…or at least that was how Tam described Onsen.
I should back up. Tam is a friend and classmate from Viable Paradise, and maybe a few months ago she tweeted that she had a book out, which was Onsen, and which she described as “a queer-friendly haunted house fantasy YA novella.” I was intrigued, and the cover was remarkably self-confident, so I picked it up, and enjoyed it.
Once I finished it, I discovered that it was part of a series, which made a couple of the things which had surprised me about it less surprising. I went back and picked up Okatsu, which filled in some gaps. And I saw going over to grab cover images that Anu is now out (yay!), so that’s on its way to my Kindle. I am not much one for series, so that alone should be read as high praise.
In terms of technical skill they’re quite well-done. I can’t speak too much to the veracity of the setting or the characters in the context of historical Japan, but Tam writes both with compassion and a good eye for detail.
The books also fill a great need of mine for smart comfort fiction. (In fact I read about half of Onsen in the ER waiting room at 4 AM—everyone is fine, but taking a friend to the ER is never any fun—and it was exactly what I wanted.) I have serious trouble turning my brain off, and here I didn’t have to, but I was also able to relax enough to enjoy the books without needing to dissect them, and that’s a rare thing for me lately. They are pleasant reading.
Tam does a good job with the central queer relationship. I’ve been mulling a bit over why I relate to some depictions and not others, and I think part of it might be tied up in that lack of demonstrativeness I was mentioning. Jao and Masahiro are conscious of how they are performing their relationship in a way that I recognize.
Also Tam is now serializing a novel in the same setting but with different characters (so far) over on her Tumblr. (Here is the first post.)
Very much recommended.
(And the cover design! So excellent! I want to hire her cover artist.)
Okatsu (ebook; paper; Amazon)
Onsen (ebook; paper; Amazon)
Anu (ebook; paper; Amazon)