REVIEW: Evocation by S.T. Gibson

Readers may be familiar with S. T. Gibson from their breakout debut, A Dowry of Blood. Originally published by Nyx Publishing, a small independent in the north of England, the book was later picked up with Orbit and won a Goodreads Choice Award for best horror novel. That is to say, expectations are high when it comes to Gibson. Evocation, the first in a series published by Angry Robot, is a very different beast to her earlier work – but in many ways takes her strengths as a writer to a new genre. We are taken from historical vampires to contemporary paranormal and meet David, Rhys and Moira as they work on breaking a curse.

EvocationDavid and Rhys used to love each other. These days, they are more rivals than anything else – and Rhys is married to Moira. Both men have their reasons for competing for leadership of their occult society and are putting their everything into securing the position. Until David reaches out to Rhys. Unexpectedly. Breaking a curse usually needs more than a single person. And despite everything, there is no one David trusts like he does Rhys. And so Rhys and Moira are pulled into David’s mess of a personal life, navigating emotions, social expectations and demons.

Evocation is utterly captivating, combining queer camaraderie (and drama, let’s be honest) with Gibson’s strong prose. It mixes the best part of popcorn-y CW shows with strong, believable characters and a clear quest – and doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. One of the things that stood out to me most is the mundane nature of the story. There is a curse that needs breaking, but it is on a personal level rather than save-the-world scale. It allows for slower pacing and more considered action. Here, the characters have space to express themselves, consider their options and weigh cost against gain. It makes the characters stronger and allows for more complexity. It never feels like the characters need to take the easy way out or act according to a tight moral compass in order to get through the story. There is scope for selfishness – and for saying no.

I loved meeting David, Rhys and Moira. Their dynamic is interesting to begin with and then gets stronger and stronger as the reader moves through the story. I really appreciated how the characters (despite their many, many other flaws) are mature adults. They choose open discussion over passive aggressive silence. And eschew jealousy. And that alone is a breath of fresh air. As the reader may expect from Gibson, we move into polyamory territory and I loved this take on a love triangle.

Most of all, Evocation is great fun. It manages to balance a great reading experience and the tone of levity that needs with thoughtful musings about human nature. Gibson is a rising star in queer SFF and I need more – both in this series and more generally. 

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.