I had not read any of J.K. Pendragon’s work before, but I shall be reading a lot more in the future. Having just read ‘To Summon Nightmares’ I am a convert.
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Cover Artist: Megan Derr
Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars
Three years ago, Cohen Brandwein was “Ireland’s Favorite Daughter”, a popular teenage author and internet celebrity. But ever since he came out publicly as trans, the media’s treatment of him has been less than golden, and these days, Cohen is desperate for escape.
When he inherits an old house in the country, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to escape the press and work on his new book. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a small town murder mystery and falling for the primary suspect, a man whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…
What a child might use as a toy, an adult would use as a weapon…
This story could be seen as a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for. I read ‘To Summon Nightmares’ with great enjoyment and relish. The story is intriguing, the characters likewise intriguing , interesting and likeable. The pace of the book and the created atmosphere means the reader is always slightly off balance, anything can happen and probably will. This is an alternate reality where magic exists unknown to society and a shady organisation governs those who have and use magic. This organisation has become corrupt at the top levels and two young men, Niall and Jacky, are kept and tortured by the ‘Guild’, following an ‘incident’ when they were sixteen. Their story is one thread of this novel, which eventually entwines with the story of Cohen.
Cohen Brandwein is a trans* man who has ‘escaped’, from the comforting world of his family in Dublin to transition, and discover if he can survive by himself. He inherits a large old house, in a small Irish town from an aunt who was thrilled when he became a young published author. His books, a fantasy series, are very popular but Cohen has also made videos for You Tube in which he has detailed his thoughts as a young trans* man on his path to transition. These have become very helpful to, and popular with his readers. I love the character of Cohen he is kind, sensible and brave and although he has such needs, he is never needy. The writing that details the pain and anxiety, surrounding his gender dysphoria, is so heart wrenchingly real it made me cry.
Stories entwine when Niall saves Cohen from a rain soaked walk, when his lawyer fails to pick him up from the train station. Unable to gain access to the inherited house, Cohen stays the night at Niall’s and life will never be the same for either of them.
This novel is so much more than the sum of its parts. It is a romance, and one in which the relationship, and especially the sex scene, is very sensitively and believably written. It is a mystery, as there are murders occurring in this small town, and Niall is the main suspect in the beginning. It is fantasy, and contains magic with references to myth and legend. However, the story also includes small town prejudices, family and individual struggles with gender identity, moral dilemmas regarding the common good and magical battles.
The author subverts gender norms and stereotypes with aplomb and it is a joy to read. I suspect it could have been a temptation to some authors to make the young trans* man the weaker of a couple, emotionally as well as physically, but J.K. Pendragon does not fall into this marketing trap. Cohen is mentally very strong and has had to be all his young life. Niall is the more lean muscled gay man with the power, but he leans on Cohen for much of the book both for emotional support, and for moral direction. The more I write for this review the more I see in this novel.
Simply put you get two stories for the price of one. On one level you have a great story with realistic and interesting characters and a fine conclusion, but after the epilogue…
You have to read this book, then you can discuss what the epilogue means to you…with me!
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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