“In this first full-length novel from the acclaimed Birdverse, new love blossoms between an impatient starkeeper and a reclusive poet as they try together to save their island home. Nebula, Locus, and Ignyte finalist R. B. Lemberg (The Four Profound Weaves) has crafted a gorgeous tale of the inevitable transformations of communities and their worlds. The Unbalancing is rooted in the mystical cosmology, neurodiversity, and queerness that infuses Lemberg’s lyrical prose, which has invited glowing comparisons to N. K. Jemisin, Patricia A. McKillip, and Ursula K. LeGuin.
Beneath the waters by the islands of Gelle-Geu, a star sleeps restlessly. The celebrated new starkeeper Ranra Kekeri, who is preoccupied by the increasing tremors, confronts the problems left behind by her predecessor.
Meanwhile, the poet Erígra Lilún, who merely wants to be left alone, is repeatedly asked by their ancestor Semberi to take over the starkeeping helm. Semberi insists upon telling Lilun mysterious tales of the deliverance of the stars by the goddess Bird.
When Ranra and Lilun meet, sparks begin to fly. An unforeseen configuration of their magical deepnames illuminates the trouble under the tides. For Ranra and Lilun, their story is just beginning; for the people of Gelle-Geu, it may well be too late to save their home”
I got an ARC of this book.
At this point Lemberg could just scream and I would probably find it fascinating. They are an amazing creator. Their world is fantastic. I hate magic, because it seems so uncontrolled and saves the day too easily. This book has wild magic, but it isn’t what saves the day (though this is not a spoiler in the way you are thinking, because magic very much does play a major role in the ending.)
One of my favorite parts of this is the way gender and sexuality work. There are so many genders that are just accepted. There is no real fight or discussion. They just are. My only issue with how gender is in this book is that it is unclear what people would do to signal things when they are bald. All of the characters have medium to long hair to braid and weave beads into. What about me? I am bald and my beard is too curly to get any form of length from it. Sexuality is very similar. I am surprised there was any real issues, but one of the characters seemed to be demi (and maybe monogamous) in our world terms, but there were no terms for them in the book. They mentioned it a few times, how there was no word for them. It made me sad. It seemed to be an all or nothing situation. You could be into sex all the time or not at all, but there was no middle group or fluctuation allowed. It seemed odd for this world, but also sadly not. Demi people are often left out of the conversation in our world, even in ace spaces. Add in aces that engage in sex are often pushed out of ace spaces and this angst of Lilun’s hurt my heart probably more than Lemberg intended.
While I am already hurting for Lilun, I should probably say I am Lilun. Their gender works like mine does. Their sexuality works like mine does (some variation there, but down to the words aren’t enough and not really fitting into the world because of it part, yes), and so does their sensory problems. At one point Lilun is on the ground and can’t move except to touch a rock that is not even the right rock. It is so upsetting that the texture is off. Lilun reads like a demi autigender autistic person. I have never seen this in any media before. I need more Lilun. I was telling my partner about this and they started laughing when I mentioned that Lilun settles on a gender presentation that is a turtle. I have a turtle tattoo on my chest and explain my chest scars by telling a story about saving a sea turtle. Lemberg could not have made a more me character if we were best friends.
I haven’t even gotten into Ranra or the magic system. The magic system is based on deepnames. I could not explain this to anyone if I tried. It never sunk in exactly how it worked, but I also felt like I knew exactly how it worked until I tried to explain it. It was a wild realization. Lemberg kept me with them despite me having no clue how the magic worked. It felt like I did. The magic has so many limitations and rules. It was really amazing.
I could go on all day about this book. Please, someone needs to read this so I can talk some more.
5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book.
You can buy the book here.
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