Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Kell’s unwilling journey as the Chosen One continues! And so do his complaints, and his quips, and his defensively manic non-sequiturs. More importantly, so does his developing relationship with Ansel. A relationship that confuses Kell and weighs on him more than all the responsibilities people keep wanting to put on his shoulders as some kind of mythic hero. At least with this quest and prophecy, gods and daemons, Kell knows what to do: Go far, far away and try not to get caught up drama he wants no part in. But with his boyfriend (that is what they are, right? Boyfriends?), Kell has no idea what he even wants to do. Holding hands is enough for him, but is it enough for Ansel?

The stars, though, don’t seem to be willing to wait on him to figure out this thing called love. Instead, they throw him directly at the Lich King, and Kell … well, he might as well. What’s the worst that can happen? Besides, the Lich King might know where Kell can finally find the magic sword he’s always wanted.

“Maybe there is no such thing as destiny,” Kell continued. “Or maybe destiny is just what needs to be done by the only person willing and stupid enough to do it.”

“Is that you?”

“We’re about to find out.

Picking right up where I Am Not Your Chosen One left off, this second book in the Not Your Chosen One series features a half Vietnamese man trying to find himself while his boyfriend, a six winged angel, fights his fear of heights and his own magic, and his two friends — the elf Nea and the orlk Fre — try to keep Kell from falling off cliff edges. Not that they’re doing a good job, since he’s fallen down two cliffs already. Add in Myste and Ashe, the daeyons who are in theory trying to stop him, Ansels’s angry uncles who want him to come home, and Chó (my favorite character who I will not be spoiling), and it’s a cacophony of chaos posing as a quest.

Kell isn’t empathetic. Or observant. Or even particularly interested. He’s too busy being lost in his own head to bother trying to get into anyone else’s. He doesn’t want to look at the scenery, explore his feelings, or learn more about the world, the prophecy, and the destruction of magic he’s supposed to fix. Instead, it’s all shiny, sassy, surface-deep commentary and an action-oriented adventure which can seem misleadingly shallow. There are hints — some broad, some subtle — of the life Kell has lead, and how it’s hurt him and broken him.

He isn’t … fond of sex. Not the idea, and not the actuality, but previous relationships have either pushed him into giving more than he was willing to give, or just dropped him when he wasn’t able to conform to their needs. This leads Kell into wondering if they’re right, if maybe he’s the broken one, if his lack of sexual desire is something that can be — or ought to be — fixed. Ansel wants more than the hand holding; Kell sees that, and can accept that. He can even think so far ahead as kissing, but … more than that? He’s not sure he can. It’s hard to know if Kell is sex-averse or simply sex-ambivalent, but whatever the case, he’s simply not ready. Not yet. And maybe not ever.

And then there’s the moment in the dark and evil swap where Kell has a momentary melt down. Kell, who covers his insecurity and uncertainty with noise, with flippancy, with distraction and deflection, admits to his friends the thing that scares him most. Not ghosts, not dying or falling or daeyons. The wind gusting through the swamp sounds like his father, like his father’s breathing when he’s angry, and that small moment hints at a great deal of Kell’s history. Not that there was necessarily physical violence, but that there was tension and fear. Having revealed something so personal, Kell quickly sidesteps thinking, turning his brain deliberately to different thoughts to avoid having to deal with that … because a fantasy world with an evil Lich King intent on killing him is easier to face than the memory of his father.

Kell has an interesting philosophy in life, in this world. He refuses to make enemies. Instead, he’d rather have friends, rather leave the door open for the chance at friendship, even if Myste and Ashe still claim to be trying to kill him, even if Ansel’s uncles threaten him, even if the Squash Goddess snarls at him, there’s always a chance to get past the anger. It’s his greatest strength, but it’s also a weakness, because Kell doesn’t like taking a firm stand, doesn’t like defining anything if he can help it, which makes it hard for Ansel to figure out his place in Kell’s life.

Ansel loves Kell, even if he doesn’t always understand him. Ansel, too, has his own issues, having been born with three pairs of wings (in a world where the more wings you have the more powerful you are) and pushed from a young age to live up to it. Taken from his friends and age group, he was shoved up with older children who saw his wings as a slap in the face to all their hard work, and his shyness and desire to make friends as weakness. Ansel has been bullied, taken advantage of, mocked and left out, unwanted and unwelcome, and when Kell prevaricates, or avoids him, or spends more time with other people … Ansel doesn’t know what to do. Kell needs him, needs his magic, says he wants him as a boyfriend, but he doesn’t act like it.

Communication — and the lack of it — is a lot of this story. Kell choosing not to listen when other people talk, but expecting others to listen to him. Ansel finally asking for something from Kell just for him, any sign that he’s more to Kell than friends. It’s a conversation in pieces, taking place over much of the book as Kell first has to ask himself what he wants, what he wants to give (what he can give), and finally having the courage to say something real to Ansel, something that isn’t a joke. And this is just the first step on the road, for them.

There is a lot to like in this book. The writing is so light and flighty that it feels effortless to read, and the darker, heavier moments come on you with no warning. There are moments of satirical observation that I enjoyed, moments that hearkened back to the best and worst of every fantasy novel with evil beings and heroic quests:

On the horizon, a looming black castle rose from the dying land, jagged and imposing. It seemed to float above the ground, not touching it.

“One guess who lives there,” Kell muttered to himself. “Pretentious bastard.”

To the left and right, the mountains rose bleak and razor sharp above the land. Kell could see no paths or inlets into them. They edged in the Lick King’s territory, keeping him away from the rest of Allune. Or the rest of Allune away from him.

Maybe that’s why nobody actually did any fighting here. The geography didn’t let them. Nice move, stars, Kell thought.

Kell is a character with a lot of personality and the book is very voice heavy. If you don’t find Kell charming from the first, if you don’t enjoy his sense of irreverent humor, this may not be the book for you. If you are interested in these books (and I really hope you are!), I would strongly suggest downloading a sample to see if it’s to your taste.

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