(In Which Harper Can’t Talk His Way Out of Trouble)
“Be sensible,” Mama says, “or be dead.”
Harper Mitzin Seili is many things: fashionable, witty, queer. Cautious … not so much. Nonetheless, life as a tavern server on the working side of Ihrne’s dividing wall demands preparation and limitation. He obeys the rules that matter. He remembers what Mama sacrificed for his chance to live as a man. Besides: the end-of-war Proclamations, issued in the name of Ihrne’s trans crown prince, promise a new, better world. A world in which safety doesn’t require his rejecting connection, intimacy and that shifting, nebulous thing called “attraction”.
But when the Traditionalists take up violence in protest of noble-issued laws, Harper’s risky ventures and glib tongue don’t just fail to steer him out of trouble: they destroy the life he and Mama spent two years building. He can stay and suffer at the hands of his neighbours … or begin anew in another place, under another name. A place where he must now submit to every restriction Mama, in her fears for him, deems “safe” and “sensible”.
A third way exists for Harper, if only he dares break Mama’s foremost rule … and several of his own.
If Mama trusts him to lie about a betrothal to a girl in Astreut, why can’t she also trust him to decide when to risk participating in a world void of safety?