New novel "Bonds of Brass" gives us the gays in space we deserve
I first heard of the new sci-fi novel, Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie through Twitter as “the Finn/Poe book.” As someone who absolutely loves Star Wars, I was intrigued. Finn and Poe’s dynamic is one of my favorite parts of the newer trilogy. I never expected Disney to give those characters a romantic relationship, but I definitely saw the potential for one. When I read Bonds of Brass, I realized it was not thinly veiled fan fiction, but something more unique, and very enjoyable in its own right.
Ettian and Gal may look very much like Finn and Poe, but the story isn’t a Star Wars rip-off. They’re two spaceship pilot trainees at an academy run by the Umbre empire. Ettian and Gal are roommates who are a little bit in love with each other. Gal is revealed as the Ubrian prince, and his life is threatened by other students who remain loyal to the Archon Empire. Ettian must choose between his loyalty to the old empire, and his feelings for his friend, and puts himself in great personal danger to escape from the planet with Gal.
One of my favorite things about this book is that homosexuality appears to be completely accepted in this universe. Gal and Ettian are never kept apart by what other people might think about a gay relationship, but rather by their differing statuses. There’s a moment later in the book where a character mentions his two moms that made me smile with how nonchalant it was.
I’m always looking for LGBT characters in science fiction, which is my favorite genre, and I love to see people like me represented in it. This book gave me GAYS IN SPACE, something I treasure. More importantly - it’s well written, and a great page-turner that I’ll definitely be re-reading.
I can’t talk about this book without mentioning one of the side characters, who’s really more of a third protagonist. Wen is the daughter of a long-dead mob boss. She’s a mechanic, and the highlight of the book for me. She fights with a razor-tipped rainbow umbrella - which may be the coolest weapon I’ve ever read about. Wen steals the show with her outsized personality, and the sheer chaos she brings to the book. While Gal is occasionally jealous of Ettian’s relationship with Wen, the situation never turned into a love triangle, which I found refreshing.
Emily Skrutskie has a habit of writing lines that stick in your head. Earlier I mentioned that the book was very much not thinly veiled fan fiction, which is true. However, the book takes some of my very favorite fanfiction tropes and uses them to great effect. There’s bed-sharing, the characters are roommates (AND THEY WERE ROOMMATES!), and a whole lot of pining.
Despite my love for this book, I do have a few reservations. I found myself caring much less for Gal than Ettian - which might be because the point of view of the book is Ettian’s. I never quite felt like the Umbrian prince deserved Ettian’s love. We see how much Ettian cares for Gal, but it’s difficult to know how Gal cares for Ettian. This is the first book of a trilogy and maybe the next one will switch viewpoint characters - fan fictionI’d certainly like to know what exactly goes on in Ettian’s head.
The ending twist comes out of left field, in a good way. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be eagerly anticipating the sequel after you finish. I love the universe of this book enough that I’d be interested in more than a trilogy - but we’ll see what the future brings from Emily Skrutskie.