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Common Bonds

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An Aromantic Speculative Anthology

Common Bonds is an anthology of speculative short stories and poetry featuring aromantic characters. At the heart of this collection are the bonds that impact our lives from beginning to end: platonic relationships. Within this anthology, a cursed seamstress finds comfort in the presence of a witch, teams of demon hunters work with their rival to save one of their own, a peculiar scholar gets attached to those he was meant to study, and queerplatonic shopkeepers guide their pupil as they explore their relationship needs and desires. Through nineteen stories and poems, Common Bonds explores the ways platonic relationships enrich our lives.

306 pages, Paperback

First published January 12, 2021

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About the author

Claudie Arseneault

18 books397 followers
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, came out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 51 reviews
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,920 reviews1,256 followers
January 26, 2021
Full disclosure: I was a Kickstarter backer for this book. I was very excited for Common Bonds, because I am aromantic, but that’s an identity that isn’t well-represented in mainstream media (and when it is, it’s usually conflated with/paired with asexuality—I am also asexual, but I like the split attraction model because it helps me discuss my experiences with nuance). A great deal of this review will be me talking about the importance of books like this. But first, stories!

Honestly, none of these stories jumped out at me as stand-out entries. This is fine and something I’ve come to expect from anthologies—or rather, from how I experience anthologies. I find short stories challenging at the best of times, and the start of this year has been challenging for me in terms of reading in general. So I’m not surprised that I can’t pick out any one or two stories as the best of this collection.

What I can say, however, is that these stories are incredibly varied and diverse in all senses—structure, plot, representation, theme. The editors of this collection did a great job selecting submissions that not only portray a wide range of aromantic experiences but also a wide range of speculative fiction. While I would say most of the stories tend towards fantasy, there is some science fiction—and beyond genre, we also have some poetry! Some of my favourite stories were the shorter, calmer ones that were a small number of scenes—but there are also longer, more adventurous stories here as well.

Aromanticism is prominent in many of the stories and less so in others. For example, in “A Full Deck,” by Avi Silver, the antihero protagonist’s aromanticism is pivotal to taking on an incubus. In other stories, like “Shift,” by Mika Standard, the protagonist’s aromanticism is mentioned and important but not central to the story, which is mostly about trying to figure out how to tell your roommate you know she’s a werewolf.

That’s the other thing I like about this anthology: the stories are just good in general at modelling excellent use of pronouns, of consent, of respecting boundaries and talking about relationships. This anthology is so much more than a collection of stories and poems about aromanticism.

But it is definitely that too. And this is perhaps what surprised me about Common Bonds: despite the individual stories not making much impression on me, overall they … added up, I guess? About two thirds of the way through this collection, I began to feel a kind of weight settle on me, in a good way. It was a weight of recognition, or of feeling recognized. I realized that, while I have read a few books here and there with aro characters, the concentrated dose of aro experiences here was powerful for me.

I’ll blog more about this next month when it is Aromantic Awareness Week, but I have been thinking lately about how being aro in a society that privileges romance over friendship stunted my making of adult friends until quite recently. The stories here in Common Bonds made me feel seen and filled me with joy, because they reflect back a life I recognize. These are stories of people with partners despite not desiring romance, of people who live by themselves because that is what they prefer. It made me think about how I have one platonic friendship that is, above others, so important and essential to me, a relationship that others could mistake as romantic because of its intensity but is, to its core, not. I appreciated the stories, like “Cinder,” by Jennifer Lee Rossman, that articulate the heady feelings of meeting your platonic soulmate.

This anthology is important because we need to talk about how our society portrays romance as a higher good. I have nothing against romance, either as a concept or as a genre—but friendship, companionship, family (chosen or otherwise), and one’s own individual selfhood—those things are important too. This is a collection of stories and experiences that ask, “What if romance were not the end goal?” I think we should ask that more often.

I hope this is not the last anthology of aromantic speculative fiction. Would back again.

Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Ace.
435 reviews43 followers
Shelved as 'release-2020'
March 5, 2020
Profile Image for Ocean.
120 reviews
May 6, 2021
As with any other anthology, the stories in this book were very hit or miss. I really enjoyed some of these short stories, but there were also some that I couldn't get into, and some that were just straight up confusing. I think anthologies are just not my thing, which is a shame because I had high hopes for this one. It is a pretty good anthology, the stories I enjoyed were actually pretty incredible. Three stars is still a decent rating and I did like the book (for the most part). I guess I'm just a bit disappointed that I didn't like *all* of the stories.
Profile Image for Artemis.
103 reviews12 followers
December 11, 2020
I was excited to back this on Kickstarter, and excited to read it when I got it! It's a fun and engaging anthology. It leans much more heavily fantasy than sci-fi, and as with any anthology the stories are of variable quality, but they were all clearly heartfelt.

Some standout star stories were "Busy Little Bees" by Polenth Blake (my favorite!) and "Spacegirl and the Martian" by Cora Ruskin. I also quite liked "A Full Deck" by Avi Silver and "Not to Die" by Rosiee Thor.

Through the collection, it was interesting to see how the different authors rose to the prompt of including aromantic characters and centering platonic relationships. Some explicitly used the word "aromantic," and some got into specific discussions about asexuality, allosexuality, and demisexuality paired with it; some used the word and didn't specify any other orientation; some didn't use the word but alluded to not wanting romantic relationships or not feeling romantic attraction, in ways both well-integrated and clumsily forced; some, I was kind of interested to see, didn't actually make it explicit at all, and instead just told a story with no romance in it that centered a platonic relationship. Though there were some in which shoehorning in of the aro aspect could get awkward, but that kind of variety was refreshing and neat to see.

There were several typos throughout that I noticed, and I would have liked a credits page listing all the contributors' bios like there is on the website, but overall I'm glad this project happened and glad that I got to read it.

I wrote notes on each specific story and poem as I updated, which you can see here. A more in-depth and critically-minded story-by-story review is here.
Profile Image for kaylina.
337 reviews8 followers
October 11, 2022
4.5 / 5: what mattered most to me was that as i’m still coming to terms with being aro, i found an anthology that explored all these different worlds and characters through the lens of those on the aromantic spectrum. i got to witness how far and wide our desires lead us, completely away from the expectations society places on us when it comes to romance. to have little to no romantic attraction is seen as a phase or being a sign of being “abnormal”, but in these fantastical stories and poetry, it just means the connections we make transcend what society deems most important.

i loved how imaginative each and every piece of this collection was and how different these worlds were to my own. i could connect so vividly to the characters and i felt this longing in seeing them form all these different bonds in all sorts of ways that make them feel less alone. whether it was seeing the bond between just two characters, or in an entire group, or between a parent and their child, even one who stumbles upon the spirit of nature—i just loved all of it, even if there were only two or three that missed the mark for me.

one specific thing i loved as well is that in some of these worlds, it’s never explicitly explained what it means to be aromantic. as i’m exploring my identity on the aro spectrum, i find myself hiding in the corner, too scared to not explain well enough why i feel connected to this piece of my sexuality. when reading this anthology, it felt like a relief to see that for some of these characters, there was no need for them to explain themselves to anyone. what the main focus was was exploring how these new bonds they form affect them and how it matters to only them in their own life. it just made me reflect on how it really shouldn’t matter so much how others may feel about how i experience romantic attraction.

because what’s most important to me is that i could have these different connections that didn’t ask too much from me. they’re just simply there for me to feel like i can breathe, for as long as we’re both willing.

i really recommend this one to anyone who stumbles upon this anthology.

some of my favorite stories from this collection: “not quite true love”, “spacegirl and the martian”, “fishing over the bones of the dragon”, “seams of iron”, and “not to die”.

content warnings//: [in order] mentions of misgendering, drowning, human sacrifices, mentions of abuse, controlling romantic partners, abusive parents, anti-aromantic sentiments, consumption of alcohol, ableism, colonization allegories, animal abuse, roofie mention, PTSD mention, forced prostitution mention, decapitation, thoughts of arson, accidental misgendering, violence, injury, spiders, animal death, death imagery, puke/vomit mention, alzheimer’s disease, death of a parent, exploration of grief, abusive relationships, mentions of species extinction, animal cruelty, child illness, apathy about life, loss of loved ones, depression, mentions of non-consensual relationship dynamics, and forced pregnancies
Profile Image for Kerstin.
172 reviews6 followers
February 22, 2021
Rating anthologies is always hard. I liked some of the stories more than others, as I always do, but this was definitely a nice collection of works.
Most of the poetry wasn't actually explicitly speculative, but it was heartfelt, so I'm not mad about it, it just made me go "Hmm" when I realised that.

Also, just wanted to let you know that I read part of this book on Valentine's Day out of spite lol.

Also also, I'm honoured to be internet friends with Laya who did the cover art for this book. Beautiful work as always.
Profile Image for Ceillie Simkiss.
Author 9 books89 followers
January 19, 2021
Everything I dreamed of

This anthology was everything I wanted from it and more. It felt like the warmest hug and the comfiest blanket. Read it.
Profile Image for Eleanor.
282 reviews43 followers
June 21, 2021
I don't normally take the time to write long reviews, but I wanted to compile my thoughts on each of these stories. Since this is an anthology of works by many different authors, it's even harder than usual to accurately sum up my feelings on the entire collection in just a star rating and a few sentences. But overall, my final ratings average out to 3.68/5 stars, which I'm rounding up to 4/5. On the whole, I think these are some fun, pretty good stories, and if you're looking for more queer SFF, I would recommend picking this up.

4/5 for “The Aromantic Lovers.”
Great writing all around, and I love the dynamic between Matroise and Dario! I would readily read a longer work with these two as the leads. After having read the entire collection, this actually might be the story that stands out to me the most due to how compelling the two main characters are. This definitely feels like the story I'll remember the most, even if there are other stories that may have had more lyrical writing, inventive worldbuilding, etc.

4/5 for “Voices in the Air.” A solid story with an interesting world, though there was definitely a lot of info-dumping of worldbuilding and backstory. I feel like this would have worked a better as a slightly longer mystery or adventure novella���or if a short story, then one that tried to stuff a lot less world and character info into your brain in only 30 pages.

2.5/5 for “Moon Sisters.” This is mostly a personal preference thing—I didn’t really vibe with the MC or her voice, and I don’t really like werewolf stories. ("It's me, not the story" will be a theme throughout this collection.)

3/5 for “Cinder.” Again, not a huge fan of the MC's voice or the world—in this case, the concept was based a lot around tech and played pretty heavily with the idea of social media, which aren't really concepts I'm as interested in. It was also pretty heavy on the cheese at the end. However, I do think a lot of my feelings on this one (especially relating to the MC and the world) come more down to personal preference than poor execution, and I enjoyed the disability rep and female friendship.

3/5 for “Not Quite True Love.” This was the first poem of Common Bonds, which contains a few poems alongside its short stories. It wasn't written in a poetic style I really vibed with—there was great use of concrete details, but I struggled to settle into a rhythm or flow with the verse or see where poetic techniques were used with purpose. Loved the ending, though.

4.5/5 for “Dracanmot Council of Human Study Report Compiled by Usander Greystart.” SO good! I loved everything here: Usander and Elitt, Usander's voice, their relationship, the world, the writing—I would gladly read more featuring these characters or their world.

3/5 for “Spacegirl and the Martian.” I’m not a big sci-fi/superhero person, and I felt mostly ambivalent towards the MC throughout, but I grew to like the dynamic between the sisters.

4/5 for “Would You Like Charms With That?” A very sweet story!

4/5 for both “In the Summer a Banana Tree” and “Remembering the Farm.” Two poems written by the same author and placed next to each other in the anthology. Beautiful writing and yeah, I definitely teared up a little. The only reason I didn't give them 5 stars is, again, a matter of personal preference; nature-based subject manner and more traditional poetic style aren't things that tend to resonate extremely highly with me.

4/5 for “Fishing Over the Bones of the Dragon.” Beautifully and hauntingly written. However, I didn't get attached to any of the characters, making this a story I struggle to feel a lot for as I write this a few days later. Nonetheless, I can't speak too highly of the prose and the way it blends with and emphasizes the haunting qualities of the fantasy world.

3.5/5 for “Asteria III.” Again, I’m not a huge sci-fi person, and this also felt like it should have been longer. A momentously huge problem was set up and then solved just a few pages later, with only a few moments spent on thinking about how to solve it. But it did make me tear up.

4/5 for “A Full Deck.” Took me most of the story to get a grip on the world and its rules, but I really like Cat and would gladly read more stories about him!

4/5 for “Half a Heart.” Same situation as "Fishing Over the Bones of the Dragon," I think. The writing is absolutely stunning, and it really emphasizes the darkly fantastical feeling of the world. However, even more than in "Fishing," these characters felt so completely swallowed by the lyricism of the writing they began to feel far more abstract than like real, grounded people I could get attached to. This is another story that punched me in the gut when I read it, but I've hardly thought about it since.

3/5 for “Shift.” Again, I’m not a werewolf person. I also never really connected to either of the MCs.

5/5 for “Discography.” Absolutely stunning piece of poetry.

4/5 for “Seams of Iron.” Beautiful writing, and I loved the fairytale feeling of the story and the dynamic between Sigrun and Erin. This is another duo I would love to read more stories about.

4.5/5 for “Not to Die.” The main character, an older woman struggling under the weight of a long and sorrowful life, and her voice are what really stood out to me in this story. The personification of magic and the friendship she develops with Prima were excellently done as well.

2/5 for “Busy Little Bees.” So, 1) I don't usually like dystopian. Or sci-fi? I think this is dystopian, but I'm not even 100% sure about that because 2) I had absolutely no idea what was going on throughout this whole story. I get that there are some SFF stories where in order to convey worldbuilding information, authors take the route of just dropping you in the world and arranging context clues so that you'll get it eventually. But I did not get "Busy Little Bees" eventually because there weren't really any clues to pick up on, there were just . . . ideas and terms as if we should already know what they indicated, with no clues to help. Also, this story didn't really . . . have a climax? Or an "aha" moment? I think? Or if it did, I completely missed it because I was so confused.

Overall, I'd say my favorite stories were “Not to Die,” “Seams of Iron,” “The Aromantic Lovers,” and “Dracanmont Council,” and “Discography” was definitely my favorite poem. I will absolutely be looking out for more of these authors' work in the future. As for Common Bonds, I would recommend it to people looking for more aromantic rep and/or queer SFF in general. It was a fun time, and I'm glad I read it!

(P.S. If you liked Common Bonds, I think you would probably also like these other queer SFF books: The Dragon of Ynys, City of Strife, and Maiden, Mother, and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes.)
Profile Image for Ellis.
155 reviews4 followers
January 16, 2021
I don't have words to describe how much I loved this. This was incredible
Profile Image for Sammy C.
15 reviews
May 12, 2021
Rating: 4 / 5

This is one of the few books I’ve actually bough full-price instead of getting it thrifted, all because I wanted to support everyone behind it in the only way I could. As someone who’s broke: That means a LOT.

Can I start this out by saying just how happy I am that this exists? Finding aro rep is hard. Finding books with aro characters is even harder. So this? This is fucking awesome, and even though I didn’t like some of the stories I want to say that each and every writer that contributed to this has my utmost respect. Ya’ll rock!

And the representation... oh gosh the representation! People of all different ethnic backgrounds, all genders and pronouns, just so much diversity is here and I ate up every bit of it.

I had two issues with this collection as a whole / issues that spread over a lot of the stories. One was that it was very clear, at least to me, that a lot of these stories were written by people who are not very skilled / used to writing short stories. Let me make this clear: I do not mean these people are bad writers. What I mean is that writing a short story is a very different process than writing a book, or a novel, or an essay. Some of these stories were great or were wonderful ideas but just didn’t work / weren’t made into short stories properly! And that sucked. So yeah, not the best there, and I think a lot of these stories suffered because of that.

The second issue is… Look, I get that one of the main themes of this collection was platonic relationships. But you know what the other was? Aromanticism. And while all the stories explored friendship, some of them didn’t have anything aro-related. Some didn’t even use the word aro / didn’t heavily imply / describe being aro without using the word. I was reading some of these stories going, “okay, where’s the aromantic character(s)?”. I’m all for characters not just being their sexuality but I mean, come on. The anthology is about being aro! Why aren’t you showing me an aro character! It was honestly kind of disappointing, considering I bought this because I wanted aro rep.

But anyway overall this was a good anthology. I liked it! It did have issues though, and I wanted to make them clear. I’ve reviewed all of the stories below:

The Aromatic Lovers

4.5 / 5

Oh this one is lovely!! I loved the concept, I loved the characters, it was just great. The idea of using smells as an indicator of gender / pronouns is so cool?? This honestly would be a 5/5 but there were two things that bothered me. 1) The main character, Matroise, is misgendered in the text on the first page. This isn’t done by another character- it’s literally the author’s mistake and it honestly took me out of the story, and 2) Just a personal issue I had with one of the characters that I’m positive won’t bother most people. Otherwise this is a great story and fantastic intro to the whole book.

Voices In The Air

3 / 5

Yeah, this one was just… a lot. The writing itself was good. But it felt like the author was trying to cram something that should have been SO much longer into the limited space they had, which just didn’t work here. This story was definitely based off a different, much longer and more complex story the author has, and because it was so short I wasn’t able to relate to the characters or anything because it was just a lot of information instead of relatable characters or something.

The best way to describe it would be like watching a movie based off a series but you haven’t seen the series and are getting all your info from the movie. This would definitely be better as a novella or novel, hell even a much longer short story. I didn’t really connect / like any of the characters. Also I… didn’t know who was supposed to be aromantic. Obviously a character doesn’t have to say it explicitly or anything but I didn’t get any aro vibes here. Plus the main “friendship” didn’t even feel like a friendship! It’s an okay story.

Moon Sisters

3.5 / 5

This one was good and I’m sure anyone who likes werewolves will LOVE this! Sadly I do not particularly like werewolves, get squicked out at possessiveness / generally animal qualities being applied to humans(It’s hard to explain FBDHJS), and just didn’t vibe with this story. I love the found family aspect of it though! I’m sure someone else will like it a lot more than I did- also, it was funny! There’s nothing particularly bad about it. Just personal preferences!


5 / 5

Oh THIS was some good shit. Disabled protags. A fairytale retelling. The humor was amazing, I LOVED all the concepts introduced. It was just so creative!! I literally laughed out loud and it is SO rare that I do that I was surprised! I absolutely wanted more / wanted it to be longer in the best of ways, meaning it was a great short story and that I just want to read MORE of it. I’m definitely gonna be looking into / out for this author. One of my favorites!!

Not Quite True Love

This is one of the few poems in this book, and it’s a very good one at that. I liked it! I’m no good at rating poetry so that’s really all I can say fgdhbjs, but it’s still a good poem.

Dracanmot Council of human Study Report. Compiled by Usander Greystart

5 / 5

The twist!! Oh the twist!! I LOVED reading this so much, it was charming and funny. What a great short story. One of my favorites for sure- I’m a sucker for this type of thing.

Spacegirl and The Martian

4 / 5

I honestly have no idea why I’m not rating this higher. It just didn’t really feel like anything was happening? There was a conflict but the conflict never got settled, or really expanded on. There was a lot of nuance to the plot but it was never dug into. This could have been really good but instead it was just eh. Definitely had potential though!

Would You Like Charms With That?

4 / 5

What a charming story. The representation made me happy, I loved all the fantasy elements, and the relationships between the characters felt so fleshed-out and organic. I wish it had been longer. There was just something missing here and I’m not sure what.

In The Summer a Banana Tree

Oh this one makes me ache. Another poem. How painful but also beutiful.

Remembering The Farm

A punch to the gut in a good way. Another one of the poems!

Fishing Over The Bones of A Dragon

5 / 5

This is, without a doubt, probably one of the best stories in the book. The writing is amazing, the characters feel real, and the concept is so creative. It’s bitter but leaves on a hopeful ending. It felt like it was the perfect length. It’s hurt / comfort but realistic- GOD I just loved this story! My only “critique”, though I don’t think that’s the word I’m looking for, is that I don’t know who was supposed to be aromantic. Nobody really gave off aro vibes or hinted at it. Because of this the story as a whole didn’t feel like it fully fit into this collection. Still wonderful though.

Asteria III

5 / 5

Probably one of the most solid of all the short stories. It felt like it should be this length, like nothing was missing, and I can tell this author is just really good with the shorter stuff while some of the other stories felt like they were made by people who weren’t used to it. The writing is good and I liked the concept. Just a really good one! Loved it. However it also didn’t have any explicit / implied aro rep, so it did feel a bit out of place.

A Full Deck

5 / 5

How freaking cool. I love this concept. I love the rep. I love the characters. I love the HUMOR, which is really the highlight of this whole thing. I want a whole book based off this!! Literally one of my favorites in the whole book. So fucking good. Probably one of the few 5 / 5s on here where I feel like it’s an actual 5 / 5 instead of just higher than a 4.5 / 5, if that makes sense.

Half A Heart

10 / 5

This. This is my favorite story from the whole damn collection. The relationships. The writing. The second person perspective. It’s all so GOOD. It’s the absolute perfect mix of fantasy and hit So Many of my sweet spots. I just- GOD. This is so amazing. My one gripe? There wasn’t anything explicitly / implied to be aro. I mean I got aro vibes from one of the characters but still. An overall AMAZING short story that I lost my shit over.


4 / 5

I really liked this one! It’s another werewolf one, and done in a way that doesn’t make me uncomfortable. It has the same vibes as a rom com, if that makes sense, in that it isn’t anything super special but it excels at what it is(and without the romance, obviously). A nice easy read. The writing could have been better, and the climax felt a bit anticlimactic, but still good.


The last poem in this book and definitely my favorite. It’s short but so fucking good. Just my style of poetry!

Seams of Iron

5 / 5

How sweet! I loved this story, and the characters meshed together so well. It give off such good vibes. The metaphor about the sidewalk hit hard. I don’t know how else to describe it lmao, just some nice witch living in the woods sort of thing!

Not To Die

4.5 / 5

The magic in this story is so unique and portrayed in a way I don’t think I’ve ever really seen before. Overall this story is just very interesting. I didn’t feel anything over it, though.

Busy Little Bees

2.5 / 5

Yeah this was… a lot. I kept waiting for a full explanation of the concept, which was cloning, but it never came, which made the whole story confusing. And the plot itself was just so much crammed into such a small section. It didn’t even have a proper ending! Didn’t like this one one bit.
Profile Image for Martta.
106 reviews11 followers
December 9, 2020
Really liked it! This has a range of different kinds of love: not just friendship and queer-platonic relationships (which are my first associations with platonic relationships) but also found family, birth family, mentor-mentee relationships and bonds with pets.

The different flavours of speculative elements were also pretty diverse: a lot of fantasy, including urban fantasy, high fantasy, and superheroes; some fairy-tale retellings/remixes; and a little bit of what I think of as sci-fi. In general, I personally don't love fairy-tale and superhero stuff and prefer more space opera, but I thought everything in here was enjoyable and very cute. I do appreciate the fact that fairy-tales have this very formulaic "insta-love (at first sight)" convention that's interesting to challenge.

Overall very cute, fun, and pleasant to read!
301 reviews
December 31, 2020
I am very glad that I KickStarted this anthology. There are some really good stories in here, and overall I enjoyed it. As an asexual I'm very glad to see more ace representation. The three star rating is because of the unevenness of the stories, but if you'd like to see some ace representation, or a whole anthology that is focused around non-romantic relationships (though there are quite a few queerplatonic relationships), give this a try.
Profile Image for Zoe.
121 reviews
July 15, 2021

How to rate an anthology? There were some stories I absolutely adored, some that were mediocre, and some that I didn't care for - that's just how it is.
Profile Image for Ana.
370 reviews6 followers
August 7, 2021
The overall quality of the writing in many of the pieces was a little disappointing, but the stories were fun, enjoyable, and moving nonetheless. And super light and easy to pick up, put down again between stories, which is kind of an overlooked virtue.
Profile Image for Littlebookterror.
1,696 reviews61 followers
August 13, 2022
I did not have the highest expectations of this anthology but I still feel a little disappointed?
Most of the stories were fine. I did not find any new favourites, but I feel a little more assured I will pick up Avi Silver. I liked the focus on friendship, platonic bonds and family and some of the fantasy worlds were cool. Some of the authors can write well.

But to be entirely honest, some of these pieces read more like short stories with no romance instead of aromantic short stories. I've read and loved so many short stories that include no romances for the protagonists without ever implying they might be aromantic (or queer at all), it's not really a unique concept. So it's a little strange to me that I would find stories like that in here (for example, Fishing Over the Bones of the Dragon or Asteria III) that I would put into the former category. Maybe I did not pick up on the hints, maybe I am setting the bar too high but when it comes to themed anthologies, I do prefer them to be more overt. Cinder went all the way by explicitly stating the words asexual and aromantic but you can also do it in a more casual manner, like Moon Sisters. That is not to say these stories are not enjoyable, in fact, Fishing is very good – but not because I liked the aro rep.

The Aromatic Lovers by Morgan Swim | ★★★✩✩
Gotta say, this one still has me a bit confused even after I finished it. I like the world and how it explored gender expression and the general idea of how we are perceived by others but I struggled with some of the dialogue. Is Dario aro and Matroise is in love with him? Or is Matroise not in love with him which causes their anxiety? Kita's role also seemed off-place in this story.

Voices in the Air by Vida Cruz | ★★★✩✩
Again, liked the worldbuilding and the backstory of Saha and Tila. I would not say that there was too much going on, per se, but perhaps I would have wanted a bit more purpose for all the information that we get.

Moon Sisters by Camilla Quinn | ★★★★✩
This was lovely! We get two werewolf pack members coming together when one of them has been recently dumped by their ex. There a little bits of worldbuilding but the main focus is on their platonic relationship and building Summer back up.

Cinder by Jennifer Lee Rossman | ★★★★✩
A fun ride with great characters. I really loved the comment about how abuse and magic can both change you.

Not Quite True Love by Syl Woo | ★★✩✩✩
This read like a good essay that was formatted badly. Not the kind of poetry I feel drawn to.

Dracanmōt Council of Human Study Report Compiled by Usander Greystart by A.Z. Louise | ★★★✩✩
A solid take on the “foreigner learns how human” story if not very memorable.

Spacegirl and the Martian by Cora Ruskin | ★★✩✩✩
I am just not much a superhero girl but the twin's relationship was a nice touch.

Would You Like Charms With That? by E.H. Timms | ★★★✩✩
Sharing information and hope.

In the Summer a Banana Tree by Thomas Leonard Shaw | ★★✩✩✩
I am unsure why this was included? A very short poem about a deseaced pet.

Remembering the Farm by Thomas Leonard Shaw | ★★✩✩✩
A poem about longing?

Fishing Over the Bones of the Dragon by Jeff Reynolds | ★★★★✩
A quiet story about a father and his kid bonding after a tragic experience. I really liked how the emotions spilled over from the memories into the present timeline in an understated way.

Asteria III by Marjorie King | ★★✩✩✩
This writing style just wasn't for me and I found the AI more creepy than endearing. The humor felt forced and the story is a pretty average space journey.

A Full Deck by Avi Silver | ★★★★✩
This was a fun time! The lore was expertly weaved into the conversation and the action moved quickly.

Half A Heart by Ren Oliveira | ★★★✩✩
Enjoyed the ephemeral atmosphere combined with the 2nd person POV.

Shift by Mika Standard | ★★★✩✩
Sad to say that made this werewolf story kind of boring? There is so potentional there for heavy emotions but this more of a breeze.

Discography by Ian Mahler | ★★★★✩
another short poem but I actually liked this one. Poignant.

Seams of Iron by Adriana C. Grigore | ★★★✩✩
I loved this curse and how it all unraveled.

Not to Die by Rosiee Thor | ★★★✩✩
Interesting but I felt it was missing something.

Busy Little Bees by Polenth Blake | ★★✩✩✩
This one just has me confused.
Profile Image for Kay Claire.
Author 6 books33 followers
April 1, 2023
3.5 stars

Like all anthologies, this was a mixed bag for me. Some of the stories were really good, and some weren't my cup of tea. I DNF'd quite a few of them.

I'm also more of a contemporary kind of a person, and all these stories were either fantasy or scifi -- but it does say speculative fiction in the synopsis so that's on me. I was also hoping more of these stories would actually be about aromanticism explicitly, but only a handful of them are.

Anyway, my 1 or 2 sentence review of each story:

The Aromatic Lovers by Morgan Swim: I did not like the writing style one and was confused through most of it, though once I actually figured out what was going on I did appreciate the concept of the world it was set in.

Voices in the Air by Vida Cruz: This one was also confusing to me and probably needed to be a novella instead of a short story, as there was WAY too much background information packed into it.

Moon Sisters by Camilla Quinn: I liked this one! It's the first one that explicitly says the main character is aromantic, and I like werewolf and pack-dynamic stories so I liked this. I think werewolf packs are a great conduit for aromantic stories because they're all about found families and strong bonds between people.

Cinder by Jennifer Lee Rossman: DNF

Not Quite True Love by Syl Woo: DNF

Dracanmot Council of Human Study Report Compiled by Usander Greystart by A.Z. Louise: I liked this one too! I spent most of it trying to figure out if the main character and the council were aliens or time travellers and was delighted by the reveal.

Spacegirl and the Martian by Cora Ruskin: I think I'm ambivalent to this one? Some complicated feelings about siblings and some swishy world building around superheroes.

Would You Like Charms With That? by E.H. Timms: DNF

In The Summer A Banana Tree by Thomas Shaw Leonard: A sweet poem about losing a beloved pet

Remembering the Farm by Thomas Shaw Leonard: I can't state implicitly what this poem is about but I like how it's written nonetheless

Fishing Over the Bones of the Dragon by Jeff Reynolds: This story did not really keep my attention and I ended up taking a two week break from this book in the middle of it, so. It's not bad though.

Steria III by Marjorie King: DNF

A Full Deck by Avi Silver: DNF

Half a Heart by Ren Oliveira: DNF

Shift by Mika Stanard: Not the best writing but it's a sweet story and it involves werewolves, and both characters are explicitly stated to be aromantic (or at least questioning). I enjoyed it.

Discography by Ian Mahler: Poem about the alienation of being aroace in a world obsessed with romantic love.

Seams of Iron by Adriana C. Grigore: I liked this one! It's quite sweet

Not to Die by Rosiee Thor: DNF

Busy Little Bees by Polenth Blake: I really liked the concept of this one, but it feels like it ends waaay too abruptly. Another one of those concepts that needed to be a novella instead of a short story.

300 reviews
June 24, 2021
From the Foreword:
"While aromantic people engage in a wide variety of relationships, including romantic ones, we chose platonic bonds because they impact our live from beginning to end and their importance is often overlooked. We wanted to explore these connections - the joy and sadness, the new discoveries and long-lasting struggles, what they teach us about the world, each other, and ourselves - and the way romantic people often redefine their relative importance, centering them in their lives."

- The Aromatic Lovers by Morgan Swim: a perfume-maker crafts the perfect enigmatic scent for his non-binary agender(?) friend
- Cinder by Jennifer Lee Rossman: a 'call-a-prince' service is taken over by a 'damsel in distress' who saves herself, the prince she called to save her, and teams up with another 'princess' to do the same
- Not Quite True Love by Syl Woo: poem
- Would You Like Charms With That? by E.H. Timms: "I want something more substantial. Solid. Lasting. I want someone I can lean on in hard times and celebrate with in good times. I want someone who accepts me as I am - accepts all of me I as I am, ace, and aro - all my queerness together, without picking the bits they want and the bits they don't."
In The Summer a Banana Tree by Thomas Shaw Leonard: poem
A Full Deck by Avi Silver: a demon uses sexual attraction to lure its victims learns how to use romantic attraction to lure in aces too, better call in an aromantic anti-hero to help save the day?
Shift by Mika Standard: an aro/ace estranged university student figures out her roommate is a werewolf and is welcomed into the pack as a member of the found family
Discography by Ian Miller: poem
Seams of Iron by Adriana C. Grigore: a cursed weaver meets a witch and live in cottage-core heaven
Not To Die by Rosiee Thor: a knotter, in mourning for the death of their brother and sister-in-law, returns to a market out of time, reading the longevities and genuineness of couples in the threads they choose out for each other, despite feeling no inclination of romantic attraction herself
Profile Image for Sophie A. Katz.
89 reviews1 follower
December 13, 2021
This anthology is a true delight! It has fantasy and sci-fi, it has heart and humor, and most importantly, it has aros. Explicitly, canonically aromantic characters. And while it would be impossible for any one anthology to cover the whole range of aro-spectrum experiences, it takes a darn good stab at it.

"Common Bonds explores the ways platonic relationships enrich our lives," says the blurb on the back of the book, and this is true. I would add that it also explores and illuminates the fundamental human drive to care for each other, to take care of each other, to matter to each other - in the many, many ways that that care and mattering can take shape.

If I had to fault this anthology on one point, it's that many of the stories felt incomplete - like they needed more time to fully develop their characters or worlds or to make the thematic point that they were trying to make. I would give some individual stories a five-star review, but unfortunately not the anthology as a whole.

I can't pick a favorite story, so here are a few stand-outs:
-"The Aromatic Lovers" by Morgan Swim, for its fantastic "not wanting a scent" analogy for aromanticism
-"Moon Sisters" by Camilla Quinn, for its fabulously wholesome take on werewolf pack life
-"Cinder" by Jennifer Lee Rossman, for making me laugh out loud multiple times
-"Dracanmot Council of Human Study Report..." by A.Z. Louise, because while the story felt complete, it also made me want to read a full novel about Usander
-"Half A Heart" by Ren Oliveira, for its beautiful, poetic language
-"Seams of Iron" by Adriana C. Grigore, for being a fascinating take on one of my favorite fairy tales
Profile Image for that girl who reads.
94 reviews38 followers
December 24, 2022
Firstly, I'm so glad this anthology exists. It is so important that this book exists. However, it didn't quite meet my expectations which was a shame. I was a little confused why some of the pieces were included as they seemed to just happen to feature themes other than romance? As opposed to being inherently related to queerness and aromanticism which is what I wanted. Or perhaps this is a fault of my interpretations which I full accept could be the case. But I also felt let down by the quality of writing. Some were difficult to follow or just poorly written. Having said this, others felt much more in keeping with the theme, well written and enjoyable. 

My top 5 were:
 1) Avi Silva - "A Full Deck": so much fun, quirky, badass, fast paced, wonderfully queer characters, friendship-focused, strong setting, intriguing RPG concept.
2) Adriana C. Grigore - "Seams of Iron": beautifully written, fairy tale-esque, reminded me of The Six Swans but better, curses, witches, female friendship-focused.
3) Jeff Reynolds - "Fishing Over the Bones of a Dragon": stunning writing, beautiful imagery, Alice in Wonderland vibes, quiet but powerful, family-focused.
4) Morgan Swim - "The Aromantic Lovers" quirky, unique concept, hopeful, great analogy between scent and presenting identity.
5) Ian Mahler- "Discography": short but sweet, incredibly relatable, heartwrenching.

I would love to see more from these writers in particular and more aro books being published in future. Keep em coming because I'll keep reading them!!
Profile Image for Jennys Bücherkiste.
640 reviews18 followers
January 23, 2022
Mit dieser Anthologie ist es, wie fast immer mit Anthologien: Einige Beiträge haben mir richtig gut gefallen, mock berührt und Lust auf mehr gemacht; zu anderen habe ich keinen Zugang gefunden oder sie haben als Kurzgeschichten mit wenig Erkärungen nicht funktioniert - letzteres insbesondere, da es eine Fantasy-/ SciFi-Anthologie ist. Diese Sammlung hatte aus meiner Sicht insbesondere in der Mitte viele schwächere Geschichten und Gedichte, hat zum Ende hin aber dann noch mal stark zugelegt. Am meisten zugesagt haben mir "Dracanmot", "Would you like charms with that", "A Full Deck", "Half a heart", "Shifter" und "Seams if Iron".
Unabhängig davon muss ich sagen, dass es echt cool war, in eine Reihe Geschichten abzutauchen, in denen aromantische Figuren eine Rolle, meist sogar die Hauptrolle, spielen. Die Anthologie hat auch eindrucksvoll gezeigt, dass das Leben nicht schwarz-weiß ist: Einige Figuren sind aromantisch und asexuell, andere aromantisch und allosexuell. Einige Figuren sind allein glücklich, andere wollen und leben queerplatonische Beziehungen. Einige Figuren sind cis, andere trans, wieder andere nonbinär. Es werden "she" und "he" und "they" Pronomen verwendet.
Also dem Anspruch, eine bunte Mischung an Kurzgeschichten und Gedichten mit aromantischen Charakteren zusammen zu stellen, ist "Common Bonds" definitiv gerecht geworden.
Profile Image for Emma.
46 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2023
I found this book on Hoopla while I was scrolling late one night through the lgptqia+ section as one does, and found this absolute beauty. I read it in one sitting which at the time I was just hungry for more of the stories and more of the poems, but looking back I wish I had savored them instead. Slown down, and enjoyed every moment of them like honey on your fingertips. My favorite of the whole collection was by far Half a Heart by Ren Oliveira. Of course I chose this one, the sticky sweet writing only similar to Hozier (you are probably sick of me talking about him but this is only the beginning), apparently this is the only writing Oliveira has ever done. They translated a short story to Portuguese and wrote Half a Heart but that is it. I cannot find any sense of life out there, no Instagram account, no books or media, no bibliography, nothing. They wrote that absolute stunning piece of work and dipped. I adored this collection and highly recommend it, we dont get enough aromantic rep as is. As a bisexual who is definitely on the aroace spectrum but has no idea where she lays, this was extremely comforting. The way each author talked about platonic love, friendships, and bonds. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket, handed a mug of warm tea, and sat down before a roaring fireplace.
Profile Image for Tessa {bleeds glitter}.
694 reviews20 followers
October 3, 2022
Anthologies, especially written by different authors, are always a risky endeavor, but considering that this is an anthology about one of my favorite queer identities (I'm aro, I think I get to say that) that is incidentally also criminally underrepresented, I was more than willing to take that risk.
And I do not regret it at all. Of course some stories fell flat and of course I have the same issues I always have with short stories- they're too short- but this anthology is so wonderfully and comfortably queer that even the stories that didn't resonate as much with me left me feeling so safe and welcome and home.
This anthology really showcases that romantic love isn't the only relationship your characters can build for the story to be heartwarming and engaging to readers and how easy it is to not always have the aphobic reaction of "You'll find someone" and "Everyone wants to be loved" when people tell you who they are and what they don't want, that even in fiction it is possible and necessary and kind to have your characters react with acceptance and respect.

All in all I really loved the message of all these stories and would definitely recommend this book based on that alone to a wide range of readers and authors.
Profile Image for Neele.
35 reviews
April 28, 2023
I complain about the idea that every single novel or movie has to include a romantic love story on a regular basis, so this anthology really speaks to my soul. The aromantic elements as well of course.
Some stories took me a while to get along with (mostly when I found myself thrown into a world of magic without any explanation whatsoever).
I liked when a character talked about their experiences or struggles with aromanticism, but the fact that stories exist where someone is casually aromantic without the whole plot centering around it mages me glad as well.
I hope some day this will be common in all kinds of stories instead of only in specifically queer ones.

The aromatic lovers: 4/5
Voices in the air: 4,5/5
Moon sisters: 5/5 (I just loved the pack's dynamic - that's the kind of love I want to read about)
Cinder: 5/5
Not quite true love: 4,5/5
Dracanmōt council of human study report: 4,5/5
Spacegirl and the martian: 5/5
Would you like charms with that: 4,5/5
In the summer a banana tree: 4/5
Remembering the farm: 4/5
Fishing over the bones of the dragon: 4,5/5
Asteria III: 4/5
A full deck: 4/5
Half a heart: 4,5/5
Shift: 5/5
Discography: 5/5
Steam of iron: 4/5
Not to die: 4/5
Busy little bees: 4,5/5
Profile Image for Raven Black.
1,954 reviews5 followers
May 31, 2022
I was looking for a book about aromantic peoples. And I found a book about aromantic people. As the publisher description says, this book is "featuring aromantic characters and centering platonic relationships." It is heavy on the fantasy element, or realistic fantasy. Even if the story is more realistic, there can be supernatural elements. Most stories are relatable even if you are not aromantic, even with the warriors, werewolves, magic and the occasional succubus. Most stories will explore genders, pronouns, and even the spectrum of aro and ace. Many of the stories I was sure of the friendship relationship and other times it was a bit more murky for me, especially during the poems. Sometimes the stories felt forced, sometimes they flowed smoothly. It is an experience book. The beginning has warnings for possible content triggers. I would also add the trigger of forced sex (in at least one story), group/orgy sex, and kink. This is not for kids. I would even think 14 and up should be a case of "know thy reader."
Profile Image for Bárbara Oliveira.
149 reviews22 followers
June 16, 2021
The aromatic lovers by Morgan swim 4
Voices in the air by Vida Cruz 3.5
Moon sisters by Camilla Quinn 5
Cinder by Jennifer Lee Rossman 4
Not quite true love by Syl Woo 5
Dracanmot council of human study report by AZLouise 3
Spaceship and the Martian by Cora Ruskin 4
Would you like charms with that? by EHTimms 4.5
In the summer a banana tree by Thomas shaw leonard 3
Remembering the farm by Thomas Leonard 3
Fishing over the bones of the dragon by Jeff Reynolds 3.5
Asteria III by Marjorie King 4.5
A full deck by Avi Silver 4
Half a heart by Ren Oliveira 5
Shift by Mika Stanard 4
Discography by Ian Mahler 4
Seams of Iron by Adriana C Grigore 3.5
Not to die by Rosiee Thor 3.5
Busy little bees by Polenth Blake 4
Profile Image for Julian.
73 reviews
May 9, 2023
I appreciated the variety of aromantic characters in this anthology- although they have that shared identity they still have different relationships to it and other intersecting identities. They were mostly fantasy with a few sci-fi stories, with simple backgrounds for their shortness. I personally just did not click with a good amount of the writing styles. It’s not them, it’s me, and it wasn’t for me. However, I enjoyed the “Dracanmōt Council” report, “Fishing Over the Bones of the Dragon”, “A Full Deck”, “Half a Heart”, and “Not to Die”. I think that my favorite was the report, as I enjoyed the growing importance of the friendship as well as the secrecy and tone.
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