Site powered by Weebly. Managed by SiteGround
Time for a round of sapphic books! AND both by WOC! As you probably know by now, there is no rhyme or reason to how I order these, but it is fun when there's a central theme to it.
#63: GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan
CW for discussion of sexual assault/rape
This somehow missed my radar when it came out in 2018, despite the fact that I generally try to keep up with queer sff, and queer lady sff in particular. I know, I'm disappointed in me, too.
I'm finding it hard to come up with things to say about this book, because I suppose in general, I thought it was fine (good, even!) but I wish that it had been...more?
The story follows Lei, a "Paper caste" (ie fully human-looking) girl with golden eyes, who gets chosen to be a courtesan to the Demon King, who is a member of the anthropomorphic animal-looking ruling class, who abuses the lower castes. There, she falls for another courtesan and gets involved in a plot to kill the king and overthrow his government.
I liked the characters fine, and I was decently invested in the romance (whomst among us has not longed for a ripped warrior gf, am I right?), but in a somewhat passive way. I was invested in the "assassinate the evil king" plot line, but I wished I had a better grasp of the politics involved. It's technically fine as it is, but particularly since I know there will be more books, I'd have liked to know a bit more about what the plan is for after the assassination. It feels a little like we don't get one because (spoiler alert) the plan fails.
This is part of a series of bigger questions I have about the world-building, most of which don't massively matter. Mostly I end up wondering a lot more about the Moon (fully animal) and Steel (partially animal) castes, because that frankly seems cool as hell.
The book deals with some pretty heavy topics, notably the sexual assault/rape cw I gave up at the top. I'm sure you can extrapolate from the plot synopsis what exactly the concern is. It isn't graphic, and in my opinion is handled pretty sensitively (and definitely portrayed as Extremely Bad and Traumatizing), but YMMV.
I'm interested to see where this series goes next, because at the moment, I definitely feel somewhat unsatisfied and incomplete - nothing really feels resolved by the end, so it's hard to have a definite ruling on the subject.
Also, don't hold your breath for the mystery box subplot, it doesn't actually matter.
#64: YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN by Leah Johnson
OKAY SO THIS NOVEL MADE ME CRY
That should really be enough of a recommendation, tbh, it doesn't happen all that often, but in case you wanted me to spell it out: OH MY GOD GO READ THIS.
As you may know, I sometimes (frequently?) bounce off non-speculative YA, possibly because they're a little too close to home for me to really get invested a lot of the time. Not the case with this book, I was fully invested all of the way through.
The book follows Liz Lighty, who decides to run for prom queen in order to win the associated scholarship, which represents her only chance at going to her dream college. Along the way, she has to deal with racist and homophobic opposition, reconnect with an old friend, and decide whether or not to risk it all to start a romantic relationship with the cute new girl.
Although this is a deeply different world than the one I went to high school in (I'm struggling to recall whether or not we even had a prom king and queen), I was willing to suspend my disbelief and believe 100% that this town/school is super obsessed with prom. Sure, why not?
This was helped, of course, by the fact that the writing is fun and engaging, and I really liked all the characters. The author does a masterful job of balancing a lot of different relationships. Liz has a complex, interesting relationship with her grandparents, with her brother, and with each of her friends. Probably the most important relationship in the book is her platonic friendship with a former friend, but that doesn't take away from the budding romance. It's really masterfully done.
The book is just lovely, honestly. I wish I'd had this book as a teen, wish I'd had something this beautifully queer, encouraging people to believe in their worth. I just - everything about this is full of joy and love and I'm getting emotional again writing this. Just go read the book.
As you may have noticed, I had originally intended for my 64th book to be A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry. However, I got about fifty pages in and decided to DNF the book, for two major reasons:
NEXT WEEK'S AGENDA
#65: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
#66: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir