Yeah, no surprise, I’m still here for NineStar’s queer fantasy! A Dance of Water and Air looked really intriguing as I love elemental magic, and it’s got cute boys being cute together!
Book: A Dance of Water and Air by Antonia Aquilante
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review. All opinions my own.
Overall, I liked this book, but I don’t think it’s going to be quite the favourite that some NineStar reads have been recently. It tells the story of Edmund, prince of the Water realm, who is betrothed to Hollis, queen of the Air realm – but he can’t help falling for Hollis’s charming brother, Arden. Both princes knew they’d need to marry for political gain, rather than love, but how will they cope with finding their soulmates so close, but so far out of reach?
Both Edmund and Arden have point of view pieces in this book – not individual chapters, necessarily, as the viewpoint sometimes changes in between. It’s nice to get to know each of them through their own thoughts, and they are nicely defined as characters. They had really cute chemistry from the get-go, and I loved that Edmund’s demi-sexuality meant that they spent a lot of time together and really got to know each other before deciding they had feelings for each other. Arden is a fantastic character – fashionable and snarky, but loyal and sweet – and I really loved that the fact that he was trans was an enormously non-important facet of his character. The world seems to have no transphobia and no homophobia – I thought it was great that when Edmund was discussing his possible alliances at the beginning of the book, princes and princesses were all considered as equally viable.
I didn’t feel like we really got to know Hollis very well, but as she remains inscrutable to both her brother and her betrothed, this is perhaps intentional. There are very very few female characters in this book, so it would have been nice to maybe have Hollis’s POV as well – but then this book would lean more into the fantasy side of things than the romance, and I think that’s what was bothering me most. The plot felt a little too underdeveloped, as if it had been woven around the romance – don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly enjoyable, but this world was so interesting I wanted more politics, more intrigue, more characters, more everything!
I did find that the book was a little long, or perhaps just a little slow in places. There were several repetitive passages that really could have been cut, such as when Edmund or Arden were worrying about something – now, I am someone who worries a lot, but I don’t think it’s necessary to note every single time a character thinks about a specific issue, because boy, is that repetitive. This really held the narrative back in places, and led to me being very frustrated with the characterisation. When you end up thinking ‘oh my god, just get ON with it’ at multiple characters, that’s not ideal for the pace of the story. Also – and this is just personal preference – I very much preferred the first half of the book, where Edmund has to navigate the intricacies of a foreign court, to the second half, where the boys are on the run together. I just like political intrigue, okay!
That being said, I thought this was a super cute and enjoyable read. I really liked both main characters and am interested to see whether they get to have a happily ever after in the second book, so I recommend this for those who enjoy good gay and trans rep in their fantasy, and a lovely relationship between cinnamon rolls. A solid four out of five cats.