Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.
But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.
Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.
They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.
During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.
27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.
I received a copy from Netgalley, with help from Entangled’s publicity department, in exchange for an honest review. Full disclosure: Tristina and I currently follow each other on Twitter and I’m friendly with one of her close friends.
I’ve been excited to get my hands on a copy of 27 HOURS for months. While parts of it did live up to expectations, other parts did not. I liked the writing style, some of the rep and the characters, but other things did not sit quite right with me.
Details at a glance:
Title: 27 Hours
Author: Tristina Wright
Genre: YA Science Fiction
First published: 2017
Pairings: F/F, M/M, M/NB (background romance)
Sexual content: Steamy in places, those are definitely NSFW
Rep: Brown mixed-race (Indian, Nigerian, Portuguese–which is generally considered white) bi male MC with PTSD and panic attacks, Deaf pansexual Cuban female MC, gay MC, asexual MC with two mums, Afrolatina bi trans girl LI, gay supporting character, supporting character using they/them pronouns
Ownvoices: Yes for bisexuality.
Content warnings: PTSD, panic attacks, blood and gore, incorrect definition of asexuality, conflation of asexuality and aromanticism, possible aromantic erasure, colonialist writing, white saviourism, ableist language of the intelligence-based variety, fantasy equivalent of a “good” marginalised person being martyred
So, 27 HOURS is a very diverse book. All the protagonists, and most of the other characters, are queer–including multiple bisexuals, gay characters, a pansexual girl, an asexual guy and a trans girl. There is a character with very obvious PTSD and other characters that seem to show signs of it as well, and one of the characters is Deaf. The book also has a number of POC, but that’s not handled as well as it could have been.
I’m grateful to Aimal for taking the time to write her review on this, and that I read it before I got my ARC, so I was able to notice some issues I might not have seen on my own as a white person living on stolen land. I highly recommend reading her review because she has the perspective of being an indigenous person living through upheavals caused by British colonialism. I am going to talk about these issues as well, but I should not be the most prominent voice in this discussion.
The plot in 27 HOURS focuses on a war between humans colonising a moon and the indigenous population, who self-identify as chimera but are often called “gargoyle” as the equivalent of a slur. All the protagonists, descendants of the original colonists, are human. The war is not portrayed as a black and white issue–the chimera are not all portrayed as evil nor the humans as blameless–but there is an inherent problem in only having the colonisers tell the story.
A huge part of this story is three out of the four protagonists, the colonists, learning that the indigenous inhabitants are people after all. The fourth protagonist is a forest-dwelling human, from a human rebel society living in harmony with most chimera, who does a lot of that teaching. An additional problem rising from this is, that forest-dweller, Jude, is white. Two of the other protagonists, plus a prominent supporting character who’s almost a protagonist in herself, are POC. And it’s the white guy educating them on prejudice. Ouch. Double-ouch when you consider that the angriest, most hateful of them all is the brown boy with Indian and Nigerian heritage. I love Rumor Mora to pieces, and a lot of his anger comes from genuine trauma, but that was jarring as all hell.
What also really sucks is the fact that the villain of the story has a point when he talks about human colonisation hurting his people. I mean, he really has a point. Humans came to this moon uninvited and flooded tunnels while creating a dam that killed a huge number of chimera. That is what provoked the chimera into attacking in the first place and started the generations-long war.
Having the villain of the story being a violent, and I quote, “revolutionary” also has some nasty implications when you think about the respectability politics that surround real-life resistance to oppression. Pearl-clutching about punching literal Nazis, anyone? Or how about slandering innocent black people who are killed by police officers to somehow make it seem like they deserved to die? Tristina really needed to think this whole thing through a bit more.
There is also a death late in the story that I don’t want to get too specific about because spoilers, but it very much felt like the character was dying to give the human characters someone to mourn.
I’m going to stop rambling about the racial implications of this story because Aimal has said it all better than I can. Now I’m gonna move onto the queer rep.
Most of the rep was lovely! I love me some on-the-page rep. The words “bisexual”, “pansexual”, “gay” and “asexual” are all used and it’s honestly great to see that. A lot of the time, rep is implied or assumed. A lot of gay and lesbian rep is like that, with books skating through by banking on the erroneous assumption that anyone who is attracted to the same gender is gay.
I do, however, have a bone to pick with the ace (asexual) rep, which felt very weird to me. Disclosure: I’m grey aroace as well as bi. My orientation has some onion-level layers going on. However, there will likely be other aces and aros who don’t see the the rep the way I do.
First of all, the earliest definition in the story focuses on a lack of interest in sex, rather than a lack of sexual attraction. While some asexuals do, in fact, have no interest in sex, this is not universal. Some aces want sex, some are indifferent, some are repulsed. They’re all still ace. There is enough misinformation about asexuality already without this book adding to it.
The first sign of this is:
“Hey now,” Braeden chided. “I might be scrawny, but I’m bendy.”
“Which would be handy if you were in any way interested in sex.”
And also, in the same chapter:
“Oh, hey, Mom, don’t worry, that’s the wonderful thing about me being ace.” He squeezed her shoulder and lowered his voice to a mock whisper. “I will never have The Sex. Like… ever.”
Stuff like this probably wouldn’t be such a problem if it was made clear this isn’t the case for all asexuals.
Also, with the exception of Word of God from Tristina and one infodump, Braeden is written as not having attraction of any kind. Romantic and sexual attraction, or lack thereof, is constantly conflated and the word “aromantic” is never used. Sexual and romantic attractions are not the same. I got a huge aro vibe from Braeden. The way he talked about being ace, with the exception of that random infodump that talked about him being into cuddling but not sex, the way that he mentioned not “getting” relationships or not finding people attractive all struck me as extremely aromantic.
You know, if I were attracted to people, you’d be really high on the list right now.
If Word of God, in a tweet I can’t find anymore, and one contradictory piece of infodumping are to be believed and Braeden is ace but not aro, then this is wildly inaccurate. And this isn’t the only part of the text along that vein. I just picked that one because it’s really obvious. Between the conflation of asexuality and aromanticism, and the contradictory infodump, it’s unclear what’s actually going on.
Edit: Avery, a non-binary reader, had some issues with the non-binary and trans rep. Read their review here.
I’ve just spent close to a thousand words talking about the negatives of 27 HOURS, so now I’m going to get into some positives, which are the reason why rating this book and even reviewing it are difficult.
I really liked the dialogue. The characters’ banter was hilarious and sometimes wildly inappropriate for their current situation, which just made it even better. I really enjoyed Rumor and Braeden’s banter early in the story, when they’ve barely even met. In fact, almost every time Braeden opens his mouth is comic gold, which served as a massive contrast when things really got serious. And I was surprised by how funny Rumor could be.
Rumor is easily the most traumatised character of the bunch, given that he has literally just come from a massacre. Even when he was at his happiest, it served as a huge contrast to his anger, frustration and trauma throughout the rest of the story. Every time he cracked a joke, I was simultaneously entertained and sad about what could have been if he hadn’t been through so much. There were moments like this with all the protagonists plus Dahlia, who was practically a protagonist herself even though she didn’t have a POV. They’ve all suffered, and not always at the hands of the chimera.
The romances were also wonderful. Rumor and Jude’s immediate connection and fraught relationship due to ideological differences, and Dahlia and Nyx’s slow burn friends-to-lovers were both lovely. I also loved the fact Braeden has two mums. Honestly, I just loved the characters in general.
The worldbuilding was also interesting, even if it felt a little insubstantial in places. Tristina’s descriptions are beautiful, capturing the alienness of this world.
There is a lot to love in 27 HOURS, but it has just as many problems. Hopefully these will be addressed as much as possible in subsequent books, because the story is engaging despite its flaws.