Marcia reviews Star Cursed, The Cahill Witch Chronicles Book #2, by Jessica Spotswood


I was more than a little excited to pick up my copy of Star Cursed, the sequel to Born Wicked and book two of The Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood. After Wicked‘s climactic ending — involving a serious choice and the chaos of discovering manipulation — I was sure that the Cahill sisters would have another thrilling adventure. And I wasn’t wrong, not exactly.

Part of what drew me to Wicked in the first place was the lesbian content — one of the few things I read about the book before diving in was that one of the main characters was queer. And since I have the bad habit of not reading about books before I have them in hand (so as not to spoil them, understand), I assumed (wrongly) that Cate Cahill’d had her chance at narration. Now was, naturally, the time to hear Maura’s story from her point of view.

It’s not that I don’t love Cate — I do! — but much of her story is preoccupied with her heterosexual love interest who, in addition to being heterosexual, almost seems incidental to much of the plot. And while Cate is a perfectly serviceable narrator, a lot is going on that doesn’t involve her. What about Maura? What are her motivations, here?

After Maura’s experience at the end of Wicked, her behavior and motives take a dramatic turn — but what she’s thinking is as much your guess as anyone’s. Despite the influx of new female characters, Maura’s queerness seems to get shoved into the back of her — and Cate’s — mind. There are even a few scenes where Maura flirts with boys. For manipulation, Cate suspects, or not. So, for someone whose initial draw into this universe was queer potential, Star Cursed is a bit of a let down. If Maura were written as bi- or pan-sexual, I would have no problem with this — but it comes off feeling like Maura’s sexuality is a plot point, rather than something integral to who she is.

I did, however, enjoy the book. Typically, the middle editions of trilogies are the lesser regarded “siblings” to introductions and conclusions, simply existing to bridge the gap between the two and build character and tension. Star Cursed has moments where it falls into this category, but for the most part, the story feels as alive and thrilling as it did through my lightning marathon of Born Wicked. We learn more about this alternate history, hate more of what the Brotherhood edicts, explore more magic, and bear witness to some pretty spectacular “her”story.

Aside from the lessened presence of Maura and her queerness, the same things bugged me about Cursed as did in Wicked. Because Cate’s narration is first person, and because she so frequently makes choices I disagree with, there were a few times when I ran up against an I and became so frustrated I had to put the book down. “Just talk to your sister!” I grumbled, more than once.

For those familiar with the female-driven fantasy genre, there are certainly aspects of the plot that can be seen coming. But there are also expectations that turn on their head. I’m not sure if the last of the trilogy will fall under the former or latter — and I’m looking forward to finding out. Gathering evidence from Cursed reveals that the finale will either [potential spoilers follow] give in to the lazy trope of evil lesbian witch (huh, have you heard that one before?) or something entirely different. I’ll be keeping an eye out, Jessica Spotswood. Here’s hoping that Sisters’ Fate lives up to the amazing universe it takes place in, gives readers a thrilling ride, and respects queer identity. A full hand to play, perhaps, but I have faith. Expect Fate to hit stores in August 2014.

Marcia reviews Desire: Stories of Longing by K.L. Joy


Opening with a cover that features rope bondage, and the party following the collaring ceremony of two of lead character Vivianne’s friends, it is immediately clear that Desire: Stories of Longing by K.L. Joy is not straight-forward (pardon the pun) erotica.

The short novel follows new Domme Vivianne as her life in the BDSM scene evolves and blossoms. Under the guidance of close friend Victor and his “wench” Kate, Vivianne learns how to navigate relationships between her own “girls,” proper punishment, and her own dark past. Professionally, Vivianne’s life is also changing. What started as a small side project making corsets has turned into a booming career — and a chance to explore more of the kink scene.

In the first story, or chapter, we meet Vivianne and see glimpses of her world. We also meet her “slut,” Rhiannon, a dedicated sub who often struggles with jealousy. For a reader who is only mildly acquainted with BDSM and kink culture, I found Vivianne’s story relatively easy to understand if not particularly erotic. As author Joy and Vivianne are both Australians, there were a few times when vocabulary tripped me up — something a quick google search took care of, and shouldn’t frighten off any curious reader.

History and details often feel sketchy or glossed over — though this could be because Desire is a sequel. Having not read the first installment (Catalyst: Stories of Awakening), I cannot address continuity or character building, but only what appears within this single volume.

Often, Joy falls back on BDSM tropes to provide characters with the illusion of having fleshed out personalities. At times, we get glimpses of their lives before, but mostly these are only hints that are applied to a dramatic moment and then dropped never to appear again. Many of Joy’s characters live and work in BDSM-adjacent industries (Jaime is the owner and facilitator of a BDSM training lodge, Victor sponsors fledgling businesses and is generally very rich, and Vivianne herself begins to make a living from her corset and costume-making) though for a few characters there is no mention of life outside of sub or dom-space — how does Rhiannon spend her time or energy when not submitting to the whims and desires of her Ma’am, for example?

Because I don’t bring outside knowledge of BDSM culture to my reading of Desire, I frequently found myself stumbling over the doms and dommes referring to their female subs by pejorative terms. I also found the writing of Lola (a character who comes into play about half-way through the novel) to be racist and full of lazy characterization. Her primary identifiers are a taste for bright colors, and salsa music, a great dancer’s body, and her exaggerated written accent. I would be following the story eagerly, only to cringe at the obvious eroticism of Lola’s “foreign-ness.”

Perhaps my problem with the second book in K.L. Joy’s Stories Of… series is that it wasn’t written for me. Those who enjoy BDSM-flavored erotica should consider the series — though far from perfect or truly well-written — as a tertiary addition to their collection.

Marcia reviews Stumptown vol. 2, by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Matthew Southworth


It is only in certain circles that one hears Greg Rucka’s name added to the discussion about not-necessarily-heterosexual women in fiction. He stands (in my mind) alongside Gail Simone and Ed Brubaker when listing the writers who have made a positive mark on comics (specifically the DC Universe) when it comes to women. I wrote about Stumptown vol. 1 in February of this year, recommending the book not only to comic book fans but to those who enjoy noir, carefully plotted character pieces, and solid gold heroines — heroines who just happen to be bisexual.

Volume Two picks up soon after volume one — Dex Parrios is still taking cases for hire, still struggling to make a living while caring for her brother Ansel and continuing to dodge the heavy hammer of Marenco’s crime underground. Dex is, as many have noted, a cross-section of many of Rucka’s female characters: plucky, determined, rough around the edges, and playing by her own rules. This is a lot of what makes Dex such a good P.I. on the page and on the job.

In Volume Two, “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case” another of “Rucka’s women” previously seen in the novel A Fistful of Rain crosses paths with Dex — Miriam “Mim” Bracca, guitarist for Tailhook. Mim has a history with women, but her true love is Baby, the guitar that has been by her side through the ups and downs of Mim’s career. Confronted with a missing Baby, Mim brings the desperate case to Dex, but seems to be hiding something.

While romance is certainly not front and center here, I enjoyed the flirtatious back and forth between Mim and Dex. I enjoyed knowing that these are not characters defined by presence or lack of sex scenes. These are real women with real attractions, and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to get hot and heavy while being chased by thugs!

As a previous fan of Stumptown, I didn’t need much convincing to read on, but Rucka (and artist Southworth) still had some treats in store. Dex here reads a little more at ease with herself. If I only had one word to describe volume two it would be fun. A missing guitar doesn’t seem high on the ranks of thrilling adventures, but despite the set-up, Rucka delivers a story full of snark, one-liners, and one of the best car chases I have ever seen.

Published once again by Oni Press, Volume Two will be released in October, and comes with Rucka’s thoughtful prose discussion on the nature of the P.I. story.

Marcia reviews Born Wicked: The Cahill Witch Chronicles, Book One, by Jessica Spotswood


Quick note: This review does not discuss in-novel lesbianism at length, as I consider the hints and reveal to be a pretty significant spoiler. You’ll just have to trust me. Lesbians are here.

The year is 1896, the place is New England — but it is not the New England we know, not even the New England of American history. In Born Wicked, author Jessica Spotswood spins the alternate history of an area settled and ruled by the Sisters of Persephone, a group of powerful witches who lead with the shocking notion that gender, race, and religion are no cause for discrimination. The Brotherhood (a Puritanical organization that rises out of the fear of powerful women) believes otherwise, however, and after a brutal war, the Brotherhood has conquered New England, murdered the witches, and established a new system that preaches the folly and uselessness of girls, and worse, the raw danger of witchcraft.

The Cahill sisters — eldest (and narrator of Born Wicked) Cate, middle child Maura, and precocious baby Tess — are witches. Their mother, now past on, was a witch in secret, and she has passed the gift (and the burden of secrecy) on to her daughters.

With a dead mother and a mostly absent father, arrangements for a governess are made. How will the Cahill girls keep their secret hidden with another nosy body sharing their roof? Complicating matters, Cate nears her seventeenth birthday — the date by which she must announce her intention to either marry, or join the Sisterhood — an offshoot of the Brotherhood Cate loathes. Cate also receives a letter from the mysterious Z. R. that warns her of coming danger and hints at a prophesy…

Aside from the alternate history that Spotswood crafts (a history that seems all too similar to a world that certain factions of the world might embrace now!), Born Wicked offers a solidly developed character study of a young girl charged with the protection and rearing of her still-younger sisters. The ever-present threat of magic being discovered, of the embrace of education, and of simply being female all press the plot forward at an exciting pace. A world set against women creates the need for various female networks — connections made in secret, and made stronger by what they hide from the men who would have them sent to the mysterious Haywood, or even killed.

The “lesbian” aspect of this story plays a primarily background role, as Cate is most certainly attracted to men, but I expect to see it expanded upon in the sequels. Even if Cate is interested in men, she is quite open-minded considering the society she was raised in: she is conscious of the proposed dangers of magic and of such folly as lust, but slowly begins to make choices for herself and her sisters, not some ingrained stigma. I actually found Cate’s male love interest to be utterly charming — and it takes a very particular kind of characterization to make me tolerate heterosexual romance in my leisure reading!

Pick up Born Wicked as soon as possible. You’ll be drawn in by the sisters, kept open-mouthed by the threat of the Brotherhood, and tickled when lesbianism is the icing on the cake of this already very delicious book. A quick read, and appropriate for younger readers as well as old, Born Wicked left me hungry and eager for the sequel, Star Cursed which is (thankfully!) out now.

Marcia reviews Legal Briefs edited by S. L. Armstrong & Carrie Cunn


I’ll kick this review off with a bit of full disclosure: I’m an asexual queer who doesn’t particularly enjoy erotica on screen or in print unless it deals with character building. Perhaps I made an odd choice to choose Legal Briefs, a six-story anthology with legal and erotic themes. The collection by Storm Moon Press runs around 40,000 words and is a quick read. While only one story in the collection deals with a lesbian relationship, I read and (mostly) enjoyed the anthology for what it is: sexy fluff that requires no knowledge of the legal system or analysis to consume.

The anthology starts off with “Honest Lawyers” by Kelly Rand. The title refers not only to the bar where student lawyer Craig and reporter Luna begin their date, but to the refreshing honesty and up-front way that Luna, a MTF trans woman is introduced to the readers and to Craig. The plot and details are laid out with very little flair or fuss, and Craig, with very little explanation, is completely okay — and even enthusiastic — about Luna’s body. I found this to be refreshing. Why should we expect a negative reaction in an already escapist sexual fantasy? Add to that the quick and (also) tidy negotiation of sexual safe lines, and “Honest Lawyers” is a solid story.

“24 Hours” by Cari Z tells the story of Evan, a young gay man who suffers an assault at a gay bar and later must meet with his lawyer and the lawyer of the man who hurt him to defend himself once more. Fortunately, Don, the lawyer of Evan’s assailant, sees the situation for what it is, and assures Evan that Mr. K will be paying for Evan’s doctor bills. Don also has a history with Ross, the owner of the gay bar where the assault took place. The two of them had “a fucked up dynamic” and Don seems to continue that with his urge to take care of Evan. I wasn’t convinced by Don or Evan as love interests — an aspect of the story which is relied upon with no sex to distract the reader from lack of characterization. Even the side characters are all archetypes — the grumpy matchmaker ex, the sassy fag hag assistant, the cheerful grandmother-type who knows both parties and only wishes the best for them. Skip “24 Hours” even if you do enjoy reading about male gay romance.

“Study Buddy,” which follows, is the only lesbian story in the collection. I’ll talk more about it at the end.

The fourth installment of Legal Briefs is easily the longest and best-written of the collection, a sci-fi/fantasy piece that uses the law for more than just erotic background, and develops characters Illan and Daru. SFF is far from my genre of choice, so I personally found “His Best Defense” by Blaine D. Arden too long and boring, but for those who enjoy the genre, m/m romance, and fun world building details, this story should be a highlight of the anthology.

“Double-Cross” by Salome Wilde is another well-written piece, but it left me puzzled. The only first person narrated piece in the anthology, this story features a narrator who is homophobic and misogynistic in turns. Perhaps this is supposed to lend to the story’s noir feel, but for me, it was an immediate turn off. Another turn off was the surprise reveal (a double-cross, so to speak) that narrator Cal’s lady love interest not only “knows Cocque” but has one. The set up is fine and the story is quite clever, but I simply didn’t care to see the world through Cal’s eyes — no matter how interesting that world was.

Ending the collection is perhaps the sappiest offering, “Against the Law” by Gryvon. This story takes place in a world similar to ours but where homosexual acts are not only illegal, but punishable by death. Despite this, Henry and Abel find one another, and Henry is even able to secure a marriage of convenience to lesbian Lady Clary. I wasn’t wowed by this story, and as it was probably the most traditionally romantic/erotic of the bunch, that’s not much of a surprise.

Back to “Study Buddy,” as I promised. As previously noted, this story is the only one of the collection that features a lesbian relationship. And unfortunately, it is pretty terrible. Lawyer Melanie has just realized that she is a lesbian. She has no moral or social issues with this realization, which is, I suppose, convenient. As is only proper for a late in life convert, Melanie decides to go on a sort of crash course tour of the ladies she’s missed out on for years. She goes to a strip club, for no real reason than for the author to show us some strippers putting on a show. Melanie also tries out her local lesbian bar, and doesn’t have much luck. But wait — the solution has been under her nose the whole time. The barista at Melanie’s favorite coffee shop happens to be gay and more than willing to teach Melanie the ins and outs of lady sex in exchange for help studying for the LSAT.

Unlike the rest of the anthology, “Study Buddy” seemed barely edited. Melanie reads as very young — not only because of her naivete, but due to her non-existent personality.

If one round of fairly stimulating lesbian sex and a donation to Lambda Legal float your boat, please check out Legal Briefs. Otherwise, there are far better (and more arousing!) stories out there.

Marcia reviews Dysphoria by Karelia Stetz-Waters


Dysphoria by Karelia Stetz-Waters
Artema Press, 2013, 350 pp

Dysphoria. On its own, the word means simply the state of feeling unwell. It is a loaded term, however, especially in the queer community. Trans*-folk use the word to describe the feeling of incongruity between how the body exists and how the brain expects the body to exist. Since the mainstreaming of that definition, dysphoria has also come to indicate any incongruity between brain and body, including such movements as transethnics, some furry lifestylers (humans with the belief that they are or connect to a particular animal), and apotemnophilia — self-desired amputation. This last borrowed definition is one of the major themes in Karelia Stetz-Waters’s debut thriller of the same name.

The story follows protagonist Helen Ivers as she begins her new job as president of a small New England college in the town of Pittock. Ivers is cool-headed and utterly capable, but she is haunted by the memory of her sister and her gruesome suicide. That haunting begins to creep into Ivers life as the college is rocked by the discovery of legs, dismembered by nearby train tracks. Flanked on one side by Drummond, the well-kept elder provost at Pittock, whose desire seems to lie with keeping the controversy quiet, and on the other with wild card Adair Wilson, a strikingly handsome lesbian drama teacher who is instrumental in finding the body parts and unwilling to let the tragedy go unsolved.

I found Dysphoria to be well-written, especially in comparison to many books in both the lesbian detective and thriller genre. The characters, especially Ivers and Drummond, are fresh and full-bodied (pun intended). At times, Stetz-Waters lingers in more literary and even experimental places, playing with form and perspective in some truly unexpected ways. I also found the story to be something truly original. As a fan of true crime, procedural shows, and, obviously, lesbian lit, Dysphoria definitely borrows from aspects of each genre but pulls together into something quite fresh. I especially identified with Helen Ivers. Her behavior, namely engaging in unfulfilling and utterly unerotic heterosexual sex in an effort to escape her own mental space, was frustrating (and frequently unpleasant to read) but I saw echoes of her thought processes in my own life.

Aside from the straight sex, Dysphoria also offers truly disturbing POV segments from the killer. We learn about his history of abuse, about his obsession with creating amputees — and the sexual nature of his fetish. I understand, as a reader, why this POV is included. It certainly ramps up the tension and creates a few “ah ha!” moments later in the book. For those more sensitive to stuff of this ilk, however, this might be the ultimate turn off.

The other major issue I had with Dysphoria was with love interest and plot driver, Adair Wilson. Because the book stays in Helen Ivers’ perspective most of the time, and because Ivers herself does not know much about Wilson, the character is left largely undeveloped. Wilson seems to act mysteriously when the plot calls for tension, to explain herself when Ivers needs the relief. Even the descriptions of Ivers’ attraction to Wilson are spotty at best. Aside from Wilson’s shocking beauty, I had trouble understanding why Ivers was attracted to her. Some of the circumstances the two women are involved in are entirely unromantic and even disturbing — on a level completely different from that of a serial killer. I felt like I should be fascinated and enamored with Wilson, but was given no reason to. Sadly, much of the book’s success hinges on this.

I will also draw attention, once more, to the title. Dysphoria. As I don’t possess any expertise in psychology, I cannot speak to the legitimacy of any of those who claim the term as a method of expressing body/mind disintegration, but as an ally of the trans* community and best friend of a genderqueer individual, I found myself pausing on multiple occasions when the lives of “transexuals” were used to (perhaps) legitimize the dysphoria of amputee “wannabees” — and by more than one character! I doubt it is Stetz-Waters’s intention to marginalize people who may be a part of her audience, but given her reassurance to me as introduction that she was, in fact, a “gold star” lesbian, I don’t think Stetz-Waters is all too concerned with being inclusive.

My reservations aside, I found Dysphoria to be, for the most part, an engaging and even thrilling read. As an alternative to much of what is currently available in lesbian crime thrillers, Dysphoria is well written, edited, and plotted. Each reader may have to contend with the level of violence, disturbing content, and casual marginalization they are willing to endure for fiction. While mildly curious about the sequel reportedly in the works, I don’t believe I will be tuning in for more of Stetz-Waters’s thrillers.

Marcia reviews The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin


Set in rural Nevada in the mid-1800s in a town that reminded me of childhood marathons of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman – where every townsperson is a character worth knowing and a lot of the population are simply, unequivocally good or evil when it comes to the protagonist and the issue of the week – The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin is the story of a woman affected by news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for homesexuality. The Wilde case has little to do with the plot other than providing an entry point into Mildred’s story and some nice chapter headings that I hope the Wilde estate is receiving proper credit for.

Mildred has been “persecuted” all her life – for her looks, her refusal to participate in traditional feminine activities (consisting of mostly gossip – the novel, despite being about women and featuring a lesbian relationship actually has a spiteful anti-woman tone). She is known for philanthropy, but the angry ranting of one particular woman (who has one of the most bizarre and thinly-constructed motives I’ve ever come across) has soured the entire town on Mildred, making her a case for ridicule at best and spiteful rumors at worst. Mildred is in a long-term relationship with her cousin Edra. The two have been inseperable since childhood and the relationship was cemented after Edra’s traumatizing rape – leaving the two in eternal hiding from society, leaving Edra childlike and caught in a cycle of reliving the rape, leaving them even more separated from the town.

The news of Wilde’s imprisonment urges Mildred to take action against any rumors which might point the ruthless townspeople to her homosexuality. She concocts a plan that involves a recent widower and – of course – the plan backfires to tremendous effect.

Is this a story that should be told? Absolutely. However, where Mahurin states in the introduction that much of the novel was prepared as part of a creative writing workshop, the story suddenly seems familiar. How many times did we sit, our pens poised as awkward and lifeless prose were discussed, the teacher urging once again that the fledgling author Show and Not Tell.

No author wants to hear those words applied to their work. Even fewer, perhaps, actually take that criticism and give their poem, short story, or historical novel the working over it really needs.

As the characters navigate this plan and the rumor-laden Red River Pass, they pass the time by spouting off historical and literary facts like living Wikipedia entries (it seems like a good heads up that if the protagonist becomes bored with hearing the myriad minutiae then the audience is surely bored as well!). Chapters often start en media res, the author soon backpedals, explaining what and why just happened – encapsulating anywhere from hours to years of detailed and potentially interesting history with a few haphazard paragraphs. I apologize o the author if her writing group (which she thanks in the introduction) did not point out these issues – though a publisher would certainly have.

If Mildred Dunlap was told by another author with a less needlessly convoluted style, it might stand the chance of being a novel I could recommend. As it stands, Dunlap is an embarrassing addition to the genre of historical lesbian fiction.

 [This book has also been reviewed by Lena]

Marcia reviews Gravel Queen by Tea Benduhn


Gravel Queen

By Tea Benduhn


“The dark screen begins to fade into image as the music rises. There’s a round yellowish girl with dark hair driving a beat-up blue pickup truck with some rust around the fenders. That’s me.”

As a former teen who still dedicates most of her reading time to YA lit, I’ve read every top list of lesbian YA I could get my hands on. A lot of great books continue to receive recognition for being groundbreaking, well-written, and top-selling. But one of my favorites continues to slip under the radar. Gravel Queen by Tea Benduhn is about a trio of friends: Aurin, our narrator, a lesbian who is interested in all things visible through a camera lens; Fred, a rather sassy and free-wheeling gay teen; and Kenney, a heterosexual girl with a strong will and a penchant for secrets.

All appears peachy in this little group. Each member has their role: Kenney takes charge and Aurin and Fred trail behind. When new-girl Nelia enters the story, a new addition who throws the balance of things isn’t exactly welcomed by Kenney. Especially when Aurin falls for quiet, dancer Nelia and wants to spend more and more time with her potential girlfriend, and less and less with controlling Kenney.

Despite being Bendhun’s first novel, I found (and still find) the prose to be crisp, the descriptions clear, and the dialogue and characterization authentic and moving.

There is absolutely a place in the lesbian YA canon for the many ways discovering our sexualities can shape those already-tumultuous teenage years. In fact, without an unsupervised internet, books snuck from the library, or peered at in corners of bookstores may be the only place some young lesbians are able to read about someone going through the same thing they are. But what about those girls who have already taken that step, who hit the end of those novels and wonder what comes next?

Aurin, while certainly interested in girls, has a life that consists of other things. She has rich relationships with her friends, spends time thinking about film and even frames her life in scenes and scripts. She has a family. She goes to school, plays, works, and laughs. She’s already taken the hard step, but that doesn’t mean working through emotional entanglements, navigating life as an out teen, and falling in love aren’t just as important.


Marcia reviews Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration by Sarah Diemer

I really wanted to like Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration, a short collection of short stories with a dark fantasy/sci-fi theme by Sarah Diemer. That isn’t to say that the collection is wholly without merit, but some combination of the stories themselves and how they were organized seemed determined to hit me somewhere around “pretty good, I guess?” despite lots of pretty words and pretty girls kissing.

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy in my free time, but I’m not averse to the genre when writing is strong, world-building is interesting, and characters are fleshed out. At 192 pages with six stories, Diemer frankly doesn’t have a lot of room to do all of these. Love Devours tends to feel more like a thesis than a story collection – the constant repetition of the monster in literal and allegorical form, the similar story framework, and the study of worlds (with the exception of “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark”) where lesbianism is celebrated and accepted without question or sideways glance. In theory, this works. It is refreshing to read a collection of stories without awkward coming-outs, without the danger of being cast out, bullied, or worse because of a word, an identity. Six stories featuring alternate, female-centered mythologies? Yes! Sign me up!

Unfortunately, in practice this collection was far from what it set out to be.

The stories range from actually quite good with the exception of a few details (“The Witch Sea”; “Our Lady of Wolves”) to poorly edited and poorly planned (“Far”, which opens the collection and sets the tone for huge aspirations with little delivery; “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark”). Diemer’s world building is, for the most part, interesting but rushed. Some basic details are in place, but I got the feeling that each setting is far more intricate in Diemer’s head than she communicates on the page. Characterization is lacking across the board – “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” is the first and only story in the collection to actually use the first person narration to give the character a unique voice. And worst of all (at least for me) is the almost de facto lesbianism. I have little to no idea what brings these characters together, what draws them close, what urges them to kiss or to go on these epic quests. If Love Devours is intended to be a set of replacement myths, similar in blank form and grand adventure to the stories adopted from ancient civilizations into the Western canon I might be able to excuse the places where the collection fails. But style, narration, and story choices lead me to believe that Love Devours is simply failed in its execution, a rushed effort that doesn’t do justice to the ideas it wants to express.