I don’t usually write book reviews; as a matter of fact, this is actually the first one I’ve ever posted on this blog.
My [unintentional] “celibacy” in regards to not blogging about other authors’ books persisted for a long while without any glitches. It’s not exactly like I was going out of my way to resist reviewing other authors’ work either; blogging about books just wasn’t my thing, and there were other things I preferred to rant about back in former days.
Then came Nefelibata.
Additionally, it was also my first source of LGBTQ+ literature, and, let me tell you: Belle-Fairplay did an absolutely gorgeous job with it.
Her debut novel begins quite simply. Yet, from the first line alone, you already know you’re about to read something extremely special.
“‘I am Nefelibata. I fell because I stopped believing.’”
Just in case Belle-Fairplay didn’t knock it out of the park with the first line of her novel, she then proceeds to steal our curiosity with the next part of the conversation.
“‘Is that your name?’ Ama asked.
‘No, I am Nefelibata; one of the cloud-walkers,’ she pointed towards the sky which was dark and severed by an ominous, white gash. ‘I fell,’ she repeated.”
Not only did Belle-Fairplay push me straight onto my toes with her opening, but she proceeded to keep me there for the entire duration of the novel. She slowly feeds you what you want (read: need) to know, but she always keeps you eager for more.
Additionally, she hardly hesitated in terms of peppering the tale with innovative ideas and splendid imagery. I would describe Nefelibata as being out of this world [both literally and figuratively, haha].
In regards to the LGBTQ+ aspects of the novel, Belle-Fairplay delivered a romance between two young women with a heightened level of grace [and exciting inclusions of tarot cards, if you don’t mind me saying so].
The sexual parts felt just as sweet, magical, and artistic as the other parts of their relationship, and that’s something I don’t see very often. It’s a true skill to be able to execute sexual acts the way Belle-Fairplay did in her writing, and I respect her deeply for wanting to do so. Her portrayal of the physical relationship between these young women, on top of their mental and emotional one, was entirely refreshing.
It’s also more than worth noting that the characters in this story all appear to be African [or of African descent], therefore adding an always-needed diversity to both the magical realism and LGBTQ+ genres. It was spectacular to hear all the loving descriptions of these dark-skinned characters in a world so strongly and obsessively centered around European beauty standards.
Belle-Fairplay’s magical realism masterpiece is essentially a dance between raw human emotion, physical being, and the many, mystical elements of our universe. You can feel these pieces swirling off the pages and waltzing around in your chest as you hungrily try to absorb every last word of hers into your own being.
In conclusion, this novel is flawless. Athena Belle-Fairplay’s Nefelibata is a masterpiece that changed my life as a reader, an author, an artist, and a human being.
Here’s to hoping her, her novel, and her blessed characters continue to bring their magic to bibliophiles everywhere.