It’s my blogiversary!!! Today is Every Book a Doorway’s FOURTH birthday, and I kind of can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’ve managed to keep going this long; I can’t believe I have actual subscribers; I can’t believe I’ve seen my reviews quoted in publicity materials for real, actual books!!!
What even. But also, MUCH YAY!!!
Since I started EBaD to talk about queer SFF, I figure there’s no better way to celebrate today than with Pride Flag Recs, like I did last year – I want to make it a yearly tradition! Especially because it’s lots of fun (I encourage anyone who feels like it to give it a go!)
Rainbow Reads came up with the original Pride Flag Book Recs – which is exactly what it sounds like; recommending a book for every stripe in the (original) Gilbert Baker pride flag and what those colours represented, plus the new brown+black stripes for QPOC.
I actually went a little bit further, and added the stripes from the Daniel Quasar flag shown below – so, not just brown+black, but the trans colours as well!
Thus: to celebrate 4 WHOLE YEARS OF BLOGGING – the books!!!
PINK – SEXUALITY
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Magic! Murder! Shipboard romance! The second entry in Freya Marske's beloved The Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light
The most interesting things in Maud Blyth's life have happened to her brother Robin, but she's ready to join any cause, especially if it involves magical secrets that may threaten the whole of the British Isles. Bound for New York on the R.M.S. Lyric, she's ready for an adventure.
What she actually finds is a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire. Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them.
A Restless Truth is an UNBELIEVABLE amount of fun, and it genuinely impressed me with its frank, open approach to women’s sexuality. I don’t often enjoy sex scenes (regardless of the genders involved) but Restless manages to be sexy as hell, so – much kudos! It also left me with the biggest book hangover I’d had in about a year – no other book seemed like it could possibly measure up. Gleeful and delightful!
RED – LIFE
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/pansexual Native American-coded MC, Black sapphic love interest, Native American love interest, secondary autistic character, minor F/F
A young Indigenous woman enters a colonizer-run dragon academy—and quickly finds herself at odds with the “approved” way of doing things—in the first book of this brilliant new fantasy series.
The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations—until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon’s egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered as Nampeshiweisit—a person in a unique relationship with a dragon.
Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have different opinions. They have a very specific idea of how a dragon should be raised, and who should be doing the raising—and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, her dragon will be killed.
For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land, challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart, determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects.
Anequs and her dragon may be coming of age, but they’re also coming to power, and that brings an important realization: the world needs changing—and they might just be the ones to do it.
To Shape a Dragon’s Breath is, in a big way, about conflicting ways of life – that of Anequs’ people and the Anglish, the colonisers – although from where I’m standing, it’s hardly a competition (this book reminds me of how many white women ran away to join Indigenous peoples when North America was colonised, and how much sense that made and makes). Anequs is very open about being out to create a better life for her people – that’s her primary motivation for joining a dragoneering school, the reason she studies so hard and refuses to let anyone intimidate her into running home. She wants to honour her people’s way of life, not the way the Anglish think things should be done – one of the most powerful moments in the book is when she says, clearly, that she’s not there to make her people more Anglish.
ORANGE – HEALING
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Speculative Fiction
Representation: Sapphic MC, trans and nonbinary rep, past F/F
In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime—and a warning to those they encounter. Within the Department, corruption and prejudice run rampant, giving rise to an underclass of so-called Shadesters who are disenfranchised, publicly shamed, and deprived of civil rights protections.
Kris is a Shadester and a new mother to a baby born with a second shadow of her own. Grieving the loss of her wife and thoroughly unprepared for the reality of raising a child alone, Kris teeters on the edge of collapse, fumbling in a daze of alcohol, shame, and self-loathing. Yet as the kid grows, Kris finds her footing, raising a child whose irrepressible spark cannot be dampened by the harsh realities of the world.
With a first-person register reminiscent of the fierce self-disclosure of Sheila Heti and the poetic precision of Ocean Vuong, I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a bold debut novel that examines the long shadow of grief, the hard work of parenting, and the power of queer resistance.
What does healing look like in a world that doesn’t want you to heal? That doesn’t want you, full stop? I Keep My Exoskeletons To Myself is a book about surviving and healing in a steadily more and more dystopian future – but the first-person narration is so addictive, so much like a real person talking to you, that I was unable to put it down despite how grim the world was. It’s honest and really clever and surprisingly, hilariously funny, and I really need to reread it so I can review it properly because it is one of the best books of 2023 and no one is talking about it!!!
YELLOW – SUNLIGHT
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Representation: Pacific Islander-coded MC, queerplatonic M/M
Cliopher Mdang has been appointed Viceroy of Zunidh by his beloved Radiancy, the Last Emperor, who has now left him behind in the Palace to safeguard the world during his absence on a quest to find an appropriately magical heir. When he returns, he will abdicate, and Cliopher will at last retire, satisfied with having achieved most of his life's political goals--even if his long-suppressed personal dreams are starting to bubble up.
(Surely he used to have hobbies besides running the government?)
All he has to do is wait patiently for his lord's return... until adventure quite literally hits him from behind, and what was once safely hypothetical becomes intensely real.
Cliopher has always followed the stars of his chosen course: the epic oral histories of his people, the poetry of the rebel poet Fitzroy Angursell, decades of devotion and service to his Radiancy... They were enough to change the world. But are they enough to guide Cliopher home?
At The Feet of the Sun (which you should absolutely not read without first reading the previous book, The Hands of the Emperor) is basically a 1300+ page fantasy epic about a) becoming a legend and b) the most intense, beautiful queerplatonic relationship I have ever read. True, it never uses the world ‘queerplatonic’, but there is a word unique to the characters’ world that seems to mean much the same thing: fanoa, a word with a deep, rich history, and one whose meaning is fully explored over the course of this incredible book.
(And listen, even if it didn’t literally have Sun in the title, most of the book takes place in a Pacific Island-coded setting and there is plenty of sunlight, plus an actual quest to the Sun himself! So it definitely qualifies for this stripe!)
GREEN – NATURE
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/pansexual MC
Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.
Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.
Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world—and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby—to vivid, absorbing life.
Listen, speculative history is a sub-genre of SFF, fight me! But don’t fight Hild, because she is a literal genius and you shouldn’t even think about it, okay? For your own good. Seriously.
Hild is placed into the role of prophet or seer – I say ‘placed into’ because she doesn’t exactly choose it for herself; it’s a little complicated. But she doesn’t have visions – she reads people, and the world around her, in order to extrapolate what’s coming; what direction are the birds flying in from? How early in the year have the squirrels started gathering food for winter? What are the hedgepigs up to; which flowers are blooming? Griffith’s prose is rich and decadent, and she lovingly describes every part of the world Hild exists in, especially all things animal and vegetable (and even a few precious minerals). It’s actually pretty easy to relax your focus enough to skim over all the human politics and just read Hild as a long epic poem on the beauty of nature, if you want to. (Although the politics are fascinating, and I do encourage you to pay attention to them!)
TURQUOISE – MAGIC
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown aroace MC, brown gay MC
When the sky breaks apart and an earthquake shatters the seaside city of Sharis, cartographer Rukha Masreen is far from home. Caught in the city's ruins with only her tools and her wits, she meets a traveling companion who will change her course forever: the wizard Eshu, who stumbles out of a mirror with hungry ghosts on his heels.
He's everything that raises her hackles: high-strung, grandiloquent, stubborn as iron. But he needs to get home, too, and she doesn't want him to have to make the journey alone.
As they cross the continent together, though, Rukha and Eshu soon realize that the disaster that's befallen their world is much larger than they could have imagined. The once-vibrant pathways of the Mirrorlands are deserted. Entire cities lie entombed in crystal. And to make matters worse, a wild god is hunting them down. The further they travel from familiar territory, the more their fragile new friendship cracks under the strain.
To survive the end of their world, Rukha and Eshu will need more than magic and science—they'll need each other.
The Map and the Territory is literally about a magical apocalypse – in that magic is going haywire and manifesting strangely (and usually dangerously) in different places, so each city experiences its own unique apocalypse. So magic is very much front and centre! And that’s without going into Eshu’s beautiful song-magic, or the mirror-roads that connect all human places, or the many and varied ways we see other wizards working magic (since each wizard’s methods seem to be unique to them, even if they sometimes share similarities with others. Eshu’s song-magic is not exactly like the song-magic another wizard uses, for example.)
But it’s the way that Tuomala manages to make the magic feel magical that has me entranced with this book. It’s relatively easy to make magic impressive, or even beautiful, but it takes something special to make it wondrous, to give the reader goosebumps and thrills and that catch in your throat (you know the one I mean). Tuomala does that, which is why I can’t justify using any other book for the Magic stripe of the flag!
BLUE – HARMONYTheory (The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming #1) by Sienna Tristen
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown aroace MC
WINNER OF THE 2019 READERVIEWS AWARD FOR FANTASY!WINNER OF THE 2019 IPPY AWARD FOR FANTASY!
“Life is transformation. You change or you die.”
Ashamed of his past and overwhelmed by his future, Ronoah Genoveffa Elizzi-denna Pilanovani feels too small for his own name. After a graceless exit from his homeland in the Acharrioni desert, his anxiety has sabotaged every attempt at redemption. Asides from a fiery devotion to his godling, the one piece of home he brought with him, he has nothing.
That is, until he meets Reilin. Beguiling, bewildering Reilin, who whisks Ronoah up into a cross-continental pilgrimage to the most sacred place on the planet. The people they encounter on the way—children of the sea, a priestess and her band of storytellers, the lonely ghosts of monsters—are grim and whimsical in equal measure. Each has their part to play in rewriting Ronoah’s personal narrative.
One part fantasy travelogue, one part emotional underworld journey, The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming is a sumptuous, slow-burning story about stories and the way they shape our lives.
The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming duology isn’t a traditional kind of quest story at all – but it’s very much a journey towards inner harmony. The protagonist Ronoah is, to put it politely, a mess of anxiety, and a huge part of the duology is his learning to cope with that, face it and deal with it. It’s not as simple as saying that he battles it and wins and is never anxious again (oh, how we all wish it was that easy!) but reading along as he grows into himself, and learns to love who he is and be brave, is amazing – especially since Tristen’s prose is some of the most beautiful I have ever read.
PURPLE – SPIRIT
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: MCs of colour, queer cast, polyamory/free love
Imagine a world without poverty, hunger, or hatred, where a rich culture honors its diverse mix of races, religions, and heritages, and the Four Sacred Things that sustain all life - earth, air, fire, and water - are valued unconditionally.
Now imagine the opposite: a nightmare world in which an authoritarian regime polices an apartheid state, access to food and water is restricted to those who obey the corrupt official religion, women are property of their husbands or the state, and children are bred for prostitution and war.
The best and worst of our possible futures are poised to clash in twenty-first-century California, and the outcome rests on the wisdom and courage of one clan caught in the conflict.
The Fifth Sacred Thing is a book that defines Spirit for me – I’ve gone through all sorts of philosophical phases, but I keep coming back to this book, where witches work together to create a utopia I can actually believe in. I love how much Fifth Sacred Thing acknowledges anger, and injustice; how Starhawk never pretends it is not unfair and almost impossibly hard to forgive people who’ve hurt you. But she’s also the only author who made the idea of be the better person click for me, make sense to me – maybe because she doesn’t pretend it’s not unfair and hard.
As a general rule of thumb, stories that try to tell me love conquers all make me cringe. This doesn’t. And part of that is that most stories that do try to tell me that, they don’t actually show us how, and they don’t show us how to do that against real, true evil. It’s easy to be kind and loving when things are going well; how do you do it against invaders, fascists, people who want to wipe you from the earth? The Fifth Sacred Thing tackles that head-on, unflinchingly, and I think I could love it for that alone even if it didn’t have the witches, the bees, the magic.
Every time I come back to this book – or even think about it – it raises new questions, challenges my thoughts and opinions and beliefs. I think that’s a good thing.
TRANS – A TRANS LEAD AND AUTHOR
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/pansexual trans MC, secondary trans characters
Drawing on ancient texts and modern archeology to reveal the trans woman's story hidden underneath the well-known myths of The Iliad, Maya Deane's Wrath Goddess Sing weaves a compelling, pitilessly beautiful vision of Achilles' vanished world, perfect for fans of Song of Achilles and the Inheritance trilogy.
The gods wanted blood. She fought for love.
Achilles has fled her home and her vicious Myrmidon clan to live as a woman with the kallai, the transgender priestesses of Great Mother Aphrodite. When Odysseus comes to recruit the "prince" Achilles for a war against the Hittites, she prepares to die rather than fight as a man. However, her divine mother, Athena, intervenes, transforming her body into the woman's body she always longed for, and promises her everything: glory, power, fame, victory in war, and, most importantly, a child born of her own body. Reunited with her beloved cousin, Patroklos, and his brilliant wife, the sorceress Meryapi, Achilles sets out to war with a vengeance.
But the gods--a dysfunctional family of abusive immortals that have glutted on human sacrifices for centuries--have woven ancient schemes more blood-soaked and nightmarish than Achilles can imagine. At the center of it all is the cruel, immortal Helen, who sees Achilles as a worthy enemy after millennia of ennui and emptiness. In love with her newfound nemesis, Helen sets out to destroy everything and everyone Achilles cherishes, seeking a battle to the death.
An innovative spin on a familiar tale, this is the Trojan War unlike anything ever told, and an Achilles whose vulnerability is revealed by the people she chooses to fight...and chooses to trust.
You do not need to know or care about Greek legends to love and adore Wrath Goddess Sing; you don’t need to know anything about Bronze Age history or Ancient Egypt or comparative mythology. You don’t need to have even heard of the Trojan War. You can go into this book completely blind, and it will do nothing but delight and bewitch you. Equally, you can know All The Things and Deane will still dazzle you with her (extremely knowledgeable, well-informed, wildly imaginative and breathtaking) unique approach to the story of the hero Achilles.
Perfect!book is perfect, basically!
QPOC – A BIPOC MC AND AUTHOR
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Black bisexual MC, Black pansexual love interest, F/F, Black secondary characters
It’s been a year since Oasis stumbled away from Blessed Falls with wings carved into her back and too many scars to count.
A year spent razing delusions of being an angel's vessel, proving to her brother that she doesn’t belong in a psych ward, and mourning the loss of her mother's vinyl pressed ashes.
A year spent struggling to feel human again.
Enter Laura, the mesmerizing stranger who claims to hear Oasis’ heartbeat, who reads her hand-written memoir like scripture, who makes her feel closer to found than lost.
Laura is the most recent face of the eternal Count Dracula, ruler of the shadows, chimera of the Devil, and embittered victim of libel.
The Van Helsing Institute have been waiting for a glimpse of the dragon’s underbelly, and eagerly approach Oasis for her help in a ploy to kill Dracula for good. But not every wound from Blessed Falls has cicatrized, and Oasis realizes she may be a danger to Laura—and to herself.
Yet no one is as dangerous as Laura—the first vampire, the Devil's plaything, and the person with whom Oasis finally feels human.
Oceans of time have passed since she last had a drink, and she will not let Oasis go easily.
THIS BOOKS IS THE BEST VAMPIRE BOOK.
No really: all other vampire books are dead to me. Lestat, much as I love him, doesn’t hold a candle to Seville’s hilarious, wicked, brilliant Laura, and I’m convinced that Stoker somehow travelled in time and stole Seville’s ideas because clearly, Darknesses is the actual canon, the only will I will accept. I still cannot believe how clever, sexy, funny, intricate, and wild this book is: no matter WHERE you think this book is going, you are wrong. I’m not sure any book ever has spun me around as hard as Darknesses did, and made me absolutely love it. You won’t believe this is a debut, and you will definitely add Seville to your auto-buy list, because gods, how could you not???
Ta daa – a book for every stripe!
Happy blogiversary to me, and happy Pride to everyone else!!!