ARC Review: THE UNCONQUERED CITY (Chronicles of Ghadid #3) by K.A. Doore (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult LGBT+ Fantasy
Year Release: June 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Read an ARC granted through NetGalley

The Chronicles of Ghadid comes to a close with an epic story of community mourning, healing, and recovery as Illi is tasked with going away to Hathage get rid of the sajaami which is preventing all other restless spirits from passing on. There’s an f/enby romance, the lesbians are back, and all that assassination goodness we’ve come to love.

The guul continue to be the absolutely scariest things, but I really loved how Doore gave everyone–from cousin to captain to guard to marab–the agency and ability to face them. The fear was still there but it wasn’t insurmountable, especially as the threat takes over all those living in the Wastes.

Though this book introduces a third narrator, there are so many call-backs to the first book and dealing with the consequences of The Impossible Contract that make those necessary reads. The reader leans about the terrifying creatures at the same pace the characters do. Such a slow burn of conveying information is hard to pull off, and yet Doore has mastered it.

The romance between Illi and Canthem was such a delight. There was only one caravan! Their flirtations were so on point (who doesn’t love throwing knives and training sequences as a vehicle for chemistry). More over, I really liked how that relationship and others (namely between Illi and Heru) played a major role in the finale and the emotional arc of The Chronicles of Ghadid as a whole. No person is an island and the theme of community coming together for mutually assured survival was so good throughout.

A fabulous end to a wonderful queernorm trilogy about found family and community coming together to solve a major undead problem.

ARC Review: THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult LGBT+ Fantasy
Year Release: May 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC

Read an ARC granted through NetGalley

A noble escaping an arranged marriage, a rogue pirate finding family, an opportunistic witch, and the Sea itself being a main character, this stand-alone fantasy has all the trappings of a sea-faring adventure.

I enjoyed the sweet romance and devotion between Flora/Florian and Evelyn. Though they had come from opposite sides of the class spectrum, they had good chemistry and a common tenacity which made them perfect for each other. Personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more of a slow burn, but the pacing fit the plot so well.  In addition, it was such a relief that Flora/Florian’s gender went beyond presentation and clothing. By the end of the book, her/his gender identity is not stated, and that’s okay. That implication of further exploration during the happily-ever-after provides a different perspective.

The magic system also felt unique, with telling stories and truths being the vehicle for spell-casting. Flora spends much time with Xenobia, the witch, in which stories are exchanged. Some are folklore, others are true. They all add to the richness of the world Tokuda-Hall built, which already felt quite lived in, between the Imperials and their colonies, the pirates and their factions.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is a must-read for fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise who wants more commentary on colonialism and imperialism, magic, and a whole lot of queer norm.

ARC Review: FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult LGBT+ Contemporary
Year Release: May 2020
Source: Edelweiss eARC

Read an ARC granted through Edelweiss

This book captures so many energies and experiences into one beautiful narrative about a Black queer trans teen’s first love, which includes a mystery of who would go so far as to publish Felix’s dead name and pictures of him pre-transition.

What really stuck out to me is just how much care had been taken to depict a group of queer kids of various identities and sexualities, especially those who are still questioning. Identity is not a static thing, and the way Felix has the space to explore his on page felt authentic and brutally honest. What came as a welcome surprse was the way the book also addressed bigotry and prejudices within the LGBT+ Community, especially around Pride when the novel takes place. While there is a clear villain, there were opportunities for characters to make mistakes, take ownership, and work together to move forward. That space for forgiveness made my heart swell, even as I rode with Felix from the lowest lows to the highest highs.

In addition, Callender beautifully captures the atmosphere and energy of a summer in New York City, in boroughs other than Manhattan. The little details sprinkled throughout felt really immersive, from the “show time” guys to the descriptions of outfits that hipsters wear in the city.

Felix Ever After tugs at the heartstrings in all the best ways, a perfect read for summer and for any queer person who wants to feel reassured of their beauty and sense of belonging just as they are.

Author to Author with Elliott Junkyard


Elliott and I are bona fide internet contacts turned critique partners turned best friends (who are probably the same person). He took some time to answer a few questions on self-inserts, inspiration, and when short form accidentally turns serial.  You can find his work here. It’s also his birthday month.

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