Mini Reviews: The Queer SFF Edition

27 Hours by Tristina Wright (The Nightside Saga #1)

Genre: YA, Sci-Fi

Publisher: Entangled Teen on October 3, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

There’s a lot to like about Tristina Wright’s debut novel, 27 HOURS: it has quality diversity rep and a fast-paced plot with some solid twists. Unfortunately, there were some troubling aspects that kept me from enjoying it fully.

Hundreds of years in the future, humanity has left earth and settled on a nearby moon, where social order is upheld by the military state. During the period known as dayside, society looks pretty similar to what we have here on earth, but by nightside the reason for all that military protection becomes evident. Turns out that when humans landed on the moon, there were already beings living there and they’re not too happy about colonization. Shocking, I know.

27 HOURS follows six teens as they attempt to stay alive long enough to unravel the truth about the chimera/human conflict…and deal with their inconveniently timed romantic and personal drama. I liked most of the core characters, particularly the pacifist freedom fighter Jude. I do think that this would’ve been much stronger had at least one of the protagonists been a chimera, instead of the entirely human main cast we had.

It’s always lovely to read about queer characters whose experiences are so normalized and accepted, and I really appreciated that the core cast also had strong disability rep. Many reviewers have already tackled the uncritical examination of colonialism that some readers found troubling in 27 HOURS, so I won’t rehash what they’ve said so articulately. What I will say is that I also found it problematic.


The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera (Their Bright Ascendancy #1)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Tor on October 3, 2017

Source: Publisher

DNF at 51%

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people.

I really wanted to like THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER, but sadly it didn’t work for me and I ended up setting it aside.

Born to the leading houses of two formerly warring empires, the Hokkaran princess Shizuka and Qorin child Shefali shouldn’t have been friends; but destiny has other plans, and the two warriors have many battles to fight together.

I like the idea of the world K Arsenault Rivera has created, but I wasn’t a fan of the execution. The vast majority of the story is told via flashbacks and one massively long letter, which made what little fantastical world building I saw in the first 51% feel like an info-dump. The political and cultural side of things was much more smoothly developed, but I found the representation of Qorin culture particularly troubling, as it is riddled with racist stereotypes and slurs. Your mileage may vary on this, but I wasn’t a fan.

K Arsenault Rivera is clearly a gifted writer, and I appreciate the risk she took with the narrative structure in THE TIGER’S DAUTHER. I get what she was going for here, but I found the combination of Shefali’s letters and Shizuka’s flashbacks distanced me from their stories. I wasn’t able to connect with their characters nearly as much as I would’ve liked to, and I think the use of second person is largely to blame. Normally I’d be all about two badass queer women of colour!

THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER is by no means a bad book, but it isn’t the book for me.


The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (The Abyss Surrounds Us #1)

Genre: Sci-Fi, YA

Publisher: Flux on February 8, 2016

Source: Library

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business.

Cassandra Leung has spent her whole life preparing to professionally train Reckoners, the genetically engineered sea monsters designed to protect vessels from piracy. Their name isn’t exactly subtle: the beasts act as the ferocious reckoning for those pirates foolish enough to take them – and the vessels their bound to – on. But when Cas is captured by pirates on her first solo mission, she must go against everything she’s been raised to believe if she wants to stay alive.

Y’all. The only thing I didn’t like about THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US is that it ended. From lesbian pirates to sea monsters, sexy villainesses to intriguing conspiracies, Skrutskie pulls it all off flawlessly. The world of the Neo-Pacific is full of intriguing politics, cool tech, and a fully-realized pirate culture; I can’t wait to dig deeper into this world in the sequel.

The character development is top-notch, with Cas growing believably from a scared, rule-abiding follower to a calculating, risk-taking badass. Despite being taken prisoner, forced to go against everything she believes in, and fighting to survive, Cas still cracks wise and her dark humour really helped break up the tension. Swift is fabulous too, and I loved her commentary on piracy and poverty. She’s tough as nails at times, but her growing affection for Cas reveals a softer side to the pirate. Even Bao, the rogue Reckoner beastie that Cas works with, has a cool character arc!

Emily Skrutskie’s THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US is a complex, nuanced exploration of how extreme circumstances can change people – and also reveal who they’ve been all along. Highly recommended.

Have you read any of these books? What SFF or romance media have you been enjoying lately? Let me know in the comments!

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