When General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ wellbeing and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.
Title: Stone and Steel | Author: Eboni Dunbar | Publisher: Neon Hemlock Press | Pub Date: September, 5 2020 | Pages: 92 | ISBN13: 978-1952086052 | Genre: Fantasy | Language: English | Source: Purchased | Starred Review
Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar Review
Stone and Steel is like a Black/Queer, greatest hits album of classical or epic fantasy. Let me try and explain what that means.
Classical fantasy and/or epic fantasy is, historically, European in its history and well of influences. Because of that European background, the genre is typically very white. This isn’t a space that, until recently, has made a lot of room for marginalized characters. Epic fantasy includes very few Black characters, characters of color, and Queer characters. The other, more subtle aspect of the genre, is the sometimes racial coding that can be present in the various fantastical creatures or races that may inhabit a secondary world. There can be an othering that occurs, whether intentional or not.
The epic fantasy genre also has it’s tropes that draw readers in. There’s epic battles, and exploration of the secondary world. There’s complex relationships and much court intrigue. There’s claims to a throne, usurpers to the very same, and secrets to be uncovered. Who will win out? A character mad with corrupt power or will a more just leader emerge. These types of actions, played out over thick books in a multi-volume series, draw readers deep into the world.
Eboni Dunbar takes all of these ideas, and the familiarity that readers of these stories have with these ideas, and uses it to her advantage to remix the genre into an epic, 92 page secondary world fantasy. She knows the reader’s expectations and gives them all of the good stuff in a small package: political intrigue, battles, familial secrets, betrayals, double-crosses, revelations. It’s all there. This is a world that could easily be explored in other works.
Stone and Steel is also Black/Queer AF. In 92 pages Aaliyah and Odessa and the other characters are elbowing their way into the epic fantasy space and making sure their stories are told and their presences are felt. Stone and Steel is the slogan, “We’re here. We’re Queer. Get used to it.” in novella form, making room for others to follow and inviting them to do so.
You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads. (Buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.
Brian Lindenmuth is the former non-fiction editor of Spinetingler Magazine and the former editor of Snubnose Press. He likes both kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction. He blogs about subtitled TV shows and movies at One Inch Tall Movies