Pairings: NB/M, NB/F
Queer Rep: All the wonderful NB and queer stuff. Polyamory.
Warnings: Violence, Torture (Feels like a strong word, but there are some unsavory things going down)
Dalí Tamareia is a Sol Fed Diplomat, genderfluid changeling, and badass. Dealing with the painful loss of their family, Dalí struggles to find a purpose, especially as their home system targets changelings for their newest crusade.
That crusade and the cruel underworkings of the Sol Fed soon become Dalí’s reason for living—someone is targeting and abducting third-gender changelings, and Dalí has all the components to become the perfect undercover operative.
Honestly? Holy shit. I’ll come out and say it: I had more fun reading Dalí than I’ve had in a long time. In one of the most alien settings I’ve experienced, Dalí delivers beautifully human characters and a beautifully human story.
This is one of the most well-executed narratives I’ve come across. Perfectly paced, Dalí gives you everything you didn’t know you wanted while withholding exactly enough to make you clamor for more. It catches your attention from the first scene, and even then the plot is planting seeds to bloom later. It allows the reader and character to decompress when they need it, and slams them with tension and action in perfect intervals. I was engaged from start to finish without a single hang-up or complaint.
The world building was done with extensive care. It would have been so easy to info dump or drag the descriptions of the space stations and aliens on for pages, but Hamill doesn’t. Instead it’s delivered naturally, in perfectly palatable pieces. The fear many authors (and readers!) experience at the idea of crafting and narrating never-before-seen alien races is nothing to scoff at. It feels risky to force everyone’s mind into that space, but Hamill does it with such ease that the reader simply can’t be bogged down. It was so smooth and matter-of-fact, I left the book wondering why it often feels so difficult for other creators (myself included).
I love Dalí. I think part of what makes this book a shining masterpiece is the character work. Dalí is a third-gender changeling—this means they can change their sex at will, and have an intermediate “sexless” state. This is the state Dalí occupies most often, as they don’t mentally lean in either direction.
What’s wonderful about Dalí is that they just are. While reading, their gender or sex never feels strange. The narration never feels gendered in any way, and it’s never something to gawk at. It is a phenomenal experience of true neutral, and as a gender queer pansexual, I felt more at home with Dalí’s disposition than I could have imagined. I think people who may struggle with the concept of gender-queerness would benefit from a read of Dalí. It teaches you something, very gradually. It teaches you that relatability is not limited in ways we might think, and that our experiences are ultimately human, and can always be shared and understood.
Dalí is also irreparably human, with scars and flaws that run deep. But these things brought the character to life, enhancing rather than hindering. They were still relatable—more so, I’d say—and Hamill doesn’t use the character’s flaws to simply extort the narrative for their desired plot. It all feels logical and real, and you wind up loving and rooting for Dalí throughout the piece.
I’m obviously a Fan of Dalí, but the secondary characters are wonderful as well. They’re all layered, none just thrown in to take up space. You get a real sense of everyone who surrounds Dalí at any given time, and I want to know many of them better. I don’t know if Hamill is planning more for this universe, but I would gobble it up in a heartbeat.
Just buy the book. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this piece, and how I’ll instantly preorder anything else E. M. Hamill writes. But the moral of this review is that Dalí is a fantastic piece of literature, and you should give it a go.
Note: I am an Amazon Associate and I am using affiliate links. These do not affect you or my reviews.
From Ninestar Press: