Fiction By Authors of Color #ReadPOC2021

Ok, my March #ReadPOC challenge was a total fail, aka I didn‘t get to it… what can I say, I was overbooked and struggling a bit to concentrate on my reading commitments. The March prompt was „A Work of Fiction“ and after some deliberation I picked David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa.

Nigerian God-Punk – a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

New attempt in April! I hope… which brings along the April prompt: Written by a Queer or Trans Author of Color.

And to my surprise, I found two books on the suggested reading lists, that ring a bell:

1) Dawn (Lilith’s Brood, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — this one is on my kindle-unlimited want-to-read list. I will try to read it in April. After the above and all the other stuff. I am an optimist.

In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in suspended animation and begin the slow process of rehabilitating the planet.

2) The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1) by J.Y. Yang — read in January 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is fantasy novella with a strong chinese flavour. The author identifies as non-binary and the main characters as well, at least until they reach their teenage years…

“Sonami had just turned fifteen, yet still wore the genderfree tunic of a child, their hair cropped to a small square at the top of their head and gathered into a bun.“

It is strange at first, then becomes normal and when eventually gendered pronouns crop up, they seem just as strange. Well done! I wasn‘t sure I would like this, because my track record with fantasy has been poor in the past few years. But once the story picked up speed, I found it hard to put down. The writing and plot were also a lot more accessible than I had expected. I really need to read the companion novellas. Plan B, if I shouldn‘t feel like Octavia Butler or want to read something shorter!

Author‘s website with info about the whole Tensorate series is here

Main Challenge page:…

Books by Women of Color #ReadPOC2021

by Octavia E. Butler

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A human colony living as little more than slaves, joined to an insectoid race as hosts to their eggs and larvae. Gruesome imagery. Alien comes to mind. The „conception“ is a much gentler event though, even sensuous. Love, possesiveness and self-sacrifice are themes. 

Butler voices her surprise in the afterword, that readers see this as a story of slavery. But are we looking at symbiosis or at a parasitic relationship? Is it really consent in a situation, where your personal rights have been curtailed and there are no equal rights? I think not. 

Interesting. And worth reading. I will have another look at Dawn, which I have been circling for a while.

This is my entry for January of the BIPOC challenge I joined this year. My original post is here. For an explanation and the general rules please go to the actual webpage of the challenge, hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media.

The prompt and page for January is here: Books by Women of Color to Read for #ReadPOC2021

My original choice was The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1) by Namina Forna, but I read that in December already. I am also currently listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama, but I am very slow with audiobooks, so I might not finish in January.

YA Fantasy debut with a beautiful cover, that doesn‘t quite deliver

The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1)
by Namina Forna

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I am not a YA fan, but the very pretty book cover drew me. It‘s a debut novel.

Deka grows up in a society that discriminates against her due to her gender and skin colour. Women are helpmates, there to elevate men. And they have to prove they are pure, to be allowed to fulfill this submissive role. Deka is determined to do her best and conform, but predictably that doesn‘t work out so well. She fails her test spectacularly and is forced to take another path. That leads her to meet other girls like her. Or rather, similar to her. She is special.

Trigger warning: The Gilded Ones includes scenes of sometimes graphic violence, torture, hints of rape (off-screen, in the past) and child abuse. Strong stuff for YA. The main characters are mainly 16-year-olds with symptoms of PTSD. I would not recommend this for anyone younger than that. In the first half of the book this feels more like adult grimdark.

The world building could be more comprehensive, there are a lot of holes or very slim explanations. The author jumps weeks and months, that could have helped to flesh out this world and the characters. New things happen and the reader just gets a brief sentence to give context. A lot of telling instead of showing.

After a slow start and light build-up the story is actually quite entertaining at first, despite all of the above. It‘s all quite straight forward and a fairly typical set-up for this type of YA. Unusual youth in hard circumstances, being shunned and fighting her way to to a better future, proving her worth and showing everybody how special she is. A typical coming of age story of an underdog, with a war against monsters thrown in, with focus on racism and women’s rights and lack thereof. I could have done without the shown brutality.

Around two thirds into the book, with chapter 22, the story became a little more mysterious. And then Ixa showed up and I was enchanted. Sadly this didn‘t last till the great finale. Towards the end it all got a little to surreal and abrupt and Deka and her companions were just too easily convinced and uncritical for my taste. And it was all a bit too easy.

I also never connected emotionally to Deka or the other characters, despite the horrors they go through.

There is some light romance, but it‘s not essential to the story.

It is very unlikely that I will continue with this trilogy.

Bottomline this was ok for YA, a bit too much in its descriptions of physical violence for that age group. I was lacking coherent plot and character development. It was all a bit too straight forward and simple for me and with too many gaps in the narrative. Based on the book description I expected more critical thoughts on racism and feminism. They were there, but treated fairly superficially. 

In the beginning I thought this would be a four-star book, but the later half of the book didn‘t keep up, so I am somewhere around three stars.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you! #TheGildedOnes #NetGalley

My review in German is here.