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Blacker than Black by Rhi Etzweiler

I have to admit, this was not an easy book for me to read, mostly since the writing style is very rich and I often had the feeling I was losing myself in that, but you have to weight this feeling with me being Italian. If you add to this the fact the story is told in first point of view by Black, and first POV is always more difficult to understand, you have a good idea on how challenging it was for me this novel.

The plot revolves around Black, a whore, and Leonard, the john who buys him for one night; Black and his sister Jhez are not selling sex but chi, something you can try to match with vital energy. The Lyche community are the one in power, and they survive feeding from human on their chi; what they don’t know is that Black and Jhez are not ordinary whores and while they are selling chi, they are also stealing it from the lyche. Only this time Black falls for his same trap and Leonard, the Master of York, is pretending to be paid back, something that Black couldn’t do if not borrowing his services, and those of his sister, to Leonard.

To better describe this novel I really need to go into details that many will consider SPOILERS, so please, if you don’t want to read further stop here. Said that I’m not unveiling anything that is not also on the publisher website, albeit under the same spoiler warning.

This is a transgender story, or better, as the publisher lists it, genderqueer. I wondered about Black, he was my main suspect, but indeed I was totally unprepared on Leonard. Truth be told, transgender is the wrong word, they are actually hermaphrodites, that this the word used by Leonard and the one I prefer. In any case, being hermaphrodites or not doesn’t really matter from a sexual point of view, since sex is not the main element of this story, and for example, during their first sex scene, I hadn’t actually realized about that if not for an “easiness” in their movement that, after I went back and re-read it, it would have been not possible in any other way. I had the feeling the author chose to not tag the characters with a specific female or male label to level them, to be able to start from scratch in building their relationship without any preconception, or expectation. The author gave an empty blackboard to the main characters and they were free to fill it with their story, not with what the reader was expecting them to do.

Black and Leonard will be unusual also on their reaction to dramatic events, like the death of a parent; the reaction will not what you would expect, in that highlighting that Black and Leonard dictate their own story. Black and Leonard are difficult characters to like, they are not linear, they are not pretty; Black is mistrusting of everything and of Leonard almost until the end, Leonard is a manipulative man who has very few qualms to use other people, even people he cares for, to reach his own target.

I think that one of the main concept of urban fantasy is that you need to recreate an original world building in a familiar contest, and Rhi Etzweiler did that, this story is not the copy of anything I have ever read, and until the end the characters surprised me, really giving me the feeling they were real, and having their own free will.

http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/blacker-black

Amazon: Blacker than Black
Amazon Kindle: Blacker than Black
Paperback: 406 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (February 25, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1937551253
ISBN-13: 978-1937551254

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Cover Art by Del Melchionda

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