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Two brothers.
Seven vices.
One demonic possession.
Can this relationship survive?

Auben Mutze has more vices than he can deal with—six to be exact—each branded down his arm for all the world to see. They mark him as a lesser twin in society, as inferior, but there’s no way he’ll let that define him. Intelligent and outgoing, Auben’s spirited antics make him popular among the other students at his underprivileged high school. So what if he’s envious of his twin Kasim, whose single vice brand is a ticket to a better life, one that likely won’t involve Auben.

The twins’ strained relationship threatens to snap when Auben starts hearing voices that speak to his dangerous side—encouraging him to perform evil deeds that go beyond innocent mischief. Lechery, deceit, and vanity run rampant. And then there are the inexplicable blood cravings. . . .

On the southern tip of an African continent that could have been, demons get up to no good during the time of year when temperatures dip and temptations rise. Auben needs to rid himself of these maddening voices before they cause him to lose track of time. To lose his mind. And to lose his . . .


385 pages, Paperback

First published August 7, 2018

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About the author

Nicky Drayden

35 books826 followers
Nicky Drayden is a Systems Analyst who dabbles in prose when she’s not buried in code. She resides in Austin, Texas where being weird is highly encouraged, if not required.

Sign up for my newsletter for updates, contests, swag, and more... http://www.nickydrayden.com/newslette...

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 216 reviews
Profile Image for Nicky Drayden.
Author 35 books826 followers
Want to read
August 7, 2018
I'm so excited for y'all to read this book! I pushed a lot of personal limits to put my heart into this one...it's dark, it's funny, it's a-whole-nother world created just for you, reader. I hope that you enjoy, and if you're interested, head over to my website to claim some free swag and a signed bookplate! http://www.nickydrayden.com/2018/05/1...
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,643 followers
September 9, 2018
Weird as heck. It's a SFF of the sort where magic and tech coexist, set in a religious fable about warring gods and vice and virtue, only the fable is real too. Absolutely extraordinary set up that plays with ideas in a totally committed way without ever losing sight of the (extremely flawed and real) humans at the centre of the story. Also, there is no weird-ass plot turn that this author will not take, which makes for a spectacular ride if you're happy to hang on. Set in an Africa which was never afflicted by slavery or colonialism (a fact casually chucked out in a gleefully understated way).

I absolutely loved it. I can see how it would not be to everyone's taste, but I loved the combination of magic, science, folktale, religion, fable. This author amazes me.

Gender note: there's four basic genders in this world (most people are twins and have some level of chimera genetic exchange with the twin so some are 'kigen', ie intersex ), and trans rep. This is front and centre, and is played with a lot including bigotry against kigens, so just a heads up.
March 12, 2021

💀 DNF at 8%. (Go me and stuff.)

Let's try to make this gloriously gif-heavy Super Extra Short and To The Point (SEXaTTP™), shall we?

So. I DNFed the fish out of this one (and how!) because:

① The book (well the first 8% anyway 😬) is packed with teenage crap. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that teenagers and their crap tend to make me feel a little bit like this:

② Said teenagers are unlikeable as fish, and made me want to go all…

③ The premise is very intriguing and original and stuff, but book is a confusing mess and reeks of self-indulgent writing.

Tell me about it.

④ Did I say the characters were annoying as fish teenagers? I did? Oh, well.

Not really but pretending never hurt anyone, right? Right.

All of the above.

And now time for some quick maths:

① + ② + ③ + ④ + ⑤ =

Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): in a unprecedented show of despicable kindness, I shall refrain from giving this book the 1.5-star rating it deserves a rating. I only read a tiny if quite horribly painful percentage of it anyway, and would have skipped it altogether, had I known about the Teenage Crap Factor (TCF™), so there you have it and stuff .

[Pre-review nonsense]

Yeah, no, I don't think this is going to work. Come on, Edward The Ever Faithful Snail, let's bail.

Super Extra Short Crappy Review (SESCR™) to come and stuff.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
November 18, 2018
If you like genre-defying books, page-turners full of unpredictable twists, or stories about siblings, you don't want to miss Temper.
Temper is the second book I've read by Nicky Drayden; it's just as weird as her debut The Prey of Gods, and even better. I also fear it will be just as underrated, and I really don't want that to happen, because this is one of the best SFF novels I've read this year.

Temper is set in an alternate Cape Town, South Africa, in which colonization didn't happen and every person has a twin. The seven vices and virtues are split between each pair of twins; "lesser" twins (who have more vices) are discriminated. But Temper's worldbuilding is so much more than just this aspect: from the first chapters, the reader is introduced to a society full of contradictions and mysteries, with its own magic and history, and to the conflict between science and religion, still alive in this city.
The setting was fascinating - the descriptions of the comfy, the mysteries of wu, the magical school with flying librarians... it was as beautiful as it was bizarre.

Another really interesting thing about this society is that there are three genders that a person can be assigned at birth: male, female and kigen (twins born intersex are assigned kigen, I think?); kigens use ey/eir pronouns. I love books that include neopronouns and worldbuilding that isn't binarist and includes trans characters - one of the side characters is a trans girl who was assigned kigen at birth.

All the characters in this book are morally gray. They have vices, they hurt each other, some are possessed by terrible entities, but they find a way to make it work. Temper is at its heart a story about siblings, and if you want to read something in which the romantic elements are barely there but there are developed, complex family dynamics, you should read this book. Auben's and Kasim's family is a mess, an awesome one, and I loved reading about it. All the other side characters were just as compelling.

This book is weird. It's a book I want to recommend, but if weird books aren't for you - if you like things to have an explanation, if you like the line between science fiction and fantasy to be clearly defined - this may not work for you either. But if you do like weird, don't pass on this one. All the weird things happening weren't even what surprised me the most: this book is full of plot twists, and not one of them was really predictable or came completely out of nowhere.

I didn't like all the aspects of the writing as much as I hoped. I did love reading Auben's PoV, because flawed, messy teenagers are my favorites, and I loved the humor - this book is one of the funniest I've read this year and it's not even comedy - but the pacing didn't work for me.
I don't know exactly how to explain it - it's like the book was always trying to get somewhere else, so much that many scenes felt rushed, that many things weren't described, that I never understood how much time passed between scenes.
The result is a bit confusing sometimes, but it was worth it for me.
Profile Image for Tori (InToriLex).
464 reviews368 followers
August 21, 2018

Actual Rating 3.5
Content Warning: Substance Abuse, Queer Elements, Cannibalism, Sexually Explicit Scenes

When I started reading I was uncertain how this multi-gendered, mostly twin populated world worked. There are four genders male, female, feminized kigen and masculinized kigen. Kigen are created when twins genitalia are mixed in the womb so each twin has different feminine and masculine characteristics. In the book it was described as chimeral gendering. All of the twins in this world share six vices and virtues between them. The vices and virtues do not have to be split evenly.

Once I learned more about the world building I started to enjoy the characters and mythology in this book. The characters are what shine. Auben has five vices and one virtue, Kasim has five virtues and one vice. Their relationship is close not only because they cannot be separated too far or risk feeling pain, but because they have developed a great bond. Overtime the relationship becomes more strained as family secrets are revealed. The extensive religious mythology along with the changing surroundings of Auben and Kasim, was overwhelming as the story progresses.

While the world building was done well, it took too long for me to get a full picture. Any science based progress or interests are stifled because most of the population follows religious practices instead. In addition to religious differences there are also major class differences. Many people live in poverty while their twin lives in affluent neighborhoods separated by a wall. The book also includes mature content, while it is told from a young person's perspective I would not label this a young adult book.

The story had far too much going on to make it flow well for the reader. In the last third of the book things happen at a staggering pace. The last part of the book could have easily been the start of the next book in series. Everything felt compressed and the story struggled to keep my interest towards the end. I did enjoy the queer elements, unique concepts, characters and diverse representation throughout the book.

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy unique diverse fantasy
- look for well explained world building
- enjoy mature content related to sex and sexual orientation

**I received this ARC from Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review.**
Profile Image for Monica **can't read fast enough**.
1,033 reviews339 followers
August 13, 2018
Temper is a book that I am having a hard time writing a review for. Drayden is masterful in her world building. She crafts descriptions in a way that I can clearly imagine cities, homes, walls, and even what the characters look like which makes the story engaging. However, with Temper I think that I may need a second read to truly catch most of what Drayden is wanting her readers to get.

The main theme in Temper seems to be complex evolving relationships. Relationships with oneself, siblings, parents, extended family, and friendships. The main characters are all in the process of finding out who they are, how to create the person that they want to be against the odds and handicaps that they have individually, how to relate to people that they have actual physical requirements for, as well as fighting off outside forces that in some cases are literally an internal battle. The best that I can describe it is that Temper is similar to a coming of age story like I have never read before.

Drayden plays with gender pronouns that if I am being honest, took me a moment to catch on to! When I first saw it I thought was a typo! That's right, I was having a not too bright moment. Drayden also provided more than standard male and female gender which made for less restrictive character personalities. Sexuality in Temper is presented in a straight forward and nonchalant way that is positive, but is also so different that I was often a bit put off by it. I'm not quite sure why, it may be the age of the characters or simply the way that it is presented and used.

This book is definitely different than anything that I have read before and that is why I think that I need another read of it to determine how I really feel about it. I am honestly just left a little confused. I get the basic story, I just feel that I have missed the vital thing that makes the story work. So, did I enjoy this book? The best that I can say is that I think so. Would I recommend this one? I'm not sure because I don't think that I can recommend something that I don't really understand. Will I read the next release by Nicky Drayden in hopes that I will get it? Absolutely!

**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.**

You can find me at:
•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•
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Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,075 reviews2,636 followers
September 4, 2018
2 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/09/03/...

I’m still kicking myself for not having read Nicky Drayden’s The Prey of Gods, her debut novel which has been garnering all kinds of praise, so when I heard about Temper I decided to check it out. Unfortunately though, I did not take to it as well as I’d hoped. While the writing was excellent and the premise was as imaginative as anything I’ve seen in a while, the book was much too strange for my tastes, which led it to fail in delivering a story of impact.

Temper is a tale of two brothers, twins Auben and Kasim. In fact, in this alternate history novel, set in very different version of South Africa than the one we know, pretty much everyone has a twin. Each pair of siblings is also born with a set of seven vices and seven virtues evenly split between them (we’re talking charity vs. greed, humility vs. vainglory, etc.) which means that occasionally, one twin might end up with all the desired traits while the other is left with the short end of the stick.

Case in point, in their relationship, Auben is the “lesser” twin, since he was born with six vices and only one virtue, while Kasim is the “greater” twin, having won the genetic lottery with six virtues and one vice. This has affected the way society treats the brothers, since lesser siblings are often discriminated against for having more vices. Worse, the twins always have to be in close proximity to each other, else it leads to undesirable physical and mental side effects, so Auben has no choice but to watch as Kasim is showered with positive attention while he himself receives all the prejudice.

Even though the brothers love each other, Auben worries that one day the tensions will inevitably destroy their bond, leading them to grow apart. Lately, he has also been hearing these insidious whispers in his mind, goading him to surrender to his darker instincts—his vices. Growing increasingly perturbed, Auben wants to trust Kasim and share with him his fears and doubts, but he isn’t even sure if his twin, content with his charmed life, will be able to understand.

Temper is a novel whose ideas might make for a better thought experiment than a story. Resplendent with imagination and originality, the premise offers lots of potential for world-building, and indeed we have a unique setting here filled with rich history, culture, and mythology. The plot, however, was a bit of a mess. To reiterate my earlier point, this is a rather weird book, and I will be the first to admit I don’t often do well with weirdness in my speculative fiction. It tends to make me feel untethered, resulting in a difficult time connecting with the story and especially to the characters, and I think this is what happened here.

There was also a lot going on—perhaps a little too much. In addition to the extensive world-building, there was also a fair number of characters to keep track of, not to mention the author’s attempts at plot twists and intrigue. On the bright side, no one could ever accuse this book of being dull, though ironically, the information deluge sometimes affected the pacing and made the story feel slow. While reading this book, several times I would find myself stopping after a dozen pages or so only to realize little to no progress had been made in the plot. This also made things more confusing and further widened the emotional divide between me and Auben, the narrator and protagonist, causing a lot of the nuances in his personality to become lost in the noise. Consequently, I probably didn’t feel as sympathetic to his plight as I was meant to, and the impact of his and Kasim’s relationship was also dampened, weakening what could have been a moving story of brotherly trust and love.

Needless to say, Temper turned out not to be the kind of fantasy novel I typically go for—it was a bit too weird, a bit too offbeat and abstract. That said though, it is a very creative and ambitious endeavor, and if you like books that experiment with crossing genre boundaries or subverting traditional sci-fi and fantasy ideas, you might want to give this one a look. It might not have worked for me, but in the right hands, this book could be a real eye-opener.
Profile Image for Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight).
905 reviews128 followers
August 8, 2018
3 Stars

*I received an ecopy of this book via Edelweiss. This has not influenced my review.*

This was a unique fantasy book involving twins, possessions, vices, virtues, gods, and unexpected twists, all taking place in an African-based setting. I'm not sure if I should classify it as paranormal/urban fantasy or high fantasy or magical realism or mythology or maybe even metaphysical & visionary since it took place in a land very similar to ours in some ways but very different in others. But whatever it was, it explored some interesting concepts and ideas. However, I did have a few issues, so this seems like a good time for some lists.


- I know it was because of the proximity aspect of the twin bond, how being physically close actually made them feel physically better, but I loved seeing Auben and Kasim holding each other, putting an arm around the other, huddling close in a bed, seeking comfort with each other, etc. without any sense of toxic masculinity.

- I also loved the brother relationship in general and how much Auben loved and cared about Kasim and didn't want them to drift apart. But they also had their issues, so it wasn't always a perfect relationship.

- Auben cracked me up sometimes. He was the lesser twin with all the vices and did bad things sometimes, but I couldn't help but like him. And I loved that, even though he was the more misbehaved and mischievous one, he didn't fall into any stereotype and was also really smart when he wanted to be and did have some good in him.

- The African-based setting was interesting.

- There were some thought-provoking themes/messages in the end, especially in regards to the vices and virtues.


- My biggest issue was that I was confused about so many things. Almost nothing was explained, you were just supposed to figure it out from context, but this was a completely different world, and I needed more explanation about how the twinning and vices/virtues worked. I was also confused about the world and who was affected by the things that happened. Considering certain things, it stands to reason the whole world should've been affected, except it sounded like only two small cities were. I'm not even sure there was a whole world.

- Auben's romantic feelings jumped around too much to be believable. *MILD SPOILER* *END SPOILER*

Mixed Feelings:

- The writing was kind of matter-of-fact. It took me a bit of getting used to, but I did get used to it and started to enjoy it more as the story went on.

- I felt like the gender stuff in the book might be a bit problematic since, even though there were more than two genders, they were still assigned based on body type, and one character's pronouns changed when their body type changed. But there was a trans character, and near the end, Auben had a realization that gender is about more than body type.

Overall Thoughts:

Despite the confusion, this was not a bad book. I would've liked more world-building and explanations, but I thought the story was unique, thought-provoking, and surprising, and other people might easily enjoy it more than I did.

Recommended For:
Anyone who likes African settings, twin relationships, and unique stories.

Original Review @ Metaphors and Moonlight
Profile Image for Angela.
419 reviews925 followers
December 27, 2021
Actual Rating: 4.5/5

Like all Nicky Drayden books once I picked this up I could not put it down, which was good since I read this for a reading challenge to start and finish it in the same day. This alternate world where everyone has a twin and this splits vices and virtue was fascinating and interesting way to explore the idea of balance and moderation. Add that some classic non stop Nicky Drayden twist and turns and it was a very entertaining experience. The ending was stronger for me than others of her works but still not my favorite. There were things that wrapped up a bit to quickly, which is typically my complaint with her books but the ride was still a blast. Also this is a great winter scary read if you are into that. I would also warn that although I would not label this as horror it had some horrific elements. It was not afraid to go there at times and as a result some scenes can be unsettling and graphic. Although this wasn't perfect it still solidified to me that this is an auto-buy author for me now and I can't wait for her next release.
July 30, 2018
Premise: In Temper, Drayden takes you on a journey of self-discovery in a world where virtually everyone is born with a twin and goes through a ritual in which the seven human vices and their opposites are divided between the two, favoring the Greater Twin. Auben, a Lesser Twin, is our sole point of view and guide into his world and society, where religion, mysticism and forbidden technologies all play a part and all want their share of him.

Style of narration: What I really like about this book is that we do not get everything that's happening spoonfed to us. This fundamentally sets it apart (in my mind, at least) from Drayden's previous book, The Prey of Gods. Auben's POV is limited to what he knows; often times the plot is also progressing elsewhere, only to fully reveal its advancements at a later point. This is very difficult to do and may not sound good at face value, but Drayden manages to clue us in just enough during the events of the book that we always have some idea or understanding that the plot is unfolding just beyond our knowledge. This is something that leaves Auben frustrated while leaving the reader intrigued. As I've gone back and re-read multiple passages of the book, I guarantee that many twists and reveals are foreshadowed or hinted at just enough that a reader who's paying attention and doing the deductive work should be able to have an idea of what's to come. I love that! I love that the events narrated in the book aren't just "A happens, then B, then C". Rather, it's more like "you see A happen, you hear about something that eventually turns out to be B, with this new information you end up causing C". I feel like it's a lot more akin to how we receive and react to information in real life.

Worldbuilding: The worldbuilding is nothing short of fantastic. You can really picture the grim conditions of the area the twins reside in, the majestic halls of Gabadamosi Preparatory, and the harsh vegetation of Grace Mountain. I loved how the religion of Grace and Icy Blue was fleshed out, and I thought the conflict between religion and technology was very interesting. The mysticism and the kigen (twins born as intersex due to fairly common exchanges of some physical traits in the womb) are other aspects that I thought fit in quite well. Drayden does a great job of giving us the necessary info a little bit at a time, not enough for us to have to go through pages of exposition, but just enough so we have an idea of what's going on and we don't feel like we got hit by a deus ex machina.

Characters: There are a lot of characters in this book, considering it's less than 300 pages long. Several of them end up being more important than you'd initially think, so pay attention to them all because Drayden starts handing out clues from page one. They all feel authentic to me and they're easy to distinguish and to remember, and I think there's a really good balance between serious moments and technically unnecessary (from a plot perspective, I mean) light-hearted fun which really does a good job of fleshing the characters out. I absolutely adored Munashe.

-A Sidenote on Auben and Kasim: I've seen some people say they didn't like Auben, which is a major downer if you wanted to enjoy the book since the entire story is narrated through him. I understand what they mean though. I was not sympathetic towards him when I first started reading. He seemed like the kind of guy I just never got along with in school; always after the ladies (even through trickery or semi-magical means), clearly doesn't care much about school or authority, fakes an illness to force his brother to leave an exam and come check on him, and steals from a mystic beggar slash street vendor, all within the first chapter! But as things start to spiral out of control, Auben gradually changes, making difficult choices and showing a strong sense of responsibility. Eventually it feels like it's you and him against the rest of the world, or like you're listening to a friend telling you about a long, dreadful day. At any rate, I grew to like him. His brother Kasim is a very interesting figure, at parts friend and at parts enemy or rival, and I think Drayden did a great job in capturing and magnifying certain aspects of what it's like to have a twin or even just a sibling. This is one of the few times I've read a book and wished I could reread it through the eyes of another character. You'll understand why if you read Temper (which I highly recommend you do!).

Criticism: there's a point near the end where the book lost me for a while, I think because after The Big Thing happens (TBT being what most of the book was building up to) I expected, as it often happens in these types of books (and similar to how it happened in The Prey of Gods), the plot to quickly wrap up a few loose threads and then to give us an idea of what the future held for our characters. Instead, the story jumps forward several months and introduces a few new points of conflict. Eventually though, the story ties up its loose plot points and winds down to a conclusion. I personally found the first part of this process a bit jarring and I think others might too since it deviates from the usual formula, but I also don't think it's without merit or handled poorly.

tl, dr: good execution on a style of narration which is tricky to pull off, vibrant characters, very interesting premise which is fleshed out throughout the book, somewhat unusual conclusion but still a great, great read over all. I highly recommend it.

[I received an advanced copy of this book intended for review.]
Profile Image for RG.
3,090 reviews
September 3, 2018
Its not that its a bad book. I just finally realise that Miss Draydens style isnt for me. I feel like she has amazing ability at creating this wonderful worlds or cultures. She also provides pretty solid characters, especially in both the brothers. My issue with her writing at it was similar to her previous book is plot. I just feel like it takes forever for something to happen. A case of not being a right fit for me.
Profile Image for Stewart Tame.
2,330 reviews92 followers
November 15, 2018
To whom it may concern: I won a free autographed copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Neener neener neener. Yes, I suppose authors and/or publishers could buy good reviews, but it seems as though it would be more cost effective to just write good books ...

An impressive job of world building! I confess that I’m highly ignorant of African cultures and history, so I don't have a clue as to where exactly reality leaves off and Nicky Drayden’s fertile imagination takes over. So we have an alternate Africa, a world where most births result in twins. The pairs share some sort of psychic link such that the farther apart they get, the worse they feel. And for every one of seven virtues a twin has, their twin has its corresponding vice. The twin with more vices than virtues is considered the lesser of the pair. Auben and Kasim Mtuze represent a rare case of Auben possessing six vices and Kasim only one. But, in addition to his vices, Auben also hears voices urging him to indulge them. He begins to suspect a demon lurks within …

This is a deeply imagined world, populated by memorable characters. Drayden has even come up with a religion, as well as a society that accepts androgynes as a distinct sex with separate pronouns.

I found the book to be fascinating and compelling … for about the first two thirds. The pacing seems to go wonky about the point everything starts hitting the fan. I don't want to give anything away, but the book suddenly shifts into fast foward. It's as if Drayden knew how it began and ended, but couldn't quite figure out how to link the two, and just rushed through it hoping that sheer momentum would carry everything. It's not a huge flaw; everything just goes sideways and it took me a bit to reorient myself.

If you're looking for something truly different in the way of Fantasy/SF books, definitely check this one out. Recommended!
Profile Image for Thistle & Verse.
299 reviews78 followers
March 1, 2020
Auben is an engaging, morally grey protagonist. The voice of Icy Blue compels him to do terrible things, but he'd done not-as-terrible things before his possession. This is a society with 3 genders, and there's a trans side character. There's a lot of conflicts in this book - Auben v himself, Auben v Kasim, religious v secular factions, etc.. Towards the end, it felt like some things got lost in the shuffle and that not every plot line was given its dues. I generally liked that I didn't know where the plot was going and that the characterizations felt consistent. This was a thrilling read, and I zipped through it.
Profile Image for Vicki.
269 reviews8 followers
July 23, 2018
I received an advanced copy of this book intended for review.

I loved Temper just as much as Drayden's last book, The Prey of Gods. This book has some incredibly strong world building and development of the main character, whose POV we maintain throughout the whole book. I loved the strong divisions between the rich and the poor, the wicked and the good, and I would have loved to see more from some of the other characters.

Like The Prey of Gods, I got the impression that the ending was much tougher to write; it felt a bit rushed and it was a bit vague and thus hard to follow. That said, I enjoyed it anyways and really appreciated how everything was tied off.

I eagerly await the next book from Nicky Drayden, and I can't wait to share this book.
Profile Image for ellis.
524 reviews6 followers
September 8, 2018
edit - this review phrases my thoughts on the book far better than i did.

i really liked this book up until the 2/3 point.. the world building, just as in the prey of gods, was a brilliant blend of sf and fantasy.

and then it just... lost me. i was super confused by the whole thing. it didn't explain why he all that time, and i hadn't picked up on any clues to it before that reveal (which was in the last 25 pages of a 380 page book).

and in the end, i wasn't sure what message the religion vs science symbolism was supposed to convey. and the whole thing where people were assigned pronouns based on their biology (i do specifically mean wrt kigens) wasn't talked about or challenged until, again, the last 25 or so pages.

i still highly recommend this if you like fantasy worlds with strong parallels to the issues of our own.
Profile Image for Alan.
1,124 reviews112 followers
August 30, 2018
"I'm not sure there ever were any rules, but if there were, they're pretty much void at this point."
One character says this to another in Temper, the Austin, Texas-based author Nicky Drayden's second novel, but it also applies to the work as a whole. Drayden writes fearlessly, blending science and fantasy, history and myth, culture-jamming endless inventions that never quite fall apart.

In her first novel, The Prey of Gods, Drayden brought us a vivid near-future South Africa (enhanced by her own time spent there), that eventually mingled robots, genetic engineering and designer drugs with demons and ancient deities. The reader is quickly introduced to the book's fantasy elements, but they remain hidden from most of the characters throughout.

Temper takes us to a very different version of the Cape, which diverges immediately and obviously from our own. Twins make up the majority of Temper's characters—twins who can sense each others' proximity and become ill if they're too long or too far apart—twins who divide between them a short list of discrete, complementary vices and virtues. This includes its protagonist Auben Mtuze, the lucky recipient of six vices and only one virtue, and Auben's twin Kasim, who with only one vice to his name is obviously destined for greatness. Most twins share their qualities more evenly; the imbalance between Auben and Kasim leads to quite a bit of drama.

Auben is actually the character I ended up liking least—even though he's much more lively (Kasim's kind of a goody-two-shoes), his vices get the better of him all too often, in ways that range from merely annoying to bloodily tragic.

"So we're going to blackmail him?"
"The best kind of mail. Won't even cost us a stamp."
Nicky Drayden is fond of wordplay, and is not above the occasional quick volley of penis puns. So when you remember that "temper" is a verb as well as a noun, you can be sure that Drayden will use both meanings in full measure.

One neat bit of worldbuilding in Temper is that as far as the inhabitants of the Cape are concerned, apart from one throwaway line about pale ghosts, white people just don't exist. This detail fits perfectly into the context of the story, and comes as a welcome contrast to (and a subtle commentary on) the erasure of people of color that has too often marred speculative fiction. SF is the literature of ideas, after all, and the more diverse the field becomes, the healthier it is—for all of us, both writers and readers.

Temper is not "hard" science fiction, though, whatever that might mean. Its biology in particular is extremely unlikely—but just roll with the setup and you'll be fine. Reading this book is a lot of fun.

I think in some ways Drayden is still feeling her way as an author... but I for one very much want to see where she goes next.
Profile Image for Emma Ann.
355 reviews737 followers
February 23, 2023
3.5. Never at any point did I have a single idea where this book was going. It was a blast.
Profile Image for Aristotle.
646 reviews72 followers
September 14, 2018
Wonder Twin Powers Activate!

The Wonder Twins' are Zan and Jayna, alien siblings from the planet Exxor.
You mean this wasn't a story about the Justice League twins?
At least that would have been an entertaining story.

First problem is this is a YA book.
Second problem it's too freakin weird.

Being weird for the sake of weirdness isn't original, creative, or entertaining.

A pair of twins going through teenage angst.
One twin is a lycanthrope
with a little bit of evil in his soul
and one a little bit of a god...i think

So Auben hears voices. Sounds like he's suffering from a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. Lets not forget his demon possession.
Auben reminds me of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He needed a good smack just like Holden.
Kasim is a god. No? The demon? Yes? Auben is grace? What? I'm confused.

It wasn't an entertaining read just too strange. So Auben is a cannibal? Nevermind.

Won this on Goodreads Giveaways.

What's with today's obsession with 'Gender Identity'?
In the movie Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger a five year old said it perfectly "Boys have a penis. Girls have a vagina!"
Profile Image for Nina.
199 reviews5 followers
June 23, 2020
I greatly enjoyed Prey of Gods and was curious for more - and Temper does not disappoint!
It took me a bit of time to get into the story, the book jumps right in and you sort things out as you go (twins with vices? Weird uncles? A god and a demon?). Nonetheless, I soon got comfortable in this world of twins and by around half the book, I could hardly put it down. All the weird, seemingly random things from the beginning come together so nicely and every detail suddenly makes sense. A few times I thought I knew how it would turn out, but was (pleasantly, cleverly) surprised by the real state of things. Oh, such a good read!
Profile Image for Jonii.
295 reviews2 followers
August 24, 2018
I wanted so badly to like this. It has a killer cover on it and the premise sounded interesting... But it just dragged on and on and on with nothing much happening except sibling rivalry and lots of barely explained jargon. I kept waiting for something to happen that wasn't immediately followed by more exposition. I decided to stop reading without finishing. Why? Because I couldn't see the point in continuing to be bored out of my mind.
594 reviews24 followers
September 9, 2018
Temper is a tricky book for me to review. To be honest and upfront this didn’t work as well for me as Prey of Gods, Nicky Drayden’s highly creative debut fantasy novel. Prey of Gods just blew me away and so perhaps I went into this one with unreasonably high expectations. Anyway, not to get ahead of myself.

Why tricky? Well, I cannot deny that Drayden has a powerful imagination. The worlds she creates are stunning in scope and originality. Her stories are like a breath of fresh air and in that respect Temper is a winning novel. But, at the same time, for me, this felt very busy and in some respects the ‘thinking’ didn’t quite pan out. Basically, I had questions and I didn’t feel like answers were always forthcoming. Maybe that’s intentional and the idea is to simply pick the book up, embrace the world and run with it.

The write up for the book tells us:

Two brothers.
Seven vices.
One demonic possession.
Can this relationship survive?

Imagine a world, an alternate South Africa, if you will, in which twins are predominantly the norm. Split between the twins are seven vices and seven virtues. Even with my poor mathematic skills it’s easy to see that this is never going to be an equal split between good and bad and the twins in the story Auben and Kazim share a very uneven distribution. Auben finds himself not only the lesser twin but with six vices to handle he really has very little scope in terms of future success. In this world twins share a very special bond even suffering from separation pains if they become too far removed from each other. Throw a demonic possession into the mix and it looks like the twins from Temper are set to dramatically change the world in which they live.

I’m not going to elaborate too much on the plot as there are surprises in store – certainly for me anyways, I didn’t see the book going in quite the direction that it did and I found myself trying to read between the lines to figure out whether there was a message contained within.

I think the main issue I had was a certain ambivalence towards the characters. They didn’t give me the ‘feels’ I wanted and it prevented me from becoming invested, to such an extent that I often struggled to gather the enthusiasm to pick the book back up once I’d put it down. As with the first book I read by this author the writing is really good, the originality of the story and the world are really quite breathtaking and I got off to a good start. The twins were unusual to read about, there was no hand holding in terms of setting and I like picking up a book where I have to hit the ground running, but, as the story went on I became less motivated and more perplexed. This is a tale that is meant to be different and filled with other world type unusualness and with that in mind it could simply be that this was just a little too ‘unusual’ for my reading tastes.

To be honest, I really don’t enjoy negative reviews and so I’ll keep this one fairly short. I certainly would not wish to put anyone off reading this one and I would definitely pick up more from this author. That this one didn’t work out as well for me is, I think, simply one of those things and to be clear I didn’t dislike the book. If this is your first Nicky Drayden book, whether or not you love this one, I strongly suggest you pick up Prey of Gods.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews231 followers
August 9, 2018
How do I even describe this book? It’s so strange, full of genre mixing and ideas, all stirred together into a wild ride.

In the world of Temper, almost everyone is a twin. You’re either the “greater” twin or the “lesser” twin. You see, each twin is born with a mix of seven vices and virtues, evenly split between them.

Auben Mutze is a lesser twin, about as less as you can get — six vices and only one virtue, charity. He knows his prospects are limited because of it, but he’s going to enjoy life despite it. Meanwhile, his brother Kasim has the golden ticket, only one vice: greed. The two love each other, but Auben fears that they’ll grow apart as many twins do. That’s a typical problem to have. What’s not such a typical problem is hearing a voice, one that encourages him to play into his darkest instincts, to give in completely to his vices.

The world building in Temper is super interesting. It’s sort of alternate history? There’s enough detail that you can figure out that the setting is a wildly different version of South Africa. For instance, racism doesn’t seem to have a huge presence in this alternative future. I’m not 100% confident in saying that colonialism didn’t happen in this world, but if it did it had less harsh and lasting effects. The story’s sort of like afro-futurism in that way. There does seem to be some tension with a country that I think is an analog to India, which is the major world power in the book. It’s hard to say what exactly because there was just so much going on!

There’s also some different world building in regards to gender. The norm is twins, and the twins are always chimeras who contain pieces of each other’s DNA. Due to this DNA swapping, intersex people make up about half of the population, and the sex/gender system is quandary instead of binary. It’s obvious that there’s some in-world prejudice against intersex people (who are referred to as kigen), and there’s invented slurs used to refer to the kigen characters. The kigen characters are referred to with a mix of neopronouns and they/them pronouns. There is also one trans character, so the book isn’t all “gender = sex.” As for judgment on how this was handled… I think it’s probably better to leave that up to nonbinary and intersex readers. I found this one review by a nonbinary reader, and I’d be happy to read more if anyone has links.

Societally, the other major issues are classism, prejudice against lesser twins, and extreme prejudice against singletons — people born without a twin. Prejudice against lesser twins is at the forefront here, since Auben is our protagonist and narrator.

Auben is pretty obviously an antihero. What else do you expect when your protagonist has six out of seven vices? He wasn’t very likable, but I think this just goes to show that a character doesn’t have to be likable. He just has to be interesting, and Auben was that. He’s also not a bad person through and through. He may be selfish, but he doesn’t want to hurt other people. That’s part of why he starts getting so freaked out by the voice in his head. And his brother Kasim may have six virtues, but he’s also kind of a jerk. Which leads to a whole other question — do lesser twins really have fewer virtues or is this solely a social convention?

My biggest issue with Temper is the pacing. The beginning is slower, but the last 1/3 is way too fast. Major events start happening without any processing time, and there’s huge time skips. It just felt really uneven, and I would have liked for a smoother narrative.

Temper was chockful of big ideas. Science vs. religion is a huge theme, but the heart of the story is the sibling relationship. They’re a bit weird, aren’t they? Sort of a mix of love but with annoyance and sometimes resentment and hate thrown in. Obviously, the relationship between Auben and Kasim is a lot different than my relationship with my sister! (For one thing, we don’t have to be physically near each other like the twins in this world. Also, we’re not twins). But it’s still something I loved about the book.

Temper is sort of like N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms mixed with afro-futurism and a bit of steampunk. It’s an eclectic mix, and the result is wholly unique. I may not have completely fallen in love with it, but I’m confident Nicky Drayden will one day write a book I adore. Until then, I’ve just got to keep reading whatever she writes.

I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.

Review from The Illustrated Page.
Profile Image for Erin.
37 reviews9 followers
October 22, 2018
From the initial blurb that I saw when the book was announced I was very excited to read it since it seemed like an off the wall concept. However, Temper was a difficult read for me. There were many things in the book that bothered me. I will preface this with that I am not trans or intersex (I identify as genderqueer but that’s a complicated topic). I would love to hear what intersex and trans people thought about the sex/gender system. I had several issues with it which I will discuss (and partly in rot13 since spoilers). There was also other parts of the novel involving sex that really put me off as well. I really wanted to like Temper, but it just kept hitting me with things that I find uncomfortable.

In the alternative Africa that Drayden imagines, The Cape is a country with several interesting things. One, is that most people have twins. Two, these twins will have vices and virtues which are genetically determined, drive their life, and identity. The twin is more vices than virtue is the lesser twin and is hindered in social mobility because of that. The vices and virtues that are tattooed on each person determines how society interacts with them. This is the most clearly defined social system in the book. It is a really interesting take on the vice/virtue trope. I enjoyed that part of the book. Some of the characters try to rebel against the boxes that they are put into. Others sink into their box. The system is inherently flawed and the exploration is the most intriguing since vice/virtue is not the only factor in social mobility. Religion, economic status, and family connections play a role in your success.

Twins share an connection called proximity which allows them to share emotions. If they get to far away from each other they will become physically ill. Some view it as a burden others as a blessing. Auben, the pov character, is worried that his with Kisam relationship will become sour as they become adults like their mother and aunt’s. This is a driving force in the novel since there are strong themes of relationship between flawed people and resentment. Natural over the course of the book, the brother’s relationship is strained and eventually results in a big fight with supernatural results.

The Cape also has four genders: male, female, fem kigen, and andy kigen. The twins of The Cape are chimeras. Chimerism is an interesting biological occurrence that I learned about in my upper level genetics classes for my bachelors. Chimeras are organisms that contain cells with distinct different genetic material. In animals, they are formed from two or more zygotes (fertilized precursor to embryo) or through organ transplants. In Temper, twins have bits of each other’s genetic code resulting in markings and/or the kigen genders. This is where my problem comes in with the system. It is a gender system that’s expanded past male and female using biological sex (which is complicated and fraught topic I am not going to get into). And further the characters make comments about what genitals that the kigan characters may have which isn’t really cool to me. The plot twist was what sealed my dislike of the system which I discuss below in rot13.

Nsgre gur terng ovt svtug orgjrra Nhora naq Xnfvz, Xnfvz oernxf gur crbcyr vagb crbcyr bayl jvgu iveghr naq bayl jvgu ivpr. Gur puvzrevpny cbegvbaf bs gur gjvaf naq gur cebkvzvgl ner rffragvnyyl evccrq bhg. Guvf V ernyyl qvq abg rawbl fvapr gur xvtra gura orpnzr pvf znyr naq srznyr orpnhfr gurve puvzrevpny cbegvbaf jrag onpx gb gur gjva vg pnzr sebz. Gb znxr vg rira zber hapbzsbegnoyr, gurl vzzrqvngryl ner ab ybatre ersreerq gb ol gurl/gurz be rl/rz juvpu ner gur xvtra cebabhaf ohg fur/ure naq ur/uvz. Grzcre qbrfa’g ernyyl fubj vs gurer vf cnva nffbpvngrq jvgu guvf punatr sbe gur Xvtna fvapr gur obbx vf guebhtu gur rlrf bs n pvf punenpgre. Vs nalguvat, jung vf fubja vf gung gur ab ybatre puvzren gjvaf zvff cebkvzvgl naq gurve pbaarpgvba jvgu rnpu bgure. Gur bayl traqre abapbasbezvat punenpgre jubfr cebabhaf ner erfcrpgrq vf gur genafjbzna, Frfln. V ernyyl qba’g xabj jung gb znxr bs gung. Guvf frcnengvba vf fubja gb or qlfshapgvbany naq onq sbe nyy cnegvrf vaibyirq naq erirefrq ng gur raq. Ohg fgvyy V ernyyl nz abg ba obneq jvgu gur zntvpny frcnengvba erfhygvat va gur xvtna orpbzvat pvf.

Some of the sex scenes in Temper had dubious consent. There is an almost sexual assault described in detail from the point of view of the assaulter. These sexual scenes were meant to show the lust vice at its worse. The character in question did feel guilty and somewhat scared of what he was capable of afterwards which was better then it being written for shock value.

What I did like about Temper was the worldbuilding around religion, technology, and the playing around with grey morality. The world of Temper does not have technology like cars or advanced machinery. It has been suppressed in favor of religion. The religion world building was really interesting since there were elements of aesthetics taken from Christianity, but it was very solidly not christian and inspired by African mythologies. The boarding school trope was well done and allowed us to see another side of the characters including the cousins which at first are not depicted as more than spoiled, mean rich kids.

The vice and virtue trope was subverted in the third part of the book very nicely. I appreciated that Drayden did not take the black and white approach and instead did grey morality. I appreciated that the people with vices were able to still be good people despite what their society told them. The plot twist concerning this was great.

Overall, I was disappointed with Temper. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re really into Drayden’s work. It’s hard for me to reconcile Prey of Gods with Temper especially since Prey of Gods had a very different approach to romance and sexuality. Temper goes very hard and it didn’t do it for me.

CW: sexual assault, cannibalism, murder, abuse, gore, body horror, heavy sexual cont
Profile Image for Ladz.
Author 4 books44 followers
July 29, 2019
Listened to the audiobook

This book takes place in a continent loosely based off South Africa, following twins Auben and Kasim. One has six vices and a virtue, the other has the opposite, in a world where these things are tattooed on people's bodies and dictate their place in society. There are family secrets to unravel and a society to dismantle, and a war between gods which touches everything they've ever known.

Parts of this book definitely went over my head and some of the discussions about gender and sexuality went over my head. It seemed very focused on science—something the religious part of society wanted to reject over the radically secular part. As this was told from perspective of a teenage boy, it read aggressively sexual, with consent being a bit dubious in latter parts of the book. There was such a focus on the experience of sex as it relates to gender rather than its existence.

The ending goes in some unexpected places. Is there a big confrontation between the heroes and the villain? No, but it is satisfying in that way where you're looking for a good science fiction story about family.
Profile Image for ambyr.
909 reviews80 followers
March 11, 2019
Drayden writes like no one has ever told her "You can't do that." And yet somehow, it works. It shouldn't work. But it works.

Recommended to: people who like being surprised, people willing to let their disbelief not so much suspend as swoop untethered through the air in figure eights, and people with a very high tolerance for violence.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
1,059 reviews233 followers
September 26, 2020
"An old man with a failing liver. A young kigen suffering needlessly from a severe case of the pox. A comatose business exec cut down by a runaway oryx. They were all dying slow, lonely deaths in their hospital beds. I did them a favor. I killed them out of charity. The tang of their blood still lines my palate, ranging from tart and crisp to smooth and sweet, like the flesh of a deep red plum."

Temper is the second novel by Nicky Drayden and it's pretty fucking bonkers!

Set in an alternate Cape Town, South Africa, almost everyone in this world is a twin. Each twin is tested from the seven vices and virtues to learn who is the "greater" and who is "lesser" sibling during a ceremony, where their results are branded for all to see on their arm. For each virtue given, the other receives the parallel vice. Inevitably, one is considered far superior and the lesser twin is discriminated against and almost never makes it out of the slums, called the "comfy." If you are a singleton, born without a twin, you face even more prejudice.

Our main characters Auben and Kasim are rare twins in that they are a six-one split. Kasim has received six virtues with only one vice - greed. Auben has only one virtue - charity. They have a close bond, which is tied together through something called proximity. Twins need to remain close together in order to continue this bond, because if one twin is too far away, it leads to mental and physical ramifications.

One day Auben prays to Grace, the god of virtue. Although their bond is special and Auben has learned to deal with the prejudice, he fears that soon Kasim will leave him for a better life. But when he begins hearing strange voices in his head, telling him to do cruel and dangerous things, he realizes it wasn't Grace that answered his prayers. It was Icy Blue, her dark and vicious sister. The god of vice.

Needless to say, this causes some fractures to appear in their relationship as time goes on.

"Lesser twins, kigens, comfy stock, singletons, we all suffer silently, we all go ignored."

Temper is certainly complex, especially for a standalone, average-length novel. I've barely skimmed the surface of the plot, let alone the immense worldbuilding that takes place. This is a grandiose world that Drayden has created, one that could have stood to be explored more.

Much of this intrigued me, which is a testament to Drayden's writing. It's uniquely creative and powerful in it's intention.

However, I did struggle with this book, especially in the middle portion where it fumbles around a bit too much. Meanwhile, the ending was frantic and felt rushed. There's A LOT going on here, without leaving room for the characters to stop and just breathe.

Considering how much I loved Prey of Gods, this may just be a case of the wrong book at the wrong time.
Profile Image for Marta Pelrine-Bacon.
Author 8 books12 followers
August 5, 2018
This story was wonderfully weird. I've read Drayden's first novel and several of her stories, and she is one of the most imaginative authors I've come across. She's imaginative and uninhibited in her storytelling. So, she jumps right into this world, and she doesn't info dump. You're in a new world, and you'll figure things out as any adventurer--as you go along. It took me a couple of pages to realize that this world has more than two genders, and her use of pronouns reflects this. This may turn some readers off, but go with it. You'll get used to it. (If you've already been reading things doing this, woo! Then this story is absolutely for you.) But to be clear, this isn't a story about different genders. They are simply part of the story, part of the world.

I was interested in the idea of characters be given clear vices and virtues, a world defined by twins and gods. I think there is so much more to this world that I'd like to understand. If she writes more stories set here, I'll read them.

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