Month: May 2019

No Clever Titles

Posted May 27, 2019 by dove-author in Personal / 0 Comments


Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

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Queer Frameworks of Language: or, why vocabulary is so important to marginalised groups seen through a distinctly asexual and aromantic lens

Posted May 20, 2019 by dove-author in Ace & Aro Rambling / 0 Comments


Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

CN: Discusses queermisic phrasing (specifically how language works to make what may sound like a perfectly acceptable sentence to one person something offensive to another)

Queer Frameworks of Language: or, why vocabulary is so important to marginalised groups seen through a distinctly asexual and aromantic lens

Language is power. In a way. Language allows us to consider the world, to communicate, to share and build knowledge. When we invent something new like, say, the automobile, we name it. If we run into a feeling that we want to describe, we name it. And sometimes we nick it from other languages because we didn’t realise it was a useful feeling to name until we realised we could.

I could give a dozen examples. In English, Shakespeare was exceptionally good at it, insofar as we can be sure that Shakespeare genuinely coined the words and isn’t just the oldest record we have of it being used.

Language has power. We can see it in the way people use slurs and insults to keep others down and the way these others reclaim them. ‘Queer’ is certainly the most obvious example for me to use here. We can also see it occur in reverse, in the way TERFs now reject the label they came up with because trans people and allies keep calling them out on their transmisic and harmful rhetoric. To them, TERF has become a slur. It’s not, of course. It’s just a shortened version of what they called themselves because using the full term repeatedly is exhausting and people like communicating as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Language allows us to know ourselves. But what if we don’t have words that fit? If we don’t have words that fit, we make do with what we have and eventually, maybe, someone somewhere will come up with a word to describe us. That may be for a positive reason and it may be for a negative one. The key here is that if people go to the lengths of coining new terms, there was a need for that word for at least that person.

There has been a need for the word ‘asexuality’ for as long as sexology has been a field. We know this because sexologists of the era discuss something very similar to asexuality (and why it’s a problem) under different terms. It wasn’t until about 2001, with the creation of AVEN, that a single, concrete term for “someone who experiences no or little sexual attraction/desire” gained traction. Sometimes it takes about a century (or two) for people to find the words they want.

And once that first step is taken, more steps can be taken. Much academic research into asexuality from 2013/2014, for example, remarks on and utilises the split attraction model, but very little of it does so consciously or with the realisation that this far more nuanced model of how human attraction works is a radically different idea and approach to what has come before. Which is also why, in truth, a lot of people resist it. It forces them to re-evaluate themselves and their concepts of how the world works, and people generally don’t like radical shifts in a paradigm[1].

That is what concepts of asexuality and aromanticism represent, though, and they’re not the only queer identities to do so: the very existence of transgender and nonbinary people also forces Western societies to shift their ideas on what gender and identity are. These are paradigm shifts that fundamentally alter how we think about ourselves as individuals, as families, as societies, as groups. It’s also why listening to ethnically and racially marginalised people talking about their cultures’ worldviews are so important. It’s also part of why white people co-opting terms specific to these cultures is appropriation. These are words that belong to a specific worldview or, if you will, a specific paradigm. One can’t simply transpose them.

But people can engage with them, provided that they have a strong and intimate understanding of both cultures and worldviews. It is why marginalised people engaging in scientific research is so incredibly important, and again why there is so much pushback against them when they do.

This brief essay, however, is not about the general state of marginalised researchers in scientific or academic fields. Others can talk about it far more eloquently than I. This post is about asexuality and aromanticism and the power of language.

You see, there is one thing which people aiming to discredit asexuality or demisexuality as an orientation tend to do, and that is: misinterpret what these terms actually mean. They will, invariably, cast asexuality as a choice and, being a choice, an intensity of something natural and innate.

Some of that wilful misinterpretation of asexuality is, I suspect, down to attempts to describe asexuality when someone does not have access to the more nuanced vocabulary used by asexuals and aromanticism today. Since asexuals receive more visual pushback – aromantics are generally largely erased – I will be using ‘asexuals’ throughout this section, but many of the same arguments will be made regarding aromanticism.

Asexuality is still largely invisible[2] to the general public, though its visibility has grown exponentially in English-language circles since I discovered asexuality in about 2010/2011. There are still many people who have never heard of it and who may never stumble across it. That means that there are still a substantial number of people out there who flounder trying to find words to describe their experiences. It also means that there are still many discussions that rely on an overly simplified and often inaccurate definition of asexuality. They were common when I started to explore asexuality.

These are descriptions like “An asexual person is someone who doesn’t want to have sex”. This statement, you’ll notice, implies that asexuality is a choice about someone’s behaviour, not a description of who someone is attracted to. It’s a quick and easy way to explain to someone that having sex is off the table, but it conflates orientation with behaviour. We can also use this structure to colloquially try to describe other orientations. For example “A homosexual person is someone who only wants to have sex with someone of the same gender”. Notice how that description, while technically accurate, is significantly more uncomfortable to read than when I mentioned asexuality[3]?

That’s because language has power and one of the things centuries and decades of fighting for gay rights has accomplished is the idea that being gay is not a choice, but this phrasing implies that being gay is a choice, and if being gay is a choice… Well, then there might be something to gay conversion therapy. Obviously there isn’t, but if we use language that couches sexual orientations as a choice, there will be people who take it to this extreme and that harms everyone.

For another example, I could say “A bisexual person is someone who wants to have sex with one or more genders”. Now, here, the visceral reaction is partially down to the way that the sentence structure implies that bisexuals are into a specific kind of sex, notably any number of sexual partners larger than two. That, in turn, implies that bisexuals are sluts, and just like that we’ve got a bimisic argument that I didn’t in the least intend to make and made anyway.

But still, if we don’t understand asexuality and if we don’t have better words, we may fall back on using them and, still, amisic people will insist on using this definition where they almost certainly wouldn’t for any other orientation because, well, what I mentioned above happens. It happens with asexuality and aromanticism too; it’s just that the people using it don’t particularly care.

And because not everyone who discusses (their) asexuality or aromanticism knows asexuality and aromanticism exist and that there are better ways to describe their own experiences, orientation and behaviour, people keep using terminology like this out of ignorance, and amisic people can use that ignorance as a shield if they want to.

The only solution to this is, of course, better education about and more research into asexuality and aromanticism as a whole. But language has power and we can see that nowhere better than in the way marginalised communities try to use it themselves.

We reclaim words that were used to hurt us. Transform the pain – and our survival of that pain – into a badge of honour, into a shield, something to be proud of.

We come up with new words, offering us better ways to express ourselves, to expand our worldview and our sense of self.

We build on the foundations of those who went before us because similarity has power. Using Greek words to form new ones adds a level of ‘authenticity’ that plain English language doesn’t have. Following existing patterns makes words more acceptable. It’s why ‘ze’, ‘sie’ and ‘zie’ are the most popular neopronouns[4] and why ones like ‘peh’ or ‘hou’ don’t really seem to have caught on.

We try to strip them of their power, such as when TERFs complain that calling them what they are is a slur (it’s still not, sorrynotsorry TERFs), when amisic people complain that ‘allo’ or ‘allosexual’ is a slur (it’s not, it’s simply a description that offers more accuracy and nuance than ‘sexual’ as a contrast to ‘asexual’) or when amisic people insist that asexuality is about choosing not to have sex or when people see a seeming contradiction (such as a nonbinary woman or a gay asexual) because their worldview, their paradigm, does not allow for these terms to be used in conjunction.

Sometimes, we strip the words, accidentally or not, of their power, such as the way amisic accounts rendered the term ‘cishet’ harmful to asexuals. Cishet is a term that originally comes from the transgender and nonbinary communities and is, effectively, just a description of someone who is cisgender (i.e. someone whose gender identity matches that which they were assigned at birth) and heterosexual. It soon became ‘cisgender, heteroromantic and heterosexual’ to account for the split attraction model – which, I should note, appears to have been coined by amisic people and promptly co-opted and reclaimed by aromantic people because it was useful – that separates, among others, romantic and sexual attraction. The term was already established, though, and there was no real need to make it something like ‘cishethet’ when most who know the term would automatically include both heteroromantic and heterosexual because the two are seen as intrinsically linked in our societies as a whole. Amisic people, however, quickly adopted the term ‘cishet’ to exclude asexuals and aromantics, relying on the confusion created by two conflicting paradigms, one of which isn’t yet well-understood for their arguments. They exclude either ‘heteroromantic’ or ‘heterosexual’ depending on the group they’re discussing. They rely on their paradigm’s contradiction between terms like ‘gay asexual’ or ‘asexual lesbian’ to claim that ‘heterosexual asexuals’ are a thing that can exist.

Let’s take a step back, though, to examine that. In the paradigm that believes romantic attraction and sexual attraction are the same thing and that everyone experiences both to some degree, the idea of a ‘gay asexual’ is, indeed, a contradiction. In this model, gay is, after all, synonymous with homosexual and you cannot be both “attracted to someone of the same sex” and “attracted to no one at all” at the same time.

That is emphatically not how the split attraction model works. In this model, gay and homosexual (and bi and bisexual, etc) are not, in fact, 100% identical terms. They still function as synonyms a lot of the time, true, but they are not the exact same. In the split attraction model, terms like gay and bi refer to either romantic or sexual attraction (or both!), whereas homosexual and bisexual refer, predictably, solely to sexual attraction. In such a model, a gay asexual would refer to a homoromantic asexual, or to “someone who is romantically attracted to people of the same gender but sexually attracted to no gender”[5]. Since gay and other terms like it can stand for ‘only romantic attraction’, ‘only sexual attraction’ or ‘both romantic and sexual attraction’ in this model, there is no inherent contradiction in saying ‘gay asexual’[6].

Because both paradigms currently exist simultaneously, it is easy for people who mean harm to a marginalised group to exploit and use the clash and, perhaps more importantly, the importance of social media and the way disinformation has the power to spread in an anonymised way, to muddle the arguments further and discourage people from understanding that this ‘discourse’ is based on a group of people wilfully and deliberately obfuscating that these are two different frameworks clashing.

And, indeed, if you look at the arguments amisic people often present, it’s clear that the issue is that their worldview does not allow for asexuality to exist as its own thing. Their paradigm has as its base assumption that everyone experiences sexual attraction to a gender, and that one’s willingness to engage with (certain) sexual acts is what determines if someone counts as LGBT or not. People who don’t – but especially those who only experience it rarely, like demisexuals – in this framework are supposed to have an on-off switch. It’s why heteroromantic demisexuals especially get chucked out of LGBT spaces by them, even though they too fall under the original definition of queer as they deviate from expected social ideals about sexuality and heteronormativity. Once they’re in a relationship that allows even the remotest chance at becoming sexually active, they’re deemed heterosexual[7]. You can see it in the rhetoric that they consider gay asexuals ‘LGBT’ because they’re gay, but not[8] because they’re asexual. The underlying assumption, knowingly or not, is that gay asexuals count because ‘gay’ implies that they’re willing to be sexually active in a specific way and it’s why someone who is asexual, and thus presumed unwilling to be sexually active, doesn’t.

Language matters because the way we use it creates avenues to gain or lose power. The way we use it creates paths to knowledge or deliberately attempts to close them off permanently. Examining our worldview, the foundations of what our societies value (especially our dominant, white, Western alloheteronormative patriarchal societies value), isn’t easy and it isn’t comfortable.

But it is necessary if we want to build our understanding of the world and if we want to create a better place for everyone. This is, frankly, just one aspect of why.

End Notes

[1] For an example of quite how uncomfortable it can make people, I suggest looking at the way the Christian Church responded to the findings of a certain Galileo Galilei. Asexual and aromantic discussions about attraction and orientation are unlikely to impact the whole of modern science quite to that extent, but they do question the central nature ‘sex’ (more accurately the conflation between sex and romance) plays in Western societies and they offer up numerous research avenues for scientific branches that were unavailable with less nuanced language.

[2] Aromanticism is even less visible. 2019 will see only the second traditionally published book with an explicit aromantic character that I’m aware of, whereas I can no longer count the traditionally published books with explicitly asexual characters on two hands.

[3] Your mileage, as they say, will vary. Personally I find it incredibly uncomfortable, but many people will get a far more visceral reaction to the way I defined homosexuality than asexuality.

[4] Although in that nominative case form they’re all feminine pronouns in other languages spoken today.

[5] Other variations may be more commonly used, depending on one’s definition of ‘asexual’ in context, but I think this conveys the gist of what I mean clearest here.

[6] A similar argument could be made for ‘nonbinary woman’, which is likewise a seeming contradiction unless one changes the framework of gender one works with.

[7] If, that is, the argument isn’t that demisexuality is ‘normal’. This is another common argument also based on stuffing terms from one framework into one where they cannot fit without distorting their meaning to the point of uselessness.

[8] Emphatically not, in many cases.

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8 Decades of SFF with Low, Intimate Stakes

Posted May 6, 2019 by dove-author in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments


Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

8 Decades of SFF with Low, Intimate Stakes

Every so often on Twitter, I see people talking about a desire for low stakes SFF. As a writer and reader who loves these stories, it always fills me with a tinge of sadness to know that people genuinely want these stories (the tweets come from readers, agents, publishers, authors, so basically everyone) and still feel they often get lost in the more well-known books with large, epic stakes.

Book series such as A Song of Ice and Fire (or Game of Thrones), The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or, more recently books such as The Poppy War or series like The Sacred Throne where the stakes revolve around saving the world (or not). Where the characters struggle to win a throne (or destroy the throne entirely). Stories that lend themselves to a lot of action or at least several impressive battle scenes.

Very often, though, if you look closely at the way a lot of people discuss these books, it’s not the big stakes that form the central plot that people care about. Look at, for example, the fan commentary leading up to the release of Game of Thrones’s final TV season and the discussion about what the ending may be. While we all care about who sits on the Iron Throne, many of us do so not because we have care overly much about the future of countless of unnamed Westerosi. We care because the show made us care about these characters as individuals. It presented us these big, world-shaking moments and turned them into deeply, intensely personal stakes for the characters which, in turn, means we’re invested in their success (or failure) as individuals rather than out of any kind of concern for the good of Westeros as a whole. For another example that needs little elaboration: if the much smaller and personal stakes didn’t matter, The Lord of the Rings would have ended shortly after Sauron is defeated. But they matter and so it doesn’t.

Books that celebrate smaller, more intimate stakes (and shout-out to Eric Smith for introducing me to the phrasing!) and eschew focusing on the larger stakes, though, can feel like they’re far and few between or like they never existed in the first place, which is a shame because people have always written these types of stories too, even won acclaim with them.

As such, the last time I saw this mentioned, I asked my Twitter timeline if I should do a thread of books focusing on smaller stakes. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ and I made a thread that evening. But Twitter threads get lost to the ether quite easily and I wanted to have a record of these for future reference. So, here I am, writing an introduction a post collecting the stories I mentioned in that Twitter thread for ease of reference for everyone.

Like I said at the time, my definition for inclusion on the list is two-fold:

  • No galaxy/world/kingdom-changing plot unless it’s the B-plot (and ideally a C-plot).
  • The book must have been memorable to me for its small stakes.

And, yes, that means pretty much all the books on this list are books I’ve read. It also means that I have a clearly defined limit I can use to err on the side of caution. This isn’t a complete list of all the books I’ve read which centre around small, intimate stakes. It’s just a list of the books that stood out to me at the time I made the thread.

Caveat: Due to the fact that I read some of these a long time ago, it is possible that the most detail I can give a book is “Well, I remember the small stakes being very powerful and gripping”.

For this list, I’ve decided to break the books up into decades just to illustrate that they have, indeed, always been published. That said, this list leans heavily towards modern SFF due to my own interests and desires not to link authors more than, at most, twice.

Without further ado, let’s look at books with intimate stakes in SFF fiction!


Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirlees may contain a quest to save a city, but it’s far more a quest of a father determined to save his child. It’s a story of ordinary people trying to do what seems right to them.

The Charwoman’s Shadow by Lord Dunsany a story about a young man who, in wanting to learn sorcery, discovers an old woman with no shadow and sets out to solve the mystery.

We’re skipping the 1930s, yes.


Iron and Gold by Hilda Vaughan may be hard to track down – I’m not sure if the Honno edition is still in print, but I highly recommend it – but it’s an intimate retelling of The Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach and captures the Welsh landscape breathtakingly well.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake may seem like an odd choice. It is, after all, a chunkster, but it is a quiet book filled with love for the setting and the characters as they live their lives.

We’re skipping the 50s too.


The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle likely needs no introduction, but for those who need it: this is the story of a unicorn who is looking for others of her kind. It has some of the subtlest, quietest narrative strands. There isn’t a part of this lyrical book that isn’t understated.

The Smith of Wootton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien is a fairy story which may hold echoes of epic fantasy, but it’s largely focused on the exploration of Faery and the celebration in Wootton Major.

The Owl Service by Alan Gardner is a retelling of Blodeuwedd, centring itself in its Welsh valley setting and the way the narrative of Blodeuwedd keeps playing over and over and the generational trauma that that causes.


Greenwitch by Susan Cooper is technically the third in a series that is all about big and epic stakes, but this book is super-focused on the relationship between Jane and the Greenwitch, as well as the importance of kindness from one individual to another. The emphasis is strongly on the low and intimate stakes rather than the battle between good and evil.

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula LeGuin is, first and foremost, a story about identity, but also about stepping out into the world and living on one’s own terms.

Beauty by Robin McKinley is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and focuses strongly on Beauty’s life with delightful references to domesticity and focusing on the way Beauty and her family settles into their new lives.


Seaward by Susan Cooper, which is admittedly one of my favourite books ever, is all about growing up in gorgeous, lush mythology and has the sweetest first love arc ever. It’s all about its two protagonists dealing with grief and personal loss as well as discovering who they are.

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip is all about a fisherman’s daughter who curses the sea for taking her father from her. It focuses strongly on her friendship with the prince and a magician the village hires to help them once monsters show up off-shore. It’s just as much about Peri growing up as it is discovering what draws the prince to the sea again and again.

Little, Big by John Crowley is a generational story about a family that lives right beside an otherworld with lyrical prose and subtle touches of magic throughout.

Wise Child by Monica Furlong is a story set in a quiet, medieval Scottish village. Wise Child focuses on the importance of every day life and accepting people for who they are.


The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox is a story about the love between a vintner and an angel. Focusing on their meetings, it includes many glimpses into Sobran’s life as well.

Wizards Tale by Kurt Busiek and David Wenzel is about a wizard who really wants to be bad and just… keeps on doing good.

Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip is a retelling of Tam Lin and it’s one of the dreamiest, most lyrical retellings I’ve had. This story is all about Rois’s love for Corbet Lynn and the way that love and lust can consume a person.


The Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint is… A book I admit I genuinely do not recall except thinking it focuses on low stakes. I’m informed a lot of De Lint’s novels actually have bigger stakes, but I mostly remember them because of their smaller stakes. His works absolutely centre the more intimate stakes that one would expect from a list about books focusing on low, intimate stakes.

Fitcher’s Brides by Gregory Frost is a mash-up retelling of Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird, set in 1800s New York State. It’s focused on the Charter sisters and their choices when their father is swayed to join a cult.

Tooth & Claw by Jo Walton is a fantasy-of-manners with cannibalistic dragons. Being a fantasy-of-manners, the story is all about social structure.

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier is about Caitrin finding a new home. There are some elements of larger stakes, as the story is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that focuses as much on the people cursed with the Beast than on the romance between the titular characters, but at its heart it’s a story about individual people learning to trust and to love.


A Promise Broken by me focuses on a small girl dealing with grief as well as on the community looking after her (and other children). There are some relatively big stakes in the background, but it’s Eiryn and her relationships to the people around her that are what makes this story tick.

Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis is actually about a nation-changing event, but the focus is so strongly on Cassandra learning she does not have to do everything alone and on saving her school that it totally counts. It’s all about Cassandra and her relationship to the people at her new school and her family, as well as family secrets that end up uncovered.

The Mermarium by Amanda N. Butler is a verse novel about mermaids and sisterhood and found family. It’s a quiet, evocative story about dealing with trauma and healing.

Water into Wine by Joyce Chng features big stakes in the background, but it’s ALL ABOUT the small stakes of a family just trying to survive while war is happening around them.

City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault may, at first glance, sound like it’s more about big stakes, but it’s really all about the way the characters interact. It’s a book filled to the brim with small, intimate stakes that add up to creating bigger stakes.

Help Wanted by J. Emery is an NA novella about friendship and questioning one’s identity. And also birthday presents and magic. It’s all about the gradual changes in our lives and dealing with them.

An Unexpected Invitation by Ceillie Simkiss is a fantasy novella that centres around attending a friend’s wedding when travelling to them means being incredibly motion sick and how to accept help from friends.

Under Her Spell by Bridget Essex is an expanded edition of a series of novellas I read when they were initially released under a pen name. They are soft and pure f/f stories about moving into a small community and love. The book’s bound to be delightful!

The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green by Nicky Kyle is a novelette (I think) about friendship and wanting more from life than what initially seems possible and likely.

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard is a mystery and all about what happened to a corpse after it turns out to have been murdered. ONE DAY I WILL HAVE PROPER WORDS FOR THIS BOOK. ONE DAY.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is all about a small community that relies on racing. Also kelpies, which automatically makes it awesome in my opinion, but really. It’s all about the relationships in a small, isolated community.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill is all about a small group of people trying to keep ancient arts alive and the importance of art in general. (I’m told there’s also going to be a sequel!)

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers is all about self-identity, persoonhood and found family. Also caring about one another.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis has some pretty big stakes, but they’re all background for the smaller stakes of family, community and working together even after the worst has happened/is happening.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta is a Finnish post-apocalyptic story that centres around tea ceremonies and the protagonist discovering her place in the world, rather than overthrowing the admittedly very dystopian regime.

Emyr’s Smile by Amy Rae Durreson may be best read after The Lodestone of Ys, but it’s a sweet m/m story and two men dealing with their emotions. (CN: On-page sex)

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace is, perhaps, another book you might not expect to find here, given the hints we get of the world’s past and the ending, but the focus is strongly on Wasp’s desire to be free I couldn’t leave it off.

A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman is the third in a series, but arguably the least big stakes of them all. It’s all about a lesbian queen and her found family solving a mystery.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal is a delightful story inspired by Jane Austen’s work that focuses, largely, on delivering a low-conflict fantasy-of-manners story.

Unbound and Free by Becca Lusher is the first of her Historical Aekhartain books. This one is all about Demairo and his friends, who help him deal with his abusive father and an island intent on killing everyone who sets foot on it. It’s a story about family and belonging.

Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth is the first in the Dreamhealers Saga. This is an SF story about students just trying to get through university. And friendship. And dealing with anxiety and the harmful impact of stereotypes. Contains space elves, pretty much. Personally, I would recommend Dreamhearth over Mindtouch for low, intimate stakes because it’s all about settling into (adult) life and a new community. Highlight of the book is off-screen pet death (as opposed to the on-screen child dying in one’s arms that marks the climax of Mindtouch), but I don’t think it reads well on its own. You really need the grounding of the first two books to make it work.

Chime by Franny Billingsley is all about witches and family and self-love. Also unreliable narrators and small communities and one’s place in them as we grow older.

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