Alright, I’ll admit it. The Themis Files series has been gazing at me from my to-be-read shelf for over a year now. I’ve heard Sylvain Neuvel’s praises sung endlessly by friends and fellow reviewers, but I still haven’t made it to his debut novel, Sleeping Giants. I was thrilled at the announcement of The Test, his first novella, something for me to fly through quickly on a late night. The biggest takeaway for me: wow, I’ve been missing out.
I think this is one of those books you’re better of diving into yourself with as little foreknowledge as possible, so I’ll keep this brief. In order to become a citizen of Britain, you must first pass the twenty-five question British Citizenship Test. Idir Jalil, an Iranian immigrant hoping to secure his family’s future in this country they’ve come to know, will pass this test or he and his family will be deported immediately. The stakes are high enough before the day goes awry, forcing Idir to make decisions of life or death.
The Test flies by at breakneck speed. I like, many other readers, tore through this in a single sitting. Neuvel does not mince words. He quickly sets the stage as he introduces Idir, and just as promptly turns the world on it’s side less than twenty pages in. This is a masterfully written story that explores the value of a human life, and it rocked me to my core with each twist and turn as the plot unfolded.
The Test by Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian
Length: 112 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date: February 12, 2019
Source: Personal copy
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Simply put, wow. I needed this book and I had no idea until I picked it up on a whim.
No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven short stories, all featuring trans and nonbinary characters in epic fantasy settings. Aside from how overjoyed I was with the representation in this collection, I must take a moment to comment on Ana Mardoll’s incredible talent as a writer. In each brief story xie conjures an elaborate, fleshed out world that could support its own collection of tales. Though the world xie creates may be filled with strife and warfare, xer characters persevere. While some protagonists experienced hardship in their past, none suffer gruesome deaths or tragic fates, no characters are deadnamed, and misgendering and bigotry are minimal. Each story elegantly subverts well established tropes in the fantasy genre, and left me smiling each time it did. Mardoll puts the heart of this book best in xer own words:
The heroes and heroines in these pages aren’t special because they are trans; they are special and they are trans.
I loved this book from cover to cover and I highly recommend it to any lovers of fantasy, retellings, and queer fiction. Continue reading “Review: No Man of Woman Born”
The Incendiaries is R.O. Kwon’s remarkable debut. With her incredible prose she tells the story of Will and Phoebe, their love and their demise. As Will wrestles with his losing his faith, Phoebe descends further into an extremist cult, trying to absolve herself of the guilt she lives with following her mother’s death.
I can already feel that this book will be in my thoughts for a long time.
It is hard to feel close to the characters in this book: Will, our narrator and the enigmatic Phoebe, defying understanding from the moment she enters Will’s life until the moment she leaves it. I was captivated by their stories and the incredible way Kwon conveys their journeys. Read this book for Kwon’s elegant writing, for the haunting story she weaves, and for the characters that you won’t be able to forget. Continue reading “Review: The Incendiaries”
Outside a gay bar in New Orleans, a young lawyer and a man he met only hours before are confronted by a group of drunks that have targeted them for a hate crime. So begins Grace Mead’s Defense of an Other. In the first few chapters leading up to the inciting incident, plenty of the dialogue and character interactions fell flat, but after the fight that ultimately ends a man’s life, our protagonist is thrown in jail. Then the book really takes off.
Mead lays out the trial proceedings and events that follow in the riveting way I’m sure only a lawyer of 17 years could do. She presents vivid drama with none of the theatrics or hyperbole that I’ve found pervasive in other legal thrillers. Instead, reading Defense of An Other felt like sitting in the court alongside all the other spectators, reeling as the case transpires, hoping for a not guilty verdict. Continue reading “Review: Defense of an Other”
I didn’t intend to tear through Andrea Gibson’s collection of poems so quickly, at such a late hour. But now it’s one in the morning and I have been deeply moved by all of their words. I found myself in tears, filled with hope, and warmed by the sweetness of some of these poems- and then through this cycle of these emotions once again. This collection touches on gender, sexuality, love, loss, and the state of our world in an age of apathy. Navigating each topic Gibson writes powerfully and sweetly, in a way that dares you not to connect with this outstanding collection.
Continue reading “Review: Lord of The Butterflies”