Powerful and poetic, R. B. Lemberg’s THE UNBALANCING is one of the best novels of the year

Accolades for R. B. Lemberg’s THE UNBALANCING keep arriving with Charlie Jane Anders in The Washington Post naming the title as one of the 9 best science fiction and fantasy novels of 2022. At The Middle Shelf as part of the SmallPressBigStories series in their introduction to a brief interview with Tachyon Publicity Manager Rick Klaw, they mention the book as one of their favorite novels of the year (Klaw looks at some of the 2023 titles). THE UNBALANCING receives favorable notices from both Runalong the Shelves and To Other Worlds. Oddly, What We’ve Been Reading includes Lemberg’s previous Birdverse book THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES in “A book with a skeleton or bones on the cover”.

Cover by Elizabeth Story

What could have been a clear-cut apocalyptic thrill ride becomes something much more thoughtful in the hands of Lemberg, who weaves together a gentle romance and an examination of what holds people together. Lemberg’s characters — an unlikely couple facing the death of their city — wield both social and magical power, and the difference between the two adds spice to a beautiful story about saving what you can.

The Washington Post

They have published one of my favourite novels of 2022, THE UNBALANCING and I’ve been consistently impressed by their novels and novellas I’ve read.

The Middle Shelf

THE UNBALANCING is a powerful and poetic read. Lemberg’s use of language and storytelling is a delight to savour and combined with the themes and overall approach make this twenty-first century fantasy that should stand attention. It is brilliant and a tale many readers will never forget. Strongly recommended!

Runalong the Shelves

If you’re up for a short, dense, but still quick read with lots of queerness and neurodivergence and magic and people trying their best, very much recommended.

Enjoyment: 4.5/5
Execution: 4/5

To Other Worlds
Cover by Elizabeth Story based on initial concepts by Francesca Myman

This is a real rarity in the fantasy genre – the protagonists are both elderly and queer. I think many readers will find it possibly didactic, but this is clearly intentional and not really cis-het facing? One of the characters has very, very recently transitioned, so his mind is very much on this topic and the changes in his social life, in particular. Even though transition in this book is magical and from a physical standpoint, simple and easy, it still isn’t as straightforward as it might seem it should be, and that’s a wonderfully nuanced approach to transition in a fantasy setting.

What We’ve Been Reading