I got this book for Christmas after pining over it ever since it came out and I gotta say… I was surprised it was so thin? I’d expected a chonker when I read about it. The hardback is a gorgeous piece of work in and of itself though, I gotta say/ The dust jacket’s really cool and the book under is also very nice with gilded lettering on the spine and a little embossed Tor spaceship!
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.
Think of this as… I suppose, Handmaid’s Tale meets Godless, I guess? Except I did not get through more than 2 episodes of Godless and I could read 10 books like this one. For its small size, it certainly packs a punch!
I read it in an afternoon, and all I can think of is “give me more”. It’s all sorts of queer, in a future that’s pretty much like a Western movie (only the military has cars and diesel so everyone’s back to carts and horses) and even if it’s very much set in the future, it has that historical tone as well. The fascism is truly there, and it comes across through the bigotry and homophobia/transphobia the characters have experienced. But the book is ultimately dripping with sarcasm and humour, and full of hope. And like I said, I could read a whole series about these characters!
I loved all the characters, both the older couple who begrudgingly take Esther under their wings, the nonbinary Assistant Librarian who definitely did not want to get saddled with her, and even Amity, the… antagonist I guess? that’s not quite right. I enjoyed how Esther was grappling with who she was in a world that always told her there was no place for her, and how that translates into action. This is definitely a book that speaks to me in 2021, and that’s how I like my speculative fiction!