Rubem of No-Man’s Land was content keeping to his wine, his pets, and his extensive collection of fishnets.
But since a sentient, fuel-producing parasite bonded to his brainstem, every morally-depraved scientist and hardcore rebel for a hundred miles wants to ruthlessly dissect him. The parasite itself is no better, influencing his emotions and sassing him with his own memories as it slowly takes over his body.
The only person offering Rubem help is Tavish K. Findlay, a dashing and manipulative philanthropist whose mother’s fuel company monopolizes their corrupt underwater city with an iron claw. She desperately wants to tear Rubem apart for the parasite before those who oppose her can do the same. Her son is irresistibly charismatic though, and after a lifetime of being kicked out and disavowed, Rubem is desperate to believe in the friendship Tavish offers.
With revolutionary plots and political schemes tangling his every choice, Rubem must soon decide whether or not to trust Tavish in his fight against the parasite’s growing control.
Odder Still is a M/M fantasy novel with a class-crossing slow burn romance, murderous intrigue, and a Marvel’s Venom-style parasite-human friendship in an underwater steampunk city. This book exist in the wider These Treacherous Tides universe, coming chronologically after Once Stolen, but it is the first book in the No-Man’s Lander series and is an easy entry point into the world. Each No-Man’s Lander book has a romantically fulfilling ending and a final HEA, with steamy thoughts and foreplay but no explicit sex. (For more information on reading order, please visit D.N. Bryn’s website.)
Content warnings include alcohol consumption and animal death.
[I received a digital copy for an honest review]
Odder Still by D.N. Bryn is a Queer Adult Fantasy with just the right of romance that made romance reading heart happy. If you know me, you know fantasy is my least reached for genre, but between the cover and the synopsis I couldn’t resist, and I’m so glad I made that decision. From chapter one I was completely enchanted by the writing style and the book world I was being introduced to and that feeling stayed with me the entire time reading.
“You’re a wee bit odd, Rubem of No-Man’s Land.” His tone contains all the confusing softness of his expression.
I put on a wry smile for no one but myself. “I get odder the more you know of me.”
Where to even start with this wonderful book. Firstly I loved the poetry that began each chapter, it was beautiful. Our lead and narrator has such a strong voice, even when he’s struggling. He’s an alcoholic with depression who cares greatly for animals. Even as he fights the parasite bonding to him, he stills cares about it. He’s not perfect, he’s greatly flawed, but that’s what made him so fantastic. The facts that he kept trying, trying to make the right choices, even if sometimes he acted out of selfishness when it came to keeping Tavish in his orbit. Tavish, a blind trans man of privilege who at his heart wanted to help those less fortunate than him, but until he met Rubem he was doing the bare minimum. Travish was charming and sweet. The slow romance that blossoms between him and Rubem made me warm and fuzzy, with all its light and lingering touches. There is an intimate scene between them that’s off page, but we are given the lead up and right after which was fine with me. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything because the story as a whole was so satisfying.
Tavish’s fingers slide across skin and parasite, leaving a warmth like whiskey in its wake. They settle beneath my jaw, his thumb fitting there perfectly.
The story and world that D.N. Bryn has created in Odder Still is interesting and layered and comes to life with their writing . Filled with Selkies, a human just trying to survive, a parasite you’ll grow fond of, two lovable cats, assassinations , a revolution, scientific experiments, and so many life or death situations for our leading characters that it puts your heart through the ringer. It has a satisfying ending, but I was very excited to learn there will be another book in the series, and that I’ll get to revisit with Rubem and Tavish in the future.