Rosa and Arkay live a difficult life – being homeless even with someone to watch your back (and that someone having scales, claws and the ability to breath lightening) is always dangerous.
Only more so when you not only have to find a safe place to sleep, but also have to deal with zombies, necromancers and demons. Especially if you want a solution beyond “let the dragon kill everyone.”
So, the protagonist is Rosa, a Latina lesbian and her best friend, occasional partner, is Arkay, an Asian bisexual woman or lesbian. And a dragon. We have a Latino, deaf priest. We have a Black ghoul who becomes a loyal friend of the couple and a Black police officer who plays a major role.
Their adventures take them from homelessness, living on the streets and struggling with the realities of sex worker, predation, being devalued, ignored. We have some nice looks at how being a lesbian facing homophobia drove Rosa to be homeless and how disability also pushes many out onto the streets. Arkay becomes a stripper and all of her co-workers are portrayed as actual people – not vicious fighters or innocents in need of saving, but women just working a job without shame or coercion. And we have an awesome point from Arkay about how amazing she finds having that much attention after being so utterly invisible while homeless.
I also really love the moment when Arkay is believed to be dangerous despite being a petite Asian lady not because she’s a dragon (and very very dangerous indeed) but because of Asian martial arts (which she duly mocks).
It also had plot and a setting.
I feel it’s vitally important to stress this. While I was super excited about inclusion, I know we’ve all read very well meaning books with good diversity where the author has clear sat down and decided to Teach Us about Diversity and it will be Diverse and Good and they are a Good person. And then completely neglected to include anything resembling a story. In short, sometimes these books tend to read like a well meaning but clumsy and ultimately dull PSA.
This is not one of those books. This is a book with a plot, a wide array of creatures, and 3 excellent stories that happen to have a very involved and well developed diverse minority cast.
In addition to the daily struggle to survive and move out of poverty, Rosa’s main issue to constantly worry about is Arkay, a dragon, who is so very protective of her to the very real point of perhaps going on a rampage. And she’s a dragon – rampage is definitely the word, the very very terrifying world.
The plot is really well written with three different short stories as Rosa and Arkay slowly find themselves in both a better place personally while at the same time are put at risk ad their awareness of a greater supernatural world comes to light. We see more and more supernatural beings and Rosa’s steady growing comfort with it even as they face greater threats. There’s a lot of personal growth and analysis, the awesome relationship between Rosa and Arkay with a lot of conflict and caring and trust as Rosa addresses Arkay’s alien nature. There’s Rosa pursuing her own relationships and love life and moving towards stability and happiness.
And there’s a really well placed, often action filled, emotional, dramatic plot line that never once made me want to stop reading as Rosa and Arkay confront various threats while the ongoing battle of Rosa playing Arkay’s conscience is also acted out.