The ever lovely sent this along. My first starred review. I had to copy and paste it below without reading it. If I read the good ones, I’d have to read the bad ones to keep balance in the Force. So please read it for me. Like?
After three series novels (The Outback Stars, 2007; The Stars Down Under, 2008; The Stars Blue Yonder, 2009), McDonald fields a first collection that comes close to being another novel. In it the paths of three characters cross and converge, though in some stories, none of them appears. Foremost among them is the commanding figure of Diana Comet, who is young, mature, and maturer, respectively, in three stories; absent but influential in another; incognito in two more. Cubby Salaman is a 12-year-old runaway in two tales, later a vigorous young man aboard a ship on which he reencounters the third recurring character, Graybeard, a sentient, customarily immobile figurehead. Their stage is an alternate Earth touched by magic. That alone doesn’t make these stories what McDonald calls them, improbable. That quality arises more from the facts that Diana is a cross-dressing man, and plenty of the other protagonists, Cubby included, are gay. Their world isn’t much easier for gays and transgender folk than ours is, yet they are winningly heroic, psychologically complex, and sympathetic. And because theirs is an alternate world, they prove their mettle in genre milieus ranging from the western to contemporary (in our world) desert warfare, with technologies ranging from sail and horse to helicopter. No matter the setting and the tools, their stories are all enthralling.