Book Review - A Call to Arms

I received A Call to Arms from the author in exchange for a review. When I saw her post about an lgbt+ fantasy book, I was certainly interested!

Here's the summary from Amazon:
Gibben Nemesio is in trouble.

His parents are dead, his sister is missing, and he's been left the sole provider for his two younger brothers. With a war brewing in the east and no guarantee of surviving another brutal winter, Gib's life is plagued by uncertainty. To make matters worse, he suddenly finds himself uprooted from his home and drafted into the army.

Forced to leave his siblings behind, Gib reports to Silver City, where he enrolls in the legendary Academy of Arden. An outsider and misfit, Gib struggles to blend in among the highborn city folk. His charming candor eventually wins him a handful of friends—an enigmatic mage trainee with a secret, a young girl who has defied tradition by joining the military, and a prince looking to escape his stifling life. But his new-found comrades may not be able to help when Gib alone overhears a traitorous plot—a scheme so horrible that if seen to fruition, all of Arden will suffer for it. It's up to Gib to convince the High Council of Arden to act, to stop the terrible danger, before it's too late.


I'm a little unsure of how to rate this book. On the one hand, the authors are incredibly talented. Their story flowed well,the writing style was fluid, and the dialogue sounded like real dialogue verses some authors who can't quite make their characters sound like people. The characters were interesting (although the antagonists were somewhat flat), the main character was likable and developed, and the love story was adorable. I finished this book in a very short time because I found myself engrossed in the plot and wanting to know what happens, especially towards the end when the plot was rolling along great. I definitely wasn't disappointed about this being a good lgbt+ read. And I'll say it again: the love story was adorable. Gib was adorable. I love it when the main character is that likable!

But there were a few things about the story that bugged me: namely, the characters' ages. I'm not sure why the authors decided to make them so young when this didn't really feel necessary for the plot and at one point it had me skeeved out to the point of being unsure if I wanted to continue the book. Spoiler time: namely when the characters go to a tavern and the main character is encouraged to sleep with a prostitute. He's thirteen. I get that a society might have adulthood be reached earlier, but this really rubbed me the wrong way. I also understand that it was a way for the character to realize he was gay, but that could have also been approached in a different way. I would have probably written this scene differently or else have aged the characters up a few years because it really didn't fit with the rest of the story, which read more like situations a young character would find themselves in. I know I'm biased when it comes to prostitution in fantasy stories because it's one of those "historically accurate" tropes that I hate, but combined with the youth of the character... yeah, this was my least favorite part of the story.

There were a few other "historically accurate" type of tropes, like how women were seen as fairly useless, but that one was actually written pretty well since the culture is working towards more equality. I don't mind misogyny in stories when it's something that the characters/culture is working to change. (When this isn't the case, I tend to drop the book rating by several stars.) Mostly, though, this story felt refreshing and new.

Overall, this was an enjoyable story and I would recommend it to someone looking for a good lgbt+ fantasy book. I'm not going to read the sequel, though, because the reviews say it's a series of bad things happening and since I strongly dislike books that are perpetual downers, I'm going to give that one a miss. If the authors pick up with a different series or something down the road, though, I wouldn't mind reading more of them! I'll give this book 4 out of 5 stars.



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