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Title: Of Kindred and Stardust

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Author: Archer Kay Leah

Pages: 119pp

Price: $8.99 / $4.99

After four years stomping across the alien worlds of the Alpha Centauri system collecting plants -- and trying to avoid being infected, maimed, or eaten by the flora and fauna -- Dath Bellin is finally home. Well, almost. He's at Crosspoint Station in Martian orbit, finishing up a few last tasks before he can head back to Earth and rejoin his family and Druid grove just in time to celebrate Imbolc. Unfortunately, he had not realized that both of his ex-lovers were still at Crosspoint. And that they were together. And that they wanted him to join them ....

Of Kindred and Stardust is exactly the reason I started this blog. Pagan-friendly books are all well and good. But actual, explicit, hey-look-at-this-character-set-up-his-altar-and-pray-to-Brigit books are the titles I really want to highlight. People need to know about these books.

So, here you go. An explicitly polytheist science fiction romance. And not only polytheist but multi-trad. As Dath notes at one point:

To say there was a lot of Pagan in our family was an understatement. Growing up, there'd always been plenty of gods and goddesses in our household, all meeting around our family altar without much fight. Then again, Mom and Dad constantly offered up high quality mead and the good food to keep the peace, so maybe everyone was merely sated and jovial, I  didn't know. [...] everyone chose their own way, especially if we were the ones being chosen. Because, shit, saying no to the likes of Thor, Hekate, or Bast when they came knocking? Around us, that was better known as just don't do it.

And, at another point in the story, Dath reflects on the fact that he was technically raised Heathen (" ... Loki and Odin had always loved dancing around my family like a Heathen binary star ..."), and both his mother and his sister are highly skilled in seidr. But as a teenager, he felt the pull of the Celtic pantheon. And so now, when he finds himself struggling to define a new path for himself, he offers up prays to Aengus, Caer Ibormeith, Brigit, the Morrigan, Danu, and many others.

Dath lives his faith, every day. His faith is not something quirky or odd, something to be held up as weird, or made fun of; not by the other characters, not by the reader, and not by the author.  Leah actually makes a point of dedicating the story "to the Pagan community" and "our beloved grove family, Daoine dhen Tamais." 

(Seeing that dedication when I opened the book made me irrationally happy. I actually squealed.)

Okay, beyond just the Pagan bits, there are plenty of other reasons to recommend Of Kindred and Stars. First, the characters. Dath, Mack, and Kytzia are all terrific. One of the dangers with polyamorous romances is that one (or more) of the characters could come across as flat or not nearly as interesting as the others; and so the reader ends up rooting for a monogamous happily ever after instead of a polyamorous happily ever after. That is not the case here. Archer spends plenty of time developing all three of them, showing us the internal landscapes (faults and all) of Dath, Mack, and Kytzia. By the end, the reader is completely convinced that they all belong together.

Second, Of Kindred and Stardust is LGBTQ+ positive. Not just friendly, but positive. Dath describes himself as demi-sexual: happy without sex, focused on deep emotional connections; but, in a few rare cases, desiring a physical side to the relationship, as well. Mack is genderqueer, preferring xe and xir; when xe came out as a teenager, xir grandfather disowned xir, though the rest of the family stood with xir (so much so that, when xir sister died, xe adopted and raised her two children). Kytzia never explicitly identifies her sexuality, preferring to just love -- and love fiercely -- the two people who mean the most to her in the world. (And wow is she fierce; never tick off an expert hacker.)

This an emotionally rich and deep romance. There is plenty of science fiction, but not of the alien-invasion-epic-space-battles-and-explosions type. Instead, there is advanced technology, alien vistas, an alien bug (microscopic), a cute lizard robot, and the strain of maintaining familial and romantic ties across the vast distances of space. The science fiction elements do not overwhelm the romance in the story; rather, they are effectively woven through it to make the romance that much more engaging and satisfying.

Of Kindred and Stardust is a terrific romance filled with wonderful characters who deserve their happily ever after. Highly recommended to fans of science fiction romance, as well as fans of Effie Calvin's Tales of Inthya series, A Stirring in the Bones by Jennifer Lyn Parsons, Ilona Andrews' Questing Beast, Threads of Fate by Joey W. Hill, Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott, and Prophesied by Liz Craven.