ARC Review: THE UNBALANCING by R.B. Lemberg (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: September 20th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warnings: earthquakes and the aftermath of natural disasters, references to past ableism

Gelle-Geu is an island city whose star god is restless and earthquakes come closer and closer. Ranra has taken on the role of starkeeper, and her first task is to unravel the problems left attended by her predecessor. She seeks the counsel of Lilún, a poet whose ancestor is begging them to take on the role of starkeeper. Their relationship ignites while disaster strikes, and it’s a race against star charts and magic to possibly save the city.

This novel has all the dreaminess of poetry and being told a bedtime story with intense calamity on the horizon and tender romance at its core.

An interview with the author will be posted to celebrate the release of Geometries of Belonging: Stories and Poems from the Birdverse on November 29th, release day.

The neurodivergent rep is presented so seamlessly with the rest of the narrative. It informs the plot, but isn’t the plot. Lilún experiences the world differently, and the way their understanding informs the reader of the world’s values is so effective. It’s easy to follow. And when it does cause them distress, it’s presented with such respect and offers insight into their passion for poetry and gardening. This respectful casualness extends to the queer rep; in fact, there is a world-building element with tokens representing different genders. It’s so thoughtfully crafted and identity is not necessarily a part of the central conflict.

The way magic plays into Lilún’s and Ranra’s courtship is incredibly fun and among my favorite parts of the book. Intimacy and magic collide to move the story along, both interpersonally and externally. It’s sexy and unexpectedly intense, with a deep focus on consent and mutual respect. These themes also play into the relationship between the stars and their keepers, tightening the story threads with finesse.

Though the cast is relatively small, Lemberg establishes a clear sense of epic scope. Despite interactions happening in ways that feel more slice-of-life and political fantasy, the very real danger of impending earthquakes caused by cosmic disturbances never quells in its urgency.

Epic, tender, and immersive in its world-building, the Birdverse stories continue to be a poetic, fantasy delight.

One thought on “ARC Review: THE UNBALANCING by R.B. Lemberg (2022)

  1. Pingback: Both ethereal and earthy, R. B. Lemberg's first Birdverse novel THE UNBALANCING is an LGBTQ+ fantasy overflowing with heart—and heartache - Tachyon Publications

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