Adrift in Starlight is the first novel in the Halcyon Universe series by Mindi Briar.
Finished on: 18.6.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give away.]
Content Note: (for this review) misgendering, acemisia, eugenics; for the novel you can find CNs in the book.
Tai is a courtesan, and they are very good at their job. That’s why they get hired by actor Xander Bose. Only he doesn’t want to hire them for himself, but for his fiancé Aisha who he feels needs a bit of loosening up. With the money Xander offers, Tai just can’t afford to say no. But they soon realize that Aisha – a career-focused historian with a touch aversion – may not be easily seduced. When Tai comes to the museum opening of the exhibition on insectoid aliens that Aisha curated, things take a very unexpected turn for both of them, though.
I really enjoyed Adrift in Starlight. It’s a quick, sweet queer romance in space that gives us a nice ending for Aisha and Tai, while hinting that there is more to come in this world. Absolutely lovely.
It’s no secret that I love queer stories, SciFi, romance and dragons – and Adrift in Starlight gives me all of that. So, of course, it had a huge bonus right off the start. But it also needed to live up to this bonus as I read it. And I’m glad to say that it did.
Tai and Aisha are lovely characters. They both come with their set of issues that makes it not so easy for either of them to trust the other, or to just fling themselves into a new relationship. But their insecurities don’t lead to too much angst (I’m not a fan of that), and are actually rather quickly resolved (maybe too quickly as my demiromantic self tends to say).
That Tai is gender-neutral (the book’s word) and pansexual and Aisha is biromantic and asexual is also nicely handled, I thought – without being non-binary or ace myself. I definitely liked that in the future that Briar envisioned, using they/them as a pronoun is absolutely unquestioned (Tai gets mistakenly misgendered a couple of times – they are femme-presenting and are refered to as “she” by a couple of people, but everybody switches to they once corrected, no matter how “evil” the character is). Queerness in general seems to be just accepted here, although Aisha’s asexuality is often ignored.
This general openness contrasts with Tai’s lack of knowledge about asexuality. As a courtesan, as a queer person and as somebody whose best friend is in a relationship with an ace person, I was kind of surprised that their initial reaction was “well, if you’re ace, a relationship is out of the question, I guess”. And that openness is also an interesting contrast to an otherwise rather patriarchal society. A part of the conflict comes from the fact that Aisha’s family wants to marry her off to a man so she can produce many babies (with “pure genes”, for that extra dose of fascism).
But apart from this small misstep in the world-building, I really enjoyed the book and its characters. It’s not perfect – there may have been one or two clumsily plotted moments, and a little more time could have been spent with the supporting characters, too – but it is very enjoyable indeed.
Summarizing: an extremely nice read.