Review: Fear Street 1666

Spoiler-Free Review:

The trilogy of films concludes with Fear Street: 1666. I’m not typically a fan of historical horror, but I loved R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Saga. Like its predecessors, 1666 makes a tonal shift for the third part of the story that fits the time period is set in. I appreciated how the color palettes of the films shifted with each movie, and I’m glad that trend continued. 1666 by nature is more somber than its predecessors, but the way that it brought back the cast of the first two films to play each character gave it a sense of familiarity. It dives deeper into the Shadyside mythos and delivered us even more queer energy. I think my favorite part of this was how the filmmakers leaned into the fact that queer people have always existed. I also appreciated how the truth about the curse unfolded. It went in the direction I had hoped it would and still threw in plenty of surprises. On a technical note, 1666 is more like two films in one. The 1666 portion is roughly one hour, but the rest is 1994: Part 2.  While it felt a little disjointed compared to the previous movies, I think it worked really well for the trilogy. It might be harder to grade a standalone film, but that’s because it does an excellent job of tying all three movies together. After watching it, it’s hard not to think of the trilogy as a single bloody epic. 1978 and 1666 tell their stand-alone stories, but 1994 is the glue that holds them together. I went into this trilogy with high expectations, and I was not disappointed. 1666 might be tough to score by itself, but it was the conclusion we needed. 

Score: 4 Stars

Observations & Spoilers

Keeping with the trend from my Fear Street book reviews, everything from this point on contains spoilers. So you can wait until you’ve seen the movie and come back, or you can read on ahead with reckless abandon. Consider yourself warned.

Most of us who grew up in the United States are familiar with the Salem witch trials witch of the late seventeenth century. It was the original Satanic Panic. We have our own legends about them, too. A lot of people think that the accused witches were burned at the stake, even though that was never the case. Even R.L. Stine’s The Betrayal acknowledges this fact, as it was only in the fictional Wickham Village where witches were burned alive. Fear Street: 1666 played into this beautifully. I loved the way that the curse was revealed to be quite different than the Shadysiders in 1978 and 1994 had been lead to believe. Sarah Fier was never the one who placed the curse; she was its first victim and the only one who ever figured out the truth.


I’m not typically a fan of historical horror. I found The Witch boring as hell. 1666 shares a similar aesthetic, but it never felt slow or inaccessible. Part of this was helped by all of the familiar faces assuming similar roles. It gave us a sense of who each character was without having to say very much. Likewise, the legwork done in the previous movies had already established knowledge of the Union settlement and the Shadyside curse. While 1666 was certainly darker and struck a much more somber tone, it still managed to maintain enough of the campy flair that has made this trilogy so enjoyable.


I was already impressed with the queer love story in Fear Street: 1994, and I’m glad that we got another one in 1666. The love story of Sarah and Hannah felt familiar because of the parallels to the 1994 story. Just like Sam, Hannah had an overbearing mother that didn’t approve. Witchcraft became a metaphor for queerness. Sarah and Hannah’s relationship became a scandal that got them accused of laying with the devil. The original Shadysider was a queer woman falsely accused in order to cover up the evil of man. I appreciated the way that this made the film feel current.


It was a bit jarring to be thrust back to 1994 after an hour in the seventeenth century, but we had a storyline to finish. It felt like an odd fit at first, but it worked when I stepped back and regarded the trilogy as a whole. We got some more 90s jams, we got some more bloody kills, and we got to see the family line that had cursed Shadyside brought to its knees. I will also note that the trilogy is very rewatchable. There are so many things that will jump out from the first two after seeing the final installment, especially the words and actions of Nick Goode. The movie also left the book open for future installments and spin-offs. I could easily see this becoming an anthology series of sorts. I hope that whatever comes prominently features the actual street in its title and that Reva Dalby shows up at some point.


And finally, a few weeks ago I got to interview Leigh Janiak (the director) and Phil Graziadei (co-writer of 1994 and 1666) on behalf of GeeksOUT. We got to talk about the queer elements of the trilogy, what books/movies influenced their storytelling, and whether we’ll be seeing more from Fear Street in the future. Check it out below.

Thank you for reading along on these reviews. If you’ve enjoyed these movies as much as I did and are maybe looking to scratch the nostalgic itch of your childhood R.L. Stine binge-reading days, I’ve been reading and reviewing a bunch of them on my blog for the last few years. My reviews are honest and not always glowing like the reviews for these movies have been. There’s plenty of memes and gif used to illustrate my points and have fun with the ridiculousness of it all. There are also plenty of other Fear Street, Goosebumps, Point Horror, and Christopher Pike books in the mix as well.

Review: Fear Street: 1978

Spoiler-Free Review:

Fear Street 1978 doesn’t waste any time getting right to the good stuff. Last week’s 1994 had already done a lot of the heavy lifting introducing us to Shadyside and the witch’s curse, so 1978 was poised to hit the ground running. Where the first movie featured an homage to nineties movies, the second part of the story does the same with the greats of the seventies. You can pick up references to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, The Exorcists, and probably several others that I missed. It also uses a different color pallet to establish a new feel and tone. We already got the headline of what happened at Camp Nightmoon, so we knew how the movie would end before it even started. The fun was in finding out how the events actually unfolded. The good stuff never makes it into the papers. The principal cast delivered some excellent performances. There were some truly brutal kills. We got plenty of new context to the information we found in the first movie. There were a few contrived items that stretched the realm of plausibility, but there was nothing so egregious that it took me out of the experience. The self-aware approach to old-school horror movie campiness helped a lot in that regard. Fear Street: 1978 works really well as its own stand-alone movie, but it also sets the stage nicely for Fear Street: 1666. I know the film did its job because I cannot wait for the third and final part of the trilogy.

Score: 4 stars

Observations & Spoilers

Keeping with the trend from my Fear Street book reviews, everything from this point on contains spoilers. So you can wait until you’ve seen the movie and come back, or you can read on ahead with reckless abandon. Consider yourself warned.

Fear Street: 1978 takes the Camp Nightmoon setting from the Fear Street novel Lights Out, but it doesn’t take much else from the book. I wasn’t exactly a fan of that book, so you will hear no complaints from me on this point. There weren’t many book references beyond what the first movie gave us, and I was honestly fine with that. I like the fact that these movies aren’t just beholden to a rigid canon, and are allowed to really be their own thing. These movies are for horror fans of all stripes; book fans and movie fans alike will find plenty to enjoy.

FEAR STREET: 1978 – Cr: Netflix © 2021

1978 was allowed to be a tighter movie in general because of all the heavy lifting that 1994 already did. We already knew about the curse; we even knew how many people were going to die at Camp Nightmoon by the end of it. The fun part was in seeing how events unfolded and picking up on the small ways it all tied together with the events of Part One. If the first movie was already giving you Stranger Things vibes, Sadie Sink helped carry that feeling into the second film. She leads an excellent cast of actors that includes Ted Sutherland as a young Nick Goode. I appreciated how the story made me really feel for these characters, even though I knew most of them were doomed from the start. Alice, who is portrayed by non-binary actor Ryan Simpkins, puts it simply: “Everyone has their own way of dealing with Shadyside.”


There was a really strong undercurrent of women supporting women at the core of this story. Women in movie roles and other sectors of the media are often pitted against each other. As though there can only be one that comes out on top. Fear Street: 1978 featured a really touching story between two sisters (Cindy and Ziggy) as well as between two friends (Cindy and Alice). The tragic way that the curse of Shadyside had infiltrated all of their lives was shown to have more depth than just the psycho killers who spring up every so often. It drove Cindy to strive for perfection to seek a way out. I drove Alice to cut themself and seek joys in the simple pleasures of life. It left the young Ziggy jaded and apathetic about ever being able to get away from Shadyside. It made that hopeful moment after Alice found Sarah’s hand all the more powerful. It also made Alice’s and Cindy’s deaths that much more tragic. I’m a firm believer that character is the key to any good story, and I’m so grateful that these movies have (so far) not lost sight of that.

FEAR STREET: 1978 – (L-R) EMILY RUDD as CINDY and SADIE SINK as ZIGGY. Cr: Netflix © 2021

I had a few issues with Sarah’s hand. I felt like it was found a bit too easily in both instances. The first one is more forgivable. The red moss was a nice touch. There was also plenty of it around Sarah’s grave in the first movie. I like the unnatural bright red look of it and how it represented a physical manifestation of the curse. I also thought it was cool the way that the Shadyside Mall was built around the hanging tree. I’m not sure that the roots of a tree that old and large could withstand being surrounded by a foundation like that, and I also don’t think the hand would just stay buried given all the surrounding excavation that would have needed to happen  I don’t know shit about architecture and engineering so maybe I’m completely wrong. Still, it stuck out to me as a little too convenient for the plot that Deena and Josh were able to find the hand again so easily. And that’s not even getting into the fact that they were able to easily break into a mall that was also the scene of a very recent mass murder without getting caught. But again, I was having fun so it was easy to let this point slide.

FFEAR STREET: 1978 – (L-R) TED SUTHERLAND as NICK and SADIE SINK as ZIGGY. Cr: Netflix © 2021

I found it a little confusing as to why Nick Goode gave the authorities Cindy’s name instead of Ziggys. The only reason I can think of was to save her from the curse since Ziggy is the one who bled on Sarah’s bones. But the cold way that Nick regarded Ziggy when she asked if he believed her about the curse seems to contradict that. There was something shrouded in his intentions. Maybe it’s something that will be revealed next week in Fear Street: 1666. There’s only one way to find out. Fear Street: 1978 premieres on Netflix July 9th.


If you’re enjoying the Fear Street movies and have been looking to scratch the nostalgic itch of your childhood R.L. Stine binge-reading days, I’ve been reading and reviewing a bunch of them on my blog for the last few years. There are plenty of Fear Street, Goosebumps, Point Horror, and Christopher Pike books already up there. If you like what you see, find me on social media and follow along. I will also be involved in the Geeks Out trivia event next week. We put together some really fun questions, and there may even be some appearances from the cast. See below for details.

There wasn’t as much explicitly queer content in this movie beyond the opening scenes with Deena and Sam. I still enjoyed the hell out of this movie. If Fear Street: 1666 takes things in the direction that I think it will, there should be more queerness on the horizon. For those of you that can’t wait, Netflix has been organizing several Queer Street events across the country. This Saturday it will be hitting New York City. Check out the details below if you’re interested, and maybe I’ll see you there!

Review: Fear Street 1994

Spoiler-Free Review

It’s been over 30 years, but we finally got a Fear Street movie! And not just one, but three of them! So let me take a moment to first acknowledge my excitement as a Fear Street superfan. This is a big moment. So you can only imagine how excited I was that they decided to center the movie on a queer relationship. You read that right: these aren’t just some minor side characters who will be killed just as soon as things start getting good. The new Netflix movie is also filled with plenty of homages to the Fear Street books. Some of them even make a very literal cameo. Nostalgia aside, this is a solid slasher horror movie. In fact, my favorite thing about them is how they tied the “cursed town” of Shadyside to the isolated slasher style of the main Fear Street series. This is what I had hoped they would do, and they delivered. My biggest complaint was the excess of nineties jams in the first half of the film. I am a child of the nineties, I love some good nineties jams, but the beginning of the movie overdoes it. 1994 also does some heavy lifting in order to set up the two sequels, making it a bit information-dense at times. The good news on that front is it sets things up beautifully for next week’s sequel: 1978. Overall, Fear Street: 1994 accomplishes what it set out to do. It keeps the self-aware camp of the books, delivers plenty of gory fun, and is worthy of several rewatches. 

Score: 3.5 Stars

Observations & Spoilers

As I do with my Fear Street book reviews, everything after this jump is filled with spoilers. So you can wait until you’ve seen the movie and come back, or you can read on ahead with reckless abandon. Consider yourself warned.

I had a lot of fun watching Fear Street: 1994. It did exactly what I was hoping to do with the Fear Street canon, and focused on the cursed town of Shadyside. What I didn’t expect was the way it tied supernatural elements of The Cheerleaders Trilogy and The Fear Street Saga to the predominantly slasher horror feel of the main Fear Street series. Deena, the lead character in the movie, takes her name from the main character of the iconic title The Wrong Number. The setting of the second movie takes the name of the summer camp from Lights Out. I’m sure there will be a catalog of Easter Eggs from titles that I missed, but those were the big ones. I wasn’t expecting a by-the-book adaptation to a series with 80+ titles and spin-offs. I think the creative team did an excellent job at keeping with the spirit of the books while making a movie that can be enjoyed regardless of having grown up reading them.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the decision to center the main story on a queer relationship. Queerness in the nineties was rarely acknowledged and representation was often problematic at best. Queer people have always existed, and that’s exactly how it’s presented in the movie. I had a feeling that Sam was a girl well before it was revealed, but I was also screening the movie specifically for queer content. Regardless, I think the creative team here can be commended for getting it right with Deena and Sam. Their relationship felt true to their characters, and their characters felt true to the queer women I have known. I certainly can’t speak for everyone in that regard, but after a lifetime of queer-coded straight main characters and cartoonishly stereotypical gay side characters, Deena and Sam felt honest and refreshing.


I did have some questions regarding Beddy, the nurse/drug dealer who sneaks the kids into the hospital after visiting hours. The character read as queer to me but wasn’t really around long enough for me to be sure. It felt like they had a backstory that got cut for time, and I wanted to know more. If Beddy were the only character with a hint of queerness, their limited presence and death would have been problematic. But the fundamental rule for breaking out of the bury-your-gays trope in a horror movie is to have so many gay characters that it doesn’t matter if some of them die. On that count, Fear Street: 1994 succeded. It also did a good job representing Black characters. Deena was the star, and Josh was the brains of the group that kept (most of) the kids alive. For a book series that was very much a product of its time, it wouldn’t have taken much to improve on this front. But to their credit, the creative team gave us a diverse cast of well-defined and memorable characters.

FEAR STREET PART 1: 1994 – (Pictured) BENJAMIN FLORES JR. as JOSH. Cr: Netflix © 2021

I appreciated the references and homages paid to the great slasher horror movies of the nineties. The opening scene especially took a lot of cues from Scream. Having Maya Hawke be the movie’s first kill was very reminiscent of Drew Barrymore’s role in Scream’s iconic opening scene. I do wish the Skullmask killer had been a little more distinct in that respect, but as we got into the history of Shadyside killers I became more forgiving of the choice. I found Ruby Lane, the milkman, and a few of the others way more compelling. But the Skullmask was definitely the most nineties of the bunch, and that was the point.

FEAR STREET – Cr: Netflix © 2021

My biggest complaint about the movie was the overuse of nineties jams crammed into the first thirty minutes. It was great when Garbage’s “Only Happy When it Rains” introduced us to Deena. It gave us a great sense of who she was right off the bat before she even said her first line. But as the kids entered Shadyside High we got berated with song after song. All of them worked in their own way, but it was akin to sensory overload. The songs never got their own moment to land. Thankfully this tendency doesn’t carry throughout the movie, and it wasn’t enough to take me out of enjoying it.


Fear Street: 1994 set things up beautifully for Fear Street: 1978. You can look out for my review on that one next Thursday. In the meantime, if you are feeling nostalgic for the paperback horror stories of your youth, you can check out my ongoing reviews of the Fear Street books over on my blog.

Review: Fence

Fence is a 12-issue comic series from Boom! Box was written by C.S. Pacat, with artwork by Johanna the Mad, colors by Joana LaFuente, and lettering by Jim Campbell. It has since been collected into three volumes that your local comic book store or favorite digital platform is sure to be carrying. While the series wrapped up its initial run in 2018, the story will continue as original graphic novels starting later this fall.

Fence follows the story of the scrappy Nicholas Cox and his arch-rival Seiji Katayama as the two compete to make the Kings Row fencing team. The first three volumes of the series focus on the tryouts and allude to the looming showdown with their rival school, Exton. The series is brimming with richly textured characters, from stoic team captain Harvard to the arrogant Aiden, who dates and dumps a new boy on the team every week. There’s lots of fencing terms and strategy talk, but it’s never overwhelming. Pacat does a great job of giving just the right amount of information for the story to flow without losing the reader in detail. 

I knew absolutely nothing about fencing before I picked up Volume One. I wasn’t even aware there was a genre called sports manga. But that didn’t stop me from immediately connecting with it. Maybe it was my own history with elite sports (I was an active member of my high school’s crew team for five years), but I couldn’t help falling in love with this story. It was easy for me to recall the all-encompassing intensity and competitiveness that comes with high school sports, and there’s certainly no shortage of that here. But I think my favorite part was how queerness is just a natural part of the world that these characters live in. It’s never scandalous or newsworthy; it’s just a part of who some people are. 

Reading through the first three volumes of Fence has been one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in a while. On its surface, Fence is a light-hearted American take on sports manga with queer themes. I expected it to be fun. I expected I might like it. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so sweet and sincere. If you’re looking for a heartwarming escape from the dredges of reality, Fence would be a great place to start.

DANIEL STALTER – My reviews for Geeks OUT are of queer comics and literature that I felt moved and inspired by. These are not timely reviews of current releases, nor are they negative or overtly critical. They are simply my way of sharing queer stories that I have loved with a wider audience. For a greater variety of my writing, check out my website,

Review: The White Trees

The White Trees is a beautiful two-issue fantasy miniseries written by Chip Zdarsky and brought to life by Kris Anka’s gorgeous artwork and Matt Wilson’s brilliant colors. The story features two excellent queer lead characters and explores themes of redemption and masculinity. It has the feel of a classic western mixed with a high fantasy epic. All of these elements weave together to make a simple but uniquely powerful story.

This miniseries could be a master class in how to word-build without excessive exposition. Zdarsky throws the reader right into the middle of a complex fantasy world, giving just the right amount of detail for the world of Blacksand to feel real. Kris Anka’s artwork manages to tell more story in a few panels than paragraphs of narrative text ever could have. The narrative follows the three ex-warriors Krylos, Dahvlan, and Scotair as they set out on a quest to rescue their two children who have been kidnapped by the Trilonians. Their quest packs a lot into two issues without feeling rushed. It’s got dragons, battles behind enemy lines, and even throws a queer fairy-god orgy into the mix for good measure.

One of the primary themes in The White Trees is redemption, centering on Krylos and his difficult relationship with his son. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the way that war has robbed him of his humanity and damaged his relationship with his son. Even though he laid down his sword after the death of his wife, he could never escape the emptiness that the war left him with. I was reminded of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, but with a fresh take on masculinity. Krylos is a legendary warrior and decorated hero in the eyes of the Kingdom, but those stories gloss over the damage that war leaves in its wake.

The White Trees subverts the expectations that come with a story about ex-warriors on a quest. Instead of the trope about a warrior who’s lost their edge, this story is more interested in exploring the ways that war robs people of their humanity. How it benefits the greed of Kings at the expense of those who do the actual fighting. That’s a notion that rings as true in the real world as it does in Blacksand. I don’t know if there are plans to do more stories in this world or with some of these characters, but I certainly hope Chip Zdarsky, Kris Anka, and Matt Wilson plan on collaborating again soon.

The first issue of The White Trees can be read on the Image Comics website. For print copies, ask about it at your local comic books shop.

DANIEL STALTERMy reviews for Geeks OUT are of queer comics and literature that I felt moved and inspired by. These are not timely reviews of current releases, nor are they negative or overtly critical. They are simply my way of sharing queer stories that I have loved with a wider audience. For a greater variety of my writing, check out my website,

A Look Back at Sina Grace’s run on Iceman.

Back in June of this year, Sina Grace shared a blog post about his experience working at Marvel. The post has already been subject to plenty of media coverage and online discussion, including on the GeeksOUT Podcast. For those of us familiar with the historical treatment of marginalized voices in publishing, the experience he described is equal parts frustrating, familiar, and disappointing. With that new context in mind, I decided to take a look back at his acclaimed run on Iceman.

Before I dive in, I should cover some of the history for those who didn’t the saga from the beginning. The Iceman solo series came about after the problematic outting of Iceman (aka Bobby Drake) in the All-New X-Men #40 back in 2015. The issue has become the subject of widespread criticism due to the way it was handled. In the story, a time-displaced younger version of Bobby Drake was prodded to admit that he was gay by his teammate, the telepath Jean Grey. After coming to terms with it, the young Bobby then confronted his present day older self. This left the adult Bobby Drake of the present day timeline to grapple with a reality he had been hiding from for his entire life. This is where the solo series picks up.

Thawing Out — Collecting Iceman (2017) #1-5 by Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, Edgar Salazar, Ibraim Roberson, Ed Tadeo, and Rachelle Rosenberg.

The first volume of Iceman dealt with a lot of familiar queer themes. It centered around Bobby’s already strained relationship with his mutantphobic parents, where he tried to make peace while trying to figure out the best way to come out to them. There was also some nice awkward conversations with his ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde, and a storyline where he tried to rescue one of his students from the charming and deceitful Daken. Bobby’s efforts to smoothly navigate his new reality as a gay man did not go as planned, but the messy results lead to some raw and powerful character moments. It was refreshing to see who Bobby was beyond his projected overconfidence and affinity for dad jokes. 

Absolute Zero —Collecting Iceman (2017) #6-11 by Sina Grace, Rober Gill, Ed Tadeo, and Rachelle Rosenberg.

The second volume opened with Iceman and his friends mourning the death of Black Widow, which occurred during the Marvel Secret Empire event. The series of events took Bobby and his friends to LA, where he met Jonah and ended up going on his first date since coming out. The story hits all of the beats of a first love story nicely, with the added complications of Bobby’s X-Men lifestyle thrown into the mix. This volume also ties up some of the loose ends from the first volume; namely the storyline with Daken and Bobby’s former student Amp. Daken’s actions ended up making a mess of things, but the second volume ultimately shows some important growth for Bobby’s character.

Amazing Friends —Collecting Iceman (2018) #1-5 and Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End by Sina Grace, Nathan Stockman, and Federico Blee.

The original run of Iceman was canceled after 11 issues, but was renewed for 5 more in 2018. The third volume picks up after yet another timeline reset of the Marvel Universe. There is now only one Bobby, who has absorbed the memories of his younger self and gotten himself a new Iceman costume. The main arc of the story dealt with the Morlocks, an underground group of mutant misfits who are unable to pass as human and live beneath the streets of New York. It also featured an excursion with Ema Frost where Bobby helps her rescue her gay brother, a team up with Spiderman and Firestar that pokes fun at the perils of superhero dating, and a face-off with classic X-Men villain Mr. Sinister. This collection also introduced the new drag performing mutant Darkveil (formerly known as Shade) to the Marvel canon. The closing issue also saw Bobby finally confront Jean Grey about the way she outted him and why it was wrong. 

Reading through the series, I was reminded once again how refreshing it is to have queer stories in set among familiar worlds and characters. While it would have been nice to see an Iceman story that wasn’t so tied up with the ongoing Marvel canon, Sina Grace’s run tells a unique story about an omega-level mutant learning to be emotionally vulnerable for the first time. The themes and situations may not be new, but their context within the popular X-Men franchise is.

For many of us, Bobby Drake has been coded queer for quite some time. I can remember how validated I felt while watching X2: X-Men United back in 2003, just months after I had come out of the closet myself. When Bobby’s parents asked him if he had tried not being a mutant before ultimately turning against him and his friends, it hit close to home. It was the first time that I could recall seeing my own experience represented in a mainstream film.

The X-Men have always been layered in queer themes. From the ostracization of a group of people rejected by their own families, to portraying the fears of mainstream society as a villain. I don’t think it’s what Jack Kirby and Stan Lee intended when they created the series back in 1963, but the queerness is right there it’s premise. That’s a big part of what makes it so disheartening to read about Sina Grace’s experience with Marvel. Stories like this are important and uniquely empowering. I want to see more of them, and I want to Marvel do better.

Review: Letters for Lucardo: Fortunate Beasts

Letters for Lucardo: Fortunate Beasts is the second book of the acclaimed Iron Circus graphic novel series by Otava Heikkila. I wrote a review of the first book for Geeks OUT back in 2017; you may want to start there if you’re thinking of reading the series. This review will contain some unavoidable spoilers for the ending of Letters for Lucardo. Fortunate Beasts was funded through Kickstarter in late 2018.

Fortunate Beasts opens with a brief passage set seven years in the future before cutting back to the aftermath of Letters for Lucardo. When Lucardo confronts his father about sending Ed away, things quickly escalate. The ensuing fight pulls back the curtain a little bit more on the true nature of Lucardo’s family and the Night Court. Lucardo ignores his father’s warnings and immediately begins searching for Ed. It isn’t long before Ed’s quiet new life is disrupted. Lucardo then brings Ed back to the Night Court in the most boisterous and public way possible, setting the stage for a showdown with his father.

One of my favorite this about this series is how the sex is a natural part of the story. It really goes against the grain of puritanical notions about sex that are embedded in our society. Heikkila is also particularly adept at including some delightfully awkward and funny moments that make the sex scenes feel really lived in. If you were to take away the erotic scenes, you would still be left with a touching story. But that story would be missing a pivotal part of what drives the relationship between these two men.

Fortunate Beasts is a more than worthy follow up to its predecessor. It added even more emotional depth to the characters, revealed more about the world of the Night Court, and left me really excited for the third book in the series. Both books are available now through the Iron Circus store.

Review: My Brother’s Husband

My Brother’s Husband is an all-ages manga series by Gengoroh Tagame. It was recently collected into two volumes by Pantheon Books, the first of which won the 2018 Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia. It tells a powerful and heartwarming story of grief, family, homophobia, and forgiveness.

The narrative centers around Yaichi, a single dad who lives in Japan with his daughter, Kana. After learning of the death of his estranged twin brother Ryōji, Yaichi finds himself preparing to welcome his brother’s Canadian husband into his home. He is uncomfortable to say the least. Ryōji’s husband, Mike, has traveled all the way from Canada to meet his late husband’s family. Although he is charming and carries himself with a cheerful demeanor, he is clearly still struggling with his own grief. He is there on a mission of his own; to fulfil a promise he made to Ryōji.

My Brother’s Husband is a relatively simple narrative that builds its strength through quiet moments and strong characters. Through Kana, Tagame shows readers the ways in which homophobia is learned. While her father is preoccupied with figuring out how he feels about his having his new brother-in-law around, Kana has no such qualms. She never struggles with accepting that her father’s brother was gay. In fact, she’s thrilled that she now has a Canadian Uncle.

The story also addresses the culture clash between the Western world and traditional Japanese beliefs. Where Japan by and large is not outwardly homophobic, there is a quiet indifference and an unspoken shame linked to queerness. While it is a stark contrast to the overt hatred displayed toward queer people in other parts of the world, it’s not exactly harmless. That last point comes into sharp focus Yaichi evolves throughout the course of the story, and he begins to see the role that he played in his estrangement from his brother.

My Brother’s Husband is ultimately a story about having the courage to change. It examines cultural barriers and family dynamics that harm queer people. It shows the power of self-examination, forgiveness, and growing beyond the prejudices of our past. It uses powerful imagery from seemingly quiet moments that allow the larger themes of acceptance and empathy to really have an impact and gravity to them.

Even though it begins with the tragedy of Ryōji’s death, and doesn’t stray from conventional storytelling, it is a well-crafted and beautifully drawn queer story that we need to see more of in the world. The full series has been collected into two volumes and published in North America by Pantheon Books.

Review: The Red Threads of Fortune

The Red Threads of Fortune by nonbinary queer Singaporean author JY Yang picks up four years after the events of The Black Tides of Heaven and centers on the prophetic twin Mokoya. Where Black Tides was a coming-of-age story that takes place over several years, Red Threads is a story of grief and redemption told over the period of a few days. The sharp contrast in structure between the two novellas enables the exploration of different themes and accentuates the contrast between the twin protagonists.


Through much of book one, Akeha’s perspective of Mokoya’s life was that she was lucky. She had her prophetic visions, a beautiful loving partner in Thennjay, and a purpose in their mother’s protectorate. Early on in book two, it is revealed that the prophecies were always more of a curse as far as Mokoya was concerned. She was able to see visions of the future and yet nothing she did in the present could ever change the outcome. Ultimately it just made her feel helpless; as though she lacked any agency over her own life. In spite of all of that, after the accident and her daughter’s death, she finds herself missing the prophetic visions that no longer visit.


At its core, The Red Threads of Fortune is a story about the complicated and often contradictory ways that people deal with grief. The loss of a child is a particularly acute form of trauma, and four years after Mokoya still has not really moved on. She used Slackcraft to graft her daughter’s soul onto a raptor whom she aptly named Phoenix. She left Thennjay and spends her days recklessly hunting naga. She is paralyzed by unpredictable and overpowering memories that seem to come and go at will, much like her prophetic visions once did. It is within this context that she meets Rider.


Rider is a practitioner of Slackcraft from the Quarterlands who rides a tamed naga. When Mokoya meets them in the Gusai Desert, they are on a secretive mission of their own. When a massive naga attacks the Mechanist stronghold city Batanaar, both Mokoya and Rider are pulled into the thick of the conflict to save the city. As their unique bond develops, Mokoya is forced to confront her own feelings of helplessness that have plagued her since childhood.


The Red Threads of Fortune takes an unflinching look at grief and its lasting effects. Mokoya is in many ways a prisoner of her past, and before that she was a prisoner of her prophetic visions of the future. While the story takes some unexpected turns, the plot itself is resolved in the end, and the underlying themes left me with some resonating questions: How much control should we allow a past we can’t change to hold over us? How many of us believe we are powerful enough to change our fate? They are the sort of questions that individuals must answer for themselves, just like Mokoya had to.


It’s with this powerful theme, built on the world-building foundation of Black Tides, that The Red Threads of Fortune elevates the Tensorate series to a whole other level.


Next up: the third novella in the series: The Descent of Monsters.

Review: The Black Tides of Heaven


The Black Tides of Heaven by nonbinary queer Singaporean writer JY Yang is an impressive feat of both subtly and depth. While fantasy isn’t usually known for its brevity, Yang manages to deliver a richly textured world packed with fascinating characters in a single 236-page novella. Thankfully, this is the first of three  in the Tensorate series.


The story focuses on the twins Akeha and Mokoya, and spans 35 years from beginning to end. Akeha and Mokoya are the children of the Protector, a ruthless matriarch who rules her Protectorate through intimidation and bloodshed. The plot begins to take shape when Mokoya has a series of prophetic visions, which prompts their mother to try to use her child’s gift to her own advantage. While both twins are featured heavily in the early chapters, the narrative is driven primarily by Akeha’s journey. With all the attention on Mokoya, Akeha eventually flees their mother’s protectorate to forge his own path.


One of the most fascinating details of this world that Yang has created is that children are not assigned genders at birth. We see this play out in a number of unique ways throughout the story. Some children choose very young, others wait until much later, and others still choose to remain somewhere in between. Both Akeha and Mokoya, for instance, each use gender neutral pronouns for the first two parts of the book.  The cultural norm is to recognize gender as something that comes from within, and that in and of itself is a beautiful thing.


Beyond its fluid beliefs on gender, the society within the Protectorate suffers from massive wealth inequality. The greatest source of power in this world is the Slack, which draws its energy from different parts of nature. The way people wield this power is reminiscent of the Force in Star Wars, but as the story goes on, Yang gives a sense that it’s much more complex than an energy that binds the universe together. While most secrets of the Slack are kept secret by the Tensors, they are facing an uprising from the resistant Mechanists. The seeds of this war are sewn in the early chapters and gradually take route throughout the story.


Although the book is short, the story itself is large and expansive. The details are intricate yet never overwhelming.  Yang has managed to bring to life a vivid world by only showing us exactly what we need to see. Lucky for us, there are two more novellas after this one: The Red Threads of Fortune and The Descent of Monsters, coming in July from Tor.