Genre: science fiction (space opera)
Pairings: NB/female, NB/male
Queer Representation: gender fluid, third gender, trans masculine, trans feminine, agender
Warnings: violence against enbies (may be triggering for some)
Rating: five stars
Dalí, a human, third gender changling, used to be a highly regarded diplomat. That all changed when their husband, wife, and unborn child were murdered. Adrift in suicidal thoughts, Dalí gets into one too many fights and stumbles across an interplanetary conspiracy to sell other third gender changelings to the highest bidder. Dalí agrees to help rescue their fellows, but the conspiracy is much deeper than they feared, and making it out alive isn’t exactly a high priority.
A very space opera-y space opera, Dalí gives a look at a pseudo-dystopian future in which being born nonbinary is common (that’s not the dystopian part, clearly), but factions from Earth would prefer to see people ‘go back’ to just male and female. Add in a mess of aliens and Dalí’s proclivities for sexual encounters and you get an intense book filled with intrigue, sex, betrayal, and a host of uncomfortable parallels to our modern society.
Although I found some of the scenes too brutal at times (I see and experience plenty of enby discrimination in day-to-day life, so I don’t always care for it in my books), the book was very well written and the pacing, especially in the second half, excellent. I was hooked after Dalí began to befriend a ‘pirate lord,’ and I got to see more of their personality come forward, instead of the (understandable) gut reactions we got in the first half of the book.
This book was recommended to me so many times that I waited to purchase a print copy, instead of getting an ARC from Ninestar (also my publisher). It was well worth the purchase and while I didn’t necessarily connect with Dalí on an enby level (we’re just different flavors of enby), the struggles they faced were all too real, and the conflicts, while set in space, were very 2018. It’s fantastic that stories like this are getting published, and that enby readers have more and more opportunities to see themselves in fiction. Much like with THE SEEDS OF DISSOLUTION, it was nice to see a variety enby types, from true gender fluid, to agender and third gender, to transmasculine and transfeminine. This representation, too, is key, in helping to educate readers that nonbinary doesn’t mean just one thing.
A solid, well-paced plot, strong writing, and a memorable main protagonist made this book a very satisfying read. Lovers of gritty books, such as TRANS LIBERTY RIOT BRIGADE, will find this book especially valuable, as will lovers of queer space opera.