Book Review: After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang – A Quiet Fantasy About the Climate, Queer Love, and Having Hope in A World You Cannot Save

A banner featuring the cover of After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang. A blue dragon encircles the title. In the corner is an icon that reads: "Reviewed by Skye, The Quiet Pond".
Summary:

Dragons were fire and terror to the Western world, but in the East they brought life-giving rain…

Now, no longer hailed as gods and struggling in the overheated pollution of Beijing, only the Eastern dragons survive. As drought plagues the aquatic creatures, a mysterious disease—shaolong, or “burnt lung”—afflicts the city’s human inhabitants.

Jaded college student Xiang Kaifei scours Beijing streets for abandoned dragons, distracting himself from his diagnosis. Elijah Ahmed, a biracial American medical researcher, is drawn to Beijing by the memory of his grandmother and her death by shaolong. Interest in Beijing’s dragons leads Kai and Eli into an unlikely partnership. With the resources of Kai’s dragon rescue and Eli’s immunology research, can the pair find a cure for shaolong and safety for the dragons? Eli and Kai must confront old ghosts and hard truths if there is any hope for themselves or the dragons they love.

After the Dragons is a tender story, for readers interested in the effects of climate change on environments and people, but who don’t want a grim, hopeless read. Beautiful and challenging, focused on hope and care, this novel navigates the nuances of changing culture in a changing world.

Skye's Review:

If you, like me, think the world is in sore need of more quiet slice-of-life fantasy stories about ordinary people, I have just the recommendation for you today. Set in the near-future of a hazy alternate Beijing, Cynthia Zhang’s After the Dragons is a lovely urban fantasy novella about saving stray dragons, queer romance, and what it means to have hope in a world you cannot save on your own.

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Our Friend is Here! A Discussion with Ryan Douglass, Author of The Taking of Jake Livingston – On Why We Need Radical YA Books

Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.

What a month it’s been, friends! I hope you’ve enjoyed all our lovely author interviews about queer identity and stories, and that the discussions we’ve hosted have helped you to feel seen too, wherever you are on this weird and wonderful journey! Today, to bookend our Pride Month series, we are closing with a post about the importance of radical YA fiction, and its absolutely critical role in helping us imagine better futures—both for ourselves and the teens who will one day grow into the world that we leave for them.

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Book Recommendations: Pride Month Edition – 8 Books with Gay and M/M Rep to Read During Pride Month!

Book Recommendations: Pride Month Edition - 8 Books with Gay and M/M Rep to Read During Pride Month!

Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.

One of my favourite parts about these month-long celebratory events at the Pond is that I get to inundate all of you with book recommendations. And what better month than Pride Month?

For us at the Pond, Pride Month is an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the incredible work done by queer authors. Moreover, it’s important to us that the work that we do when celebrating Pride Month is deserving of the intersectional Pride Month flag that we have proudly used in our banner. Therefore, the books that we recommend will include books by authors of colour and disabled authors – and we encourage all of our Pond friends to make their Pride reading intersectional and colourful. 🌈

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Book Review: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa – A Vulnerable and Warmly Funny Story about First Love, Coming Out, and Loving Oneself

Synopsis:

A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self.

Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.

Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.

Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.

Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

I was provided an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Somewhere, sometime, a queer teen will read Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, hold this story close to their chest, the story finding a home in their heart. What an illuminating and poignant book Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is; a book that deftly balances the softness and joy of first love and steadfast friendship but also the sharp and painful edges of heteronormativity and anti-gay prejudice. Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is soft, beautiful, triumphant, painful, heart-aching, and bittersweet – and I suppose it’s a little like life, isn’t it?

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Our Friend is Here! Pride Month Edition – An Interview with Aiden Thomas, Author of Cemetery Boys; On Writing A Love Letter to Their Community and Writing an Unapologetic Latinx, Gay, and Trans Story

Our Friend is Here! Pride Month Edition.  Author Interview with Aiden Thomas  On Writing A Love Letter to Their Community and Writing an Unapologetic Latinx, Gay, and Trans Story. An illustration of Xiaolong the axolotl, with her arms spread out wide like she is showing off someone, with  Aiden as a golden retriever wearing a red snapback, an Adidas t-shirt, and a silver pendant.

An illustration of Xiaolong the axolotl, waving her hand and winking at you while holding up a flag with the inclusive Pride flag - horizontal stripes of black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.

One of the joys of being a reader is getting the opportunity to read so many stories that are different and unique from one another. In particular, reading queer books, by and about queer authors, is often a validating experience to me – because the more queer stories I read, the more it reifies the fact that there is no singular queer experience and that what ‘being queer means’ looks different for everyone.Read More »