I’m really grateful for ARC sites, you know? They offer me a wide range of books tailored to my tastes – sometimes the algorithm goes boom, but we’ll talk about that on a different post, yeah? – and they give me the opportunity to unheart little gems here and there.
Plastic bead, plastic bead, shiny but still plastic bead– oh hey, a pearl!
Meet one of the aforementioned pearls, please:
(I should have used a flower example and link back to the title. Good pun chance, wasted. Anyway!)
Historical. LGBT. Plot-driven. A sensible cover. I mean *handwave* Lucy May, you had me at hello.
There are many good features I want to highlight here. Let’s do an old fashioned bullet points list, because yes.
+ I know everyone and their mom already pointed this out, but it bears repeating: FBN is researched to the nth, and in such a meticolous way that I need to tip my fictional hat at Lucy May.
When I started reading, I knew just about zilch about Japanese culture. I had vague Geisha Memoirs recollections, I knew Tom Cruise donned a samurai gear at some point, and that was it. Sue me. Then FBN came along, picked me up and threw me headfirst into 19th century, where guilds exist, non-persons are a thing and unlicensed theathers are so illegal they can be raided by samurai.
I tend to give descriptions a wide berth
and set them afire if I have the chance. Here? I read them all and they didn’t bore me, because they were all relevant. I need to know about clothes if I want to understand castes; I need to know about physical places if I want to follow Ichi’s journey, who can’t rely on sight to get through life; I need to know about ceremonials if I want to understand how people used to live and worship.
All this is supported by a good writing style too, nothing feels clunky or dragging. Thumbs up.
+ No unnecessary sex scenes. Oh my god, YES. Thank you. Ichi and Tomonosuke are sworn brothers, just like Okyo and Rin are pledged to each other, but they don’t get it on every two pages. They’re… real? Their lives have ups and downs, and there’s no magical cock (or vag) that makes everybody happy again.
The sex scenes thing is an issue that I feel with a passion when it comes to LGBT books. I don’t know why, but they all feature explicit parts and. Why. You can tell a good LGTB story without (or with very little, much relevant) sex, I promise. It’s the plot that attracts me, not the dick/ass ratio.
TL;DR, less dicks, more plot. Do like Lucy May did here and we’ll get along splendidly (cit.).
+ Interesting side characters! I don’t bat for huge casts, they tire me out 9 times out of 10, but here I didn’t groan every time the plot focused on Okyō, Rin, or Gen, say.
Take Okyō. She’s not nice, per se, and a less talented author would have just left her at that, a semi-antagonist and mean just because. While the story progresses tho, her reasons and past start casting a very different light on her behavior. She never turns into a sympathetic character, but I can understand and respect her choices.
+ Tri-dimensional characters and disabilities portrayed in a realistic way. Plus, character growth. Tomonosuke begins his arc as a ‘proper’ samurai: he follows the rules, he’s a bit of an asshole, he treats everyone like they’re beneath him, even Ichi. He has feelings for Ichi, mind you, but he acts on them later on, after a through soul-searching. Ichi is blind, but he doesn’t let his disability define him. He’s a person with virtues and vices, not just a blind man.
+ Last but not least, the cover. OMG, I’m so tired of LGBT books featuring half naked people on display. So. Tired. Listen, if I wanted to ogle at a cover, then I’d go and grab myself some erotica. Shoehorning ABS and lingerie where they don’t belong isn’t cool anymore. Drop it.
The cover of FBN features a drawing of Ichi and Tomonosuke, with their clothes on; it attracted me because of their clothes being on. (Cue a 5675864759 pages essay about the importance of a good cover).
+ POV switching. Not going to lie here, if FBN was just a little less compelling, I would have dropped it in the DNF pile. Yes, the omniscient narrator pisses me off that much (I have Opinions© about POV switching and I’m not afraid to use them).
All jokes aside, I read FBN until the very end and I enjoyed it a whole lot, but the constant switching is the culprit of the 8 stars I’m going to give it. With a third and limited POV, I would have gone for a solid 9,5 and called it a story well told, no blemishes, no complaints. Why switching? Why? It’s confusing, it’s hard to follow and it gives away too much for too little payoff. It’s not worth it – pick a main character and stick with them.
That said, 8/10 and I’m following you on Goodreads, Lucy May. Your other books are on my TBR list – I have great expectations for them and for your future endeavors!
No pressure tho 😉