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Review: 5 Stars to ‘Phaethon’ by Rachel Sharp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“He couldn’t make fire in his palms or change his shape, but the fae had made a mistake when they’d used human technology to come after humankind. This was his magic.”

* * *

There’s not a lot in my life that feels truly fun anymore. I’m dealing with several chronic illnesses and it’s a huge effort to even get out of bed. Most things are, if I’m being honest. Even/especially reading and reviewing. So it’s just very refreshing when something comes into my life that doesn’t feel like work first of all, but is actually positively enjoyable… and fun.

Phaethon is fun. And smart. And quick, and difficult to put down once you start. Even if you know nothing about cyber-hackery or predominately European fae lore, it’s an engaging and entertaining ride. (But if you know either or both of these areas at all, you’ll probably get more of the references, and some truly awesome nerdish jokes.)

A well-written book can be about the most fantastic of magicks, but as long as there’s consistency, verisimilitude (believability) and familiarity with the subject, everything can still seem entirely truthful, and in a way, ‘real.’ The writer has clearly done her research in both science and sorcery, and so many small details, like the gritty minutiae of living semi off-grid and trying to make ends meet, or exactly HOW you go about catching pesky faeries so you can talk to them (sometimes in song form) just makes everything feel more real. The characters are believable and sympathetic as they navigate their extraordinary circumstances, and by the end I felt attached and invested in the protagonists’ journey, and sincerely wanted the heroes to succeed.

I’ll echo a previous review in that there wasn’t much LGBTQIA content that I could catch, aside from fae believably existing outside the human/western gender binary, and that I pretty heavily headcanon Jack as trans because of a few subtle line-hints. I would have liked to see some more explicit representation – they/them or other pronouns for some of the main faeries would have been awesome, and there were a few points even small nods would have fit in nicely. (I honestly thought one of the main ladies might hear a siren song and feel some effect, or one of the guys feels nothing bc they’re not attracted to women – although given the 2 primary ships are m/f, that might have had some sad implications. Or someone could NOT be effected because they’re aro/ace, but the scene played out pretty straightforward. …pun really not intended!) But it’s not a star-loser, since it wasn’t really advertised that way and I didn’t go into it expecting anything in particular.

I have to wrap this up, but I couldn’t stop without mentioning the awesomeness that is Calthine. If you’ve been following my Goodreads updates, you’ve heard me screaming (with joy) just about every time he opens his pointy-toothed mouth. I want more Phaethon in general, but I REALLY want more Calthine. He’s one of the most memorable characters I’ve read in a while, and I just greatly enjoyed his snarky-but-illuminating commentary, odd-to-humans honor code (he definitely has one even if it doesn’t look like it; humans don’t always grok fae minds), and adorable interactions with his seal friends. (Also I love seals. Thank you for the seals/selkies.) Another honorable mention goes to a fabulous sea queen with some badass knuckle tats. HOLD FAST!

All in all, I’m very glad this is a the beginning of an entire Phaethon series. I somehow missed that fact until I was almost done, and realizing this is only Book 1 was a wonderful surprise. I can’t wait for Book 2.

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