Gorgeous queer fantasy

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emmacathryne Avatar


I can't believe I somehow missed this inspiring queer fantasy when it debuted in 2018! Theodora, or Teo, has never felt comfortable in a woman's body but is perceived as the second daughter to a powerful landowner in an Italian inspired fantasy world. Desperate to prove themselves to their father and help their house, they begin take matters into their own hands by using the secret magic to turn men conspiring against their family into household objects. This magic catapults them down a road that leads to an assassination attempt, mistaken identities, and a beautiful love story between two genderqueer protagonists who can switch between male and female presenting bodies at will.

More than anything, this novel reminded me of a spiritual companion to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, exploring and bending ideas of gender and sexuality alongside politicking leaders, dramatic cases of mistaken identity, and murderous familial drama set against a faux-italian countryside. While the plot couldn't be more different, this novel takes the implicit themes from Shakespeare's masterwork and makes them explicit, pushing up against stereotypes and expectations of gender to allow its protagonist to freely explore their identity. I wish the magic system had been beefed up a bit more and the pacing felt harried at times, but overall this was thematically original and romantic as hell.