Reasons for Inclusion: Poly relationship. All characters have dark skin. Jude is genderqueer using jee/jem/jeirs. Crispin sometimes uses a wheelchair. Queer identities are common and accepted in other countries. Lila is asexual. Side M/M couple. Rachel is demiromantic.
Ben and Cecily, a prince and princess sharing the same body, are to be sacrificed to a dragon on their twentieth birthday. Or not, if their new teachers have anything to say about it.
Dragonborn is a powerful fairy tale absolutely bursting with diversity. Though queer relationships and identities are banned in the twins’ country, they’re accepted everywhere else, as new tutors Crispin and Jude reveal. They’re a charming duo, making for scenes with brilliant dialogue and emotion.
As the story goes on, more characters are spun into the plot. There’s Cecily’s tutor Rachel, and Lila, the princess who’s engaged to Ben but turns out to be more interested in Cecily. And as myriad bonds form between them, they must work together to save the twins from a horrible fate.
I loved all the diversity in the book, and how well it was introduced and handled. Crispin explains gender and pronouns without being preachy, and the twins accept it immediately. Various queer romantic and sexual orientations are validated over the course of the story, with the focus always on acceptance, respect, and consent.
On that note, it is a little disappointing the story is set in the one nation that’s intolerant. That’s necessary for the plot, but I’d have loved to see more of the rest of the world. I’m hoping for more stories in the future with this amount of diversity in a setting where it’s no big deal and there’s no oppression to be fought.
But what this story does is spectacular. The characters are fully formed, with personalities that go far beyond just their identities. Politics, magic, history, and love are all important to the resolution. The relationships are sweet and develop smoothly, finishing in happy endings all around.
With bright and captivating characters, bold worldbuilding and across-the-board inclusiveness, Dragonborn should top any list of queer fairy tales.
(review copy from Netgalley)