting into adventures. There’s so much implied history between them and I would have loved to read more, but this story is still complete on its own.

Out of Her Depth by Pike Martell – Amazon | My Review | 24 pages

This story is about a school where human students go together with supernatural students, and the first mermaid who tries her luck. It’s a love story between a human girl and a mermaid girl who have a happy ending together, even though there are some difficulties and things they have to sacrifice along the way.

Warning for mentions of self-harm scars.

The Witch Sea by Sara Diemer – Amazon (Free!) | My Review | 28 pages

Another f/f fantasy story about a witch, a selkie, sea gods, old grudges, and expectations placed on the younger generations by those who came before them.

Keep in mind that this story has a slightly bittersweet ending instead of a real happy one, but I enjoyed it immensely and I think you will too.

Green Toes by Avery Flinders – Amazon | My Review | 31 pages

This short story is set in a world that is mostly realistic, except for one magic element. The protagonist is a bisexual girl who moves from her rural town to the big city in search of a queer community… she just happens to have magic boots that make gardening a lot more easier.

In the end, she finds the community she was looking for, although not the way she expected. This story has a genderqueer love interest and supportive friend characters, as well as a happy ending.

~ Alexa 🦊

Reviews

Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Review on Goodreads

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

 

It is difficult to rate a book when you are absolutely furious with one of the protagonists.

Every Heart a Doorway, possibly the best book I read this year, is about the children who found doors to unfamiliar worlds, found a home, and had to return to their original world for one reason or another. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is more of a prequel than a sequel – it tells the story of Jack and Jill from their birth up to the point where they have to leave their found home.

The Characters

Jack was one of my favourites in the first book, and she kept that title throughout this one. I’ve also grown attached to her chosen master. The bigger problem was with Jill: I didn’t care much for her in the first book, and her behaviour in this one (including a couple of fatphobic comments) certainly didn’t help matters. I tried to understand Jill, and maybe I do, somewhat, but understanding doesn’t mean sympathy or affection.

The Plot

Since this is a prequel and the girls already talked about being cast out in the first book, in a way I already knew what was going to happen, where it was all leading up to, but reading it was still different.

The first part of the book is about the girls’ childhood at home with their parents – their frankly horrible parents who are emotionally abusive and unfit to be parents, which is made clear enough in the book. This part was mostly neutral for me.

Once in the Moors, Jack’s and Jill’s POVs divide more. It’s no secret that I enjoyed Jack’s more, partly because of the included f/f romance, which doesn’t get much “screentime” but is still an important part of the story.

(Spoilery note/warning: It does not have a happy ending and ends with Jack’s girlfriend dying.)

Overall

I feel like this review comes off as more negative than I intended. It’s true that I enjoyed this book less than the first one, and there are some parts I’m angry at, but it still deserves the whole five stars and goes on the favourites shelf. I love the worldbuilding, even if it is somewhat cliché – but in this book, I think being cliché, being familiar is sort of the point.

My rating: ★★★★★💖

~ Alexa 🐿️

Reviews

Review: Chameleon Moon

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

“Words are important. They let you know it’s real, you’re fine, more people like you exist. They let you know you’re not alone.”

“Holy crap…” Regan whispered, awed and sick and proud at the same time. “She punched it in the face.”

Why I picked it up: I was told there was a f/f/f polyrelationship and also ace character(s)?

Let me tell you how absolutely wonderful this book is.

The Cast

Chameleon Moon’s strongest aspect is its characters. Wonderful, colourful, diverse cast of characters. There is indeed a polyamorous marriage between three women, a main character who is a trans woman, a character who uses ‘they’ pronouns through the entire novel, disabled characters, representation of anxiety, and lots and lots of validation for mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. And many more, that my tags on this book can’t even cover.

I am so incredibly excited about a certain relationship other than the polymarriage, but I feel like that would be a huge spoiler, so I’m just going to put this here for anyone who’s already read it: I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

The Plot

I have to admit, it took me a while to get into this book. The prologue pulled me in, but then the first half of the book felt… slow. It was mostly about getting to know the characters for me, and hinting at the big mystery without any real answers. Not that getting to know the characters is bad – as I said, they are the greatest thing about this book -, but the first half often felt a little boring to me, and there were a lot of conversations that went on too long, or infodumps that were a little too much at once.

The second half, though? I read pretty much the entire second half in one sitting. The twists just kept coming and the secrets kept pouring out. And plenty of questions remaining for the sequel.

There are some things I don’t like about the ending that would be spoilery, but I understand how they are necessary. I was originally going to give this 4.5 stars, but as I typed this review out, I realised that it fully deserves all five.

Trigger warnings

I would like to put a warning for suicide (mention) here, and also, the descriptions of anxiety can be triggering to anyone who also experiences it.

My rating: ★★★★★

~ Alexa 🦔