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A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a queer political fantasy romance with mystery elements by Foz Meadows

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars (4.5 rounded up to a 5)

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a queer political fantasy romance with mystery elements by Foz Meadows. The ebook version is 554 pages. I listened to the audiobook, which clocks in at almost nineteen hours and is narrated by James Fouhey and Vikas Adam. We follow two main characters with third-person points-of-view.

Velasin is a gay man living in Ralia, a very conservative country that forbids same-sex relationships. Being a third son, his father decides to marry him off to a girl from neighboring Tithena to solidify a diplomatic union. However, something happens that reveals his preference for men, and the Tithenai envoy suggests that Vel should marry the brother of his former intended wife.

Caethari is the second of three siblings in Tithena; his older sister is married to a woman as their country supports the union of same-sex relationships as well as nonbinary individuals known as kem. But there are violent forces around them who seem intent on ending their new alliance, and in Cae’s name–though he is not giving the orders.

I was glad to receive an audio review copy as well as an ebook version because though I really enjoyed this book, there were sections that dragged a bit for me. I think it I was just reading the digital version, I may have stalled out. Listening to audio really helps me in these instances.

Overall, it was a very good read. It delves a bit into Byzantine politics, which is something I don’t see in books very often, and the two leads definitely have great chemistry together. The world building is detailed and expansive, but not confusing. The description of the magic system is kind of vague though–partly because the characters we follow aren’t expected to know how to use it–and I’d be interested in learning more about it if there are further books set in this universe. I absolutely plan to read more from this author.

Big head’s up that there’s an on-page rape in Chapter 2, so please prepare yourself for that. The author does include a note at the beginning of the book about this content warning, but know that it’s quite graphic. While I generally dislike using rape as a device to show character growth, the book does a good job showing how that character processes the trauma of the assault over time.

There are a lot of queer or otherwise minority characters in this book. Most of the main characters are queer in some way, and Vel’s valet Markle–who’s really moreso his best friend–is mute and the two of them use sign language to communicate. I mentioned the kem previously, they are nonbinary folks who use the pronoun “thir.” There is also a reference to some kind of bodymagic that allows a person to change gender.

Tropes in this book include: arranged marriage, court drama, political intrigue, assassination plots, strangers to friends to lovers, slow burn romance

CW: rape (on-page, Chapter 2), suicidal ideation, attempted self-harm, violence, PTSD, trauma, death, animal murder (horse), blood, emesis, homophobia, transphobia, misgendering, parental death, infidelity (referenced)

Special thanks to Tor Books, Macmillan, Macmillan Audio, and NetGalley for providing an eARC and an audio galley of this book for me to review. All opinions contained herein are my own. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance releases on July 26, 2022.

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