Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Genre: Gay Science Fantasy
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.
Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.
Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them together.
DIVIDED INTO three points of view, the story’s first point of view is Jameson Havercamp, a psych who is sent to Oberon/Titania to investigate a shortage of pith, an addictive drug, but there’s something a bit fishy about his mission. Jameson isn’t an expert on pith, and he admits to not completely understanding its synthesis or even its origins, which makes you wonder why he was sent in the first place. But he was sent to do a job, and by the gods Jameson is going to do it.
Jameson is sort of a young urban professional in his world; educated, but impetuous and prideful and terribly out of his element. His arrogance and prissiness are used to cover up a deep sense of insecurity and fear of not belonging, making him easy to relate to. More than anything, Jameson wants to belong to a family. He’s even engaged, but not under circumstances that would lead to his happiness. In a lot of ways, he’s using this assignment into the disappearance of pith as a way to refocus himself and his efforts.
Xander Kinnson’s been living on the fringe of society for a while. He had a tumultuous upbringing and was involved in gangs and the trade in his youth. One of the problems for him and that life is that he could never really get away from it. A year ago his boyfriend went missing under suspicious circumstances, and of course the police don’t care. Xander’s a bit pricklier than Jameson, hard edged. He has an intense center of attention, which shows in everything he does and who he lets into his small circle, and he has a quirky soft spot for children, which speaks to his own troubled past. More than anything I think Xander wants a family too, putting he and Jameson on a similar path–though they don’t know it yet.
Pretending to work for Jameson’s employers, Xander picks him up for his own designs, only he’s too late. OberCorp is already on their trail and things get nasty pretty quick. In walks Quince, a bad-ass renegade, to save the day.
Our third point of view is a bit more mysterious than the other two. We know Quince is old enough to be their mother (but isn’t… we’re pretty sure), and she has some mad fighting skills. She also knows a whole lot more than she’s telling them. She readily takes over Xander’s plan, leading the boys to their destinies.
Quince was a plot driver, in personality as well as a storytelling tool. She’s a remarkable woman, but I think I would have preferred her point of view to be hidden, so that some of those mysterious elements could have been preserved.
Besides Quince’s point of view, I could have probably done without the flashbacks. I understand how they created a more cohesive story, but in many cases they borderlined on being telling. They were too convenient. They also threw me out of the moment. The book read as third person limited, but distant, point of view. In one case I noticed third person omniscience. There were some explicit thoughts expressed by the characters, italicized, which also felt rather jarring to me. Again, this all served to pull me out of the character’s heads a bit, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it did distance me slightly.
The worldbuilding was more science fantasy, or something similar to Star Wars, where it’s not hard science fiction, or even soft science fiction, it’s more fantasy but it’s set on another planet with space-faring capabilities and has aliens. I think I would have felt more relaxed had I known it was fantasy earlier, but in all honesty, I’m not certain the author could have done anything differently.
The plot was kept going by a few conveniently placed plot drivers. For a while, I was suspecting Coatsworth of a more nefarious plot scheme, but all in all this work ended up being rather cozy and light.
Read it for the diverting fantasy, read it for the endearing characters, or read it for the agreeable plot–no matter how you read Skythane, you’ll love it and Coatsworth will quickly become one of your favorite authors.
Ben Brock is a reviewer for The Novel Approach and Queer Sci Fi. He enjoys running, whisk(e)y, the mythical gluten-free donut, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.
Dreamspinner Press–Where Dreams Come True… International publishers of quality gay romantic fiction since 2007. http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
DSP Publications–Off the Beaten Path. Worth the Journey. http://www.dsppublications.com
Harmony Ink Press–LGBTQ+ Young Adult Fiction. http://www.harmonyinkpress.com