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Book Review: The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

Friday, October 6, 2017 - 07:00

Shira Glassman writes self-described "fluffy queer Jewish princess fantasies" (ok, I may have reworded slightly but I think I've kept the essence of it). The Second Mango introduces the reader to Perach, a secondary-world fantasy realm where everyone just happens to be Jewish. I mean that in the most positive possible way -- when creating a fantasy setting completely separate from real-world history, why not set it up exactly as you choose? It's subversive in its own way, because every time I was tempted to trip over the concept, I thought about all the similar fantasy settings that never get questioned or challenged when they silently echo dominant real-world cultures without presenting any logical basis for why they should. But perhaps I digress too much into literary theory.

The Second Mango is a fairly straightforward quest adventure, where a young, newly-installed queen goes off on a quest to find a girlfriend. There is just enough heteronormativity in the setting that her quest leaves her advisors and courtiers baffled and confused, but not so much that everyone won't cheerfully accept the outcome when she succeeds. The quest is aided by a masked gender-bending swordswoman and her shapeshifting horse-dragon, with barriers and challenges being offered variously by scheming innkeepers and misogynistic sorcerers.

The book is very young adult in feel, not so much for the age of the protagonist, but for the relative straightforwardness of the plot. Characters are pretty much who they present themselves as, challenges are relatively straightforward and solvable, and the plot twists are foreshadowed well enough for a pleasant reading experience without being obvious enough to spoil it. The prose is on the explanatory side more than the immersive side, and various aspects of character identity (such as food sensitivities) are solidly rooted in contemporary discourse rather than being given a more oblique in-world presentation. For the target readership of this series, I assume this is a solid feature, not a flaw. If the phrase "fluffy lesbian Jewish queen with food sensitivities finds true love" makes your heart go pitter-pat, then you are solidly in the target demographic for The Second Mango and I strongly recommend it to you.

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