This is too hetero for me. Better review later.
I was very excited to read this book. Knowing that the author came out as a gay trans man after writing it as a lesbian historical romance, I was very interested to see how he changed it up to fit a trans narrative. It was honestly very interesting but it just had too much going against it for me personally.
-I'm very very very gay. I'm very very very tired of het romance. I'm very, very, very bitter about the fact everyone assumes me being a trans man means I must be, HAVE TO BE straight, that me being gay means I can't be trans, so I don't have much interest in reading about straight trans men. So I just cannot get invested in Elias' romantic and sexual exploits at all. There was a brief moment where it looked like he might be headed towards something with a man but it ended so unsatisfactorily for me.
-I did not like the part where Elias comes out of nowhere and forces his tongue down Maliha's throat and she fights back but then goes with it in the end. That's not romantic, it's fucking disturbing.
-This book is so SEXIST. Elias is written trying to argue against sexism but still falls into it himself. It's also CISsexist in particular. I understand the author is trying to fit the mores of the period, the scientific understanding of sex and gender, and (hopefully) does not agree with anything, but my god, it's overwhelming. I didn't want to deal with that stuff in my fictional escapism.
-From a technical point, the book is badly paced. Plot points transition very suddenly with no clear sign of where the last point ended and moved into the next. One minute our heroes are discussing something in a bedroom, then we are instantly flung with no segue into Elias speaking with someone in a great hall several mornings later. (Which may not match with a specific scene in the book, I returned it earlier today to the library so I can't get it a direct reference.
-There is SO little description of the scenes. Usually books that over-describe environments bore me to tears but this did the opposite- we got absolutely 0 real dsecription to help us envision any of the places in the story. I have 0 idea what the mansion Elias lived in is supposed to look like. The descriptions of Constantinople just talked about high walls and gold leaf on everything and everywhere having a fountain and ended there.