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What a GREAT book. It makes you think about what is real, how much power belief can have, and the good that can be accomplished by regular people. The main character was raised by a cult and even when the cult gets busted up by the FBI, he can't stop thinking along the lines that he's been taught. He goes on the run, determined to fight some monster that may or may not really exist depending on if the cult leader was telling the truth or not. This book will make your stomach twist at some of the scenes (and PAY ATTENTION to the content warnings at the start of the book because this book pulls NO PUNCHES) but still manages to be sweet at other points. And as a genderqueer person, I really appreciate that for all the bad the cult did, they were really respectful of pronouns and genderqueer individuals! The cultists always ask when they meet a new person, and the main character may use he/him pronouns, but he still gets annoyed at people for assuming, which I totally get. Anyway, fantastic. K M Szpara books are never easy reads but always so, so good.— Shana
Lark has spent his life raised to believe that on his 25th birthday he will journey into the world to slay monsters and save the human race. However, three months before he’s supposed to do this, his home is raided by Federal Agents, who claim magic isn’t real, and that he has been in a cult this whole time. A fantastic story about trauma, healing, magic, and belief, this book had me questioning what was real and what was a lie.
CW: Explicit sadomasochism and sexual content, as well as abuse and consent violations, including rape.
Katherine— From First Become Ashes
K. M. Szpara follows his explosive debut novel Docile with First, Become Ashes, a fantastic standalone adventure that explores self-discovery after trauma and outgrowing abusive origins over the course of an American road trip.
The Fellowship raised Lark to kill monsters.
His partner betrayed them to the Feds.
But Lark knows his magic is real, and he’ll do anything to complete his quest.
For thirty years, the Fellowship of the Anointed isolated its members, conditioning them to believe that pain is power. That magic is suffering. That the world beyond the fence has fallen prey to monsters. But when their leader is arrested, all her teachings come into question.
Those touched by the Fellowship face a choice: how will they adjust to the world they were taught to fear, and how will they relate to the cult's last crusader, Lark? For Kane, survival means rejecting the magic he and his lover suffered for. For Deryn, the cult's collapse is an opportunity to prove they are worth as much as their Anointed brother. For Calvin, lark is the alluring embodiment of the magic he's been seeking his entire life.
But for Lark, the Fellowship isn’t over. Before he can begin to discover himself and heal a lifetime of traumas, he has a monster to slay.
First, Become Ashes contains explicit sadomasochism and sexual content, as well as abuse and consent violations, including rape.
“Szpara is the rare author able to tackle trauma and healing without flinching.” —N. K. Jemisin
“I've been looking for the next Samuel R. Delany and the next Jacqueline Carey, and K.M. Spzara is both.” —Cecilia Tan
“Szpara mixes trauma and magic to mesmerizing results.” —Publishers Weekly
“A timely tale about the dangers of committing too fervently and unquestioningly to a person and their cause.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A standalone about the complicated ways we cope with trauma, about balancing acceptance and truth, and about belief in its darkest and brightest forms.” —Booklist
Praise for Docile
“An unforgettable story of human connection and the struggle to remain yourself in a world of debtors and creditors.” —Charlie Jane Anders
“An unflinching examination of class and bleakest capitalism. Brilliant. Properly chilling.” —Stoya
“Docile is queer and kinky and doesn’t shy away from the complicated questions that can come into play with those intersecting realities” —WIRED
“If you're not careful, this disturbing, sexy, disturbingly sexy book will infect your brain, and you'll start wondering whether its miserable world is very different from our own, and how much choice any of us really have in this capitalist hellscape where so many of our options are set at birth. And then you might want to do something about it.” —Sam J. Miller
“Startlingly plausible and delicately insightful, this is a book that will haunt you.” —Seanan McGuire
“An unputdownable scifi dystopian erotica human rights masterpiece reminiscent of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty—but this time, the beauty fights back.” —Delilah S. Dawson
“This is what Fifty Shades of Grey could have been, if only it had been more brutally honest with itself.” —Jenn Lyons
“Docile is an intricate exploration of power, privilege, and class dynamics. Szpara has successfully delivered a novel that is unflinching in its sensuality as well as its scrutiny.” —Sarah Gailey
“This powerful debut is filled with achingly tender and brutally raw prose. Szpara strikes out at capitalism as well as the pharmaceutical trade and its effects, while dancing on the emotional knife's edge between love and obedience.” —Library Journal starred review
“As powerful as it is plausible, Docile is a parable about consent, twisted love and challenging systemic abuse.” —Shelf Awareness
“This queer dystopia is an arresting, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying challenge.” —Publishers Weekly
“Brutally candid and endlessly readable, Docile is a chilling look into our all-too-possible dystopian future. Szpara has written a sharp, insightful warning about the dangers of greed, debt, Big Pharma and capitalism that shouldn’t be ignored.” —Ms. Magazine
“The hook may be titillating—to save his family, a farm boy sells himself, nudge nudge wink wink—but Docile follows through on that premise to its deepest roots and its most satisfying conclusion. Docile is an absolute feast.” —Cecilia Tan
“A powerful, complex story that explores the dark consequences of a future with inherited debt. Docile is unflinching in its examination of class and wealth disparity while remaining a compelling and emotionally nuanced story.” —C.L. Polk
“K.M. Szpara’s dazzling debut is gripping, intricate, and sexy as hell. In these times of capitalistic dysfunction, his terrifying, debt-soaked future America is all too believable, and the characters—with all their flaws and complex desires— will linger with you long after the last page. I didn’t want to stop reading!” —JY Yang
“With unflinching empathy, Szpara explores the depths of love, complicity, and all the systems that bind us.” —Ruthanna Emrys