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Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Unbalancing by R. B. Lemberg

The Cover to The Unbalancing by R. B. Lemberg

The Unbalancing: A Birdverse Novel

by R. B. Lemberg
Published by Tachyon Publications • September 20, 2022
ISBN 978-1616963804 • Paperback • 256 Pages

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Book description:
In this first full-length novel from the acclaimed Birdverse, new love blossoms between an impatient starkeeper and a reclusive poet as they try together to save their island home. Nebula, Locus, and Ignyte finalist R. B. Lemberg (The Four Profound Weaves) has crafted a gorgeous tale of the inevitable transformations of communities and their worlds. The Unbalancing is rooted in the mystical cosmology, neurodiversity, and queerness that infuses Lemberg’s lyrical prose, which has invited glowing comparisons to N. K. Jemisin, Patricia A. McKillip, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
“An enchanting world of star lore, magic and gender identity with a roster of heartfelt characters.” ―Tlotlo Tsamaase, The Silence of the Wilting Skin

Beneath the waters by the islands of Gelle-Geu, a star sleeps restlessly. The celebrated new starkeeper Ranra Kekeri, who is preoccupied by the increasing tremors, confronts the problems left behind by her predecessor.

Meanwhile, the poet Erígra Lilún, who merely wants to be left alone, is repeatedly asked by their ancestor Semberí to take over the starkeeping helm. Semberí insists upon telling Lilún mysterious tales of the deliverance of the stars by the goddess Bird.

When Ranra and Lilún meet, sparks begin to fly. An unforeseen configuration of their magical deepnames illuminates the trouble under the tides. For Ranra and Lilún, their story is just beginning; for the people of Gelle-Geu, it may well be too late to save their home.

About the Birdverse: The Birdverse is the creation of fantasy author R. B. Lemberg. It is a complex, culturally diverse world, with a range of LGBTQIA characters and different family configurations. Named after its deity, Bird, Birdverse shorter works have been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, Tiptree award, and Rhysling awards. The Four Profound Weaves is the first full-length work set in the Birdverse.

One of the many reasons I find R. B. Lemberg’s writing so captivating is that they don’t weigh the reader down in details, be it their stark, to-the-point writing style, or their lack of handholding in explaining how the magic of Birdverse works. Rooted in deepname magic, the mythology of the people of this world and their deity Bird remain mostly unexplained, but Lemberg tells their stories in such a way that you feel you understand the complexities regardless.

The Birdverse is a world where queerness is the only way of life, and neurodivergency is understood and accepted. Frankly, it’s beautiful. When we are faced daily with hatred and anger, with politicians trying so hard to strip us of our rights, it’s so unbelievably refreshing to find characters and a world like this, where what makes us special and unique is celebrated instead of vilified.

With The Unbalancing, Lemberg tells a story of love, struggle, and sacrifice, but ultimately also of community, about how we are at our strongest when we can put our differences aside and work together. If you’re looking for a happily ever after, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a story of hope, even when things seem to be at their darkest. I won’t lie, I struggled through the beginning of the book; why, I’m not sure, but I didn’t find it as immediately engaging as The Four Profound Weaves, Lemberg’s previous Birdverse novella. However, I’m so glad I stuck with it, as the finale of the story, while heart wrenching, did leave me with that feeling of hope.

Can we also take a moment to appreciate the cover design and interior layout work of Elizabeth Story, because it is fantastic. I was blown away by the cover design for The Four Profound Weaves when I first saw it, and I'm so pleased to see that creativity being carried forward with The Unbalancing. I hope Story does the design work like this on all future Birdverse books!

Someday, I’d like to read more of the Birdverse. Originally told in short stories and poems published in various magazines online (The Four Profound Weaves was the first novella length story, and this is the first novel), I’d love for a collection to be published collecting all the previous works (I’m looking at you Tachyon Publications!). It is a rich and vibrant world that I hope to read more of far into the future.

The Unbalancing will be available September 20, 2022. I’d like to thank Tachyon Publications for the digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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