ARC Review: Cancer Ships Aquarius (Signs of Love #5) by Anyta Sunday

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Prepare to dip your toe into the biggest adventure of your life, Cancer. There’s romance in the air, and it smells deliciously salty.

Dumped by the fifth girl in two years and abandoned by his best friends, Reid Glover is alone and in need of a home.
Desperate, he interviews to become a live-in manny aboard widowed Sullivan Bell’s yacht, the Aquarian.
The job? Not to look after thirteen-year-old Joanna. No, this child-mastermind needs Reid to befriend her dad, urge him to participate more in family life, encourage him to date, oh, and become his closest confidant and help him unleash his bottled emotions.
No pressure.
At least he’s not entirely out of his depth.
Okay, so he may have a slight aversion to the ocean. And possibly attract more than his fair share of misadventure.
But he is a pro at crying.
Watch out, Sullivan. Reid is on his way with a family-sized carton of tissues. He will help Sullivan through his fears. Will help him find love again.
Will absolutely not fall for him in the process . . .

Caution, Cancer, how long will you fool yourself?

~ ~ ~

Cancer Ships Aquarius (Signs of Love #5) is an MM opposites-attract romantic comedy featuring a misadventure prone manny and a blunt widower.
More wit, banter and bad puns – and even more heart-stopping slow burn!
Can be read as a standalone.

Tropes: slow burn, will-they-or-won’t-they, opposites attract, 10 year age gap, manny loves widow,
Genre: New Adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance

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★★★★


I absolutely loved this! It had been a while since the last Anyta Sunday book I read but I’m glad she’s back and in great shape. This whole series is so funny and both light-hearted and deep when it needs to be and I’m always in awe of the author’s creativity and how she can come up with so many different situations and scenarios.

This book had a lot of tropes I absolutely adore including single parent, living together and being an emotionally oblivious bisexual. I had so many moments where I was laughing to the point of tears and to be honest that’s all I ask when I’m reading a romance book. Okay, not only that, but I also got everything else I wanted, so I literally can’t have any complaints.

I also really liked both the cameos of previous couples and the presence of two queer women (even though they were mostly present on the phone more than physically), which is something I kind of miss in this series and in m/m romance in general. I’m actually really really hoping for a novella of their relationship because that would be so cute to read.

I know this is a short review but I really don’t want to say anything else about the story and couple because I believe it’s best to just start reading without knowing much about it, I can only recommend this book and the whole series wholeheartedly!

Rep: bisexual MC, gay LI

TWs: loss of a spouse in the past, grief, mentions of homelessness and child abandonment, alcohol, accidental alcohol consumption by a minor

F/F Feb tag and wrap-up

F/F Feb was great. I say this minutes after oversharing on twitter how it made me feel to only read about wlw for one full month, so while I’m still feeling a little vulnerable from it I thought it was a great time to finally write this tag and wrap-up.

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All the books I read

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💕 Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger / ★★★★

💞 If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho / ★★★★✩ / read here

💕 Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu / ★★★✩✩ 

💞 This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone / ★★★.75✩✩ / review

💕 Female General and Eldest Princess by Please Don’t Laugh / ★★★★.5✩ / review

💞 A Lady’s Desire by Lily Maxton / ★★★★✩ / review

💕 In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard / ★★✩✩✩ / review

💞  Female General and Eldest Princess by Please Don’t Laugh (audio drama) / ★★★★✩ / review

💕 Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss / ★★★✩

💞 Everything is Beautiful and I’m Not Afraid by Yao Xiao / ★★★★✩ / review

💕 The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle / ★★★★✩ / review

💞 That Could be Enough by Alyssa Cole / ★★★✩✩ 

💕 Water: A History by K.J. Kabza / ★★★★★ / read here

💞 Swelter by Jules Kelley / ★★★★✩

💕 A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine / ★★★★.75✩

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F/F Feb book tag

 

MILLIE QUINT: How many did you read?

I read 15 books total.

DOMINO SWIFT: How successful were you in only reading f/f?

If we’re talking books, 100% successful! I did however read m/m fanfiction (but also f/f ones!). I also didn’t continue my reread of tgcf although I had thought I would continue for sure, so I’m proud of myself.

AYLA: Did you set yourself a tbr and did you complete it?

I had 12 books total on my original TBR. Of those I read 7, DNF’d 1, didn’t read / didn’t finish reading yet 4, and I read 8 more that weren’t there in the first place. So uh, I know it doesn’t sound like a success but I’m very bad at sticking to TBRs so I’m actually pretty happy with what I did.

LIKOTSI: How many challenges did you complete?

I didn’t really look at the challenges while I was reading, but looking at them now I see that I completed 7/9.

AUDRE: Which was your favourite read and why?

By far Steel Crow Saga. It’s a book I can already confidently put in my top 5 favorites of the year and I now count among my most favorite books of all times. It was a book that incorporated so many things I love about fantasy, paired with romantic tropes I adore and an almost all queer cast. I started rereading it right away after finishing it (with a physical copy, while my first read was in audio) and I’m rereading it slowly but I love every second of it.

XIULAN: Which was your favourite ship and why?

Lin Wanyue/Li Xian from Female General and Eldest Princess. They went through so much and because of how long Chinese webnovels usually are I got to spend 167+15 (!!!!) chapters with them, and there’s also starting to be a lot of fanart of them on twitter. Also their romantic story was wrapped up in such a satisfying way (again, this is something very typical of Chinese webnovels) that western novels tend not to do.

MUNA: Did you read any new authors? Who was your favourite?

They were all new authors to me besides Alyssa Cole! My favorite was maybe Paul Krueger because now I want to read everything else he writes.

ROSA SANTOS: A book you were recommended and loved.

A Memory Called Empire wasn’t even on my TBR for this month but my friend Acqua’s review made me reach for it when I realized I had already finished all my planned audiobooks. And I loved it!

LEI: A book that was on your tbr for a while.

Learning Curves was on my TBR ever since I learned one of the MCs had ADHD, but I still hadn’t found a chance to read it and I’m glad I did.

EVELYN HUGO: A book which you didn’t like as much as you expected to.

In the Vanishers’ Palace. I’m not sure I expected to love it, because there’s something about B&tB retellings that makes me wary even before starting them, but I was expecting to at least like it and give it 3 stars. The truth is I just didn’t care about the whole book.

GOLDIE VANCE: Are there any books you wish you’d read but didn’t have time?

Of my original TBR I wish I’d read Sunstone (vol. 3) because I really like the characters. I didn’t exactly have no time for it but it was the only thing that wasn’t in my owned TBR and the ebook is a bit expensive so I thought maybe I can wait for a sale.

BARU CORMORANT: A book which wrecked you.

I have to mention Female General and Eldest Princess again because there were so many heartbreaking moments, alternating with absolutely adorable ones, and then more heartbreak. Fortunately the ending fixed most things and as I already said it was satisfying in a way western novels rarely do, but it also was wrecking in its own way (only the last chapter was able to somewhat fix it, and although the author said it’s not supposed to be seen as canon because it falls into fantasy, I chose to believe it is).

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This officially concludes my FFFeb experience, and it was an amazing one. I hope something similar comes up again because I will 100% do it!

Did you do FFFeb? How did it go?

ARC Review: The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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When she arrives for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy doesn’t expect much from Cherrywood Grove. Then she runs into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings… and also the daughter of Trisha’s favorite childhood TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?

But as it turns out, Gabi’s easy charm is a facade. Since the sudden death of her father, Gabi has been pulling away from her family and what she really wants, weighed down by secrets she can’t express. Trisha might be the perfect person to help her, but is getting so involved in Gabi’s life really the right choice?

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★★★★✩

This was a truly beautiful and well-written book. It dealt with so many different life experiences, especially about the many ways different people can come out to both themselves and others. I particularly liked and related to Gabi’s own path in coming out and how this isn’t always as straight-forward as media (or real life) usually portrays it.

On the other hand was Trisha’s own history as a gay trans woman, and I feel like both stories were dealt with in a very serious and delicate manner. There was definitely something in both of them that every queer person might relate to, and in many ways this book was a study in being queer, particularly a queer woman.

I haven’t read the previous two books in this series and this didn’t affect my enjoyment: past characters make cameos here, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how I wish more romance series had a mix of queer pairings and experiences, and while I don’t know how male queerness is handled in the first two, I really appreciated that this third book focused entirely on being a queer woman.

We so rarely get to see this and there were certainly types of experiences that this book didn’t handle, but we have a gay trans woman, a young gay woman who’s never been in the closet, a bi woman married to a man, and a woman who, despite growing up in a queer family, still struggles with her own coming out process. It’s… real, and it’s raw and this is a book I would have loved to read when I was just past my own questioning and coming to terms with who I was for the first time. I still loved to read it now and there were so many moments I highlighted because they just fit.

There were other themes such as family, friendship, death and grief that, paired with how seriously everything else was handled, made this book rather heavy to read, particularly if you, like me, expect the uh, more “usual” kind of (lighthearted) romance. That is not to say that it was difficult to read or that I didn’t want to read: I basically read this in three sitting on three different days because every time I started reading I didn’t want to stop. But it was emotionally heavy and I saw it more as a study or queerness, like I mentioned before, and as a character study.

The best way I can summarize my experience with this book is in two very separate statements:

a) what a wonderful book;
b) I didn’t have fun reading this book.

The second thing isn’t necessarily negative; some books aren’t meant to be fun. Maybe if I had read the first two in the series I would have known what to expect, but I didn’t, and as a general rule I’m expecting to experience at least a little bit of fun while reading a contemporary romance.

Speaking of the romance itself, it comes, but it comes very late. It makes sense within the book, much more than if things had been rushed: the relationship is very well developed and sweet, but it’s a friendship for a higher percentage of the book than what I would expect from a book marketed as, you guessed it, a romance.

Maybe your best bet is going in without expectations of what this book is or isn’t, but if you’ve read this far into this review I guess I already gave you some expectations. In any case, this is a novel I would highly recommend for its many themes and a pairing we need more of (trans f/cis f). I don’t know if I will go back and read the first two books in this series, but I definitely want to keep an eye for future work of the author.

Rep: cis Mexican-American gay woman, trans gay white atheist woman

TW: grief, loss of family member, discussions of homophobia and transphobia, food, straight weddings, religion

ARC Review: The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

Release date: March, 17th

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★★★★

Finishing this book felt like being the “I lived bitch” meme

The Electric Heir messed with my emotions in a way that The Fever King didn’t. I want to make it clear before we start that I don’t consider myself a survivor of the type of abuse portrayed here, and this is a duology that’s especially written for survivors. So there will be things I don’t get and all I can do is listen to those who see themselves in this series.

What I can say is that this book is very hard to read and I don’t know if I recall many books that made me have to stop reading and take a breath because it was becoming too much. I had expectations and thoughts on how this book was going to play out, but even aware of the content warnings I was not prepared for how sudden everything was and how we were thrown in the middle of that whole emotional mess. Saying that I loved it would be inaccurate: this book gets ugly and you can’t help but hate it a little, but it makes its conclusion all the more satisfying.

There isn’t a lot I can talk about while reviewing a second and final book in a duology, but I loved finally getting Dara’s POV and I liked his voice maybe more than Noam’s. I was also under the impression that this series was going to be a trilogy but while I was reading I found out it’s a duology and I have to say, I need more series to be written in this format.

This is a short review because anything I say would be spoilery both for this book and the previous book, but watch out for Victoria Lee and her ability to create unforgettable characters. I’m looking forward to reading whatever she comes up with next.

TWs: inter-generational trauma, genocide, violence, abuse, attempted rape, mental health and suicide, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, emetophobia, drug and alcohol, abuse, parental death, ableist language.

Audiobook review: In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

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In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

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★★.5✩✩

This book was eye-opening for me because I’ve had multiple realizations while listening to it, first and foremost the realization that not caring about a book is a much worse feeling than not liking it.

This book was… objectively fine. It had things I like in theory but didn’t care for here and things I actually liked. I just really didn’t care about any of it and I feel so bad but it is what it is.

It might be that as soon as I started listening I realized that I actually really hate the idea of B&tB retellings, so I started off with a bad feeling in my gut. When I continued listening I could see that the aspects that make me uncomfortable about B&tB retellings were handled well here, but I still might stay away from such books in the future.

It might also be that while I love f/f romances (obviously) I just couldn’t see why Yên had to be so fucking horny for a dragon like, the moment she saw her. No, not even if she has a human form. Maybe I’m just not into monster romances and that’s another things this book made me realize. Generally speaking, I don’t mind insta-lust in most cases but I also didn’t really see an actual relationship development and I just couldn’t care about the romance at all.

I also didn’t really like any of the characters except for the twins, Vu Côn’s children, and actually found them and their relationship with Yên more well developed than the one with Vu Côn.

The world…this is another one of the realizations I’ve had with this book. I like Asian-inspired fantasy but I really don’t like fantasy dystopia. Or at least I didn’t care about this one. Oh, and speaking of the setting: I also don’t like magical buildings. I can’t see stuff in my head anyway so if things are constantly changing and just plain weird it just becomes a nightmare for me.

What I really liked was the diversity, there was an all Vietnamese cast and things about the language were also present in English (like specifying different kinds of pronouns for different form of address depending on relative age/social status etc). I bet that’s going to throw off a lot of monolinguals and I secretly rejoice at the thought of confused English monolinguals growing a big question mark on their faces.

There’s also two secondary characters who use they/them and, from what I could tell, personal pronouns were never assumed based on a person’s appearance. It was nice and effortless and this is how it should be.

I considered hard whether this was more of a 2.5 or a 3 stars for me, considering that what I felt was “meh” and that I do consider it an okay book. But I decided to go with 2.5 because it just doesn’t compare to books I rated 3 stars (which are normally books where I at least enjoy most elements). Regardless of my rating, please still know that this is an objectively good book probably, it just ticked off a lot of points I don’t like or care about.

ARC Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales // the queer Grease retelling that stole my heart

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

Release date: March 3rd

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★★★★.5✩

I was taken by surprise by this queer Grease retelling, not because I didn’t expect it to be good (it sounded amazing) but because it kept trying to annoy me and it just…didn’t.

Only Mostly Devastated is both a light-hearted romcom and a book that has many heavy themes within it, and the two aspects felt well-balanced and well-researched. With so many delicate themes at hand, there is going to be space for nuance as every reader reacts to each instance according to their own sensibilities and life experiences. To me, there was so much I could see easily going downhill but instead going the opposite way. Comments that were immediately challenged on page, conflict that could’ve been easily dismissed by one character but instead was acknowledged and respected. (Only one thing that I could think of didn’t really leave me satisfied, because the apology came late and wasn’t really an apology but it’s seen as one because of the character’s personality.)

This is not to say it’s all black and white: these are teenagers and they make mistakes and in the process learn to navigate life, and to me that was enough.

If you’ve seen Grease you might already expect how the romance works: summer fling, same school, two groups of friends. Add in the queer element, and the major conflict becomes the fact that Will is deeply closeted. This constitutes one of the heavier aspects of the book, second to the illness plotline, so I wouldn’t call this story fluffy by any means. But to me it felt very real and all in all I feel like Ollie never expected Will to come out for the sake of their relationship, he was fully willing to keep it a secret from everyone while simultaneously rightfully being frustrated by some of the decisions that Will took in order to keep his sexuality safe.

Will’s sexuality is not the only one in question, and there is a secondary sapphic character who gets outed to the whole school and this kind of furthers the narrative in more than one way. This is not something I had thought much about while reading and ultimately I think it was done more for the sake of the Grease retelling than to further the m/m relationship, but I can see how it might not sit well with everyone.

Ollie’s aunt’s terminal illness is the other major aspect that makes this book not the easiest to read. I don’t want to get too personal but I had to force a sense of distance in order to power through the book, and I found Will’s emotions very real and the grief aspect one of the best I’ve ever seen handled in a book. I wasn’t surprised to go on the author’s biography and find out she works as a psychologist, because she really hit all the spots with this story line.

With so much that was ultimately emotionally heavy content, how come I still called this light-hearted? Ollie’s internal monologue was simply a delight, and this is coming from someone who’s finding herself more and more distant from the “contemporary YA 1st POV voice”, but I could simply not care. Was it over the top sometimes? Yes, but I didn’t care. I liked Ollie’s voice and I thought he was highly relatable and funny.

I also loved the friendships in here. I couldn’t immediately understand the girls but once I did I loved their little messy group, and the guys were annoying but ultimately not unredeemable, especially once they got educated.

Speaking of the girls, it’s the first time I see PCOS being talked about in a book, YA especially, and how it affects the girl’s life. It was something I wasn’t expecting and it almost brought me to tears since nobody ever talks about it.

So, I think it’s fair to say I loved this. I would recommend to make sure you check the TWs first in order to be prepared, and even if you’re someone who doesn’t read a lot of YA (in general or anymore) but you’re still curious to try this, I think you won’t regret it.

Rep: gay MC, bisexual Venezuelan LI, female bisexual side character, POC characters, fat character with PCOS

TWs: a character gets outed against their will, terminal illness (cancer), hospitals, fatphobic and fatshaming comments (not immediately challenged), talk of weight loss and dieting, talk of PCOS and its symptoms and how they affect the character’s weight loss/diet, homophobic comments, death of a family member, grief, underage alcohol consumption

ARC Review: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Summary: What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

Release date: February 11th

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★★★★✩

Coming up with a way to first introduce The Unspoken Name in a review is, at the very least, complicated. This is a novel with many layers and many aspects that cohabit peacefully with one another, and to put focus on one before the others would be to build wrongful expectations for what is the end result.

…and there I tricked you by giving you what I feel like should be the first thing to keep in mind when going into this novel. If you expect it to be fantasy more than scifi, or plot more than characters, or characters more than plot, or relationships more than characters, then you’ll end up expecting something this novel isn’t.

Keeping that in mind, now we can move on and talk about the different aspects!

The first thing I realized I liked about this book was the writing. I will admit it does feel like a debut novel but like, in a good way that makes me want to read the author’s future books and see how she improves based on what I already know she does well. I personally love when authors don’t force-feed you information about characters’ intentions and feelings/reactions at any given moment but let you understand it from the context and what you already know about them. I think this aspect was excellent and it had sometimes hilarious, sometimes powerful effects in moments that would have been spoiled by an overly detailed description. I also think each character’s voice was very distinct and immediately recognizable.

Speaking of which, I think characters and relationships are where this book truly shined for me. Amidst a lot of plot and action, these characters bleed through the pages and you absorb them slowly, as you would with a real person. By the end they all felt real in a way that doesn’t always happen with fantasy, and I truly Felt for their relationships.

The romantic aspect was really enjoyable but to be honest, not my favorite part. It was, I guess, just not as present as I usually like it to be, but I do feel that the sapphic (!!!!) relationship was very naturally built up and cute. I was also under the wrong impression (I don’t remember if because of reviews or why) that there would also be a side m/m romance but there is not (if you’ve read it and see a romance in That…I really don’t know what to tell you), and I would like to add: thank the Nine Gods. I don’t think there’s anyone here who’s allocishet but anyway there are like: three confirmed mlm characters (at least one of them is bi/pan) and three wlw ones.

The plot was intriguing and I was never bored. I do think it had some pacing issues, not something that necessarily always bothered me (for example, I love when it got a little slower for the sake of showing us certain characters and relationships), but it did make things a little weird in a couple of points. If you’re someone who cares a lot about plot and pacing, you might notice and care about this more than I did.

The worldbuilding is so unique and I’m not even going to pretend like I’ve understood how things work well enough to be able to talk about them but basically it’s a fantasy + scifi setting in which together with more high fantasy elements we also have uhh,, space (?) ships and you can jump between worlds.

So, would I recommend this? Absolutely! If you’re into adult fantasy and/or casually queer (sapphic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) books then this one is for you. And I’m really looking forward to the next book (by the way, this book can be a standalone because it has an arc that’s fully resolved by the end, which is even more reason to give it a try!), hoping it will follow Tal (my favorite character tbh).

TWs: human & animal sacrifices, violence, gore, drug use, death, alcohol, self mutilation