Both ethereal and earthy, R. B. Lemberg’s first Birdverse novel THE UNBALANCING is an LGBTQ+ fantasy overflowing with heart—and heartache

The recently released THE UNBALANCING by R. B. Lemberg has fans and critics gushing with praise with reviews from Danielle Ballantyne in Foreword Reviews, Craig Laurance Gidney, Jo Writes Fantasy, Wayseeker Books, Alexandria Brown at Punk-Ass Book Jockey, and Read Becca on YouTube. Not be outdone, Charles Payseur for Locus reviews Lemberg’s poem from Strange Horizons. Over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor Jaymee Goh interviews Lemberg about the new book. And finally, Lambda Literary recommends, without comment, THE UNBALANCING.

Cover by Elizabeth Story

The first full-length novel in the expansive Birdverse series, THE UNBALANCING is an LGBTQ+ fantasy overflowing with heart—and heartache

Foreword Reviews

Lemberg’s prose is soaked in magic, magic that’s full of space and light and sound. THE UNBALANCING manages to be both ethereal and earthy. Lemberg juxtaposes otherworldly scenes of magic with awkwardness of new relationships. Some of the best scenes in the novel are the clash between Ranra’s Type-A personality with Erigra’s measured introspection. (Lemberg’s portrayal of Erigra’s neuro-divergence is a highlight of the novel). THE UNBALANCING isn’t a book that can be adequately summarized. It can only be experienced. 

Craig Laurance Gidney

This novel has all the dreaminess of poetry and being told a bedtime story with intense calamity on the horizon and tender romance at its core.

Jo Writes Fantasy

I adored it. I wish I could break down every theme and character, but I would get lost in the weeds and truly – I’m still sorting them out in my own head. I loved this and deeply recommend it if you want a heavier, more intense read that really grapples with a lot of themes.

Wayseeker Books

Reading THE UNBALANCING was in itself an act of being unbalanced, but in a good way! I could never predict what was going to happen next. Lemberg kept me on my toes. A great read.

Punk-Ass Book Jockey

Finding a poem by R.B. Lemberg is always rea­son to celebrate, so I was cheering when I came across their latest in May’s Strange Horizons. “The broken hill and the breath” is a power­ful piece about long cycles of harm and healing, about a grove of fruit trees and a fragile peace unfolding around disaster and damage. The piece seems to me to be linked to Lemberg’s upcoming novel, THE UNBALANCING, but even without that added layer of meaning the poem remains deep and satisfying, showing how peace can be shat­tered, and how it can remain whole all the same. 

Photo by Bogi Takács

THE UNBALANCING takes place in the islands of Gelle-Geu, an archipelago where people of all genders exist on a spectrum of sexualities/gender identities. How did you identify the variations and choose the animals that represent them?

Birdverse has been rattling in my head for a very long time, and I no longer remember how exactly I came up with this. I knew there were nonbinary people on the Coast, which is a country does not exist in the beginning of THE UNBALANCING (the novel is set in historical times for Birdverse, about a thousand years before the events of THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES).

Without spoilering too much, the culture of the Coast is directly connected to the culture of the archipelago. I knew that not all countries were accepting of nonbinary people, but it was (and remains) a big thing in Coastal culture. One of my first glimpses into the variations came from an image of one of my characters, who wears a piece of jewelry with a serpent. I asked that character what it meant, and they told me the serpent represented one of the five ichidi variations (my characters tell me things, I am lucky that way). So I started wondering, what are the five ichidi variations, and the rest of the images came to me. I think about nonbinary things quite a bit.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies