After the apocalypse, persecuted gay lovers fight homophobia and dragons!

The mysterious sudden climate change called the Ice descended about eighty years prior to the beginning of this book. 17-year-old David's 100-year-old grandmother barely remembers what things were like before; the government is still hanging on and handing out precious seed wheat; the culture is reminiscent of the Old West but the social mores are reminiscent of the 1950s, due to a resurgence in religious and social conservatism immediately post-Ice.

The best things about this novel were the atmosphere and the voice. (This is the third book in a row I've reviewed with that note, isn't it?) The cold is palpable, David's voice is likable and unique, and the small town and its culture are very well-imagined: Little Town on the Prairie after the apocalypse.

The first third or half of the novel, in which David slowly introduces us to his world, is very strong. A young new healer, Callan, shows up to help the old one. In David's eyes, Callan is hot, sophisticated, bringing a whole new world of intelligence and culture in the form of precious books, and hot. I am a total sucker for the "what are these strange feelings?" trope, and David's awakening sexuality is sensitively depicted.

Problems set in at about the one-third mark, and the same one continues all the way through: amazingly stupid decisions. In a world in which doors have latches and homosexuality is punishable by death, I find it mind-boggling that the town healer, who commonly has people suddenly rushing into his office due to medical emergencies, would get a blow-job in his office without latching his door first. I also find it boggling that a townsperson would give him one under those circumstances. Sure enough, someone walks in, and both are immediately jailed.

This sort of thing is especially annoying because other aspects of the book continue to be very good. I'd be lulled along by the sweet romance and well-done scenes of post-apocalyptic life, and then wham! Astounding stupidity!

Also, the last half-to-third borders on grimdark. Warning for child harm. Major spoilers below.

Child harm: David's sister is killed by a dragon.

Two stupidities which particularly jumped out at me:

- David and Callan's amazing compulsion to make out under the worst possible circumstances. I particularly note the part where they are in a flimsy tent with an armed enemy guarding them from the next tent over.

- The bizarre government conspiracy. This was a case in which less justification would have been better. The basic idea was workable: the government released genetically engineered dragons to terrorize the townspeople into fleeing, so the government could steal their land. If it had been left at that, it would have been fine.

But Day then added that the government had the legal right to just order the townspeople to leave. So the dragons were there only because the townspeople might refuse, and then the government would come in with an army, and that would be... more difficult/complicated/dangerous for the government than releasing dragons?

Furthermore, townspeople remark upon the fact that their land is worthless. Then why does the government want it? Maybe this comes up in the sequel, but in the first book, I couldn't tell if it was a dangling plot hook or a plot hole.

A Strong and Sudden Thaw

There is a sequel, but Goodreads reviews suggest that it's excruciatingly depressing. I think I'll give it a miss. But I did enjoy the first book, albeit with caveats, and it has a satisfying ending.

From: [identity profile]

I lovedlovedloved this book, but yeah, horrible things kept happening to the characters in the sequel, I was really disappointed.

From: [identity profile]

Did you write a review?

I peeked at the Goodreads reviews of the sequel, and... all else aside, that was just not where I was expecting the story to go.

From: [identity profile]

I mentioned reading it on my journal and finding it too depressing, but it can't exactly be called a review.

From: [identity profile]

The first part sounds so good, but I really can't deal with people making stupid decisions (and stupid sex decisions least of all - I guess I've just never been a sufficiently libido-ruled teen to have any understanding for that nonsense, or something) and I have no interest whatsoever in grim-dark books.

From: [identity profile]

Borderline grimdark. ;)

But the stupid sex decisions are rampant. So to speak.

In real life, people often do make unbelievably stupid sex decisions. (Monica Lewinsky. I rest my case.) But it's incredibly annoying to read about.

From: [identity profile]

I guess I've just never been a sufficiently libido-ruled teen to have any understanding for that nonsense

I'm glad I'm not the only one. This was one of the major weaknesses of the second Kushiel trilogy for me: I have zero engagement with the "I know this is a terrible idea but I just can't keep it in my pants!" trope. You can tell me it's realistic, and I won't doubt you . . . but I just want to hit the characters, and that doesn't make for a good reading experience.

From: [identity profile]

Oh, my goodness, me too. Many an otherwise great book has been run into a wall for me by having a protagonist make amazingly stupid decisions based on Must Remove Pants feelings. (I realize people do make those sorts of mistakes IRL, but that doesn't mean I want to read about them.)

From: [identity profile]

At me to this train. I've never understood it, and I can't STAND reading about it. (This is why 80% of all YA paranormal romance, if I'm being generously conservative, really grinds my gears.)

From: [identity profile]

I agree with you -- having characters make stupid decisions, about sex or anything else, will kill a book for me. (Note: "wrong" decisions are allowable; "stupid" decisions are not.)

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