Outcaste by Fletcher DeLancey
I chose this month’s book as I was looking for something that fell under the ‘queer’ category but was a bit different from anything else I had read so far. I was wanting full-bodied characterisation, decent descriptions, and something that I could relate to. I wanted angst and good feels and all the bits in between, and Outcaste by Fletcher DeLancey ticked every single box.
The book is the sixth in the Chronicles of Alsea series, but I read it as a stand-alone novel. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not reading the earlier books, as this instalment focuses entirely on the story of Rahel Sayana, the main character in the series, following her from infancy to adulthood.
Ten-year-old Rahel is a member of the merchant caste, working in her family business of crafting and selling, but she longs to change caste to become a warrior. To do this, Rahel would need the permission of her parents to issue a caste challenge, but her parents refuse. As a result, Rahel runs away when she reaches fifteen and lives on the streets, becoming someone without caste and basically without any rights. Rahel sets out to work hard every day in menial jobs, doing anything she can to survive until she turns eighteen and can challenge the warriors to join their caste.
I enjoyed Rahel’s journey from childhood dreams and a romanticised idea of living independently (and poorly) from her parents to an adult who has worked her way through difficult situations in an attempt to reach her goals.
One of the best things about the book was the world-building. The descriptions were vivid and let me feel lost inside the story, often losing myself for large stretches in the setting.
There’s one further factor that helped me pick this book – the fact that Rahel is an asexual character.
I’ve never read a book which featured this type of character before, as romance, no matter how insignificant to the plot, is always a feature in literature. There’s always a love interest or flirting or something as a hook to have readers identify with the story. I never thought much of how exclusive this was until I read this book. For many people out there, love and romance aren’t sexual at all and this book does a wonderful job of showing that.
Fletcher DeLaney said that they based the character on their own experience, stating that “Rahel Sayana is a biromantic asexual whose most important relationships have always been with women. She experiences a very high level of sensual attraction, to the point where comfort giving (non-sexual touching including hugs, caresses, light massage, but no kissing) becomes a critical part of her life.”
I won’t say much more as I don’t want to give away any spoilers – this book is so good everyone should read it and enjoy it. However, I will say that there are some difficult moments in the book that could be triggering, including underage sex and some very dangerous and abusive situations. These moments are handled candidly and don’t shy away from the subject matter, so as long as you’re prepared for that then this book might be the most enjoyable one you read this year!