If you like weird west stories and chosen one narratives, then read Elysium Girls. The setting and the world are something of a twist on classic western with a vibe that isn’t quite steampunk but something similar. There is even a magic showdown.
While I did enjoy the book, I didn’t find myself as immersed in it as I would have liked, and I’m wondering if it is because I knew a little too much too early on.
The blurb summarizes a lot of the story, so I think instead of just engaging with the narrative, I was waiting for the described things to happen. For example, I kept wondering where the scrap metal horses were and when they were going to come into play, and was waiting for them so long that when the finally came, it was anticlimactic. However, that was because of the blurb, not the book. Had they not been mentioned in the blurb, I would’ve had a different reaction.
I enjoyed the world the author created. I appreciated how small of a role romance played in the story. I was happy to see the lesbian rep, which was subtle, but visible. I liked that it wasn’t a story about being gay, but there were still gay girls being badass outlaw heroes.
Another thing I liked was how thought provoking the concept was in examining how just trying to flip the power in a society doesn’t always make things equal. A leader can’t just force people to stop being racists and sexist.
The end was good, but to avoid spoilers, I won’t say why.
I’d read more from this author.
To the Flame by A.E. Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Review: To the Flame
When I first heard about To the Flame and realized one of the main characters was nonbinary, I had to read it. I preordered it right away, but then when the author was looking for people to review ARCs, I requested one and read it within a few hours of receiving it. I was so excited to not only read something with #ownvoices nonbinary rep, but one that also had a contemporary setting and a paranormal element.
To the Flame lived up to my hopes and expectations. There are so many things I liked about it .
The prose were beautiful but not to purple. There were some fantastically vivid descriptions that really brought me into the moment without overwhelming me.
The college setting was perfect for the romance between a human and a moth person, and put the characters at just the right age to be navigating the kind of feelings they have for each other.
As far as the plot goes, I didn’t get bored thinking I knew how they were going to get from A to Z, and felt satisfied both when something surprised me and when I felt I had figured it out right. I also really enjoyed Morrie’s emotional arc, and how the narrative wove back and forth between their past and present.
There was a range of queer rep in the story in the “everyone is gay” kind of way. But of course, my favorite was the nonbinary character, and reading something written in third person from the point of view of someone using they/them pronouns.
The characters were easy to like and root for. When the story was over, I wasn’t ready to be done with them. I’d happily read more, longer stories about Emmerson and Morrie.
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I received a copy of A Dream So Dark from NetGalley.
I enjoyed the world, the characters, and the voice in A Dream So Dark as much as I did the first book, A Blade So Black. It wasn’t too hard to fall back into this world, and by the time I was about 30% of the way through, I had to just finish the book. Had there not been so much time between me reading this and me reading the first book, I think this would’ve been a read the whole thing in one sitting type story.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the queer rep.
Alice still has feelings for Hatta, but she also is crushing on a another dreamwalker, a girl named Haruka. We learn that Hatta was in love with a guy (won’t say his name to avoid spoilers) who has resurfaced after being missing for a long time.
The Hatta/Alice relationship definitely got way more interesting in this book.
All the relationship drama seemed perfectly balanced with plot, which actually surprised me a couple times. I admit, there were a couple places I got a little lost, but it was never so bad that it hurt my ability to enjoy the story. Overall, it was a great romp, dark yet funny, through McKinney’s version of Wonderland.
My biggest complaint was that at times, Alice’s mom felt more like an obstacle than a fully developed character.
I liked how the story ended, but there were a lot of loose ends left. At first, I was mad about this because I thought this was the last book in the series. Then I did a little research and realized that it was not the last one, that the author is writing a third book. The end works a lot better for me knowing there is going to be another book. I can’t wait to read it!