Sunday Soupçons #7

Posted 17th April 2022 by Sia in Fantasy Reviews, Queer Lit, Reviews, Sunday Soupçons / 0 Comments

soupçon/ˈsuːpsɒn,ˈsuːpsɒ̃/ noun
1. a very small quantity of something; a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor

Sunday Soupçons is where I scribble mini-reviews for books I don’t have the brainspace/eloquence/smarts to write about in depth – or if I just don’t have anything interesting to say beyond I LIKED IT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO!

Between the Firmaments by J.Y. Yang
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Achillean MC, nonbinary male love interest, M/M or M/NB
PoV: 1st Person, Past Tense

In an occupied city controlled by oppressive off-worlders, Bariegh of the Jungle is a god living in hiding—toiling away day after monotonous day, hoping his godliness will go unnoticed by those who would harness it.

But then a beautiful, daring, godling man walks into his life without a care in the world, his divinity uncloaked, and Bariegh is utterly undone.

JY Yang’s Between the Firmaments is a secondary-world fantasy about a romance between two gods, set in an occupied city where being a god is illegal. It is beautiful, challenging, queer, slightly experimental, and 100% awesome.

This was my second time reading Between the Firmaments, and it was just as wonderful the second time around. I love stories about gods and divine beings, about the nature of divinity and magic and the… the eco-system of gods. And Between is all of that, but it’s also a gorgeous love story, between a god-in-hiding and another whose origins are mysterious and secret. It’s unabashedly queer, and Yang’s prose and imagination are as brilliant and coruscating as ever, incisively examining colonialism and oppression alongside the luck of monkey godlings and the thrill of a hunt where the prey wants to be caught.

I really can’t believe how much Yang manages to fit in such a small space; Between the Firmaments feels like a whole and complete novel. I would gladly read more of these characters and/or their world, but the story is a small and exquisite thing, like the tiny treasure inside a Fabergé egg. It’s perfect exactly as it is, every word, every image, every detail. Not even a monkey trickster-god would want to mess with it!

And it does feel precious in some way I can’t quite articulate; maybe because it weaves together so many of the things I love; maybe because it feels so different and yet so warmly familiar at the same time; maybe because I have the sense it would fit perfectly in my cupped hands, soft and jewelled. Maybe that’s it, actually; the way it manages to be both incredibly tender and incredibly strong, with such perfect prose.

I think that’s it.

Begin the World Over by Kung Li Sun
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Speculative Fiction
Representation: Black gay MC, Black achillean love interest, BIPOC cast
Published on: 3rd May 2022
ISBN: 9781849354721

Begin the World Over is a fictional alternate history of how the Founders’ greatest fear—that Black and indigenous people might join forces to undo the newly formed United States—comes true.

In 1793, as revolutionaries in the West Indies take up arms, James Hemings, has little interest in joining the fight for liberté —talented and favored, he is careful to protect his relative comforts as Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved chef. But when he meets Denmark Vesey, James is immediately smitten. The formidable first mate persuades James to board his ship, on its way to the revolt in St. Domingue. There and on the mainland they join forces with a diverse cast of characters, including a gender nonconforming prophetess, a formerly enslaved jockey, and a Muskogee horse trader. The resulting adventure masterfully mixes real historical figures and events with a riotous retelling of a possible history in which James must decide whether to return to his constrained but composed former life, or join the coalition of Black revolutionaries and Muskogee resistance to fight the American slavers and settlers.

I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I didn’t finish this book, because the ARC was a PDF (I didn’t know that when I pounced on it) and for fibro reasons reading PDFs is extremely painful. But I wanted to write a kind of mini-review, because I DID make it to 28%, and that should tell you a lot – even though it physically hurt to deal with a PDF, the story and writing were so good I pushed through for over a quarter of the book!

Extrapolating from that first quarter, this is a book as moreish as James’ incredible cooking! I always enjoy books with foodie MCs, and this one happens to be a queer Black man who gets swept up mostly accidentally into another revolution, one looking to destroy slavery for good. It’s a bit more telling than showing, but in a way that’s weirdly relaxing considering the subject matter; this is incredibly readable and more than a little addictive. Sun doesn’t play down the horrors of slavery or the complexities of being or having been a slave, but also doesn’t dwell on them in any kind of gratuitous way.

And the food descriptions? Are literally *chef’s kiss*. Luscious and decadent and absolutely mouthwatering. I also loved how it was genuinely a part of the plot – opening the first restaurant in New Orleans is more vital to the revolution than you might think!

I can’t wait to read the rest of it come May, and will write up a proper review then!

What have you been reading this week?

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