Review: Chainbreaker by Tara Sim

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Chainbreaker is the sequel to LGBT+ friendly steampunk Timekeeper.
Timekeeper on Goodreads
Chainbreaker on Goodreads

“I’ll always fight for the promise of an easier tomorrow. Right or wrong, selfish or not, this is what we want. Whatever it takes.”

Clocktowers are mysteriously falling in India, though time is still running. The Mechanics send Danny and Daphne to investigate. (Danny quickly, willingly agrees, even if it does separate him from Colton.) Though young, they have experience – thanks to the traitor Mathias (who Danny really wishes everyone would stop calling a traitor) – with broken towers and stopped time.

First up, I gotta say that I loved the way the story was told. Last book, nearly everything was from Danny’s perspective and, while that was good, this story being told by Danny, Daphne and Colton helped both to flesh out the characters as well as the world.

And, boy, what a world it is. I’ve experienced some second books in series that feel like a setup, a stopgap for the third, and this one doesn’t suffer from that at all. (Well, okay, it does a little, merely because the ending is pretty much a cliffhanger, but it also feels like the ending of one chapter of the story and the beginning of the next. Don’t know how I’ll wait to find out what happens, though.)

Anyway, we get a lot more information on the world – instead of just based in England, a good portion takes place in India, opening up the world physically. (I don’t know much about Indian history, but I will say that Sim seems knowledgeable.) Besides that, there’s a lot more information on clock spirits which helps to flesh out the world that’s been created. I do love the way that both history and fiction blend in this story.

The characters also develop more over the course of the story, growing up a bit (mostly, Danny, though he was already a truly likable, sympathetic characters) as well as us readers getting to learn more about them. (Daphne and Colton, and their parts made me adore them even more.)

I liked the addition of some real racial diversity to this story – even if there was some before though it didn’t seem like it at the time. (A biracial character that easily passes as white.) Taking place in India, we have a lot of Indian characters that play important parts which, I think, was one of the biggest contributing factors to me liking this book just a bit more than the last one.

Well, that and the development to the world. (That I loved so, so much.)

5

 

Content Advisory: Rather clean all around. Brief animal death, some descriptions of violence. In fact, pretty heavy on the general, unexplicit violence. Brief (somewhat poetical) description of death.

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Double Review: Romancing the Inventor & Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger

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These are the first (and, so far, only) two books in the Supernatural Society series of novella’s. Set in a steampunk alternative Victorian England where vampires, werewolves and ghosts are very much real, they feature LGBT+ romances. (Set in Carriger’s ‘Parasolverse’.)

Romancing the Inventor on Goodreads
Romancing the Werewolf on Goodreads

Romancing the Inventor

What one werewolf knew, the whole pack knew.
But they’d kept her secret, and now they were gone.
And vampires were perverted.
Or so she hoped.

Imogene is a little past her prime (long in the tooth, on the shelf, whatever you prefer) and her mother is starting to despair of every marrying her off. Imogene has had plenty of offers, plenty of men that want to marry her for she is uncommonly pretty. However, she is disinterested as she prefers women.

In an effort explore her preference, loose her innocence and figure out what’s wrong with her, she decides to join the vampires. (As, rumor has it, they are perverted.) What she doesn’t expect is to meet the lovely trouser wearing inventor indentured to the vampire hive, Genevieve Lefoux.

I’ll be honest, the major reason I’ve been so excited for this story is because I have adored Genevieve since her first introduction in the story. I adore her, and her romance was a little disappointing because this entire story is told from Imogene’s perspective. So, while we get plenty of moments of Genevieve appreciation, we also don’t get inside her head. (We do get to see her flustered though, and that has made me want to run away with her even more.)

Imogene is a real character. She is an innocent, but her thoughts definitely aren’t and, if she had her way, she wouldn’t be an innocent any more (because a lot of her thought’s are along the lines of ways to loose said innocence). She’s fairly practical and down to earth, but has a distressingly low opinion of herself. She also suffers from being too pretty.

Now, I know a lot of people will say that’s not a real flaw – and I agree that how it is usually done, it isn’t. But here, it is. Because, much like real life stories, bad things happen to Imogene because of her looks. She’s dismissed because someone pretty obviously cannot also be smart and, even worse, men want to take advantage of her because she is so pretty. Because of this, and her generally low station in society, some of the story is a little difficult.

4

Content Advisory: Scenes of physical abuse, mostly from a position of power, most of it sexual. Scenes that could easily be read as attempted rape. Threats of rape. (None of this between the main couple.) Consensual sex. (This is between the main couple. 😉

Romancing the Werewolf

It took a great deal of effort for a werewolf to have style. Getting naked once a month, ripping clothes constantly, and turning into a slavering beast was only the start of the afterlife’s many dandy challenges.

Twenty years ago, newly turned werewolf Alpha Biffy and Beta werewolf Professor Lyall spent a night of passion and comfort in each others arms. However, circumstances intruded and Lyall had to temporarily join another pack in reparation for a decision he made.

Now Lyall, recompense completed, has returned to London, to his pack, to his Alpha – but not everything is smooth sailing. Twenty years is a long time, even for immortals, and Biffy just took charge of the pack upon the previous Alpha’s retirement two months ago. Throw in a pack of werewolves adjusting to both a new Alpha and a new home, children being left on their doorstep and things are just complicated enough for both to wonder if friendship is all they’ll have.

Firstly, Lyall was always one of my favorite characters in this setting, so I was thrilled to see the first tentative get together between him and Biffy in Timeless and even more happy when I heard this book would finally give them some resolution. They are perfect for each other and I adore the way they work together and rely on each other.

Lyall is down-to-earth, calm, practical, a true Beta in ever sense of the word. Biffy is an atypical Alpha. He’s pretty, he likes fashion and was even planning on trying to be turned into a vampire before events transpired. They are very different, but so complementary – especially in that neither is the ‘usual’ rough-and-tumble sort of werewolf.

(Now, I honestly cannot read this book without comparing it to the previous one in the series because I read them back-to-back.)

Where this story wins out over the previous one for me, is three fold. This story has a plot beyond the couple getting together – a plot that we see resolution to and that affords ample opportunity for the typical Carriger insanity that she writes so well. (That was reasons one and two.) (And while Lyall is practical, he’s not as extremely normal as Imogene is, which was somewhat detrimental to Carriger’s writing style.)

The third reason is a case of major personal preference. I usually prefer a romance where we get to witness it through both characters. I like an alternating point of view. I like seeing what each person thinks of the other. (And, in truth, I prefer more than one perspective even if it’s not a romance.) Finally, while I’m not really a fan of the so-called ‘second chance’ romances, this one worked for me because they were never actually a couple before. (More like friends with benefits.)

5

Content Advisory: Briefly referenced past rape and physical abuse. Consensual sex.

While I find both these books (novella’s, but whatever) very nice additions to the ‘verse that Carriger has created, I’m not sure either work as an appropriate jumping on point. If you’re interested in the first published work, check out Soulless and if you’d prefer to read the series chronologically, try Etiquette & Espionage. (The former is more bodice ripper sexy while the latter is YA boarding (spy) school.)

Review: Hexslayer by Jordan L. Hawk

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Hexslayer is a historical urban fantasy M/M romance set in New York near the turn of the twentieth century featuring witches and their familiars, with a mystery running through it. It is the third full length novel in the Hexworld series, though the books can be read out of order. (Though, personally, I wouldn’t recommend it.)

Hexslayer on Goodreads
Hexworld series on Goodreads

But witches didn’t give. They took and they took, nothing more. They dangled a promise of food and safety, of money…in exchange for everything a familiar had to give. Body, soul and magic. The chance to live a life they wanted, instead of trailing behind their witch.

Unbonded familiars are being killed, murdered in what looks like a ritual killing, and Nick, an angry horse shifter, does the one thing he swore he never would: bond to a witch. It’s all in an effort to investigate the killings, but what he doesn’t expect is Jamie, his witch and a genuinely good person.

Nick and Jamie must put away their differences and learn to work together (Nick must learn to trust a witch) if they are to save New York City from a plot to topple it.

I love this series. I’ve always loved stories that deal with people that aren’t quite human and the mistreatment that they can suffer for it. (ESPECIALLY when they come out on top in the end.) People that are more talented than the average and are feared because of that. And that’s what the familiars are.

Besides that, you have the familiar/witch bond – which kind of works like soulmates. You have THE perfect match, and while familiars and witches can bond even if they aren’t a perfect match, the bond is strong and the duo is more powerful if they are a perfect match. (Considering that this is a romance series, there’s no major examples of it, but the bonds can also be simply platonic.) (There’s a nice little mention that asexual and aromantic are things in this setting, too.)

Nick is a very compelling character, because he has so much anger and hatred for the witches. Not all of it is for good reason though, and it’s a lot of fun seeing him come to terms with the fact that not all witches are the villains he’s painted them as.

Jamie is a bit less compelling and doesn’t have as much to overcome in the story. What he does have, though, is a prosthetic leg. (And suffering from PTSD, even if they didn’t have a name for it.) What’s nice about this is how references are made to him having trouble climbing steps and the way people look at him differently than they did before he lost his leg. Jamie is very well adjusted though, and is understanding enough and sweet enough that he balances out Nick wonderfully and they complement each other very well. (And Jamie calling Nick ‘sweetheart’ is just made of win.)

Besides what worked well for this story (that whole enemies-to-lovers thing is such fun if done well and I think this book did a good, if understated, job) I love the world that the author has built up. I know a lot of people would argue that there’s no such genre, but to me this is a historical urban fantasy. I takes place in a city, it has paranormal elements and it is most definitely a historical. (And this is one of my favorite sub-genres.)

What didn’t work so well for me was the mystery. I thought it was obvious who was in on it – even if I didn’t know why – and, at one point, I was practically screaming at one of the characters to not trust this person.

5

Content advisory: Explicit sex. Some cursing. Moderately graphic depictions of death, dead bodies and violence. Talk of phantom pain from an amputated limb.

Diversity featured: LGBT+ characters, racial diversity, (Samoan/Native American) physical disability.

Review: Venturess by Betsy Cornwell

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Venturess is the sequel to the awesome steampunk retelling of Cinderella, Mechanica. (This review will contain some spoilers for the romance outcome from Mechanica.)

Venturess on Goodreads
Mechanica on Goodreads

But I had worked hard since then to mend my heart and remake my understanding of love and family from the simple, binary ideas I’d had before. Fin and I weren’t the starry-eyed couple I’d dreamed of last winter, true; we were simply a unit, together with our Caro. We were three people who loved and needed one another, and it was as easy and as hard as that.

Nicolette got her happily ever after, even if it might not have been what anyone expected. Now she’s a well known, well respected inventor, happy with her family and Jules, her mechanical horse.

But war is brewing and when an attack is made on Prince Fin’s life, Nick, Fin and Caro get thrown right into the middle of it in an effort to save the land of Faerie.

Honestly, the easiest thing to say about this book was that I liked it, but didn’t love it. The biggest reason I was excited for it was the relationship between Nick, Caro and Fin. I don’t know how to describe it and, wonderfully enough, there’s never a name put to it.

It definitely was lovely though, and seeing them work together and love and trust each other was beautiful. Without a doubt it was my favorite thing in the story.

But this book was surprisingly different then the previous. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I was expecting more in the way of slow moving character development and was quite surprised at the amount of death in this book and how truly unpleasant things get.

Nick has continued to grow as a person and, honestly, shows a lot of development that I might not have credited her with. She’s brave and strong, but she also leans on her friends – who, in turn, lean on her. (Once again, love those three together.)

She’s faced with several trials through the story (several twists) that I think she handled wonderfully. Well, for the most part. I don’t think running away from your problems helps anything, but she dealt with them eventually and stayed true to herself.

The twists were…well, the first one was obvious. I wasn’t sure what the explanation would be, but I did see it coming from very early on it the book. I kind of think that it maybe wasn’t supposed to be a surprise because it was followed up with another twist almost immediately. (That one I didn’t see coming.)

Over all, a lot of questions were answered, it was nice to see Faerie, closure was had, and I still wanted to know more of what Nick, Caro and Fin were doing. (Also, I have to say, I adore the Faerie culture. They understand Nick’s relationship in a way that humans won’t and it was so lovely.)

4

Content Advisory: Nothing explicit. Some mentions of torture. Talk of death and animal death. Nightmares. Implied death. Really, all the even vaguely unpleasant things are mostly left up to your imagination – and I have a VERY active imagination so I imagine worse than it probably truly was.

Review: Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

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Hollow World is a standalone time traveling sci-fi with a utopian-esque world and the hapless modern man that gets thrown into it. (Kind of like a more aware Time Machine. And less depressing.)

Hollow World on Goodreads

Maybe if Pax were a woman he might have offered a hug or something, but Pax wasn’t a woman. The best a man could do for another man was pretend not to see. Only Pax wasn’t a man either.
Ellis was lost.

(Truthfully, Ellis is often lost.)

Ellis Rogers, just diagnosed with a terminal illness and told he has, at best, a year to live, does what any normal, sane, married man in his fifties would: he hops into the time machine he’s been building in his garage. Even knowing it’s going be a one-way trip, he’s hoping for a cure for his illness and sets the device for two hundred years in the future.

When he steps out of the milk-crate-and-minivan-cannibalized time machine, he’s surprised (and a little disappointed) to find himself not in a bustling metropolis of flying cars and gravity defying buildings, but an old-growth forest. Where Detroit used to be. Let’s just say that nothing about the future is quite what Ellis expected.

And the book isn’t quite what I expected. Even knowing the author’s other (fantasy) work, I still half expected a book that was dry and ponderous and, well, privileged. I can’t help it, I am ashamed to say that I expected Ellis to be ‘privileged cis white man 1.0’ – pretty much like the one from the original time machine story. And like Warren. *shudder* Oh, so much like Warren.

Ellis, actually, handles the whole thing – drastically changed earth, massively changed human culture – rather well. He’s a curious sort. He wanted to be an astronaut when he was younger and I can’t help but think that prepared him at least a little. He’s likable because he doesn’t dismiss the world. He doesn’t understand it, he misses his world, but he’s not going to say his world was better. He faces everything with a healthy dose of curiosity and – even if I was yelling at him for one awful decision he made – I liked him because of all that.

The other characters were a mix. Pax is absolutely wonderful, without a doubt my favorite in the book and definitely one of my favorite this year. The others weren’t so likable to me, but there was only one character I truly hated. (The evil, creepy villain, because yes, this story does have a villain that I wanted to kill in the worst way possible.)

I don’t really want to get into the world building because I don’t want to give out spoilers. Let’s just say that it was interesting and very believably handled. I could see the things happen that did, and I could see humanity reacting the way they did. Also, I have to add that the populace still speaks English. It’s a little changed, but I was so thrilled that there wasn’t a translation phase where we were left at sea.

This book takes a look at gender, love and individuality (and religion to an extent) and how much they matter – or don’t – in the grand scheme of being human. I’d tell you more, but, really, this is a book that it’s best to just go along with the ride and not know where it’ll end up.

5

Content Advisory: Some language/curse words. There’s a couple moderately described scenes of violence, a clinical description of a dead body and mentioned off-screen consensual maiming/body modifications. And a truly vile villain. Trust me, they deserve a special advisory all for themselves because I can’t imagine anyone that they won’t insult.

Diversity Spotlight Thursday

DIVERSE SPOTLIGHT

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves and Paperbacks. Every week, the participants are supposed to choose one book for each of the three categories: a diverse book you have read and enjoyed, a diverse book on your TBR, and a diverse book that has not yet been released.

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Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver

Celosia Brennan was supposed to be a hero. After a spectacular failure that cost her people their freedom, she is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance at redemption. Together with a gifted team of rebels, she not only sets her sights on freedom, but defeating her personal demons along the way.

Now branded a failure, Celosia desperately volunteers for the next mission: taking down the corrupt Council with a team of her fellow elementally gifted mages. Leading the Ember Operative gives Celosia her last hope at redemption. They seek to overthrow the Council once and for all, this time bringing the fight to Valeria, the largest city under the Council’s iron grip. But Celosia’s new teammates don’t trust her—except for Ianthe, a powerful Ice Elementalist who happens to believe in second chances.

With Council spies, uncontrolled magic, and the distraction of unexpected love, Celosia will have to win the trust of her teammates and push her abilities to the breaking point to complete the Ember Operative. Except if she falters this time, there won’t be any Elementalists left to stop the Council from taking over not just their country, but the entire world.

This book is not without its flaws, but it is still one of the most diverse books I’ve ever read. There is racial diversity, many, many characters that are on the LGBT+ spectrum and one of the POV characters is blind. Honestly, it deserves a read just because of all that.

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Coral Bones by Foz Meadows

Miranda, daughter to Prospero, the feared sorcerer-Duke of Milan, stifles in her new marriage. Oppressed by her father, unloved by Ferdinand, she seeks freedom; and is granted it, when her childhood friend, the fairy spirit Ariel, returns. Miranda sets out to reach Queen Titania’s court in Illyria, to make a new future…
Monstrous Little Voices is a collection of five short novellas, a single long tale set in Shakespeare’s fantasy world of fairies, wizards and potions, in honour of the four-hundredth anniversary of the Bard’s death.

This is just a short tale (54 pages) but after Foz Meadows work on her Manifold worlds series, I knew I had to read it. As an added bonus, this is a Their Own Voices story as the protagonist is genderqueer as is Meadows.

coming soon

The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

From what I’ve heard, the setting is culturally and racially diverse and it sounds totally awesome besides!

Once again, love to hear your thoughts on these books and any suggestions you may have for me to read!

Diversity Spotlight Thursday #1

DIVERSE SPOTLIGHT

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves and Paperbacks. Every week, the participants are supposed to choose one book for each of the three categories: a diverse book you have read and enjoyed, a diverse book on your TBR, and a diverse book that has not yet been released.

I knew, restarting a blog, that I wanted to do this meme. I had just started it when I wound up going on a hiatus and now I want to talk about these awesome/awesome-sounding diverse books.

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Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth

Reese Eddings has enough to do just keeping her rattletrap merchant vessel, the TMS Earthrise, profitable enough to pay food for herself and her micro-crew. So when a mysterious benefactor from her past shows up demanding she rescue a man from slavers, her first reaction is to say “NO!” And then to remember that she sort of promised to repay the loan. But she doesn’t remember signing up to tangle with pirates and slavers over a space elf prince… Book 1 of the Her Instruments trilogy is a rollicking space operatic adventure set in the Pelted Paradox universe.

This book is just a lot of fun and a great story, even beyond the fact that the main character is a black woman. And, seriously, it is super hard to find a black main character in a spacefaring sci-fi. I do highly recommend this book though – especially for fans of found families, skirting the legal and those that like a little romance with their space-adventuring!

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Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards.

These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

Here I am, busy looking for diversity in spec fiction, and I haven’t read Elizabeth Bear yet. She’s got so many awesome sounding stories, but I decided on this one to start with because – from what I’ve heard – it’s based around a non-white culture that’s more than just window dressing.

coming soon

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale

Victoria “Vix” Vincent has only two weeks to find a replacement fiddle player for her band’s summer tour. When classically trained violinist Sawyer Bell shows up for an audition, Vix is thrilled. Sawyer is talented, gorgeous, funny, and excited about playing indie rock instead of Beethoven. Their friendship soon blossoms into romance, even though Vix tries to remember that Sawyer’s presence is only temporary.

Sawyer’s parents think she’s spending the summer months touring Europe with a chamber ensemble. But Sawyer is in dire need of a break from the competitiveness of Juilliard, and desperately wants to rediscover her love of music. Going on tour with her secret high school crush is just an added bonus. Especially when Vix kisses her one night after a show, and they discover that the stage isn’t the only place they have chemistry.

But the tour won’t last forever, and as the summer winds down, Sawyer has to make a tough decision about her future—and what it means to follow her heart.

To say I’m excited for this book is an understatement. I love this author’s writing style – even if I’ve only read her m/m hockey series – and I am so looking forward to see how she does with a f/f with musicians!

I’d love to hear what you think about any of these books! And do leave suggestions and book recs!

Review: Daybreak Rising

Daybreak Rising is a sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian amalgamation with a chosen one that failed and so much diversity you probably won’t know what to do with it. It’s the first in a projected new adult series.

Daybreak Rising on Goodreads

They wanted to see her fail. People assumed the worst of her, without getting to know her beforehand. She’d hardly heard her name in years – just, “Daybreak.”

I have been looking for a book like this.

Basically, this is the story of a failed ‘chosen one’. Years ago, Celosia Brennan was tasked to take down the controlling Council. However, she did what no one thought she would: failed. Now, she’s desperate for a chance to redeem herself.

And she gets that chance, heading the Ember Operative with a group of her fellow mages that don’t trust her.

While the plot is one I adore – I mean, how many times does the ‘chosen one’ actually fail? – what really gets me is the diversity in this book.

We have nearly every main character (of which there are six) fitting somewhere on the LGBT+ spectrum, as well as racial diversity and one character that is blind as well as (at least) one character suffering from PTSD.

This is a book that listens to the voices begging for diverse books and it provides. Provides in a wonderful way and it’s delightful to read.

Now, that being said, as much as I adore the idea behind the story, the characters and the plot itself, the writing is a bit difficult. In fact, it’s a letdown because if the writing had been easier to connect with, I could have given this five stars in a heartbeat.

The descriptions, the way some things – usually minutiae – is over described and things that actually important is barely hinted at was the first problem I noticed.

For example, the main group goes into a pub and it is described as an ‘inviting brick building’ that was ‘full of university students and people getting off work’ while two decent sized paragraphs are dedicated to the food and drink as well as what the eight people eat.

The writing is a bit choppy. There are breaks sometimes after less than a full page, other times after five pages, but even for how short most of the sections are, sometimes the POV character changes in the middle of a section with no indication that it is changing. There are few transition scenes. And, I really hate to say it, this book seems to suffer a bit for that old issue of too much telling instead of showing.

Finally, the story covers a lot of time – something I’ve never been happy with. In the first half of the book, eight months pass. That that much time is passing was indicated once and prior to that, the only mention that any time was passing at all was a character that was imprisoned for three months. Otherwise, I would have suspected that mere weeks had passed.

I’m sincerely hoping that the writing hiccups will be smoothed out in the sequel, because this series shows a lot of promise and the author is doing a wonderful job at answering the cry for more diverse books.

3

Content Advisory: There are some instances of consensual sex, though nothing is explicit. There is also some brief discussions of being transgender – including body dysphoria and talk of operations.