Are There LGBTQ+ Characters In: Redwall by Brian Jacques (Review)

Title: Redwall
Author: Brian Jacques
Rating: 3/5

Are there LGBTQ+ characters? No. Not in this book, nor in any of the other books in the series (I have read a good chunk of these as a teen, but not all of them; still, I feel comfortable in saying that there are exactly zero queer characters in the entirety of the Redwall Saga).

Brief summary / book review: Let’s get one thing out of the way: These mice fuck.

I’m not saying that to be snarky or rude or anything, but it’s true. Matthias, the main character, is a boy mouse. He is smitten with Cornflower, a girl mouse. Multiple characters tease them about their blossoming relationship and quite openly egg them on into marrying each other.

Ergo, these characters are mice who are encouraged to engage in sexual intercourse. In the sequel, they have a child, so it is clear that they have carried out their mandate (or is it mousedate?) and have done, as the kids say, the nasty.

Now that we’ve gotten the procreating habit of fictional mice out of the way, let’s talk about the rest of the book and series at large, shall we? (One mild spoiler ahead for this book, and for another book in the series, “Outcast of Redwall.”)

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Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Great Book?

Review of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker

Contains spoilers

Can a bad ending ruin a great book?

For much of this book, I was swept up in the story, and was delighted by all the considerable tools and tricks K.J. Parker brought to bear — brisk plotting, a vivid narrator, an entertaining cast of characters, sharp dialogue and some truly inspired twists and turns (the one featuring the Emperor comes to mind).

I was ready to give this book 5 stars and was going to heartily endorse it to everyone I knew…and then I finished the book.

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Are There LGBT Characters In: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (Review)

Title: The Space Between Worlds

Author: Micaiah Johnson

Rating: 3/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, the main character exudes Big Bi Energy

Brief summary / book review: Turns out there isn’t just one Earth, but close to 400. And they’re progressively slightly more divergent than our own. The “main” Earth is where everything is normal, where you have the life you live and the habits you’ve developed. But on Earth 1, you’ve made one key change. Maybe you’re happier. Maybe you’re sadder. Maybe you’re richer, or poorer; lonelier or more in love. And the further out you go, the more different you are. You might be a celebrity on Earth 30; a beggar on Earth 80. The you on Earth 150 might not even be alive.

And in this setting, the fewer versions of you that are alive, the more valuable you are to the Eldridge Institute. Why? Because the Institute has figured out a way to travel to these alternate Earths, and if you’re still alive when you go visit, you’ll end up killing yourself.

Our main character, Cara, is dead on 372 of these alternate worlds.

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Are There LGBT Characters In: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (Review)

Title: The City We Became

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Rating: 5/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, several characters are queer. At least 3 out of the 6 main characters are on the rainbow spectrum.

Brief summary / book review: This book is freaking incredible. One of the things I loved the most about it was just that it *gets* New York. The avatar for Manhattan isn’t someone who was born there, but a transplant — someone who showed up in the city and 5 minutes later, became the city. Like, that’s just how it works. You don’t have to be born in New York to be a New Yorker. You are a New Yorker simply by *being* a New Yorker. Despite its real-life reputation, the city is welcoming. Possessive, even — once you become a New Yorker, that’s it, that’s all there is to it.

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Are There LGBT Characters In: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Review)

Title: The Goblin Emperor

Author: Katherine Addison

Rating: 5/5

(CW // Suicide — note: “The Goblin Emperor” does not contain references to suicide, but my notes in the review after the jump does)

Are there LGBT characters? Sure, there’s a gay character but he has almost no bearing on the plot. That’s not to say he isn’t an important, or in some ways critical, character, but his role is still relatively minor and besides, I would go so far as to say that rather than focusing on whether this character or that is gay, I am going to say that the spirit of the book is undeniably queer.

Brief summary / book review: CD Covington described Maia, our main character and Goblin Emperor, as a “pure cinnamon roll.” And you know what? She’s absolutely right. Because amid all the court politics and all the conniving and backstabbing that typically happens in stories like these, Maia isn’t a willing participant in the darker aspects of ruling. He doesn’t want to eliminate enemies (well, save one). He doesn’t want to hurt people. He doesn’t want punishment, or retribution, or anything like that.

No. His main goal? He just wants to make friends.

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Are There LGBT Characters In: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (Review)

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Author: T.J. Klune

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? It’d be a lot shorter to talk about what isn’t gay in this book. I mean, just look at the cover.

Brief summary / book review: Linus Baker is a middle-aged, overweight case worker who inspects orphanages filled with magical children, for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (known as DICOMY). He gets a special assignment from the hilariously named Extremely Upper Management to go visit a strange orphanage far from home. It’s a secluded place, filled with very dangerous magical children, including the son of Satan.

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Are There LGBT Characters In: Jade City by Fonda Lee (Review)

Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Rating: 5/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, a principal point of view character

Brief summary / book review: Picture a noir gang story set in the 1940’s, in a city that’s Hong Kong-ish, and you get the general atmosphere of the book (note: I am way underselling it, but this is just meant to give you the gist). On Janloon, the Jade City in question, jade isn’t just a piece of jewelry, but a source of magic — magic that comes, of course, at a price. That price isn’t just the cost of doing business and running jade and doing what it takes to consolidate power in the city; it also exacts a price if you use it wrongly.

Even for those who are used to it, when they take off their jade, and put it back on later, they’ll have a brief moment of nausea, where it takes them a few minutes to get their bearings.

Reading this book was a bit like that. When I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It took me a little while (about 50 pages or so) to land on the author’s wavelength, but once I did? Wow. Yeah, I loved it.

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Are There LGBT Characters In: A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay (Review)

Title: A Brightness Long Ago

Author: Guy Gavriel Kay

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, one who is a major point of view character, and a secondary minor character.

Brief summary / book review: This is another one of Kay’s works set in the same universe as some of his previous works, such as the Sarantine Mosaic,  Lions of Al Rassan, and Children of Earth and Sky. The setting is a riff off Renaissance Italy (named Batiara in this case) and takes place in various city-states that are clear analogues of cities like Venice, Florence, Milan, Rome, and Siena.

In my review for Children of Earth and Sky, I expressed a bit of frustration and disappointment with Kay’s portrayal of LGBT characters. Are things better in A Brightness Long Ago? Resoundingly, yes.

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The Dresden Files Fight Scenes, Ranked

A few weeks ago, I felt like picking up The Dresden Files and giving it a re-read, and as I read through Storm Front, I thought it’d be fun to rank all of the fight scenes in the Dresden Files.

It was a very happy surprise that midway through my re-read of the series, Jim Butcher announced that Peace Talks was done! So this ranking comes at a pretty good time.

I had two rules in making this list: the first is that I focused on the novels only. Short stories, TV shows, fan fiction, etc, all don’t factor. We are strictly looking at the 15 published novels, period. The second rule is one fight scene per book, only. Some books have multiple great fight scenes (like Skin Game), but in the interest of keeping this ranking manageable, I limited myself to the one scene.

Obviously, here be spoilers. And I am writing this list on the assumption that you remembered what happened, so I’m not going to describe the fight scenes too much. The Dresden Files Wiki is a great resource if you need to jog your memory.

Here you go, the authoritative, definitive, inarguable, entirely 100% correct ranking of Dresden Files fight scenes, ranked:

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Are There LGBT Characters In: Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (Review)

Title: Children of Earth and Sky

Author: Guy Gavriel Kay

Rating: 3.5/5

Are there LGBT characters? Barely. There is one character who is gay, and has two or three point of view chapters, but does not play a significant role in the story.

Brief summary / book review: Set in the same universe as some of his other works, notably the Sarantine Mosaic and Lions of al’Rassan, Children of Earth and Sky is a pseudo-historical work that’s reminiscent of medieval Venice, Dubrovnik, and Istanbul — here, called Seressa (a riff off La Serenissima), Dubrava, and Asharias, respectively.

The story is relatively simple — a group of travelers go from Seressa, Senjan (a small town that harbors pirates), and Dubrava to Asharias. They learn things about themselves and each other along the way. I realize this sounds relatively glib and not terribly exciting but Kay takes the time to explore the depths of each character, examine what their place is in history, and how their choices can ripple outwards in unexpected ways and even change the course of history. These are not glib ideas he’s plumbing here.

That said, in the context of Kay’s work, this is a middling work of his. He’s had much stronger books. The glaring weakness with this one, from a critical perspective, is that Kay pulls his punches, which is unlike him. There’s no emotional payload that detonates at the end of this book, like it does for most of his others. Things just sort of…happen. And people turn out mostly fine. And with the exception of two characters (a priestess and a wayward soldier), nobody really changes by the end of the book. It just sort of…ends?

Still, “middling” for Kay is hell of a lot better than most books by other people, so is it worth a read? Absolutely. But if you’re looking for an entry for Guy Gavriel Kay’s work, I’d start with Lions of al’Rassan.

As for the gay character in this book, he’s relatively shallow and insipid. There is another character who is hinted at being gay, but frankly, I’m over such subtleties. If you’re going to include an LGBTQ character in your text, make them visible. The time for innuendo is exhaustingly past.

And here’s my larger disappointment with this work (within the context of this blog series). There were several moments where it seemed as if a significant character was suggested to potentially be gay, but that never turned out to be the case.

One of the reasons why I enjoy reading Kay so much is that he clearly treasures and values love and intimate connections, the way people find each other and entwine their souls with each other. The way he’s able to explore their relationships, their love, and all that goes into it, is easily his biggest strength as a writer. He has gorgeously sketched out characters — complex, sensitive men and dazzling women who burn bright on his pages. It’s clear that he loves women, given the way he writes about them. But he also mainly values them in the context of a heterosexual relationship.

Which is fine! To be clear, I am not trying to suggest that he should write a gay or lesbian or nonbinary romance into his book, or that he’s somehow at fault for writing straight romances. I would never presume to tell an artist what they can or cannot create.

But.

When it comes to gay (or lesbian) characters, Kay has thus far fallen very short. He clearly tries to include them without making it feel tokenistic, but in the works I’ve read (Tigana, Song for Arbonne, Lions of al’Rassan, The Sarantine Mosaic, and now this one), he has yet to make an LGBT character a central character, and deliver that character the romance his best other characters have lived through.

(Yes, it is hinted that one of the main characters in Lions of al’Rassan is bisexual — but it is only that, just a hint. Fuck hints. LGBT readers everywhere deserve better.)

If anything, his gay characters are always verging on uncomfortable stereotypes — they’re almost always seemingly perfumed, fey, leering at the main characters. Not all of them are like that, of course, but it’s happened enough that it begins to resemble a pattern and increasingly takes me out of his works more and more.

(Tigana spoiler incoming — skip to next paragraph to pass over it) The most interesting gay character he’s written so far, in the books I’ve read, was in Tigana, but, spoiler alert, he gets killed, like, 5 pages into the book. Sure, he’s one of those perfumed fey lechers I just described above, but that was at least in part an act, to make people around him underestimate him. How much more interesting would it have been if it was his father who was killed, and he got to go on the hero’s journey instead?

(End Tigana spoilers) Again, to be clear, this isn’t me telling — or even asking — Kay to write more LGBT characters. As I’ve said before, I’ve no interest in telling artists what they can create. This is just me being a reader, expressing my wishes, that one of fantasy’s preeminent writers would apply the same lavish care and sensitivity to his LGBT characters that he does his straight characters. Obviously, he’s still one of my favorite writers and I’ll be reading everything he puts out. It’s just that I know he’s capable of doing better. I wish he would.

About the ‘Are There LGBT Characters’ series of posts: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.