*I received an ecopy of this book via Gay Romance Reviews. This has not influenced my review.*
This was a nice story (though not without some difficulties and darker moments for the characters) with some interesting relationship dynamics, all set in a queer-inclusive fantasy world.
First things first, the book starts with a lot of explanation about the goblin language and pronunciations and whatnot, and I knew there was no way I could remember all that. But if you’re like me, don’t worry, you don’t need to! It helps to read the explanations just so you can recognize certain words while reading, like, “Oh, that’s one of the dialects mentioned.” But you really don’t need to memorize or worry that you’ll be confused.
My favorite thing about this book was how it explored love and the idea that you can have the kind of close bond partners in romantic relationships have, the kind of bond where someone is your other half or you want to spend your life with them, but in other types of relationships too. This is going to sound weird, but the best way I can explain it is that the three main characters felt like they were in a sort of triad, except one relationship was romantic and sexual (A’bbni and Lai), one was platonic (Shi’chen and Lai), and one was familial (the twins, A’bbni and Shi’chen). It was a really interesting dynamic. (Just to be clear, no twincest.) The twins were always together or near or knew where the other was, missed each other when they were separated, turned to each other for comfort. It was a lovely, beautiful sibling relationship. When Lai came into their lives, Shi’chen felt a bit jealous, but more than anything he wanted his brother to be happy. And both A’bbni and Lai made sure Shi’chen was ok with their relationship. Because, again, there was love between all three of them, just in different forms. I love when books explore different relationship dynamics like this.
One complaint though, the romance got really serious really fast. I think they only knew each other a few days. They’re both kind people who deserve each other, and I could see why they liked each other, but I couldn’t quite believe they were in love. Maybe that’s just my own bias though based on how I experience feelings. I was more inclined to believe the platonic love between Shi’chen and Lai, since they had more time to bond.
There was also a plot about the twins fleeing when their awful cousin takes the throne and accuses them of plotting against him to take it themselves. There are scenes of action here and there, but I think it was mostly pretty calm. Traveling, meeting with people, forming plans, having heart-to-heart conversations.
This fantasy world is very casually accepting of queer people of different genders and sexualities, and there was some variety of rep in the book. They didn’t use any labels (maybe don’t even have them in this world), but A’bbni is bi or pan, Shi’chen seems to be aro and ace, there’s m/m romance, and there are other characters throughout who are trans, nonbinary, and more.
Overall, I enjoyed this, especially the interesting and lovely relationship dynamics among the three main characters, and I would like to read the next book and see how things continue for them.
Trigger/Content Warning: On-page rape (not erotic).
Anyone who likes high fantasy worlds, close siblings (twins), unique relationship dynamics, aro/ace characters, kind characters, and m/m romance.