Full disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author for review, however, my opinions are my own.
So, to start off, this is NOT the Parasolverse. Or, is it? I am excited to see what the fandom makes of this. Carriger is an author whose mood comes out in her work and I would say that she was having fun with this book, because I found it a lot of fun. However, there IS A REASON she’s using a slightly different pen name. Carriger herself has described this book as “raunchy” which I would totally agree with.
The Sumage Solution is a gay m/m romance set in San Francisco and follows the events of the novella Marine Biology. The werewolf pack, headed up by the first (?) gay Alpha werewolf, moves to the San Francisco area, hoping to find a more welcoming environment. What they find is a sassy gay mage, werewolf-prejudice, and a lot of bureaucracy. The story begins from there.
My initial thoughts before getting the book: I struggle with urban fantasy. In part because gritty isn’t really my aesthetic, but I am coming to realize that one thing that I dislike about urban fantasy is the constant low-level or explicit rape threat of the heroine. I recently read Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older, which is an urban fantasy with a male lead, and I enjoyed it much more than many other urban fantasies, in part because the male hero has no explicit or implicit rape threats. Similarly, The Sumage Solution, while significantly more sexual than Half-Resurrection Blues, doesn’t have the looming threat of rape in the background of each scene, which I very much appreciated. So, if urban fantasy is a little bit of a struggle for you, this might overcome some of your issues with it.
The characters are sweet, especially Biff who definitely had some beta hero parallels with Gavin Ruthven from Poison or Protect, but I don’t think he was repetitive. Max was fun and dramatic, but he felt believable in the way he used it to cover his deeper emotions. I feel like all of those paranormal shifter romances with creepily possessive Alpha males and heroines who live under a cloud of sexual threat were made so that Carriger could subvert them with this lovely story. I also enjoyed that the penetrative sex was delayed (a regular romance story tactic) by the characters just saying to each other, ‘let’s wait a little while and enjoy the other stuff first.’ Simple. No narrative gymnastics required.
The plot isn’t super quick off the mark with the emphasis more on the romance or settling the reader in the new world, but when it kicks in, it’s quite fun and the plot threads come together in a satisfying way.
I am happy to see a queer male romance in the forefront, which is a sub-genre I haven’t read enough of. I’ve got my fingers crossed for Lovejoy and a transwoman romance because I need more transwomen around in literature and romance. Honestly, the main complaint I had was that there were very few women (though it is a m/m romance with an all m werewolf pack + merman), but when I was thinking it through, there were a few awesome ladies (Manifest Destiny!!!!!) who certainly held their own.
I would recommend this book if you like Carriger, and/or urban fantasy, and/or queer romance. Overall, I think readers need to be cool with explicit romance and with queer romance. Both of these things can polarize readers, and my guess is that most negative reviews will simply be people who don’t like one of these two aspects.
Finally, my crumpled old heart just about broke in delight when the characters donated their old goods to an LGBT youth center. While there is an appropriately dramatic and symbolic furniture-burning, the characters decide to take a less wasteful, less privileged, environmentally-friendly approach for disposing of possessions, which my practical soul loved. And in the author’s note, Carriger mentions making donations to her preferred LGBT center, which makes me feel happy giving my money to her when I’m looking to purchase books.
I will be grabbing this book in physical format when it becomes available, and watching in the hope that everyone else gets excited about this book so that we can have more! (Seriously, I gotta know what’s up with Tank. And we can’t just leave Colin as he is! And, I want more HEA of happy queer couples living HEA.)