Five Books Starring Asexual Protagonists by Ace Spec Authors

Posted December 28, 2016 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Other People's Creations, Rambling / 12 Comments

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ETA: Now with moar shiny linkses for your perusing convenience! May you find a fantastic read!

ETA2: Go check out Claudie Arseneault’s awesome list of five other indie ace rep recommendations! She’s WAY more awesome and better at reccing things than I am, so go look at her recommendations first. And so far, between us, we’ve covered… more or less the whole ace spectrum with our recommendations, I think? And we also showcase a nice selection of what’s on offer in SFF as a whole, so you’re sure to find something that you’ll enjoy!

So… Recently (as in earlier today), Tor.com reran an article about books starring asexual protagonists. As an ace spec reader and author, I found it a disappointing and discouraging read. While the article explicitly acknowledges that many ace spec authors pursue indie publishing, all of the books actually mentioned in the post are traditionally published, most are, as far as I know, not #ownvoices, and one of the characters highlighted isn’t actually the protagonist. Not to mention that the article only cites one (ONE!) indie ace spec author and then only to prove that we generally pursue indie publishing. And don’t mention the author’s books by title because, clearly, when you’re writing an article that is about (indie) asexual spectrum representation this is a wise and intelligent thing to do. If I’d written the article, I would totally have focused on mainstream, traditionally published authors after saying that asexual representation is more likely to be found in indie books too. I would absolutely have asked people to do my research for me and leave me research material in the comments. I would definitely not have reached out to the one (possibly two) ace spec authors on the list for hints on where to start looking for good asexual spectrum representation that I could highlight and showcase. And I would certainly have included a book that the asexual SFF comunity generally considers to be an example of negative representation. Definitely.

As I said, I found it a disappointing and discouraging read, especially since the post explicitly states Tor.com would love to spread the word about indie ace rep and it feels more like it’s paying lipservice to our existence. Treats us like a trend. So. Here’s another list of books with asexual protagonists that actually includes indie and/or asexual authors. It’s quickly compiled, my apologies, but as I’ll repeat nearer the end: one day I shall do a better post that is researched properly. Meanwhile, here are some books with ace rep to get you started all the same.

Disclaimer: I am SUPER SLOW at reading/acquiring all the books. A lot of these books are ones I only heard about this year, as I started to get more involved with the ace spec SFF community, and I’ve been focusing on other books for much of the year, so they are, by and large, books I haven’t yet read myself.

However, all of these books are, to the best my knowledge, well-known in and recommended by the ace spec SFF community, so while the representation in them may still be problematic for some of us or for reasons that have nothing to do with asexuality or aromanticism, enough of us liked the books that we’ve been recommending them in a positive light when it comes to asexual representation. (Drop me a comment if not!)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Maguire

This is going to be the one and only trad published story on the list. Every Heart a Doorway is, rightly speaking, a novella. It’s a lovely little portal fantasy that is, so far, the only book I’ve read that explicity states Nancy is asexual. She’s also romantic, as opposed to aromantic. I won’t always be able to make that distinction, but it’s one that matters. Asexuality and aromanticism get conflated a lot, to the communities’ understandable aggravation.

Anyway, Every Heart a Doorway is, I think, the most visible traditionally published book with an asexual protagonist of the moment, so, while it’s a good story and I happily recommend it, I am including the mention here largely because it will, hopefully, make the post more likely to be found by people. So this is going to be more like six books.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski is the only actually indie and ace spec author the article actually cited and it had the temerity not to name her work. IN AN ARTICLE SUPPOSEDLY ABOUT INDIE ACE REP. This is the first book in a series. I’ve been… super-slow about getting to this since the overall genre isn’t my favourite, but this is the first book that I learned about that was explicitly marketed as being a book with an asexual protagonist. Also the first time I encountered an openly ace spec author.

Isis is a normal woman living a normal life in a normal world. She is a photojournalist in a small city where practically nothing happens. One night, she photographs the scene of a gruesome murder. A woman is found dead in an abandon factory. On the wall there is a strange symbol painted in blood. Isis photographs the scene. The next day, all evidence of the crime has vanished from her pictures and no one seems to have heard of any murder taking place.

Isis proceeds to investigate and is soon drawn into the world of shape shifters and guardians. Secrets and mysteries are common place in this strange world. As Isis finds answers about her own mysterious past, she also finds more questions. What is happening to the people that vanish without a trace? Who is watching her from the shadows? And what exactly is the key that everyone seems willing to kill for?

Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari

Fourth World is YA science fiction, starring not one but two ace spec protagonists. Again, it is #ownvoices. Again, I haven’t read it yet, but that’s because one of the protagonists identifies as (or is identified by the author as) demisexual and I’ve put it aside for when I start working on my “Read all the books with demisexual representation and write essays on how the representation actually works” project.

Life on Mars isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’re Isaak Contreras. Ever since his dad disappeared two years ago, Isaak’s been struggling to keep up in school, and he never seems to be able to live up to his mom’s high expectations. But everything changes when he finds an ancient coin among his missing father’s possessions. The coin makes him a target of both the Martian colonial government and a crazed scientist with a vendetta–and it leads him to a girl from another time named Nadin, who believes that Isaak might just hold the key to saving both their worlds. That is, if they can survive long enough to use it…

Viral Airwaves by Claudie Arseneault

This one has recently been rereleased, and been rewritten to be much clearer on the asexual representation. Henry is a heteroromantic asexual (who gets a romance plotline)! ASEXUAL REP WITH A ROMANCE SUBPLOT FOR THE ACE CHARACTER.

I am so in.

Henry Schmitt wants nothing more than a quiet life and a daily ration of instant noodles. At least until he learns the terrible secret that drove his father away—the Plague that killed his mother and ravaged his country was created by those now in power. His only chance to expose the truth is through a ragtag band of outlaws who knew his father and an airborne radio broadcast, but he’d have to dig into his family’s past and risk the wrath of a corrupt government.

Viral Airwaves is a standalone novel sitting firmly between dystopia and solarpunk and centering LGBTQIAP+ characters. If you love hopeful stories about overcoming desperate odds, nemesis working together, and larger-than-life characters, don’t miss out!

A Word and a Bullet by Rachel Sharp

This is actually the second book in a series, but the first one doesn’t feature ace rep, so I can’t rightly list it for this.

Colt, Janie, and Damien were planning a weekend at Zed Games when the real apocalypse canceled their trip. Now the planet is trying to kill them. Evacuation by plane is less than successful. The Piper goes down. They survive, stranded somewhere up the East Coast with all the gear they could ask for but no idea where to go.

Colt never saw himself as a leader. Now his friends are turning to him to make decisions. He can’t be sure of the answers. He’s used to having one foot in many worlds – a Cherokee living in Asheville, three-quarters nerd and one-sixteenth responsible adult – but never in charge. Now he feels the pressure to keep his friends alive while the planet is dying.

Scraping from one disaster to the next, Colt and his friends encounter Mab, a punky survivor on her way back to a safe haven in the Canadian wilderness. She invites them to tag along. Recruiting some horses from an abandoned farm, Colt, Janie, and Damien charge into the post-civilized unknown.

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

Are you looking for intersectionality in your fiction? Chameleon Moon has it. In spades. I actually only learned about this one… last month? When it was being rereleased anyway. So, again, haven’t read this yet, but it sounds fantastic.

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, silent, scaly stealth expert, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.

But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.

They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.

Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.

Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…

Some End Notes

And that’s it for the five six books!

Fun fact: I think that a fair number of these authors are fairly well-known ones. There are more! Many more.

For example! Hello World! is an upcoming book by Tiffany Rose and Alexandra Tauber. Or their Bone Diggers, which you can read online for free. There’s Unburied Fables, which is a collection published by Creative Aces and features lots and lots of ace spec fairytale retellings. I finished serialising Sea Foam and Silence earlier this year. I’ve already mentioned three of the members of the Pack of Aces, so let me just add Joel Cornah and Darcie Little Badger‘s names to the list of authors to look out for.

Another fun fact: This is a list that I threw together very quickly. (So, yes, it may contain mistakes about the protagonists themselves, but hey so did the original article.) Okay, that may actually not be a fun fact, but, seriously, I’m overtired and trying to work out everything I need to do before year’s end and I’m losing at least one day to family engagements already and I just don’t have the time to read all the books I want to to know exactly how to discuss highlighting them.

So please! Do not hesitate to add your recommendations in the comments, discuss the books mentioned, make posts of your own. (If you do make posts of your own, please link me to them! I can do a round-up or the like later. Let’s show the indie ace spec authors that we do support them!)

I will do another post/list sometime in 2017. Or I will aim to, because for all I know mental health issues will kick my behind too badly, but I want to redo this list and have constructive and useful things to say beyond “Here is known indie ace rep. GO REC THESE INSTEAD”. It will have pretty graphics. And be shiny. So also, do let me know what you want to know beyond “Which character is ace spec and are they romantic or aromantic?” so I know I need to take notes on it!

GO FORTH AND REC AWESOME ACE SPEC AUTHORS AND THEIR BOOKS. (Please do not feel obliged to exclude trad published authors. I included them too. Well, sort of.

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12 responses to “Five Books Starring Asexual Protagonists by Ace Spec Authors

  1. Seanan McGuire is ace spec? I thought, based on this tweet, that Seanan McGuire is bisexual, not asexual, but maybe I read too much into that? If you know of Seanan McGuire making a statement that she is ace, please let me know, because I said on my blog that she is not, and I want to correct that if that is a mistake.

    Also, I happen to have read three of the books on your list (well, four if one includes Every Heart a Doorway). Sadly, I did not enjoy reading any of those three (except Every Heart A Doorway) 🙁

    • If I recall, she mentioned that she’s demisexual as well as bisexual on Twitter at least once, but it was quite a while ago. Before Lightspeed kickstarted Queers Destroy SF, to give you an idea of how long ago it was.

      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like the others you’ve read much! 🙁 Hopefully you’ve found other ace spec fiction to love, though! <3 I still haven't read any except Viral Airwaves because I am a terrible reader of ace spec fiction for some reason. *hangs head*

      • Oh yes, I’ve been on an ace fiction binge in the past six months (I’ve read over forty works of ace fiction since the middle of last October, those some of those works are short stories, not novels). And yes, I’ve found ace spec fiction to love 😀

  2. Thanks for compiling this list! I’m aro and ace, and lately I’ve been thinking about how little I’ve read that depicts these things. So one thing I want to do with the New Year is read more of these lists and more of these books!

    I don’t have any book recommendations to add yet, but I have really been enjoying the webcomic Heartless, which is about a young ace woman in Victorian London who gets turned into a vampire and has to deal with THAT … http://heartless-comic.com/

    • You’re welcome! I hope you’ll find some amazing reads through it! Claudie is working on an even more useful resource than this list, so be sure to keep an eye out for it. ^_^ May your 2017 books be predominantly awesome and enjoyable!

      Oooooh, I’d not heard of that one, thank you! <3 It looks really fun and interesting, so hopefully I'll be able to keep up with it. (I'm sadly rubbish at reading comics and webcomics in particular, but I do love being given the suggestions. I have a lot of friends who aren't rubbish at them, so if nothing else I can share the love with others. ^_^)

  3. LW

    These sound lovely. Thanks for sharing. I’m trying to support more indie authors…I’m also curious to know which of the Tor books is considered negative. I have a hunch that it might be the one which described “elor” as “one who prefers to remain asexual,” because that sounds kind of like a common misconception to me. Or perhaps the Archie one which stereotyped him as a womanhater and then later made him into an “I’m so high and mighty because I’m sexually pure and you all think with your d*cks” stereotype. Actually, neither of those sound very appealing.

    I will probably check some of the books on the Tor list, though, if only because the library is more likely to have them. :/

    Clariel’s the only one I have read on your list or theirs. 🙁 liked it because it reflected my own experience of being sex-indifferent (“trying to do the things with the physical relationships and the romance. Is this what I’m feeling? OK; asexuality is a thing. Bye.”) I also love revenge stories, anti-heroes, rebels, and grim and dark tales/worlds. If straight people get to be anti-heroes, then lgbtqia+ characters should, too. I want trans fairy princesses and gay evil kings and ace assassins and pansexual aliens and intersex witches and basically EVERY SINGLE OTHER fantasy and scifi trope, character, archetype, or cliche that straight people are allowed to have without being called problematic due to their straightness. 🙂 But especially the gray-moral ones, because beyond that on a personal level I am just *tired* of goody two shoes protagonists.

    But I also liked it because she wasn’t portrayed as the lone asexual in a heteronormative world. Her asexuality wasn’t this thing to “overcome.” Her aunt is just like her, and the book makes it clear that there exist paths in life that don’t require the heteronormative man-woman marriage to continue the family line. Frankly, that’s kind of rare to see in fantasy since so much of it is inspired by medieval patriarchy. It’s a fantasy world; why should it be heteronormative and patriarchal? I liked that the story made it clear that it’s her mom’s ambitions (rather than her asexuality) which is causing the conflict. Plus there was a hint at the end that she might be demiromantic or maybe grayromantic. I would consider myself demiromantic and am probably clutching at straws for any hint of a demiro character, but heyyy.

    I’m glad there are ace spectrum authors writing ace things. When it comes down to it, I’d rather support an indie author. Thanks again for this list.

    • You’re welcome! I hope that you’ll find something to enjoy among them! ^_^

      The Sherwood Smith one with “elor” is the one that I’d personally take issue with based on how it’s described there, but the one that I’ve seen people be most vocal about was actually Clariel. ^_^; I haven’t read it, but it seems to be mostly down to the ending of the book and the twist on her story that happens in Goldenhands. I don’t know if you’d like spoilers on that, so I’ll focus on Clariel itself. With that book, to me, people’s responses sound very dependent on how people read the ending. It sounds like it was really ambiguous and could be interpreted as either some flavour of romantic asexual or secretly suppressed allosexual. And… I don’t have any answers for that. Both readings are valid!

      Thank you for telling me why it resonated with you in such detail! <3 Your description of it makes it sound much more like a book that I'd enjoy reading and would considering recommending to people (albeit with a caveat along the lines of "not everyone thinks it good rep because X"). I don't think problematic rep is automatically never-read-this-terrible (though, admittedly, I was very upset and really low on sleep, so I won't be surprised if anyone says it wasn't entirely clear from the post). One of my comfort reads (and go-to "Hey, you want indie-published ace characters? Here's stuff you can check out!") is way more problematic than Clariel on its own sounds like. But the strength of how the ace character is portrayed outweights what’s problematic so much for me. I’d never recommend it without a caveat nowadays, but I’d still recommend it. Other people might find it just as soothing and/or enjoyable as I did! It sounds to me like Clariel is another book like that.

      My own issue with the list is that, while it claims to support (indie) ace spec authors, all of the books it mentions by name are pretty mainstream trad published authors who, as far as I know, don’t ID as ace spec themselves and it’s the cumulative effect of smaller issues that really upsets me. 🙁 Like… They quoted Lauren Jankowski, who is one of the ace indie authors the article claims to support, so would it really have been that difficult to mention her books and series by name and link to a place where they can be bought the same was as they did the other books mentioned?)

      I’d tentatively recommend looking at Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver, by the by. I’ve not read it myself yet, but everything I’ve read about it suggests that it fits with the kind of gray-moral, anti-hero stories you mentioned looking for. ^_^ I might be remembering wrong, but at worst you lose some time looking up information?

      • LW

        Long response incoming! I like to have long, thoughtful convos about books. 😀

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I always recommend people read a book and draw their own conclusions. I’ll check out the books you’ve recc’d and certainly keep an open eye for problematics — as well as an open mind. But I doubt anything could make me cringe more than ‘The World According to Garp,’ in which the ace character molests and rapes a disabled man in her care, so I’m prepared…

        I haven’t read ‘Goldenhand’ yet and can’t speak to that, but I don’t quite see the issue with the ending of ‘Clariel.’ Clariel’s friend, who has professed interest in her before (which she has rebuffed with explanations of her asexuality) says he still feels that way about her and then hugs her before letting her go. The hug triggers emotions in her which had previously not been present, and she wonders whether they’ve always been there or whether they’re new or what. But she pushes them away and ignores his offer because her priority is her freedom. It’s not really a choice to be ace or not; it’s a choice about whether to reciprocate or not. And there’s still absolutely nothing about any sexual feelings from her; it’s focused on potential romantic feelings.

        I read this as her being demiromantic — potentially demisexual — because she was asexual and aromantic and did not experience feelings like that, romantic or sexual, for anyone — UNTIL she’d known this guy for a while and forged an emotional bond with him. Her only other relationship was with this “friends with benefits” guy who she didn’t see long or seriously enough for her to form an emotional connection. And she doesn’t even experience romantic feelings until her friend hugs her and is also like “I know you’re ace, I still have feelings for you, and I’m willing to make it work if you want.” His willingness to engage in a sexless romance or a QPR while still respecting her asexuality is another huge positive for me. Again: disrupting heteronormativity.

        To me as a demiromantic person, Clariel’s reaction to the hug accurately reflects my experiences of suddenly “catching feelings” for someone who had previously been a platonic friend, even though I still didn’t feel sexually attracted to them (or anyone else). And yeah, the romantic feelings used to make me question my ace-ness, especially because I’m effectively aromantic until this happens. After all, bodies are bodies, endorphins are endorphins, and they can still respond to physical stimuli even if there’s no sexual or romantic attraction attached. (But I don’t need to tell you this! I’m rambling…preaching to the choir 🙂 ) So, I can see where some confusion would arise, especially if someone had been reading the character as ace/aro and didn’t know what demi was.

        Even if she’s not demisexual or demiromantic, she may be gray-ace. I personally am not a fan of a reader interpretation that erases her asexuality, given that it is consistently important to her. Related: there’s a bit of a gross tendency in parts of the “ace community” to invalidate or erase demisexual/romantic and graysexual/romantic people in the name of maintaining the “purity” of the ace spectrum. There’s already so much pressure to be a “model” ace so that people don’t attribute your asexuality to something “wrong” with you. So the “model ace” is preferably white, thin, conventionally attractive, not disabled or mentally ill, preferably heteroromantic, never suffered sexual trauma, etc. so that there’s no “justification” for them being ace. Some parts of the community online are so afraid of being invalidated that they try to erase others’ experiences, along with identities like demi and gray which aren’t “ace enough” or are “fake ace.” My kneejerk reaction is to see the negative response to Clariel as a symptom of that — like, they automatically assumed she’s just a repressed straight woman rather than even CONSIDERING the possibility of her being demi or gray?? despite the fact that her reaction in the end is pretty similar to the definition of demi?

        But then, I haven’t read Goldenhand, so I don’t know what further spin on the story ensues. Even if it turns out to be terrible, it’s still a non-heteronormative fantasy world, that includes more than one ace spec character, whose ace-spec protagonist gets helpful mentorship from an asexual family member, gives asexuals options apart from marriage, and also acknowledges that lesbians are a thing and it’s not a huge deal.

        Welp, that’s my take. I just have a particular liking for this book because I saw myself in Clariel — ace, demiromantic, mentally ill, disabled (well, perhaps she’d be considered disfigured, idk) — and I don’t often see so many traits that align with my own experiences in fiction.

        • Me too! I wish I could have a longer one with you on this than I can, but I will do my best. ^_^

          I- what. *adds book to her ‘never read this’ list* Ugh.

          Well, one of the things I’ve noticed with demisexual characters in particular is that asexual readers can take badly to their portrayal. Which is… frustrating to me as a demisexual reader, but definitely understandable. If you’ve finally found a character whose sexuality reads like your experience and SUDDENLY SEXUAL FEELINGS… For some (a lot?) of readers, that’s not just a shock. That’s an emotional betrayal. And there’s a good chance that they’ve invested a lot of emotion into loving this character that is like them. And then suddenly they aren’t. I ran into that with Mia from Sherwood’s Stranger because I loved Mia and her “Oh, so THIS is what everyone is talking about” reaction to sexual feelings. But at least one asexual reader really hated it because they’d been reading Mia as strictly ace like them and it was upsetting to them to end up feeling like they didn’t get to exist after all, like they’d been lied to.

          That’s why I said both readings are valid. To some readers that trigger of emotions – especially if there’s no build-up to that trigger in the novel – is going to read as “Whoops, you misread. She’s not asexual and aromantic, after all! She just repressed the feelings because X, Y and Z” It’s not that the readers whose opinions on the scene I’ve seen (well, read) are confused about what happens. It’s just that what happens isn’t clear enough to definitely say “Clariel is demisexual and demiromantic” to every reader. It’s… Hmm… Have you watched Yuri!!! On Ice? There’s a scene in episode 7 (you’ll know which one if you’ve seen it and if you haven’t I don’t want to accidentally spoil it) which is… ambigious in what happens. To many, it’s blatantly obvious that this is where the show stops queerbaiting its audience and is an unapologetic, unmistakable gay romance narrative. But there’s another group of fans who really, really, really want and/or need that scene to be 100% unambiguous to even the most bigoted of people. They’ve been burned and queerbaited so often that they need that strength of confirmation to believe what they’re seeing is actually real. I think, for ace spec readers, that’s often similar. And when we do exist we get to be, say, Data. We don’t get to be human. We have to be aliens or robots or genetically engineered. Anything but a natural and healthy expression of someone’s sexuality. Though one reader felt Clariel embodied a lot of negative stereotypes, but I don’t know the details of why. I think you’re also the first person I’ve seen who described other people in the book as ace, which would be really wonderful! It’d be great to have a book with more clearly ace characters in the background as well as at the foreground!

          <3 Those are the best books to find, though! I'm so glad that Clariel managed to give you that! <3

      • LW

        Also, thanks in advance for your patience with my long, rambly reply. I am also rather low on sleep. 😛

        I’ve heard ‘Daybreak Rising’ mentioned a couple of times, so thanks for reminding me. Also the fact that Tor quoted and then didn’t promote Jankowski just makes me want to go read her stuff out of spite. C’mon, people.

        • <3 I love long, rambly replies! I just really wish I was able to engage with it more deeply than I can. I'm happy to discuss what I've heard, but I can't really engage with the actual content of the book meaningfully because what I've heard is all I know. If that makes sense. I think it does?

          I hope you'll enjoy it! I'm looking forward to reading it sometime next year! And yeah... And talking to you reminded me that they could also have picked Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown's Stranger to highlight. Though I suppose Mia isn’t the protagonist, so it doesn’t count. (If they were going for traditionally published ace protagonists, there’s Sulien from Jo Walton’s The King’s Peace too. That was one of the first recommendations I saw. I don’t think they mentioned her work at all?)

          Oooh, and I forgot to mention it in my previous reply, but I think you might like the Clariel-specific twist in Goldenhands? At least the first part. Not sure about the second.

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