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Review: Dirt-Stained Hands, Thorn-Pierced Skin – Tabitha O’Connell

Dirt-Stained Hands, Thorn-Pierced Skin - Tabitha O'Connell

Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy

LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Demi, Gay, Non-Binary

Reviewer: Lucy

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About The Book

A queer, Beauty-and-the-Beast-inspired novella

Heron thought ey wanted to be with handsome, charming Tiel—but the relationship hasn’t quite lived up to eir expectations. With Tiel’s confidence comes a tendency to be overbearing, and now he wants Heron to leave eir farm life behind and move to town with him. And Heron can’t figure out how to explain to him that ey doesn’t want that.

When an accident strands Heron’s mother at a castle rumored to belong to a family of mages, Heron rushes off to make sure she’s all right—only to find the castle occupied by a single man who isn’t a mage at all. Prone to hiding behind his long mess of hair, the mysterious Theomer possesses a long-neglected, semi-magical garden. A job tending it is Heron’s perfect opportunity for some time away from Tiel while ey decides what to tell him.

Heron did not plan to be drawn in by Theomer’s attentive gaze and understated sense of humor. But as an undeniable bond forms between them, ey’s soon going to have a much bigger choice to make…

The Review

Dirt-Stained Hands, Thorn-Pierced Skin by Tabitha O’Connell has definite roots in the Beauty and the Beast fable. But there are enough differences to make this retelling unique. 

The characters in this story are very engaging and well-developed. Heron has been floating along, not putting up much resistance when others expect em to do, or not do things, and never really developing much of a direction for eir life. Until ey find emself in an enchanted castle with Theomer.

Stuck in the castle, Theomer lurks and wallows, awkward and unsure, until he is drawn out by Heron. The author wrote these characters so that you can feel their uncertainty, as well as their boredom, fear, and even hope. 

This is a charming re-imagination of the Beauty and the Beast trope, with gorgeously flawed characters and interesting story arc. The story has a nice flow, with good rhythm and beautiful descriptions and dialogue. For me, it was an excellent introduction to Tabitha O’Connell, whose work I’ll definitely look forward to in the future.   

The Reviewer

I’m an avid reader who loves pretty much all genres except math textbooks. As a kid, my parents exposed me to everything from fairies, hobbits, and dragons to the biographies of interesting people around the world, interspersed with poetry, plays, and music. Into adulthood, I spent a lot of years with my nose buried in various textbooks. Now, I read whatever grabs my fancy. 

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