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The Breath of the Sun
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The Breath of the Sun

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Lamat Paed understands paradoxes. She's a great mountain climber who's never summited, the author of a tell-all that didn't really tell anything. For years she guided pilgrims up the foothills of the Sublime Mount, leading them as high as God would let them go. And then she partnered the apostate Southern priest Mother Disaine on the most daring, most blasphemous expeditio ...more
Paperback, 243 pages
Published August 1st 2018 by Aqueduct Press
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4.21  · 
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 ·  78 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Lyrical, intriguing, a bit remote

This is a lyrical, lovely novel that is reckoning with intriguingly rich themes of faith and survival and healing from trauma, but ultimately feels a bit too remote to sink into fully. That remoteness is appropriate to the setting, I suppose, but I did want a little more access to really feel the moments come fully to life.

Still, I admire the economic, painterly beauty of the prose, and I was mesmerized at times.

My other quibble is that there are three differen
Bogi Takács
Oh wow, this was breathtaking. Longer review hopefully in a few days. The surprise of the year so far, for me.

Update: my review is here!
Source of the book: Anonymous benefactor
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lambda-winner
A breathtakingly original meditation on love, belief, loss and the absolute complexity of human relationships. This book didn’t grab me from the start, but the slow, detailed world-building and the unflinching examination of each character's deepest desires and flaws drew me down into another world each time I opened it, so that by the end, I felt that I had just inhabited their lives right along with them. The writing is beautiful; so many times I had to stop to note a passage because of how pe ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, sf
This is in many ways a thoughtful novel, quiet and careful, and reminds me of the parts of Left Hand of Darkness that often get overlooked--the deeply embedded cultural experiences of religion that constrain and shape a character, the emotional intensity that an environmentally extreme long journey can draw out, the pensive first person reflective narration of a character considering huge, complex, life changing yet subtle moments of their life. The physicality of this book, and the realness of ...more
Debbie Notkin
Jan 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book: the folks at Aqueduct Press are friends of mine, and they were particularly excited about it (and I generally agree with them). The blurb on the front is from Sarah Tolmie, whose books I love, and who compared it to The Left Hand of Darkness.

And I did genuinely like most of it, but it didn't move me, except in spots. The story is told mostly by Lamat Paed, of the Holoh people. The whole world lives in the shadow of an incomprehensibly large mountain, which aff
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, lgbtq
This book sucked me right in, in the best way. The story is a written account by Lamat Paed, an experienced mountain-climber who lives on the side of a mountain so tall that space-suits are needed before an explorer can even see the summit. Lamat has already tried to reach that height once. The journey ended her marriage, killed her lover, and froze much of the skin and muscle from her face. Now she works in a tiny mountain village, running her ex-husbands bar and guiding tourists up to the mona ...more
Sarah Guldenbrein
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
I'm still not sure how I feel about Lamat. But I am sure that Otile loves her, tenderly. And that Disaine needs her, for many reasons, and not only to feed her ambition. For me this book was driven by the unfolding of the many intense relationships. It's also infused with a dense theology, that I could see as being another driver of the book, for a different type of reader than me.

I love that the mountain is very much a character in the story. This is my favorite sort of book, where the setting
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So good. So in that sweet spot of secondary world fantasy with strong characterization and lyrical prose and meta-textual elements that is my wheelhouse. Add in low magic (but not a complete lack of it) and religion and great descriptions of clothes and food, and it's just the best.
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The best debut and the most Jewish fantasy I've read in a long time. Mountain climbing, God, loss, complex and difficult and queer relationships between complex and difficult and queer women.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is going to be physically painful for me to return to the library it is THAT GOOD I will definitely be buying a copy once I can find one without the author's deadname on it, even if I have to order it directly from the publisher.

The worldbuilding? Perfect, incredible, Le Guin level or better. This book immerses you in an alien landscape in all the usual ways AND in all the ways my anthropologist sensibilities always wish other authors (besides Le Guin, who also managed this) would. The
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found out about this book at my annual visit the Aquaduct Press table at my favorite con. It Several editors I trust gushed non stop about how it's been decades since a manuscript came across their desks that they could so unequivocally green light, and it was pretty much unanimous that if I bought one book I should buy this one. It was the first of that pile of books that I read and I must say the advice was good. As a debut novel it totally kicks ass, and even as a not debut novel it was an ...more
Clara Ward
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the most original novel I've read in at least a year. While it is speculative fiction through and through, because it does not take place in our actual world, both the characters and the setting (which could probably also count as a character) feel almost too real. Honestly, there are several aspects of this book that I would usually find annoying (footnotes from an unseen character, quoting from characters' journals, tangling magic with religion), but in this case they work so well that ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The Breath of the Sun is told roughly in the form of an extended letter to her lover, and footnoted on occasion by that lover, with a few passages from a third person's diary. I enjoyed the primary narrator's voice, and as most of the book involves climbing an (impossibly tall) mountain, the descriptions of climbing and survival were quite nice. However, I ended up bored for a good part of it, and I often found my attention wandering. And over two years after it happened, I'm still sensitive abo ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel has an epistolary feel - Lamat is writing this autobiographical story for her partner, and it features her partner's editorial interjections, and sometimes excerpts of other works (diary entries from Lamat's partner in the expedition to the summit of the sacred mountain of the Holoh people.) It is beautifully written, with lovely prose - I loved the evocative and intense descriptions of mountain climbing, the subtle world-building that revealed itself as the novel went on.
Ry Herman
I liked this book. A lot. There's so much to chew on here. It examines belief, truth, and both the impossibility and necessity of touching the numinous. And mountain climbing. A lot of beautifully written mountain climbing. It's the kind of book that grows on me more and more the longer I think about it, and I hope it gets the audience it deserves.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The nk jemisin/into thin air mashup I didn't know I needed in my life until I read it.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This. Was. Brilliant.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book!
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This fine book does not deserve to be as unknown as it seems to be. As much as the blurb gets across the fantastical worldbuilding, this is more a sensitively written book of relationships and a character study of two women.

There's the narrator, Lamat, a fairly embittered bar/hostel-keeper and former climber in a village on the slopes of the Mountain. She lost her lover, her (shitty) marriage and a chunk of her faith during a failed and traumatic attempt to climb the Mountain. She's at the edge
Daniel Newburger
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Aug 28, 2019
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Bryan Cebulski
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Kaushik Iyer
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Dec 09, 2018
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Aug 16, 2019
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Aug 07, 2018
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "The Breath of the Sun" buddy read 28 36 Jul 23, 2019 01:52PM  
Isaac R. Fellman's debut novel, The Breath of the Sun, won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for queer science fiction, fantasy, and horror. By day, he is an archivist. Most of his protagonists are great at one thing, but are continuously prevented from doing it. (Isaac is transgender, and initially published Breath as Rachel Fellman.)
“To read at random is to read as if you were thinking. It is the closest thing to calling up a line of poetry that you’ve memorized. And I still find that it’s a good way to work through a novel or a book of poetry or even an informative book. One repeats some parts, but if a book is worth reading it is worth repetition, and it helps you to clear the false cartilage of structure. I am always over-tempted to stretch the skin of a story over that cartilage, however deformed the result may be. Structure is the great southern vice.” 0 likes
“But I learned from these new books that Southerners think we are really rather sad. They have an idea of a people dwelling on a mountain, inbred, lonely, mysterious; that we ritually climb and descend, and make sacrifices, and burn eternal flames, and send bridal parties from village to village in the spring so men like Daila can impregnate women like me, all in order to placate something implacable. They see our culture as rich, in the same way perhaps that a seam of ancient ore is rich — because of compression and repression. They imagine that we drink a lot, even more than we do (and it is a thing I learned from the bar, that they drink as much as we, that every culture that’s discovered alcohol drinks too much) and that we are poorer than we are because only a few of us sell anything to them.
A melancholy drunken land, a land of storytellers, a land of sly jokes, an Asam-hating land, and nothing like the land I remembered. It was as if someone had constructed a scaffolding around us, and then removed us and written only about the scaffolding. The more I read, the more the materials of the scaffolding — splintered wood, narrow pipes of metal — slid into the hollows of my bones. I knew that the next time I went to the mountain, I would have a stranger’s mind in mine. Though I walked in streets I had known since girlhood, I would never again be able to step upon them without an erudite word in my head and a bracing of metal in my marrow.”
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