The first in the Bloodright Trilogy, Bonds of Brass, is an exhilarating LGBT+ coming-of-age romance, set within an expansive sci-fi universe with a captivating cast of characters.
If you’re a fan of Star Wars, then you’ve likely seen the buzz about Bonds of Brass all across Twitter.
*** Contains Minor Spoilers ***
Bonds of Brass
Author Emily Skrutskie drew inspiration from the chemistry between Star Wars characters Finn and Poe when crafting Ettian Nassun and Gal Veres. It’s fast-paced, throwing you headlong into the fray of a bustling Umber Imperial Academy hangar.
Skrutskie effortlessly unfurls an entire galaxy of turmoil and conflict around the reader. Building upon quickly established lore and complex ship configurations, she manages to make superluminal speeds, Vipers, and Beamers feel like old friends.
The novel centers around Ettian Nassun, a young pilot and Archon war orphan, who excels at his studies at the Umbar Imperial Academy. It’s a path he had no choice but to take after the Umber Empire’s ruler, Empress Iva emp-Umber, conquered his homeworld and killed his parents, destroying the life that he knew only seven years ago.
His new life is sent careening into the black when it is revealed that his best friend and potential paramour, Gal Veres, is, in fact, the Umber heir. This revelation sends the young men on a grand misadventure across the galaxy. Determined to avoid an Archon resistance plot to assassinate Gal, they stumble upon something larger than either of them anticipated.
Their mettle and trust in each other are tested as they navigate the world outside of the safety of the academy.
When Ettian and Gal find themselves in the Corinthian Empire, they encounter Wen Iffan, a street-smart junker girl, with a deadly rainbow umbrella. Thus, an unlikely trio is born.
The story excels at creating characters that feel real. Everyone that Ettian interacts with is described with such careful attention to detail that it leaves the reader feeling like they already knew them. There is nothing more comforting than reading a book that feels like picking up where you left off with old friends.
Ettian and Gal are on the cusp of adolescence, grappling with the weight of their childhood traumas, societal expectations, and forbidden romance. The novel is ripe with the best tropes that a story can offer: ‘they were roommates,’ fake dating, ‘there was only one bed,’ mutual pining, and of course unrequited love (or is it?).
Gal and Ettian’s chemistry is palpable from the first moment they fall into playful banter with each other. The will-they-won’t-they dynamic is driven by character development, misunderstandings, and on Ettian’s part — an errantly self-righteous moral compass. You will fall in love with Gal right alongside Ettian. They make for an engaging story because they are, essentially, two sides of the same coin.
Ettian’s first-person narrative is refreshingly crafted. As the story develops around him, his internal monologue is cast in pale shades of unreliability. Something which isn’t often utilized in first-person narratives. The way Skrutskie carefully reveals Ettian’s past leads the reader headfirst into a jaw-dropping third act climax that, personally, I’m still reeling from.
I consumed all 320 pages of Bonds of Brass in three hours; the cheeky dialogue, straightforward rollicking plot, and intelligent storytelling make it a captivating page-turner.
At times it glosses over the weight and mental toll of war, but on the next page, it deftly handles the coping mechanisms born out of the rumble of the ruins of an empire. The balance feels authentic when paired with Ettian’s skepticism in authority and Gal’s desire for bringing peace to the galaxy with his birthright.
As a lifelong Star Wars fan, some elements of the story feel familiar — there are Empires and Imperials, cocky flyboys, and war orphans. Perhaps part of the reason these characters feel like old friends is that they share the same essence as Finn, Poe, and Rey. While Bonds of Brass borrows lightly from Star Wars, it holds its own — rich in new myth and lore, creating a universe that stands on its own legs.
Order Bonds of Brass
If you haven’t already pre-ordered Bonds of Brass, order it now. It is the perfect addition to a sci-fi lover’s bookcase.