Today, two mini reviews of witchy LGBTQ+ novellas.
Darkling by Brooklyn Ray
Darkling is a paranormal m/m romance novella, and the first book in the Port Lewis Witches series. Its main character, Ryder, is a trans man, and there are also a side f/f couple, a side m/m couple and a non-binary side character. It’s implied that every character is queer, and I’m always here for all-queer casts.
I loved the atmosphere. Darkling is set in the rainy town of Port Lewis, and while there’s not a lot of worldbuilding, I loved this setting, and I think it was perfect for the mood of the story, which is dark and witchy.
I also loved the characters. Not only I actually cared about the main couple, which happens more rarely than it should, I also really liked Ryder’s family dynamics (his sister Jordan is great, their scenes were probably my favorites) and the friendships. Characters in novellas are usually underdeveloped, but not here.
I really liked Ryder. He’s a fire witch, but he is also a darkling, a necromancer, and he’s in love with Liam, a water witch who was his best friend for years. I loved them both and I loved their relationship. Darkling is a friends-to-lovers story that doesn’t rely on miscommunication; it doesn’t need to. It’s so short that the will-they-won’t-they part is barely there.
I usually don’t like books where there are a lot of sex scenes, that’s not what I look for, but here I liked them – they weren’t boring and the book was short.
The writing wasn’t perfect – there was a bit too much purring for my taste and there were some awkward dialogue tags here and there – but I didn’t care, because I could feel the emotions of the characters, and that’s what really matters.
My rating: ★★★★½
Take Your Medicine by Hannah Carmack
Take Your Medicine is a southern gothic retelling of Alice in Wonderland. Its main character, Alice Liddel, is a black girl with vasovagal syncope, a chronic illness that has no cure and makes her faint often. When she meets two girls who claim to be witches, she starts to wonder if they can help her find a cure.
I DNFed this book because the writing wasn’t working for me. I did like the descriptions – the atmosphere was perfect – but the dialogues felt forced, many scenes felt rushed, and the writing just didn’t flow well. Everything felt disconnected. I also don’t like when the characters’ accents are written in the dialogue, it always feels overdone.
When I say this is a book about witches, I don’t mean this is a book about magic, even if there’s a good amount of weirdness (it’s an Alice in Wonderland retelling, after all): this book is about holistic medicine, and in the part I read there was no magic. I only skimmed the second half, and I liked the ending*, but I don’t know how I feel about the f/f romance because I didn’t really read it. I don’t know if this was long enough to develop it consistently, as it’s a novella and 20% of my ARC was actually an excerpt from another book.
Apart from the atmosphere, the only thing I liked about this was the chronic illness rep: it felt real. There’s a scene in which the main character tells another person there’s a thing people do that makes her faint, and that other person immediately does it (a normal thing can hurt Alice! So funny!). I don’t have Alice’s illness, but I can say that this kind of reaction from people who think illnesses are no big deal is sadly very true.
*(SPOILERS: if you’re wondering, Alice is still chronically ill at the end of the book, she hasn’t found a cure, but she’s happy. Which, for me, was a good conclusion.)
My rating: ★★