“The Green Man walks the wood,” he tried explaining. “But the wood remembers.”
Today I would like to tell you about two wonderful queer novels written by one author that could not be more different, except they both rip your heart out and stamp on it a few times. Emily Tesh’s Greenhallow Duology (technically two books, but I am cheating here) and Some Desperate Glory which was released just this year. I swear 2023 has been a magical time for releases.
“At once slow deep green rolled over him. He took a breath, and another, smelling old rotting leaves and healthy growth and autumn light. He felt almost as though he could have planted his feet and become a tree himself, a strong oak reaching up to the sky, brother of the old oak who ruled the wood.”
The Greenhallow duology comprises two books, Silver in the Wood and Drowned Country—short and sweet bite-sized morsels of joy. Silver in the Wood is a slow burn of a story with its own music. It sways and dances much like the beat of the forest. There is a dark thrumming that exists from page to page. It’s a romantic retelling of the green man mythos that is restrained. It feels much like viewing a scene through a keyhole of a door. Tesh explains how the green man experiences time yet tries to humanize himself and not get lost in the woods. And how he deals with dryads and his very fun cat, Pearl.
Drowned Country is an atmospheric continuation of the beginning story and stars many of the same characters, specifically the two male leads, Tobias and Silver. The atmosphere is whimsical, verdant, and dark. Where Silver in the Wood was very much Tobias’s story to tell, Drowned Country is Silvers.
In early 2023, Tesh released her first full-length novel, Some Desperate Glory. Again, much of the beauty in Tesh’s writing is how she describes the environment. In Greenhallow, she created a world of old trees covered in mosses, ferns, and mushrooms poking up from the ground. So much that you can practically taste the minerality of the soil on your tongue. This contrasts starkly, but no less deftly, with the world she made in Some Desperate Glory. Instead of minerals, you taste oil or cold iron. Instead of trees, you have the dark blackness of space and the smell of sweat and blood dripping on the cold cement.
“What a waste it was, what a terrible waste, to take a person who dreamed cities and gardens and enormous shining skies and teach him that the only answer to an unanswerable suffering was slaughter.”
All of Kyr’s life she has been trained to murder, to avenge all those billions whom lost their lives on Earth. She is born on Gaea Station, the last of humanity, trained since birth, taught that it would be dishonorable to escape. All the while chanting While we live, the enemy shall fear us. All she has is the guts and glory of being the best and the slow realization that the best will never be good enough. It is tragic, uplifting, and enthralling.
Holy hell, is this a great book. They are so different, yet so much alike her previous books. All of which are rad.
Have you read these? Did you like them as much as I did?