Series: The Oberon Cycle
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Genre: sci fi, wing fic, mm romance
LGBTQ+ Category: gay, lesbian
Pages: Skythane – 244; Lander – 294; Ithani – 286
Book One, Skythane:
Book Two, Lander:
Book Three, Ithani:
About the Books
Book 1: Skythane
Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.
Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.
Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them together.
Book 2: Lander
Sometimes the world needs saving twice.
In the sequel to the Rainbow-Award-winning Skythane, Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.
Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander’s kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.
In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.
Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel concocted? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most?
Book 3: Ithani
Time is running out.
After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson, and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani—the aliens who broke the world—have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.
The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing friend and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin, and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.
Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny, and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the ability to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise….
As a reader, you feel a lot like Jameson does stepping off the shuttle: you’re entering a whole new world, but it doesn’t take long to sweep you up in its events. You won’t get answers to every question you ask, but you will get an awful lot of beautiful scenery, some amazing moments and a boots-on-the-ground understanding of this universe that slowly unfolds around you.
The layered and delicately nuanced cultures and the interactions between them are a delight to behold. Each culture and the people it shapes have their own tales and traditions, their own priorities and their own cultural blind spots. They’re like tributary lakes feeding into one another: if you are inside one it is deep and full of intricacies, but to the otter who sees it from the vantage point of another lake it’s just a pond. The writer has done a masterful job of showing us both the surface as it appears to an outsider, and the rich secrets hidden within. Throughout the story, the conflicts, divisions, reunions and slowly building accords between these cultures are consistently plausible and entirely satisfying.
As a bonus, nicely designed flora and fauna have been created to keep we readers immersed in a living, breathing ecosystem. I know a good bit about horticulture, and the fact that the color of the sky has correctly dictated the color of the foliage made me unreasonably happy. I enjoyed the descriptions of interaction and learning through our access character, and really was pleased to read all the little details that go along with a culture of winged hominids and the issues it brings up: for example, the awkward moment during a meeting between humans and skythane when both parties realize that the wrong chairs have been supplied, and half the group can’t sit down on account of their wings. I’ll admit, I snickered loud enough to annoy my cat right there.
The LGBT issues are nicely worked into the arc of the story, causing no ripples in the flow. In fact, they’re so well worked in that I had to go back and note the easy acceptance of tweeners (nonbinary folks) and triads, bookmarking those points for future mention. Now that’s clever. By the time we get to non-human and non-binary aliens who use three gender pronouns, I didn’t even blink. Very nicely done there. I love seeing stories that show current cultural hangups done away with: we need more examples of what it looks like to win that fight.
Oh, and the sex is hinted at just enough to get your heart beating, without sidelining the story. Always a plus.
I thoroughly appreciated the thought that went into designing this dichotomous world in which rural and industrial, land bound and winged, the past and the present exist in uneasy truce. The end of Ithani described it well: full of humans and aliens and all kinds of things in between. This is a world that makes us expand our concepts of what it is to be ‘alien.’ Perhaps a stranger is simply a friend you haven’t met yet.
This is a world full of wonderfully flawed, wonderfully honest characters. Each person is a world in themselves, unique and full of interest. And each is allowed to follow their own arcs and their own hearts, for better and for worse.
I really appreciated the way in which each main character, and many of the minor ones, are asked to transform throughout the story. The main characters in particular–Jameson and Xander–must completely shatter their self images and come out of who they have been as new creatures. If you’re thinking butterflies, that’s apt, especially for Jameson: he goes from the life of study and good works he’s always known, an obedient and helpful psychologist–a human psychologist–and through his trials comes into his lineage: as a winged skythane whose wings have not been allowed to grow. As a gay man. As a leader of people. And as a person who stands for himself, not for the expectations of those around him. He literally goes from one form to another, learning to fly both literally and figuratively… and yes, I totally had Tom Petty lyrics stuck in my head and a grin on my face while reading about him.
Xander’s transformation is more internalized, but no less powerful. He’s written himself off until this new life comes to sweep him away. He has to learn to trust new possibilities for connection, acceptance, and joy.
What I love is that minor characters are allowed to go through similar transformations: Mylin, raised in a rural town, finds that she’s a whiz at interfacing with VR once she’s shown how. Alix, running from the entrapping life his mother designed for him, finds a way to take his life in his own hands and on his own terms. Morgan, who could have been a simple tool and plot device, steadily evolves into something far greater.
The growth the characters are allowed is stellar, and it lets the writer neatly sidestep a number of worn out tropes, including The Jealous Ex Shows Up and The Dead Sweetheart Wasn’t Really Dead. Situations are introduced looking like they might go down these tired roads, but the characters quickly reframe the situations into something much more fulfilling. Far from being a catty ex-girlfriend or the damsel, Jessa became one of my favorite characters in the story, learning the ropes and taking on roles she’d never imagined. And what comes of the journeys they all take is fascinating.
Quick, playful and clever, the style is catchy. The writer has a real flare for one liners to end a scene. At times they seemed a touch over-used, but never problematic. Ninety percent of the time, they were fun.
The perspective changes fall into the same category, especially in books 2 and 3. As the cast grew, numerous POVs began to be used, and by the time I was reading Ithani I occasionally had to double check my understanding of events. But it was only a small snag in the overall flow. Small sacrifice, given the excitement of seeing events through the eyes of each character as they found their way through the story.
The large amount of new terminology was handled well and generally described in conversation, avoiding irritating info dumps. And as I said above, generally, the whole story had snap and bounce.
As a side note, the sci-fi pinup covers definitely didn’t hurt my interest in the story And the formatting does what good formatting should: it blends seamlessly into the background, barely worth mentioning. That means it’s good.
Ooooh boy the plot! Or should I say, the plots. So many intricate storylines, so carefully woven together for maximum payoff. That was wonderfully done.
Ithani was the only book that I had some quibbles with: as the motivations and the events got more and more intricate, I found myself getting a few pages into an action scene, saying ‘wait, hang on’ and going back to read over bits in order to make sense of events. Granted, it’s a gigantic plot with many moving parts, and the fact that occasionally something went ‘boing’ in my head is no surprise. It didn’t particularly frustrate me, but it did irritate slightly.
In the end, I found the extra work well worth it. The clever laying down of situation in book 1, the lovely building of tensions in book 2 and the wild ride of book 3 made the final events an absolute joy to read. All redemptions are earned, all happy endings paid for in full, and I felt that the characters had become much better people by the end of the story. And that takes skill.
You guys know I have a long reading list. Well, I cheated on it to finish this series. This is a gorgeous tapestry of a trilogy. I highly recommend it.