Almond, Quartz, and Finch,
written by Lisa Bunker, New Wind Publishing, 2023
In this adventure-fantasy novel, we are introduced to two young Nezel friends, Almond and Quartz. They and their families are refugee servants in the land of Irzem, where their culture and spiritual ways are just barely tolerated. In Nezel culture, when children are born, they are named simple words from daily life, providing no hint of girl or boy, hence the names Almond and Quartz. When children reach their thirteenth summer, they are deemed ready for the rite of Naming, when according to the dictates of the Way, they choose their paths forward into the rest of their lives, whether as woman, man, or in between, as well as the names they will carry along those paths.
As the story begins, Almond and Quartz are exploring secret passageways and enjoying a private conversation in a hiding place deep within the Irzem castle walls. The elderly Irzemi ruler Lady Omdyun has long been failing and is near her death. Because of this, many aspects of castle life, including the Nezel Naming ritual, have been altered or postponed. Quartz is not happy. He has been ready for his Naming since forever and looks forward to using his long-ago chosen man-name “Cerach.” Quartz pesters Almond about veir need to pick a name too, and suggests, “Vo would make such a pretty girl, how about Lari for a name?” Almond does not answer and wishes people would stop trying to tell veir what is best. While still in their hiding place, Almond and Quartz learn of a secret plot to overthrow the Irzem empire, and to prevent Lady Omdyun’s grandson Finch, the rightful heir, from gaining the throne upon her death. Aided by a wise orchard-keeper and other surprising allies, Almond and Quartz come up with a desperate plan to help Finch gain the throne and foil the evil schemers. Finch also has veir own challenges in trying to be true to self, while living in the strict confines of Irzem culture.
Almond, Quartz and Finch must listen, learn, and work together to protect their peoples and claim their true selves, whatever the cost. This is a story about hardships and struggles, and it is also a story about friendships, and working together in the hopes of securing better lives. This story displays parallels to the struggles we see in our world today, with immigrants trying to communicate and fit in to new homelands that have different languages, cultures, and beliefs. The audiobook is read by the author, Lisa Bunker.
Here’s what others have to say –
“The perfect balance of action and intrigue, along with a groundbreaking exploration of gender identity.”
- J. Sass, author of Ellen Outside the Lines.
”A well-told and exciting YA fantasy, both gender-affirming and a realistic look at friends coming of age in turbulent times.” The Book Shoppe
Lisa Bunker (she/vo/they) identifies as a trans-feminine non-binary author who writes books for children and tweens featuring LGBTQ+ main characters who are regular kids with strengths and flaws, just like everyone else. From 2018 to 2022 she represented the town of Exeter in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, as one of the first out trans state legislators in US history. You can visit Lisa Bunker online at LisaBunker.net.
This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans advocate Barb Shumer, who is a past board member and retired public librarian.
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