Given how quickly Smoke and Shadows and Smoke and Mirrors went, it can’t possibly be surprising that I’ve finished Smoke and Ashes. This is the third and final novel featuring Tony Foster, though there’s some short stories around as previously mentioned. Also mentioned is that I think Smoke and Mirrors has the best lines, though this book has some good ones of course.
I suppose it’s worth discussing that Tony is gay. And the main character. It’s not uncommon to find non-heterosexual characters in books nowadays, but I haven’t read very many with gay main characters. I’ve seen quite a number with gay characters on the sidelines though, ranging all the way back to Dragonriders of Pern. But I think I have maybe eleven novels where the protagonist is of a nonstandard sexual orientation. Ignoring fetishes and other twisted stuff like that.
That would be the Smoke books, The Fire’s Stone , The Last Herald-Mage trilogy, and The Shape-Shifter Chronicles. I promise, we’ll go into more detail on the other books at some point in the future. I know for a fact the fifth Shape-Shifter book is in progress, so I will have to reread the other four at that point. The others will just have to wait until I get around to rereading them for no good reason.
Anyway, I’d probably say that Dragonriders of Pern is the first series I ever read with non-heterosexual characters in it, though Anne McCaffrey never made a big deal about it. You’ve got your green, blue, and brown dragonriders getting it off after the greens’ mating flights. And Ruth, the white dragon, who is asexual. There’s no big deal made about any of this though, it’s just facts.
The Last Herald-Mage, on the other hand, was the first time I read a book with a gay main character. Well, three books. Vanyel had to deal with a bit more prejudice than the dragonriders, but that’s not surprising given that the Weyrs are fairly tight-knit communities and he was out there in the big world. His orientation didn’t make any difference in how well the book was written, how the story was told, or anything. Sure it affected things, but that’s like saying growing up Jewish in a Christian community affected me. It’s just a part of who and what I am, just like it’s a part of who and what he is.
Back to Tony, who lives in modern-day Canada instead of on another planet or in another universe. Unlike the characters above, “gay” is probably one of the first descriptors people would use for him, instead of being farther down the list. It’s no secret, but he doesn’t usually have to deal with homophobes. He works in television, and there’s so much crap in that industry that is far more important than his orientation or his crush on the costar of the show. Not to mention the crazy events that are actually the plot of the books. Tony has the freedom to be himself in a way the other characters I’ve mentioned don’t. The dragonriders’ relationships are generally not discussed, Vanyel doesn’t get close to many people for multiple reasons and certainly doesn’t discuss his love life (or lack thereof) with most, but everyone at CB Productions knows and accepts him for what he is. And they frequently make fun and tease him about it, especially his crush on Lee Nicholas. Just part of Tony’s everyday life.
Having finished this trilogy, I think I’ll be going in a sci-fi direction next. There may or may not be something in common with Smoke and Ashes, but if there is, I won’t spoil it.