Review: Gadarene by CB Potts and Tina Anderson

In the notorious Five Points slum of 1870’s Manhattan, Galen ‘the Mongoose’ Driscol steps out of jail and back into the arms of his transgendered lover, Wira Boruta. When Galen tells Wira that he’s tracked down the man who tried to kill them as children, Wira is unwilling to listen, and pleads with Galen to forget the past, and live only for the future…their future. Only Galen doesn’t forget, nor does he forgive. He doesn’t give a second thought about exacting justice, but justice has a price, and it’s come to collect from the one person Galen loves most…

Review by Erastes

I had no idea what to expect when I opened this book – I knew a little about the authors, but not a lot, and I didn’t know that either of them were likely to produce anything in this genre. I have to say that it’s not an easy book to find – No mention of it on C B Potts’ website and if you do a Google search for Gadarene C B Potts you get one hit which is my comment on a thread on Mrs Giggles’ blog.

I had an email fromTina Anderson when she discovered I was reading it and she explained that the book is “a light novel.” I hadn’t heard the term so she explained: Light Novels in Japan are novels that have artwork and are aimed at teens who’re manga fans; in America, Tokyo Pop and Seven Sea are redefining it by producing English works aimed at comics readers with images and ‘simple prose’.

I also had to go and look up the term Gadarene (after I’d finished the book) because I am an ignoramus. But now I know what it refers to, it certainly fits the story – in fact to look it up (if you don’t know to what it refers) it might actually spoil the plot a little.

This book is difficult to pigeonhole for those of you who like that kind of thing, it’s a love story – there’s no doubt about that at all, and actually surprised me that the sex was the least of the plot devices. You never doubt for one moment that Wira and Galen are soul mates despite the tempestuous nature of their relationship. Both characters are wonderfully human, making real mistakes and trying to cope with their demons.

And boy oh boy, do they have demons.

It’s also a mystery and from the second half onwards it spirals into some very visceral horror, so be warned if you are expecting fluff. Nothing could be less fluffy, and for me it was a nice surprise – so many books concentrate on the love affair.

The book is beautiful, and by that I mean the design. From the sumptuous cover and the little knot garden designs (both by Laura Carboni) interspersed in the pages to the font of the chapters and the nice easy on the eye font of the main text itself. It is always rewarding to have a pretty book, and I appreciate it a lot.

I wouldn’t describe this as light, though. Some of the prose is wonderful and skilfully dotted with slang from the period. Talking of the period and the location – I knew almost nothing of these, and if I hadn’t seen “Gangs of New York” I’d know nothing at all. This leaps straight into the slum of Five Points and does a damned good job of it, never romanticising it. There’s dirt and trash and danger everywhere you look and if anyone makes the film, it would have to be Tim Burton.

Having never read any transgendered fiction (and I think this has to be the only historical?) at all I found it a little hard to get my head around the way the trans viewed themselves. Wira is a hermaphrodite, something that is dealt with at birth in these times, (often erroneously) was raised as a girl for his formative years then after his mother died was forced into men’s clothing. I had the feeling that he thought of himself as a she (he gets into a panic attack when he tries to dress in trousers and leave the house) but both he and Galen refer to him as he, despite both of them always refer to Georgian (a great butch of a transvestite) as she. This dicotomy is actually resolved in excellent style and certainly left me thinking, long after I finished the book.

I spotted one or two minor editing issues, some minor typos and also that Wira is supposed to say “v” instead of “w” but this is inconsistent – so it’s almost like he does it as a pose. On a very personal level, I didn’t like that Georgian called Wira “Dubuya” – of course, it’s just unfortunate that I have to blame The Shrub President for that – but it jarred me.

But all in all (considering that I’m a very squeamish reader) I enjoyed it a lot and if you want a genre-busting story that covers a lot of ground, emotionally and viscerally, then you should definitely give this one a go.

Buy Direct from Elegant Madness

2 Responses

  1. I grabbed this one after seeing Elisa’s review on LJ. It looks rather promising, given the subject matter.

  2. There is a very small typo in the title of the post 🙂

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