art, writing, media reviews & criticism

Tag: Queer

Witchbane by Morgan Brice

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Rating: It's fine / ★★★
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2018
Publisher: Darkwind Press
Series: Witchbane, #1
Content Includes: Character death, reference to homophobia, reference to car accidents, reference to stalking

Back when I believed I was ride-or-die for my main, Supernatural, I read Bone Key, official Supernatural profic written by Keith R.A. DeCandido. What that starry-eyed child learned was that she rode for no book without sufficient lyricism and that no, she can’t just have fun; a story must devastate my soul or it’s dead to me.

That’s anathema to most romances (that I’ve read); the point is usually to impart positive feelings, which I’m resistant to. That’s why I was attracted to this series. It works within a familiar framework and delivers upon its most basic promises, but its capital “S” Supernatural angle looked like it could potentially satisfy my particular need for high stakes inside of a considerable plot.

The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

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Rating: It's fine / ★★★
Genre: Science fiction / Space Opera
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Publisher: Skybound Books
Content Includes: Explicit sexual content, misgendering, sexual violence, human experimentation, classism, poverty, state violence, state corruption, imperialism, fantasy racism

The First Sister is the first part in a queer sociopolitical science fiction trilogy about First Sister, a priestess and comfort woman ordered to spy on her ship’s captain, and Lito sol Lucius, a formerly impoverished soldier given a mission to track down and kill his former partner. Pitched to have the thrills of Red Rising whilst not only acknowledging spectrums in gender and sexuality, but including their particularities in its narrative with the conscientiousness of A Handmaid’s Tale, this book was set to realize my queer dream.

The danger of explicitly naming comparable works is that this creates direct comparisons. In this case, both of the works that The First Sister compares to are multi-part cross-media franchises that have had a lot of time to find their communities. And in fact, I was finally going to pick up Dark Age, the latest book in the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, when my hold on this came in from the library. But to pit this slim book against series comprised of massive installments would be unfair, so my question entering into this book was, is it as action-packed as the first book in Red Rising and is it as socially savvy as A Handmaid’s Tale?

A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone

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Rating: Ugh, boring / ★★
Genre: Romance
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Publisher: Self-published
Content Includes: Explicit sexual content

A Lesson in Thorns is an erotic romance about a group of childhood friends that return to an enchanting English mansion when its owner begins renovating it. While reconnecting, they discover each other’s sexual passions. This culminates during their enactment of a Celtic ritual set during Imbolc that’s connected to the mansion and their pasts.

Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon that hates romance. At least, romance as the primary genre does not seem to be for me. A Lesson in Thorns treats its romances as the primary plot while everything else is a distant second, given just enough attention to loosely excuse group orgies. Every sexual encounter is deliciousy saucy in its wanton desire, but the prose that makes Simone’s erotica sumptuous becomes overwrought when applied to anything resembling a plot. Additionally, while the majority of her writing is good, the blemishes are so repetitious that they became distracting features by the book’s halfway point.

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