Genre: Fantasy, Romance
LGBTQ+ Category: M-Gender Fluid
About The Book
Giant magical snails aren’t exactly at the top of the list of heroic quests. But the village of Dun Nas needs help, and Aric needs money: being a legendary swordsman might be nice, but so is getting paid. Anyway, snails — even giant ones — aren’t anything he can’t handle, especially with his half-fairy partner Emrys. Together, the Storm-Wielder and the Shadow can fight anything, or so the stories say.
But this job’s more complicated than it seems. The lake holds a dangerous magical mystery. Aric trusts Emrys with his life — but he’d also love to offer his heart, and he doesn’t know whether Em feels the same. Em isn’t human, after all … and has a few secrets of their own.
Such great beauty.
That’s the thought that keeps going through my head about K.L. Noone’s The Snails of Dun Nas, which I finished reading a couple days ago, but that won’t leave me alone.
Not what you’d expect from a book that’s supposedly about giant killer snails, right? Well, it is and it isn’t.
Noone spins a magical sword and sorcery tale here, the first of a new series. The heart of the plot is a pretty standard mercenary tale — the swordsman/wizard (in this case a fae named Emrys) team answers the call to save a small town that’s being overrun by (and I don’t feel like this is too much of a spoiler here) snails as big as a human head.
Aric, the swordsman, is understandably annoyed that it’s not dragons – who wants ballads written about them and their fight with giant snails? But when he sees that Em wants to take the charge, he relents, and they’re off to the lake near the farmers’ fields to see what’s afoot. See? Standard mercenary stuff. And snails.
What sets this tale apart is the beautifully woven world Noon draws you into – a fantasized version of tenth-century Britain – and the magical, almost ethereal relationship between Aric and Emrys. Emrys is part fae, and on any given day may appear more masculine or feminine or even some combination genders. Aric loves Em in every form, and is worried that Em will leave him—that he’s not enough for the enchanting fae.
I adored the chemistry between these two, the awkwardness and banter and even their sexual exploits. Between snail-based adventures, there are two very different sex scenes here, given the changing nature of Em’s gender. But they both dip deep into the bonds that connect these two itinerant travelers, and both are effective at furthering what we know about these two and how they relate to one another.
Side note: Noone uses both “he” and “she” pronouns for Emrys, something she discusses in the afterword (which I recommend you read). But Em never feels trapped by his/her/their gender.
There’s a ton of backstory and worldbuilding here, all shuffled neatly into the narrative so that you hardly notice it, except that it provides a rich tapestry to hang the story on. All in all, it’s beautifully written. Such great beauty in the love between these two and in the crafting of this tale, and I’m just thrilled I got to enjoy it.
I’m also excited to hear that this is only the first of at least three stories following these two characters. Sign me up for the ride.
Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.