The One State Party is on the rise. Corruption and lawlessness have become too much for each of the Federated States of Gedda to handle on their own, and they’re looking for a great unifier in the midst of chaos. The seat of this chaos is Amberlough: a city awash in vice and beauty, where love is free and gender is questionable at best. To Amberlinians like Cordelia Lehane and Aristride Makricosta—performers at the Bumble Bee Cabaret—their world is untouchable by the likes of the One State Party (Ospies, for short). But when Ari’s lover, Cyril DePaul, gets in over his head while spying on the Ospies, they’re forced into a performance that may well cost their lives—or worse, their freedom.
I won’t be the last (and I’m certainly not the first) to call Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough timely. Set amidst the lavish nightlife of a republic decaying into fascism, Amberlough is a piquant fruit of a book, ripening just in time for a year of protest and civil unrest. The novel is rich enough, luckily, for us to read its parallels and twists in a multitude of ways: it’s as much about sex as it is about art as it is about rebellion. It’s as much about our current age as it is the Weimar Republic as it is another world entirely. So you can read Amberlough as a queer Le Carré novel, or as a fantastical Cabaret—both descriptions are readily embraced by the publisher and the author—or you can read it as I read almost every book, regardless of intent: as a handbook for resistance. And Amberlough, with its lush prose and charmingly flawed characters, makes for an assortment of delightful tips.