In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting interviews, opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.
Personally, I’ve been looking for a replacement for Harry Potter for the longest. Still love Harry Potter, always will, but with the older I’ve grown the more I’ve hungered for more. More of a magical world with wizards, magic, rebellions, and badass female protagonists. But this time, make the girl the lead, make it racially diverse, and include all the queer my little heart can handle. It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts answered that call and then some.
Alka Chelrazi is our female lead and she’s on a mission. Yes, she’s going to a magic school, but that’s all a cover for what she’s really up to. She’s part of a rebellion that wants to end the tyranny of the wizards, who rule all and treat humbles (or what Harry Potter would refer to as muggles) as if they were no better than dirt beneath their feet. So she disguises herself, using the power that flows within her to her advantage to take them down.
Personally, I love Alka. She’s angry, fierce, and you can see her being tested left and right when she finally reaches the infamous Blackwater Academy and starts to realize that it’s all not what it seems. Things are much more complicated and if she’s going to succeed and avenge those that she has lost because of a wizard who ends up basically being an evil Dumbledore, she needs to level up her game.
Back to Alka, her anger is something that I don’t see female characters experience enough. But it’s pulsing inside of her, ready to strike at the right moment. And at the same time, Alka is funny, sweet, compassionate, and wants to fit in with those around her aka something that anyone would want. And the more you get to know her, the more you want her to succeed while making allies with those around her.
Because like I mentioned earlier, it’s not what it seems. The whole system, the wizards, everything. It’s complex, factions within factions existing, forcing Alka to alter her plans and start seeking out allies at Blackwater Academy as a means of winning the Great Game that is fought between the different houses; which, again, very Harry Potter-esque but instead it’s darker and more political.
And then there’s the queer and diverse aspect of It Ends in Fire. I feel like for too long people have tried to tell us that we couldn’t have a rich world full of complex characters who were racially diverse, LGBTQ positive, and included aspects like non-binary representation. This book is proof that we can have all of that and then some while keeping things absolutely interesting and riveting.
Seriously, I couldn’t stop turning the page when it came to this book. I needed to know more about Alka, her mission, and the relationships she finds herself forming with those around her; be they romantic or not. Because even though she’s a queer female protagonist, that isn’t all she is. She’s a sister, a friend, a student, a young woman, and a warrior that isn’t going to stop until she gets what she wants.
By the time Alka reaches her goal she is a changed person, ready to take everything she’s learned along the way to reshape the world around her with those she loves and cares about by her side. That’s why you should reach It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts and why I hope that we get more from this world, because one book simply isn’t enough and I’m invested.
Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)