Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.
Worlds Torn Asunder Book One: A Lgbtq Fantasy Adventure Book For Young Adults by Matthew Lawler is a work that asks two important questions. First, how anime can a book get? And second, can it get more anime than that? Also, you’ll notice the title says “a Lgbtq Fantasy,” not “an LGBTQ Fantasy,” so I assume Matthew Lawler means for LGBTQ to be pronounced like a normal word, not an acronym. Anyway, let’s dive into this YA l’gabutqua fantasy.
The story begins with mysterious creatures called shades, controlled by some unseen voice, running amok in a fantasy kingdom called Taneral. King Leandrel finds the required protagonist children in their designated farm village, along with a McGuffin stone. But before he can bring the children under his protection, their parents are disposed of by shades. Honestly, I cannot imagine the terror that must wash over a new father or mother’s face when they first learn their child is a protagonist. What’s that little Timmy? You’re impossibly good at sword fighting and magic, and you have a cardboard cutout love interest? I’ll just be going; you’re the man of the house now, Timmy. Family friend and citizen of the Valheim dimension “Cliff” adopts them as his own. And then the evil knight Tylosis murders the king and takes the kingdom for himself.
The story proper begins several years later in the village of Myrial, where Jack and Serra visit the grave of their late ersatz father, Cliff. Apparently step-parents are not immune to dead parents disease. New king Tylosis pays an official visit, to steal the stone and generally wreck shit. There’s a showdown at the cemetary, which I imagined including diagonal cut-ins of characters saying “His power is over 9000!”. The shades kill most of the village at the king’s orders, while he sends Jack to a prison ship. On the ship, Jack meets Mike, and they ménage an escape, I mean manage an escape. This whole time Jack has been hearing helpful voices, and now those voices manifest as a physical creature, a rabbit named Nimi. A storm capsizes the boat and washes our heroes onto the shore of a small island. Jake has a dream of New York City being destroyed by shades. Meanwhile Serra has been adopted by somebody for some reason, and she’s training to be a fighter. Channeling her Nigiri powers, she is able to fly, heal wounds, and create blades of air. Eventually her sushi abilities are enough to defeat her own mentor, and bring her closer to her goal of finding and saving her brother.
On the island the boys encounter teen heartthrob Daniel (cue the YA lugbtuq fantasy soft focus) and weirdo aristocrat Surreal, who teaches Jake how to sword fight. This proves to be difficult, as Jake was a “cry baby” as a child and so doesn’t take easily to physical combat. Wait, no accelerated fighting skills, no ready-made home town sweetheart… How is Jake even a protagonist? This must be one of those animes where the hero is some ordinary guy surrounded by more interesting characters. The lads learn to talk to a bird by emotionally bonding with it, and no, that doesn’t turn dirty. I was surprised too. The island party is completed when Serra finds an old ghost ship that takes her to her brother’s location. The ghosts, who clung to this life in order to deliver exposition, kindly evaporate once their job is complete, and the gang is back together again. And that’s when things get weird. Over the last few chapters, we’ve been shown glimpses of another perspective. Nick and Lella live in modern times and have some inkling of the existence of the shades as well. Then the evil voice controlling Tylosis sends him through a portal to current day New York City. The modern day parts have a superficially sci-fi feel to them, which often happens in “alternate universe” fantasy.
I know I say this a lot, but the writing and formatting in this book make me want to write “see me after class” on my Kindle. Paragraphs will randomly change margins. Page breaks will happen halfway down and mid-sentence. There are run on sentences and sentences inexplicably split by a full stop. Then/than is wrong approximately 100% of the time. And then there are the apostrophes. Dear lord, the apostrophes. You might think “Oh, Madeline, you delicate little petunia. Just accept that an apostrophe means ‘here comes an S,’ and spare your blood pressure.” You do not understand. I mean, yes my blood pressure looks like a Fahrenheit-to-Celsius conversion chart on a cookie recipe, but you cannot grasp how far these apostrophes have gone in order to ruin my day. There is an apostrophe in the word “keep’s sake.” Those dangly little bastards brought their own S! My mind has reached the point where every time I see a quotation mark in this book I expect it to pull apart into two taunting apostrophes. When I inevitably go to hell for ridiculing innocent writers of earnest YA lagabataquee fantasies, it’s just going to be apostrophes, poking me for eternity with their stupid little points. “What’s wrong?” They’ll coo in mock concern, “don’t you want to know when an S is imminent?”
In contrast, the character relationships are surprisingly strong. The goal of Jake and Serra to reunite is consistent, unlike similar stories where the protagonist forgets about their emotional entanglements whenever there’s a training mantage to get through. And despite the use of the word loogbitqu in the title, this is not a romance! There are just people who are gay and sometimes they do gay stuff, but mostly they have fantasy adventures. I must say, this is a refreshing change of pace from the usual queer content in YA fantasy, or at least the sort of YA fantasy I end up reading here, i.e. eye-wateringly explicit sex mixed with covertly anti-gay tropes.
“Jake felt Mike place one of his hands on his waste and he blushed his heart beating faster.”
I think we’ve all been there.
Like always, as painful as it was to get through Worlds Torn Asunder Book One: A Lgbtq Fantasy Adventure Book for Young Adults, I can see someone getting something out of it. You have to be willing to look the other way on a lot of basic writing mistakes, and in fact you may start to wonder if you’re the illiterate one for thinking that then and than are not interchangeable. But the reward is a fun adventure. And best of all, it’s free right now on Kindle.
I sat through another one of Madeline’s dumb reviews, so now you do too.Tweet