I have a book recommendation for you!
I read this recently when I was not very well, and it made me cry in several places. On a basic level, it’s the story of the clan composer of a conquered people whose music has been taken without his permission by the court composer of the conquerors. He comes to court to protest the theft and ends up falling in love with the thief (and slowly coming to terms with the dominant culture.)
Recently, thanks to many reviews of my own stuff that went “cut down with the flowery language for crying out loud!” I’ve been pruning my own language back as far as it will go and learning to rely a bit more on a surprising metaphor or two. So it took me a while to get back into the sheer gorgeousness of the language of this. But the gorgeousness is in place and apt for a story that deals with the intricacies of a court setting whose intricacy and studied beauty reminds me of Imperial Japan.
Once you get into the flow of it again, you find you’ve been slowed down enough to start appreciating all the questions of culture and colonialism the book takes on in the middle of a love story.
I’m not doing this justice! I’m trying to be all intellectual about it and I shouldn’t, because what I really loved about it was that it’s a story set in a culture of people with men, women, hermaphrodites and neuters, and although the love story is between a man (Amet) and a Third (Dancer) – a hermaphrodite – it’s a poly relationship, because the Third is already in a sexless relationship of intimacy and love with a Fourth (Always Falling) – a neuter. And throughout the book, the relationship with Always Falling is acknowledged as equally important to Dancer, if not more so, than the love story, and it’s clear that Always Falling is not going to be usurped, squashed out or forgotten. It’s clear that unless they are fully involved with the relationship, there will not be a happy ending.
The last time I read a book where I felt that there was a character who I could latch onto as being like me was The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin. And that was Therem Harth rem ir Estraven – a person who was fully gender neutral and sexless about 90% of the time. I feel very fortunate that I’ve now met Always Falling, and that they are written by an author who can handle language with as much beauty as LeGuin and who simply *gets* them – gets their integrity and importance as a human being in a way even LeGuin didn’t.
I’m so delighted to hear that the next book is the love story between Amet and Always Falling! I’ll be getting that one on the day it’s out.
Basically, this is not a well put together review. What I’m trying to say is that if you are agender and asexual, and you’re thirsty for representation, and you’ve never (or rarely) seen anything like yourself in any form of media, this book not only gives you representation but also does it in a work of great beauty. It could not be better!
(Though as a niggling little point, I don’t personally like ‘it’ as a pronoun. I’d have rather had ‘them’ or ‘ze’ or something. I find it hard to reclaim ‘it’ from non-personhood. But I’m not going to quibble about that when everything else is so damn good )
Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.