Space Gaze: Two Librarians Review Queer SF/F

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Ready to blast off (yes, I do hate myself a little for using that pun) with some good LGBTQIA+ Sci-Fi and Fantasy? Whether you're looking for novels, short stories, or graphic novels, we've got you covered.

 

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon [2019]

Rachael: Samantha Shannon took one look at JRR Tolkien's world buliding and said hold my beer. The Priory of the Orange Tree is an absolutely sprawling high fantasy adventure that traverses an entire world's worth of fantastical lands and cultures. I'm talking maps, warring factions, conflicting creation myths, political intrigue, and -most importantly- dragons that can talk to you and be your friend. If epic fantasy is your jam but Game of Thrones and The Name of the Wind leave you thinking 'yeah but where are all the ladies and queer people though?', then The Priory of the Orange Tree is the book for you. 4/5 stars ~ only reason it's not higher is they killed off a character I liked and I'm still salty.

 

Mercedes: How can you not be sucked in by that cover? I was promised beautiful maps and that good gay content, and left three days later with the best book hangover I've ever experienced. This book is a monster—clocking in at nearly 850 pages—and it's worth every second spent reading it. I enjoyed all of the narrators, but I loved Ead and Tané most of all, and to see their cultures interwoven with all the others in this world was really amazing. 5/5 stars.

 

Final Verdict: 4.5/5 stars

 

 

 

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In Other Lands cover art

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan [2017]

Mercedes: Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping. I live for books that follow the protagonist throughout the years as they grow and learn, and In Other Lands manages that perfectly, even with a protagonist that has to get dragged into the plot kicking and screaming. Elliott is a menace and I adore him for it. And who wouldn't appreciate a story about the powers of scholarly research triumphing in a world that values fighting over all else?

Bonus points for this one, because the author originally wrote it as a serial and released it on her blog before cleaning it up to be published (I just think it's neat!). 5/5 stars

 

Rachael: If there's one thing you take away from this review let it be this: the protagonist of In Other Lands, Elliot, is a complete and utter little snot and I love him more than life itself. Brennan takes a classic set up -the chosen one is thrown into a fantasy land and must save everyone with their specialness- and turns it upside down. Elliot is certainly special, but it has more to do with his uncanny ability to tick off literally every single person in his general vicinity rather than any inherent earth saving abilities. That's alright though, because as long as his best friends (Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elf maiden who doesn't understand why human men are out fighting instead of in the kitchen where they belong and Luke, the universally adored campus golden boy) are on his side, Elliot can face anything.

In Other Lands is an ode to recognizing who you are and what you value, and staring down anyone who dares to try and change you. 5/5 stars 

 

Final Verdict: 5/5 stars

  

 

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The Luminous Dead cover ar

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling [2019]

Rachael: This is a fun one. The Luminous Dead starts when our protagonist, Gyre, begins her descent into a mysterious and deadly cave at the behest of a mysterious and (deadly?) employer. From that moment on neither she, nor the reader, have any true idea of what is real and what isn't. Although Gyre is a competent caver, the threats of drowning, starvation, cave-ins, and whatever is moving around in the dark are much harder to deal with when you can't trust your own eyes or ears. This is survival fiction at its finest and most claustrophobic. 

Side note, without giving too many spoilers, the relationship dynamic in this book is *chef's kiss*. 4.5/5 stars

 

Mercedes: Ohhh this book is creepy. I spent a lot of the time I was reading it clutching it tightly in both hands, both terrified and desperate for more. Who knew a book with only two characters (one of whom is only a voice for the vast majority of the story) in a cave could be so compelling? But The Luminous Dead is entirely character driven, and that's just the way I like it. The further Gyre progresses into her journey, the more alive the cave feels, and not in a pleasant way. 4/5 stars ~ only because I'm not quite as into dysfunctional characters as Rachael is.

 

Final Verdict: 4.25/5 stars

  

 

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All Systems Red cover art

The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells [2017-]

Mercedes: Are we cheating by including a series of four novellas and one full length novel in the novella section? Maybe. Do I care? Not at all. The Murderbot Diaries follow the eponymous Murderbot, a bot/human security construct with massive anxiety who only wants to watch media all day instead of dealing with its clients. Throw in a crew of strange humans, some stranger friends, and Murderbot learning to be a person (but not a human) and I'm completely hooked. My favorite books in the series are definitely Exit Strategy (book 4) and Network Effect (book 5/the full length novel), but all of them are absolutely worth the read. Infinity/5 Stars. No? Okay. 5/5 stars

 

Rachael: I. Love. Murderbot!! 

If you look past all the cool world building, awesome action sequences, and compelling storylines, The Murderbot Diaries are, at their core, a beautiful story about a caring and traumatized person learning to trust in others and them self. Although built for war and treated like weapon, Murderbot's main goals in life are to keep its head down, watch the newest soap operas, and maybe keep its self-destructive clients alive through the next mission. That is, however, until it find itself part of a crew that simply insists on treating it with dignity and respect (turns out receiving eye contact for the first time in your life is both weird and uncomfortable). All of the sudden, Murderbot's world is opened to the possibility of friends and a purpose beyond simply making it one day to the next. This series will make you feel. So. Much. 5/5 stars for Murderbot and its favorite human 

 

Final Verdict: 5/5 stars

 

 

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The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water cover art

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho [2020]

Rachael: As you may be able to tell from its title, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water has a very distinctive writing style (and honestly I think the story is worth reading just to experience it). The first two or three pages feel a bit like you're reading something in a language two steps to the left of your own, but the cold open and characters are so compelling you feel the need to work through just to find out what happens. This is a very quick read, clocking in at just over 150 pages, and is simultaneously a lyrical, engrossing, and genuinely funny work. Also, it's got that good good found family trope, guys. I just can't resist. 4/5 stars

 

Mercedes: I was pleasantly baffled the entire time I was reading this. Maybe it was because I've never read a wuxia story before, or perhaps because I'm not quite built for novellas (not enough meat for me), but I went into this one not knowing what to expect and came out of it still sort of confused. That being said, I did enjoy it, particularly the character dynamics and the fun, lighthearted tone of the story. 3.5/5 stars

 

Final Verdict: 3.75/5 stars

 

 

 

 

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Silver in the Wood cover art

The Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh [2019-2020]

Mercedes: I wasn't sure I would like Silver in the Wood, the first book of the Greenhollow Duology. The writing seemed a bit plain and straight forward (especially having just finished a very lyrical novella). And then the magic happened.

No, literally, there's magic in the book.

I was hooked. I'm a huge sucker for a gently sad man who doesn't think he deserves good things (just ask Rachael), and Silver in the Wood hit a homerun on that front. Tobias is a fantastic protagonist, and his connection to the forest is palpable. Tesh has an amazing ability to make a short novella feel slow and ponderous, like an afternoon in an old forest, and I am here for it. 5/5 stars (and I haven't even read the sequel yet.)

 

Rachael: Silver in the Wood is an absolutely lovely story with strong fairytale underpinnings and a surprising (given its length) weighty feel. This is a book you can lose yourself in, and for me finishing it was a bit like coming up from underwater. Tesh does so much with a limited cast of characters and a very limited setting that the book feels much broader than its 112 pages would suggest. Add to that one of my favorite secondary characters in existence, and what you have is an utterly charming fairytale about love, loss, and the price of isolation. 4.5/5 stars

 

Final Verdict: 4.75/5

 

 

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Cosmoknights cover art

Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer [2019]

Rachael: If you have a hard time waiting for sequels I would recommend skipping this one. You just can't read Cosmoknights without needing to know what happens next and -seeing as only one volume has been published so far- I think we're in for a bit of a wait. If you're ok with delaying your gratification, Cosmoknights is real fun and well worth a read. The art is beautiful and absolutely saturated in color. The characters all have incredible designs (particularly Cass), and Templer establishes their personalities and quirks in just a few panels. One of my biggest pet peeves in graphic novels is when characters are indistinguishable from one another aside from outfit and hair color, so the diversity of design in Cosmoknights is a very welcome change. 4/5 stars. When will my Cosmoknights sequel come home from the war.  

 

Mercedes: I loved this one! The art is gorgeous and dynamic, the characters are compelling, and the universe is so intriguing (Space! Fantasy!). I also have a soft spot for graphic novels that were originally published as webcomics. It feels like my little baby is all grown up and off to college. :') The biggest takeaway I have from this one honestly is that I love Cass. A lot. But overall this story was really great, and it left me wanting more. 4/5 stars ~ because a sequel still hasn't been published and it makes me sad.

 

Final Verdict: 4/5 stars

 

 

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Rat Queens cover art

Rat Queens: Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe [2014]

Mercedes: This one give me strong Kings of the Wyld vibes and I'm here for it. The dymanics of the members of the Rat Queens is great, and I love all four of them for different reasons. Violet, in particular, is amazing, and I can't wait to see more of her story in the sequels (there's six volumes total!). Rat Queens was a little bloody/gory for my tastes, but I can mostly overlook that for good art, fun characters, and a funky D&D-style world. 4.5/5 stars

 

Rachael: I am loving the recent explosion of D&D based media. Podcasts, books, graphic novels, I'll take it all. Rat Queens is crass, violent, funny, and an altogether raucous good time. The series follows the all-female mercenary band, the titular Rat Queens, as they drink and party their way through one misadventure after another. This series is full on fantastical wish fulfillment for me. A group of friends who love each other like family, live in a house together, and go on wacky adventures? Please sign me up. I'd even be willing to put up with the occasional mortal danger. If that sounds like your kind of party as well, you've got to read Rat Queens. It's an absolute blast. 4.5/5 stars

Reader's note: The production of the series hit a bit of a rocky patch after volume three, and only recently began publishing again under the steam of a new author and artist. The beginning of volume 4 is non-sequential with the first three, but the series does reconnect with the original story line. 

 

Final Verdict: 4.5/5 stars

 

 

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Taproot cover art

Taproot by Keezy Young [2017]

Rachael: Taproot is an incredibly gentle love story about a ghost who falls in love with a gardener (who can see ghosts. So it's not stalking I promise). The entire vibe of this novel is soft, with pastel backdrops, very pretty artwork, and only the slightest hint of danger. Overall it was a bit too light and pleasant for me to really feel engaged, but if you're looking for a relaxing read filled with lovely artwork this one is worth checking out. 2.5/5 stars

 

Mercedes: I'm still in raptures over this art style, and the color palettes are gorgeous. I can be super picky about art in graphic novels, but Taproot was nothing but amazing. The story is super cute too—I love Hamal and Blue and all of the other ghosts we meet, and the mystery of the forest that the ghosts kept disappearing to kept my on the edge of my seat. I really love to read graphic novels that are the start of a larger series (such as Rat Queens above), but sometimes, it's really nice to read a self contained story, and Taproot definitely scratched that itch. 5/5 stars

 

Final Verdict: 3.75/5 stars

 

 

 

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Foundryside cover art

Rachael's Suggestion for Mercedes

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett [2018]

Mercedes this is a book that was tailor made for you. It's got everything you like in your fantasy; character driven story, found family, a sad and gentle man who deserves better things than life has given him (there's actually a couple of them in here to be honest), a hella cool and novel system of magic, and lesbians. Because those are also things I like in my fantasy, I enjoyed this book immensely and put the sequel on hold as soon as I finished it. Cool action, compelling characters, and fantastic world building; what more can a reader ask for?

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercedes's Suggestion for Rachael

 

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Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir [2019]

Look. We both know you're going to love this one, Rachael. Lesbian necromancers. The unbreakable (maybe) bond of loyalty between a necromancer and their cavalier. A whodunit with a closed group of suspects (your favorite). And it's all IN SPACE. You are going to love Gideon, the best himbo ever written, and you're (probably) going to love Harrowhark, for reasons I'll keep to myself (for now...). Seriously. We both know you're going to read this one eventually, so just go ahead and move it to the top of your list so I can finally have someone to talk to about it. ;) Maybe you'll even finish it in time for us to include it in the sequel of this blog: Space Gaze 2: Electric Boogaloo. (Coming to an ACLD blog near you soon! Ish! We promise!)

 

 

 

By RachaelR on October 8, 2021