i know no limits

you want to tell him:

“you are like a calming whisper when the rest of the world is an angry yell.”

you want to say:

“that whispered feeling makes me feel the most safe i ever have been.”

you say:

“i love you”

and hope to whatever God is above that it’s enough.

they say:

“you can’t fall in through a screen,”

but they don’t know how i feel;

like just seeing him calms every raging storm in my head,

that hearing his voice lets me breathe easily,

that his presence is the best thing in my life.

they don’t know what i see when i see his name, his face:

trials, fighting to get a better future, a ring held up;

two men at an altar, unafraid to love, proud, alive.

hands held, smiles bright, a past behind them.

a promise: “i will love you forever.”

a future: “we deserve this. we deserve each other.”

they say: “it’s not real.”

but i’m 22 now and nothing has ever felt as real as he does–as real as the thought of his hand sliding next to mine,

falling asleep to thoughts of his arms around me, a comforting presence, an embrace to belong in.

i say: “on bad nights, i look at him, just stay looking at him, and i know i can be okay.”

no words could describe the amount i feel for him, no words can convey the amount of love i have in my heart for him, a never-ending thing.

and i know what ends feel like, and i know what limits feel like in my head;

he doesn’t have them–limitless, endless, a love, a person, it physically hurts to imagine gone.

because when he’s gone it’s like i’m alone

trapped in a grey world

no sight or sound; other people see me but they don’t see the right thing.

he comes back; i am seen, i am loved, i am wanted, i am needed.

he comes back; i see, i love, i want, i need.

he comes back; he always comes back

to me.

The Death of Arthur

THE DEATH OF ARTHUR is a climbing magnificence of a story, one that takes your hand gently, soothes you with two boys who just want adventure–only to find their lives completely turned upside down. I finished this book at 4:30am, hooked until the very last page. Even when I wasn’t physically reading it, I was thinking about it. It’s the kind of all-consuming book a person needs to read when the real world just–kind of sucks.

Whilst I have many messy thoughts scribbled down, I thought I’d write this for you, Yves, to give you some sort of collected feedback and be a good friend/beta! So here goes, in a very loose review-style way!

With some most chapters claiming reflective, in-retrospect thoughts, the book warns you right from the start: do not–DO NOT–be fooled. Do not trust. Expect chaos; expect badness. Yet the lull and rhythm, the grand storyline and strong bond between the characters make you forget that over and over. You can’t help but become wrapped up in the in-the-moment events. And I think that’s the purpose: you forget about the impending doom and focus on the “in the now”–and that was my first mistake. I fell hard for each character–and, in time, watched as they all broke apart, knitted back together, and, for the finale, turned on each other.

Yves has incredible strong points when writing: their imagery skills are everything to this book. This book would not be the same without the beautifully layered scene descriptions. It’s not just chunks of “this is this, that is that”; it is genuinely you need to know that this pastry is buttery, and that the winter night is this biting. You read, and suddenly you’re right there. From the start, Yves pulls you into the story, fingers curled in your shirt and yanking before you have a chance to cry out. But you never regret one moment–you never want to go back or stop the whirlwind of what you’re about to find out. A buildup of scents, sounds, colours, sensations, both Caer, the islands, and Willowtown come to life incredibly.

This book is a retelling of the story of King Arthur. So, granted, we need an Arthur, and he is situated from the start as Neil Pendragon–a very clever surname, I thought. There is a quiet bookish boy at his side, whom Neil calls his soulmate in every world. It’s not realised at first that Max is Merlin–that he would be Neil’s undoing, no matter how many times Yves warned through those reflective sentences I mentioned at the end of the chapter. At the start, Neil has only a matter of days left in Caer, a place he thought to call his home after existing in so many different worlds, so he takes Max on an adventure. The adventure is the catalyst to Neil realising that who he is–who has always been in any and all worlds–has led to a prophecy. That he’s not Neil at all; he is Arthur. Prince Arthur, will be King Arthur, and he will rule Willowtown.

Now this book follows the prophecy, the fate of each character seemingly ringing out in the background like a quiet bell, marking the hours passing. Faint reminders, again, not to fall in love with these characters because their destiny is greater than softness that allows them to live on in happy lives. It begs you to ask the questions: who is who? Look a little deeper, broaden your theories–who is who? In the end there stands Merlin, a fallen King, an prophecised Queen, and a fractured Round Table–and one knight who made it to the end. But before there was a crowned Merlin and Arthur who went through hell and back and thought they would never be divided, there were two boys: Max and Neil, who were ace, platonically in love, and would do anything for each other. There were two boys who wanted to see and read about more of the world. There were two boys whose love language wasn’t kissing or romantic declarations; it was fingers on each other’s neck; it was curled-up together on cold nights; it was screaming desperation to find each other when separated; it was not feeling right when they were apart. That’s one of the most potent things about this book: how in love these two boys are, how they are very much soulmates, but they’re not a couple nor never tried to be. Their asexuality is clear, made humorous at times, but does not at all lessen the story or the bond. Yves portrays their love in so many ways, skinship and comfort and you are my home and I’m not right when you’re distant or not here and I don’t know what I’d do without you. It’s a careful bond already in place at the start–and that bond only strengthens, hardens, as they grow up in Willowtown–as they come scholars, meet their Round Table, and meet their fate.

The timeline for this book is *chef’s kiss*. The way Yves writes the timeline is beautiful, noticeable, and feels right for the events of the book. The transition from boys in Caer to men in a university–even the transition from a gangly boy wielding Excalibur with all the grace of a fumbling baby deer to a king who fights for Willowtown, is stunning. I got to watch Neil and Max grow up, grow stronger, fall into their places and hone themselves into who they needed to be. The background to the main chunk of the book is Willowtown university, classes, exams, professors, and it’s done perfectly. Whilst it provides another purpose for them to learn and meet others it never takes away from the bigger plotline of the prophecy.

But again, I held my breath over and over, questions of “who is who? who is going to betray who?” in my head. I went frantic, searching for clues, not trusting any new characters. Soon enough, Neil/Arthur has a compiled Round Table: Reet, Yvanna, Arcite, Palamon, Caspian, Dorian. The love the Round Table have for each other that falls from the page hurt my heart to read. It’s so clear in the way they pile into a small tower room, have each other’s backs, will do anything for each other. They fall in love with each other, much reminding me of the dynamic in THE RAVEN CYCLE. It’s not always romantic love–it’s unending, I will fight for you, love. Yvanna, in the beginning, was a bitch, but there was a beautiful montage of her bonding with Neil over detention in the dragon’s stables (KAI YOU LEGEND, YOU MADE IT OUT ALIVE). At first you don’t think she’ll be too important but oh Good Lord, she is. In the end she is the one who stayed. She stayed at Neil’s side, never ran, never left, always fought to her last chance. In the end she saves Neil’s life, gets him to the lake, to meet the Lady of the Lake.

Before there was Dorian, sweet boy Dorian whom I wasted time with at the start not trusting, there was Tion who was Round Table. He was shifty at times, secretive, yet very much a necessary character. Whilst his death killed me (he’s alive and kicking in my AU’s, thank you, Yves), I understood it’s purpose. Without him killing the boar they wouldn’t have realised the importance of Lavatia’s curse, her power, her involvement in their eventual end. I loved Tion, and his death was only the first to break my heart.

But back to the timeline, because I’m bad at writing in chronological order, one of the most notable things about the character was Max. He was shown to grow more than anyone. His persona changing to adapt to being Merlin because he knows he’ll likely lose his best friend and soulmate, so distances himself, becomes the best wizard he can be to give Neil the best chances–it was all stunningly executed. He always whispers that Neil is lost to him but I think it was always Max who was losing himself–and Max, who, in the end, lost their fight in trying to end it.

The ending scene killed me right off. I sobbed violently through it all, heaving gasps I tried to muffle at four in the morning, because I was destroyed. Dorian’s part shifts from squire to knight, to sacrificial prince, to brave soldier, to being killed by Caspian in his loyalty to Neil. That, for me, was incredibly important: Dorian drawing his sword on Caspian, only to be killed by him. When the characters met, Dorian idolised him. I got the sense that Caspian was Dorian’s first crush–at least that he was fully aware of, until Dorian discovered kissing with Arcite. Dorian would have trusted Caspian, followed him, only to die by his sword–and sweet Dorian, Dorian, my son, I cried endlessly for him.

In the end, Neil is left with a Round Table either dead or run off to safer grounds and a wizard who died as a traitor but Neil still needed to see that Max wanted to save him. “Max, tell me it’s not true.” Neil broke my heart with that line when Palamon revealed Max’s betrayal, that he sold Neil out to the princess trying to kill him. In the end, Neil lies bleeding and dying next to Max, as it had always been, and makes a deal. He will go to Avalon if it means he never knew the people who fought for him, loved him, died for him. He will sacrifice what he built and had in his life for their second chances–even if it means they would forget him. And when it was time for them to go to Avalon, they would be reunited. The ending leaves an open hope, a bare hint of, “Will Neil be okay? Will they be okay? Would lives would they lead if not following the prophecy?”

To conclude, I’m heartbroken, full of magic, love, wonder, awe, at this magnificent book. And I would happily get my heart broken over and over if it means I get to be surrounded by the wonderful world-building, characters, and story. Yves, thank you for letting me read this. I’m sorry I took so long but I’m also super glad I savoured everyone at a slower pace when they were alive. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This book needs to be published–this book needs to be out there and known and be cried and loved over.

Also please find below a list of fanart I would die to see created one day:

  • Neil looking at the dragons in the sky before leaving for Holyrood
  • Max and Neil embracing after their many fights, Max’s fingers in his hair
  • The blue protection wall in Queen Amoria’s sitting room–just that whole dynamic read wonderfully
  • Dorian facing down the Green Knight in Willowtown and the chapel
  • Dorian and Neil curled up in the tower when Dorian can’t settle anywhere
  • The Round Table around the tree at Neil’s coronation
  • Neil pulling Excalibur out of the lake
  • The whole group studying in the tower room
  • The mermaid throne room
  • Kai flying with Neil and Max on her back

Bare: From Bare the Musical

As a song, it means a great deal to me. It’s sweet, passionate, climatic, powerful. Lyrically, the song means everything. When I first listened to Bare, it was a recommendation of YOU AND I, back in March. I listened to the whole album there and then, at midnight, and fell in love but I never went back to it a lot.

For one week in August, I had an incredibly strange week. I relapsed into bad agoraphobic patterns, but the whole week I read RED WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE, and my interests kept circling back to Bare the Musical, so much so I was obsessed, playing it every moment I was awake. Each day brought a new song obsession. It was that strange week that I fell in love with this song. It’s from the end of Act Two, just before Jason’s death shakes the lives of everyone in the musical. But before he dies he says the most important things to Peter; he says everything he has always been afraid to say.

When I first listened to Bare in March I hated Jason for hurting Peter, for being a coward. Then, in August, I dissected the musical over and over, focused more on each character individually rather than see the musical as a whole piece. All through the musical Jason skirts over his feelings for Peter, often shoving both them and him aside. In You and I he makes it out to be about physical attraction, which has Peter woefully wondering if he’s just a phase to Jason–he recognises that Jason wants a traditional conforming life with a bride, dogs, and children. He wouldn’t give him that. In BEST KEPT SECRET, Jason wants to keep hiding. That’s all he is about: hiding his feelings, hiding Peter, even hiding himself. He says, “This is just a fantasy”. He’s so filled with love for Peter that it never feels real and they can never make it real in their situation. Where he lives and how he lives… it isn’t a place for them to be open.

In the musical, Jason and Peter come together before falling apart over and over, until Jason has a massive outburst of “there is no such thing as heroes who are queer”. He thinks he knows how reality is–he knows that he will never be anything more than labelled “gay”, thinks that will hold back his bigger life potential. With Jason still trying to hide from himself, he sleeps with Ivy, trying to make himself feel like any other straight boy. In ONE, he says, “God I know that this is right”, which could be a figure of speech or literally speaking to God that he’s trying to do the “right” thing by denying himself, by forcing himself into a sexuality he isn’t. My interpretation of ONE is every word Jason says is him convincing himself he feels more for Ivy, because as soon as their spring break is over he knows he’s done wrong and ends it with her. He says he felt love so strong for someone “once”, which is Peter. After the outburst of PROMISE where it’s revealed Jason got Ivy pregnant and is gay, and Peter is outed, the characters fall apart. Peter says he tried to help Jason, forcing Jason into the hands of God in ONCE UPON A TIME. That’s his monologue to Peter, his desperation for his own feelings. “Could you really love someone like me?” could be interpreted to mean he’s asking God can he love a gay kid? Could be interpreted to mean he’s asking Peter “could you ever love a coward? Someone who can’t stand up and say how he feels?” The song is heart-wrenching, desperate, words still shoved deep down inside Jason that he won’t ever say to anyone.

In the final scenes of Act Two, the characters put on their performance of Romeo and Juliet. Before, Jason tries to play nonchalant again and pulls Peter aside. His cool demeanour soon changes to pleading when he knows how he wants to express his love for Peter but can’t do it in his current situation. Even after all the mess he made, he’s still too afraid. His begs turn into a song: BARE. This is Jason’s last words to Peter, the words he chooses to part ways with him, because he has already drank the potion that will kill him. BARE is his final assurance to Peter: he’s sorry for hiding, behind a coward, for making Peter feel less. He asks Peter to remember every wonderful thing they shared, felt, went through, did. “You were the question and you were the answer”; the question being his sexuality, the reason he never liked girls until he met Peter and everything fell into place. “The world would make sense again if I held your hand”. All through the musical, Jason makes it clear he loves Peter so desperately in private–that Peter is all he needs, not the rest of the world and their opinions.

“Someday you’ll look back and I hope you’ll remember the moment of truth when I knew who I was.” Jason is finally admitting who he is. That line is Jason without any facade, pretence, or hiding, and he wants to share that with Peter. He wants Peter to be left with Jason facing who he is even if he can’t live with it. When he whispers, “Please understand that I tried”, Peter never got to see that side of him. He never saw the aching of ONCE UPON A TIME, the anger in CROSS, the words spilling from Jason about his cowardice and trapped feeling of how he lives. He tried to accept it; he tried to seek answers from Father Flynn about accepting who he is and knowing he could be accepted. He was denied that over and over–but Jason still tried. He tried for himself and for Peter.

“I have discovered the one thing that’s real: that I love you.” He finally knows–he will never love Ivy or feel for another girl, which further backs up the false convincing he gives himself in ONE. Only Peter feels real to him–real enough to finally admit.

For Jason it has always been Peter.

For Peter is has always been Jason.

And no matter how Peter chooses to live after Jason dies, he will always remember that he had a brilliant, consuming love, a boy who was so scared and trapped, prisoned by religious teachings and ways, that he couldn’t say who he loved more than anything in the world. But he has always loved Peter–will always love him.

As someone who adores Peter’s character to no end, I started sympathising a great deal with Jason in the end. He’s a coward, as most people are, as I am so much. It’s easier to swallow the truth of who you are than face the destruction being honest could cause. It’s easier to feel in private than be bared for anyone and everyone to see. But Jason finally pushes past all this; he stops being a coward even if he can’t live with that decision, with the destruction he caused. The gentle notes of that final line lingers, a heartfelt thing that encourages listeners of the musical to be stronger, more honest, braver.

The Children of Rowan (See also: my babies)

Sometimes you read a book and it’s fun; it envelopes you for a while, you add it to Goodreads, you talk it up, etc. But other times you read a book and it sinks ghostly hooks into your skin, buries deep where nobody else can taint the feelings it imprints, and it doesn’t let go–not that you want it to. You read a book that’s magical and you inhale it all because how could you not? You read a book and it transcends keysmashing, articulate words and feelings. Sometimes it keeps you awake at two in the morning with it’s beauty.

Admittedly, I was attracted to beta read THE CHILDREN OF ROWAN because I saw a young scholar having a gay panic over a priest on a forgotten island and was SOLD, because gay trans books is the shit. Absolutely. 100%. Give me them all. What I got was completely unexpected–and what I got was something so much more. When I got sent the pdf to read, I was in a Weird Place. Time was moving too fast. One weekend came too soon after the last and I felt like I couldn’t catch a breath. I felt like I barely blinked and a whole day had passed without me even doing anything remotely productive. It was starting to make me panic. But then I opened THE CHILDREN OF ROWAN.

Time slowed. Time escaped. No, time didn’t even exist when I read that book. Everything faded away. Hiding in the fridges at work seemed like nothing. It seemed like I merely stepped from one minute to the next when, in reality, I was gone a lot longer because I stole away to read more. Each line was lasting, impressionable, and sunk further into me than I ever realised it would. THE CHILDREN OF ROWAN held my panic over time in it’s eerie hands, took it away from me, and gave me a place where time didn’t matter. Seconds slowed so I could savour and feel every inch of the book. It calmed a raging tornado in me of whatamidoing?whencanidothis?ohgodohgodohgod–paranoiaparanoiaparanoia. It silenced everything.

Whilst the story was a whirlwind of it’s own, it wasn’t my whirlwind. And whilst I panicked over real time, the characters had their own time issues but that made it no less significant to me. Reading this let me step into a completely new world from anything I have ever read before. Rowan is an island that isolates–and I felt perfectly encompassed and cocooned by the story told. There is magic laced through every page, a curse the foundation on which the story lies, a constant reminder to not get too comfortable in the colours of the town and the laughter from choir boys playing sports. A reminder, in the shape of unknowable woods, that there is badness in the world and it wants to steal you away from the colours and the laughter. I couldn’t help but see a metaphor. You can look away from the dark woods, the mystery and danger lying in the unknown, but it’s always watching over you. It’s always waiting to catch you out the second you slip up. You can focus on other things but that will never stop focusing on you.

But whilst the dark curse, which, in it’s essence, is so understandably human in the motive for it’s creation, is the foundation, there is hope in this story that flickers like a candle. It dims; it wavers; it can blow out now and then. But the good thing about hope is that it never runs out. It is ever-present, cycling back around once it gutters out. It can always be reignited. Salem is that beacon of hope, flickering, cheerful, intuitive and curious. He is a bold pillar that centres Rowan, that centres their hope in salvation.

THE CHILDREN OF ROWAN is a soothing voice in your ear whispering that it’s okay to feel the bad things, the dangerous things, the despair and broken things. It whispers that it’s okay to hurt and break and create nasty things that affect other people. Pain can be outward; pain can affect others before we can process and heal ourselves. That’s human; that’s okay. This book takes your hand and tells you that every inch of you should never be sorry for how you are or feel. It urges to never stop being curious or be dampened. The world can be scary but you can bold–you can be unapologetic.

It is a story of darkness and hunger and violence and questions. It is incredible, beautiful, and I became so emotionally invested and attached that it was hard to let go. I still haven’t, and I don’t want to. Reading it was like realising that imaginary best friend you had as a child is real and that kind of completes you. You really get to step into another world entirely. This book is escapism at it’s finest, and I adored every page.

Alina: thank you. Whether you know it or not, you have created something wonderful, incredible, and I’m so honoured I got to read it at an early stage.

What Would You Forget–If You Could?

Last night I finished MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera, and it gave me a lot of feelings. It’s a very character-driven book, very psychological, with strong themes of internalised and externalised homophobia. It’s a twisty, fucks-with-your-brain kind of book, which, naturally, I loved. In the story there’s a company called Leteo, and they offer procedures to make eligible patients forget everything they need to in order to live a happier life.

It reminded me a of a conversation I had with Ellen when I was sixteen. I asked them if they could forget every memory–bad and good–up until the moment I asked the question in order to live a new life, would they? I remember saying I would. I remember thinking that I would in a heartbeat. I would give sixteen years up without a second thought if it meant I could be “renewed”. I’ve often thought of that question over the years, and especially now with posts like “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE THIS DECADE?” which trigger me greatly.

Would I offer up every memory of this life, of twenty-one years, for the chance at a new life? Yes, absolutely. I would. It’s not about wanting to forget who I am because of certain things about me, like the boy in the book wanted to; it’s about wanting to forget every major and minor thing that has made me who I am right now. Yes, memories are what form you, what make you: you. But my life has shaped a person I despise being. My life is painful thing after painful thing, and I’m expected, in my daily life, to not have them affect me.

this year I was diagnosed with both schizoid adaptive disorder and agoraphobia. The first thing blocks my ability to have a thriving social life or any desire to maintain friendships despite being achingly lonely; it zaps emotions out of me most days, makes me a little bit of a hollow shell. The second blocks my ability to leave my house for any social time even if I did want it. Through these two things I have watched jobs come and go, I have watched friends simply walk away, whilst I jeopardised others. Through these, I have watched my friends lose interest, lose thought for me, and I am left with a beautiful Twitter community to support me. I live through my laptop and that’s it. There is no external life beyond that for me anymore. So would I forget everything in order to be someone else? Yes. A lot of my memories aren’t happy reminders but painful triggers that tell me, “Hey!! You can’t have this again!! You’re a broken person who can’t get help!! You’re the person who is disposable!!” If there was a Leteo procedure, I would be zooming myself to that building and begging them for appointments and consultations. I don’t know; I think that when life has proved for twenty-one years that you’re easily forgotten, not at all very significant, you tend to think that something like that would help, because anything would be better than living with the mind I do. When you reach out to your friends for support and get repeatedly ignored because “oh, it’s just Shane being dramatic and and sensitive and overreacting again”, you kind of wish you were invisible even though they make you feel like you already are. When you’ve seen things and felt things and watched every door close just as you let yourself walk through them, these thoughts happen.

But there is no Leteo procedure. There is no magic snapping of the fingers to make me forget who I am, what my life has been and is. What I do have is the ability to write stories and pursue getting those stories out into the world. What I do have is a Twitter community who haven’t turned their backs on me.

In the end, that boy in the story didn’t want to forget. He found a way to deal with what he lived with, and I wish I could take bigger inspiration from that. Maybe I still can. Maybe I have to, because there is no other plausible way to forget.

You Were:

You were:

4pms, when I hadn’t enough sleep,

So you brought me coffee without asking.

You were:

6pms when we flagged,

But I liked a new song so you played it for me.

You were:

10pms, on a late finish,

a mop on the floor, laughter in a quieter kitchen.

You were:

awkward smiles and “can you–” “sure.”

You were:

sat on the counter playing your guitar and I thought, “oh no.”

You were:

A Jaegerbomb on my 21st birthday, and 2am in your bedroom with three others.

You were:

“I think you’d like this song.”

You were:

“oh that reminds me of a terrible time”, and I couldnt stop laughing.

You were:

The tilt of our heads when you smoked, and every heavy conversation and light laugh.

You were:

not my Riley–you were better.

You were:

a boy who saw me, accepted me.

You were:

the friend i needed more than anything.

Forget

Don’t forget me; please don’t forget me.

When you turn around and I’m not at your back, grinning and laughing because I’d found my place.

I found a pocket of space I could take up and be myself.

Don’t forget me when it’s busy and I usually did the storage run.

Don’t forget me, when it feels too empty and I’m not talking about the book I read that week or the song Ioved.

Please don’t forget that you all saved my life.

Please don’t forget that those two or three days saved my life.

Would you think of me when you play Danger Days?

I vote you play the entirety of Danger Days from start to finish.

Would you think of me when you hear about that group I loved and you said they were pretty?

Because I think about you a lot.

When I’m trying to hold on,

Even as I try to let go.