cover image After the War, the Play

After the War, the Play

Stuart Sharp. Pink Narcissus, $17 trade paper (330p) ISBN 978-1-939056-21-4

Sharp (Court of Dreams) wraps a sweet queer romance in convoluted worldbuilding in this muddled epic fantasy. Playwright Ynn of the Second, a degraded generation of the elf-like race the Most Ancient, is left rudderless when his theater troupe disbands upon landing at the island city of Meadham, where peace talks are being held after the war between the Bloody Hand and the Alliance. Human hero Bren of Mulchire saves Ynn from trouble in hopes of getting his story told more widely. When Bren’s connections lead to a commission to write a play about the war as entertainment for a Duchess’s wedding, Ynn feels bound by the idea that he should record the truth, rejecting the barrage of gifts from those who would buy good representation and poking his nose into matters that the local powers would rather he leave alone. Though Sharp plants the idea of the romance between Ynn and Bren early, their emotional arc takes a backseat in the crowded plot. Sharp also teases many elements that never pan out, including past Eras with lost magic, a species in the multiracial culture for which the only detail is that they are very “round,” and sentient mechanical people of no clear provenance. Readers will wish they’d been given a firmer footing in this universe. (Jan.)