One of the tropes that can go either tremendously well or terrifyingly badly in speculative fiction is the inverted gender role society; a matriarchy, usually oppressive, that denies men rights. Written by cis men, it’s unbearably self-victimizing. Written by cis women, it’s interesting but usually incredibly cissexist and binary. (There are a few examples that avoid the obvious pitfalls – I quite enjoy the one in NK Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.) Written by trans and/or non-binary voices, however, it tends to shift gears and become a very different animal.
Even one chapter in, I’m getting that vibe from Joyce Chng’s Dragon Physician. In this book, dragon rookeries race their dragons – but only girls are allowed to race them. Boys and men are restricted to cleaning and menial work, while the women run the rookeries themselves. In the great tradition of middle grade novels, of course, the main character is a young boy named Jixin who desperately, desperately wants a dragon of his own.
I’m intrigued to see where this goes – between the Southeast-Asian inspired (ownvoices!) setting and my foreknowledge of trans characters in the book (!!!!!) I’m super excited to see what the book holds. The writing style is simple and clear, in that fun fairy-tale way that sits you by a fireside and tells you a Story; and there are dragons! Dragons make everything immediately 200% more awesome. It doesn’t matter how old I get, that’s still true.