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REVIEW: Lord’s Dome – E.D.E. Bell

REVIEW: Lord's Dome - E.D.E. Bell

Genre: Fantasy

LGBTQ+ Category: Trans, Bi, Ace

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About The Book

Gu Non couldn’t stop thinking about the magic. They’d lied to her about it. They’d lied to everyone.

No one lied to Gu Non.

Lord’s Dome is a slipstream fantasy about a girl who refuses to believe that the fate of her family is to suffer, the mining elder who must suddenly decide whether to trust this lone girl, and their search for the truth of an enigmatic god while the unyielding everstorm rages overhead.

The Review

I almost didn’t pick this up because the cover didn’t speak to me, but more on that later. I’m so glad I got past it – this is an amazing book, different from anything I’ve ever read before, and that’s high praise coming from me.

It tells the tale of the varr, a diminished race ekeing out a living under a protective dome. There are two varr POV characters in the book – Gu Non Mine and Vo Jie Mine (the “mine” part refers to the clan where they belong). At the start, little Gu Non is thirteen, old enough to work mining the “core” for fragments – which everyone believes are burned by the temple priests to provide heat for the community. But Gu Non soon discovers that the mages actually use the core shards to power their own magic, a startling discovery that leads her down a path to rebellion against the oppressive system that keeps everyone – miners, priests, mages, farmers, and the rest – in their place.

Gu Non is motivated by concern for her beautiful, intelligent, artistic brother Da Eel, who’s neurodivergent, and who is scheduled to be conscripted into the mining crew day. She can’t stand to see his light snuffed out bu the harsh conditions the miners endure, so she does what she has to in order to save him… and maybe everyone else too.

Gu Non is strong, bright, headstrong, and fascinating. She’s a bit of an unreliable narrator through no fault of her own. Having grown up with no education and no points of reference besides her family and the mines, she filters everything she sees through her own limited experience. So trunks become “wooden legs of tall plants” and the great world outside of the mines almost beyond her comprehension, as the walls are built to keep the world out, instead of tunneled out of rocks.

The book reads a bit like an allegory – there’s Lord, the being they all pray to, and the one who keeps them save from the Everstorm, a rage of burning hot air and hail made of rocks that bombards the dome that protects the small village and the Mountain where the mines are. As Gu Non uncovers more of her worlds’ secrets, she learns about Enemy and Betrayer too, and starts to work out their role in the past – one that has a great impact her on own people’s present.

This story also about the power of an idea. As I was reading, I was reminded of the song “The Little Drummer Boy,” where the boy passes along a message that eventually reaches the ears of a King and shakes the world. Gu Non’s idea is freedom, though she doesn’t know how to articulate it, but it spreads from her like a virus, first to Vo Jie, her clan chief, and then Te Ruk, a mage who has glimpsed some of the past Gu Non reveals, and to the priest Ny Auv, a malcontent who was already exiled from the temple for questioning the way things are.

It’s also a breathtaking tale of unimaginable hardship and undeniable change, and has a nice mix of queer characters subtly woven into the narrative.

Back to the cover. It’s a perfectly serviceable cover. The thing I thought might be a spider isn’t, and after having read the book, I understand what it’s trying to portray. But it’s a bit too stylistic for my tastes. This book deserves something better, just like Gu Non does. I hope Bell is able to re-issue it at some point in the future with something as awkwardly beautiful and plucky as the mighty Gu Non herself.

If you’re looking for a fascinating fantasy tale that will take you somewhere new, drawing you into a strange world that will keep you turning page after page to find out what happens next, grab a copy of Lord’s Dome. It’s a story I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.  

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