Reviews

The Unbalancing, by R.B. Lemberg

corvidcorvid's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging emotional hopeful inspiring reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

mendthecat's review against another edition

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  • Good writing
  • Interesting and creative magic world although there were somethings I didn't fully understand
  • One of the themes is the different variations of gender identity
  • Ridiculous insta love
  • In the first half (I DNFed at that point) there's not enough focus on the plot, IMO
  • Recurring use of sweard words, which I don't have a problem with, except they're "plucking" and "pluck it"

indeed_distract's review against another edition

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emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75

annarella's review against another edition

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5.0

I fell in love with the Birdverse when I read The Four Profound Weaves as this complex, inclusive, and fascinating universe kept in thrall and made me sad when I closed the book.
The Unbalancing is even better and I was happy to travel again to the Birdverse and meet the characters. There's a lot of inclusivity and the characters are realistic, fleshed out and interesting.
There's nothing forced, there's no sense of things-done-because-I-had-check-a-list, everything flows and i was sad again at the end of this book.
I had a bad case of book hangover but I'm happy I read it.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Tachyon Publications for this digital copy, all opinions are mine

bright_and_bookish's review

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3.0

3 stars.

This was my first time reading from R. B, Lemberg and they definitely have a very unique style and have crafted a world that feels significantly different to other fantasy worlds I have read before, but unfortunately there was one thing about this book that drove me to distraction.

The description says "new love blossoms between an impatient starkeeper and a reclusive poet" but this was the worst case of insta-love that I have ever read. And worse than that, as the "relationship" progressed I never bought into why they were in love. It didn't feel organic or even real, and the starkeeper in many instances was a real bully and would do something inappropriate and then apologize and the poet would accept the apology and that was that. I didn't feel like this was a healthy relationship at all, and I didn't like it. It continually took the focus away from the plot and the themes and didn't give them enough breathing room in this incredibly short book.

I did enjoy the way that the world building included non-binary identities in a fulsome way and not as a gimmick or a check box, but it just wasn't enough to make up for the lackluster feelings I had about the book as a whole, I just needed a whole lot more plot.

Also, what was the deal with the cat? If you have read this and know please tell me. I thought it was going to be important to the plot, but actually no, it was just there...

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for my honest review*

cleo_reads's review against another edition

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  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes

5.0

This beautiful, immersive queer fantasy novel is like an explicitly LGBTQ+ version of Earthsea and is also completely it’s own thing. 

The setting definitely feels like an homage to Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books - a country of islands where people’s magic is tied to their true names. The culture is so very, very queer, including the way gender is understood and the way families are organized. 

The plot centers around two messy, complicated people falling in love while attempting to save their land from natural and magical disaster – it’s intense and devastating and ultimately hopeful (but not easy or fluffy).

I was not expecting the ending at all. If I'd read the poem that this book is a prequel to - Ranra's Unbalancing at  http://strangehorizons.com/poetry/ranras-unbalancing/ - I would not have been so surprised. I'm kind of glad that I didn't know what to expect, but if you don't like surprises, you may want to read the poem first.

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mel91's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

detailsandtales's review against another edition

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5.0

This book is at once a gentle and painful story about two characters trying to save their home from destruction. What I love about this book is how much space each character is given to find their own way, and how much space the characters give each other. That's why the story felt so gentle to me. Even with all of the terrible things that happen, both protagonists are treated with such care and love by both the author and each other. I also appreciate how each character is very much their own person. One of the two protagonists is autistic, and this is clear by how they navigate the world, but they are out in the world, navigating it, and no one has any issues with their autism. In fact, the other protagonist makes space for their needs. I also appreciate the wide variety of gender identities, and the fact that no gender identity is judged to be lesser or forbidden. There are mentions of another place where a rigid gender binary is enforced, but in this particular community, all genders are equally welcome, as are all permutations of relationship. Despite the darkness present in this story, it was such a soothing read for me.

esseastri's review against another edition

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3.0

Hm.

I feel some kind of way about this book, but I cannot identify the feeling.

The prose is beautiful, seriously, this book is lyrical, poetic, and the syntax and tone choices are...well, choice. I loved this book on a craft level. And I adore a queer-normative world with queer characters whose stories do not center on their queerness, even if that is a part of their stories.

I still don't know how I feel about the plot. I want to believe that Ranra earns the end of this book, but I don't think she does. I think the narrative is unfair to Ranra, and I think? that's the point? of the book? But it's definitely something I need to sit with. I'm ok with the story being unfair to the characters, but I need a reason beyond, "Life's not fair." That's how the real world works; I don't want that in my fiction.

All this to say, this book is absolutely beautiful, but I think it is not for me.

andicbuchanan's review against another edition

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hopeful reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes

5.0

I am a long-standing fan of Lemberg's Birdverse - of which this is the first full-length novel - and The Unbalancing did not disappoint. It incorporates themes of home, solitude, obligation, and some exploration of gender that really resonated - it's also told in a very gentle and poetic voice, that in no way minimises the magnitude of what's happening and what's at stake. It further explores the magic system established in other works. There's also a cat! An excellent read, especially for when you need a careful and thoughful fantasy novel.