Release Date: December 31, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author
Dev has been with xyr service submissive Noam for seven years and xe loves them very much. Dev and Noam have built a good life together in Noam’s family home in Oakland, where they both can practice their magecraft, celebrate the high holidays in comfort, support each other as their disabilities flare, and where Noam can spend Shabbos with their beloved family ghost.
But Dev’s got a problem: xe has been in so much arthritis pain recently that xe has not been able to shield properly. As an empath, no shielding means Dev cannot safely touch Noam. That has put a strain on their relationship, and it feels like Noam is pulling away from xym. To top it off, Dev has just had an upsetting dream-vision about xyrself and Noam that caused one of the biggest meltdowns xe has had in a while. It’s only with a timely tarot reading and the help of another genderfluid mage that Dev is able to unpack the situation. Can xe figure out how to address the issues in xyr relationship with Noam before everything falls apart?
GENDER: nonbinary, genderfluid, transgender
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: queer
TROPES: magical abilities, couple on the rocks, age gap
TAGS: adult, contemporary, fantasy, romance, queer romance, queer characters, Jewish characters, autistic characters, disabled characters, ownvoices, BDSM/kink, existing relationship, fat characters, synesthesia
WARNINGS: chronic pain, abusive relationship mention, ableism, anti-transness, transmisogyny, internalized ableism, toxic masculinity, internalized toxic masculinity, sibling death mention, nightmares, partner/spousal death (in a nightmare), slurs, mental illness (PTSD, depression)
Because every time Noam cooked, they thought of my needs and limitations, the things that made eating hard for me, and the things I love d to eat. It was a plate full of their love, and care, and beautiful service, and luckily, I could eat it with one hand. So I could keep my other hand in Noam’s hair.
Oh, this book. How do I talk about this story in a way that coherently expresses how much I enjoyed it? Because as always, I loved this piece from Xan West. They are a genius of their craft and somehow always manage to scoop up my heart and squeeze in the best of ways.
This short features fat, disabled, Jewish, genderfluid, queer main characters, one of whom is also autistic. While I can’t speak for all the rep, as I’m not Jewish or autistic and don’t experience the same physical disabilities, I believe that all the pieces I could relate to were done incredibly well. When I’m craving fat representation that I know will make me feel good, West is one of the authors I seek. Because they write about fat bodies in such a way as to make it clear that all of us–no matter our size–are beautiful and desirable (if that’s what you want!), deserving of love (again, if that’s what you want!), and deserving of respect. They do that again here with both Dev and Noam, writing about their fatness as simply parts of their lives and bodies, making it clear that the people in their lives don’t express microaggressions or make either of them feel bad about their bodies, and again, making it abundantly clear that their fatness is not a deterrent to the relationships in their lives.
And as always, the queer representation is wonderful. One thing I enjoy about West’s writing is that they incorporate their knowledge and experiences as an older queer person. It gives the reader, especially younger ones like myself, even more insight into queer history and the lives older queer people lived–from the terminology to the kink and everything else. Also, I really appreciated the genderfluid representation as someone who is currently questioning specificities about my nonbinary identity. It was so lovely to see the ease with which both Dev and Noam, and even Dev’s friend Ezra, accepted the changes in pronouns and honorifics from day to day. It gives me hope that I can find something like that, if that’s the identity I ultimately settle on.
Though we only get Dev’s point of view in the short, I immediately adored both characters and completely fell for them. It’s evident in every line, in every action and word, how much these two care about each other, how much they love and cherish the other. But even with as much as both Dev and Noam love the other, they’ve fallen into this space where they’ve essentially cut off communication with each other because of their own fears and traumas. While difficult to watch the two struggle, it was lovely to see Dev’s conversation with Ezra, in which ze opens Dev’s eyes to the habits xe has fallen into in recent memory and were perhaps a factor in xyr current relationship status. And it was breathtaking to witness Dev and Noam create new avenues of communication within the relationship, thus making things better for both and almost immediately soothing the strain on their connection. Both are so precious and dear, and I just found myself smiling by the end.
Finally, I enjoyed the magical elements and the incorporation of magic into the contemporary world. I would’ve liked to maybe get more of that and a bigger sense of how it truly plays a role in their lives, but I didn’t feel the story was less interesting for the lack of this.
With NINE OF SWORDS, REVERSED, Xan West continues to stun with comforting descriptions, relatable characters, and warm friendships! The writing is as lovely and soothing as always, and by the end, I found myself with three new characters to love!
Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter .
Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 200 8 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me , is out from Go Deeper Press .
After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and nonbinary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet , for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website , and sign up for their newsletter to get updates. Their Troublesome Crush , a polyamorous kinky queer m/f romance novella about metamours realizing they have a mutual crush on each other as they plan their shared partner’s birthday celebration , is due out in March 2019. You can read an excerpt on the next page.