Every now and then you’ll come across a book which will make you feel like the author looked into your soul and created a universe just for you. These books are special treasures and Heart Of The Lost Star is one of those books for me.
I really just want to write KAMIR!!! followed up by a whole row of hearts, but I’ll try to sound at least mildly professional for the tone of this review, because you probably want to know if you should give this book your time and money. Which you totally should, right now, without needing this review, but if you’re unconvinced, let me list the ways this book made my heart sing:
Kamir: Lord Kamir is a trans man who doesn’t feel the need to prove himself to anyone. He’s independent from his miserable family. He doesn’t take shit from his ex-husband. He bore his own children and raises them as a single father. He wears flowers in his dyed hair. He’s pretty and beautiful and still very much a man and I can’t express my love of him enough. There just aren’t enough characters like Kamir in fiction and I need more dammit.
Jader: He’s a child of multiple worlds, constantly caught at an intersection between the culture of his upbringing, the culture he lives in, and another culture that wants to claim him. Despite his inner conflict, his identity never wavers and he treats his adopted Islander family with respect and reverence, proving that environment is far more important than genetics when it comes to having a sense of belonging. I love how he often changes languages in the middle of a sentence – that’s such a real thing.
The letters: Kamir and Jader spend a lot of this book apart, but the letters they write to one another are wonderful. They’re sweet and sometimes spicy but never saccharine. As someone who was apart from my spouse for a long time, I can totally appreciate how much of a lifeline letters and gifts can be when someone is thousands of miles away.
The romance: Kamir and Jader seem to be the only ones who don’t realize that their love affair is going somewhere. It’s adorable how oblivious they are, but also great that they don’t rely on romance or each other to fix their problems. They don’t need each other – they choose one another.
The worldbuilding: Sometimes you just need to step into a world where LGBTQ issues are a non-issue, and this series is like a breath of fresh air in that regard. It’s not 100% fluff in that other real-world issues are there (divorce, custody battles, abusive family, financial insecurity, racism) but it’s wonderful to have queer characters who are just there, living their lives without constantly having to justify and explain their existence to the people around them or to the reader. The fantasy world they live in is fully fleshed-out, with vastly different cultures mixing and sometimes clashing. This book especially looks into Islander culture and how Mainlanders often look down on their polyamorous and matriarchal traditions, but also how society is growing and changing with Sarrica on the throne to get past those beliefs (also how that’s not an instant change, but one that’s happening over time and is a process fraught with difficulties and challenges).
The meddling: I love how much Allen, Tara, Rene and even Sarrica interfere, both in good and bad ways. They’re protective of Jader but also want to see Kamir escape the nasty situation with his ex-husband. It was entertaining every time they stuck their noses in, making the High Court seem like one big family of squabbling, scheming, but ultimately loving friends.
The Heart of The Lost Star might actually edge out The High King’s Golden Tongue for my favorite book in this series, which is saying a lot because I love that book. I think it struck home for me in several ways on a personal level, but that the characterization and world-building is so strong that anyone can come to this book and enjoy it.
I’m also so happy to see trans men who aren’t all about masculinity, because gender’s this weird messy thing and that’s rarely represented well in fiction. Trans people are as diverse as any other group and I’m super happy to see trans men expressing their femme side without having to constantly explain or defend their gender identity to other characters in the book. In addition, I love that the trans characters in this world don’t physically transition. It would have been easy for the author to come up with some tea, herb or believable method of transition but she doesn’t, and I like that. There just aren’t enough books about trans people who can’t/don’t need/don’t want to physically transition, let alone books where despite that, they still make an accepted social transition.