Title: Born Magic
Author: A.R. Moler
LGBTQ+ Category: Gay/Intersex
Publisher: JMS Books
About The Book
Querteshan guardsman Jamal Fayed is on a routine patrol through the desert area known as the Burning when they discover an injured and unconscious man who looks to be from a nearby country, Perathea. Their two countries have a long history of animosity.
When Nev ran from his master, he was fleeing for his life and any outcome seemed better than the death he was promised. But Nev has secrets, complicated secrets that involve both magic and his physical form. Can he build a relationship with Jamal amidst politics and military dealings?
I picked up this book in part because it was time for me to read a fantasy, and in part because it was a short read – at 87 pages, it wasn’t going to take me a month to finish during my short windows of reading time.
That said, I’m glad I did. While the worldbuilding is a little light for my tastes (hey, I like my fantasy Tolkien-thick of gooey fantasy worldness), this was a fun read with a sweet ending.
I liked that “Born Magic” was set in a world that’s not like what I usually read in fantasy – no woods, no elves, and no faerie lands. Instead, Born Magic takes place in a Middle Eastern analogue world – a dry, burnt place that’s suffered hundreds of years of war.
I really liked Nev. I’m a cis gay guy, so I’ll leave it to folks in the intersex and gender fluid communities to have the final word on how well he represents them. But for me, I enjoyed how he was constructed (he uses the pronouns he and him by choice). His recent “birth” – it’s not giving away too much to tell you he is a magical construct – allows for some exploration of his character and form that wouldn’t work if he had been born the usual way and had grown up in his body.
I also loved that the world, or at least the country of Quertesh where he ends up, really doesn’t care that he doesn’t fit the “binary” norm, aside form some mild interest in who this new guy is. There’s a strong “be who you are” message here that I found really appealing.
Nev’s learning arc was well handled throughout the book, as was the budding relationship with Jamal, his bisexual paramour, and his journey of self discovery, on both the magical and sexual fronts, is the heart of this story.
“Born Magic” is well paced, and if anything, I wanted more about the world around them and the history between Quartesh and Perathea, the country where Nev was “born.” I think there’s ample fodder here for other tales, a rich tapestry of a world to flesh out if the author wants to.
In any case, “Born Magic” is a fast, fun read with a sweet romance at its center. If you love queer romance in a less-traveled fantasy setting, you’ll enjoy this book. :)
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were. He decided that if there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends. A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality.