[Review] The Afterward by E.K. Johnston

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*I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Title: The Afterward
Author: E.K. Johnston
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 19, 2019

It has been a year since the mysterious godsgem cured Cadrium’s king and ushered in what promised to be a new golden age. The heroes who brought the gem home are renowned in story and song, but for two fellows on the quest, peace and prosperity do not come easily. 

Apprentice Knight Kalanthe Ironheart wasn’t meant for heroism this early in life, and while she has no intention of giving up the notoriety she has earned, her reputation does not pay her bills. With time running out, Kalanthe may be forced to betray not her kingdom or her friends, but her own heart as she seeks a stable future for herself and those she loves.

Olsa Rhetsdaughter was never meant for heroism at all. Beggar, pick pocket, thief, she lived hand to mouth on the city streets until fortune–or fate–pulled her into Kalanthe’s orbit. And now she’s quite reluctant to leave it. Even more alarmingly, her fame has made her recognizable, which makes her profession difficult, and a choice between poverty and the noose isn’t much of a choice at all.

Both girls think their paths are laid out, but the godsgem isn’t quite done with them and that new golden age isn’t a sure thing yet. 

In a tale both sweepingly epic and intensely personal, Kalanthe and Olsa fight to maintain their newfound independence and to find their way back to each other.

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Review: I was really excited about the concept of this book because it sheds light on what happens to heroes after their big quest. Not only that, it’s a feminine spin on the classic quest as well! I’ll start off by saying that this definitely gave me some Arthurian vibes. While the book does focus on the romantic relationship between two of the heroes, there are quite a few important things/themes I noticed throughout:

-menstruation (how is this not mentioned in ALL books??!)
-queer relationships & bisexuality
-allusions to a hermaphrodite character
-gender equality

The Afterward is a dual POV story told in a before/after style so it goes through a summarized version of the quest that the heroes go on while coming back to the present. I don’t know that I loved the writing style and I did find myself skimming quite a few times, but I did really enjoy the characters and the main romance between Kalanthe and Olsa.

Overall, this book was an okay read for me. While the writing style was difficult for me to get on board with, I did really enjoy the themes, characters, and romance. If you enjoy books about lady knights, quests, love, and magic then you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

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