Cover Image: In the Ravenous Dark

In the Ravenous Dark

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Member Reviews

It had been a while since a young adult fantasy captured my attention the way In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland did. By the end of the first chapter, I was obsessed and barely read anything else while I made my way through it. I had never read A.M. Strickland before this and while I had certain expectations for what In the Ravenous Dark would be like–and I will say that those expectations were certainly met–Strickland also surpassed those expectations.

Before reading In the Ravenous Dark, I had never actually seen the blurb that came before the synopsis (A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead) and while I knew that this book would contain LGBTQ+ characters (at least to some extent), I was pleasantly surprised to find out In the Ravenous Dark was quite a bit more LGBTQ+ than I had anticipated.

After reading the book I found out that the author is actually non-binary which made me that much more happier to have read and to now be supporting and promoting this book!

I see a bit of a theme in my reading when it comes to young adult where I gravitate more toward young adult books that touch on more adult subject matter, or that have more of an adult tone overall. I found In the Ravenous Dark to be one of those (where, for example, I forgot how young some of the characters were at times because of the situation they were in and the world they lived in). There were also some situations that I would consider to be more new adult or adult, in regard to violence and sexual content of this book.

I think that I picked up  In the Ravenous Dark at the perfect time for my reading mood because I found that everything in this book hit the spot; the characters (how they were described, their personalities, how they varied, the way they spoke), the story (including the violence and the sexual content, hehe), the pacing, the world building…I could go on and on.

Needless to say, I loved  In the Ravenous Dark and will be recommending it far and wide. I also very much look forward to Stricklands’ new book, Court of the Undying Seasons, coming out in 2023 (it has vampires and I’m here for it)!
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I wanted to love this one. Somehow I eneded up not connecting to any of the characters and the plot dragged for me. Not sure if I wasnt in the mood or what. Will definitely give Strickland another chance in the future.
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Overall, this is a good young adult fantasy novel. I personally never read about blood mages, so that was intriguing for sure. The world-building was good. I adored the characters. Although some were unlikeable at times, they seemed very real. There was a diverse cast of characters which I also really appreciated. 

The pacing was a bit weird, especially towards the end. I thought the book was over, but then is it wasn't...I understand why it was there, but it made the end drag. Also, the ending was kind of convenient. 

Despite that, I really enjoy this novel. I would definitely add this to my classroom library!
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Classic example of great ideas and setup, terrible execution. Well, okay, maybe not terrible, but just a bit messy and not to my tastes at all. This is probably more to do with my own growing issues with the YA fantasy genre in general, to be honest, but I found that so many flaws of the genre were glaringly obvious here: rushed pacing, rushed relationships, heavy-handedness, awkward humor. Also, god, why does anyone write in first person present?? I HATE IT SO MUCH. The prologue is in third person and that felt so much more mature.

I think this book has some fantastic ideas and that the plot itself is actually pretty fantastic! But, personally, I would have preferred this to be a trilogy. For what the relationships end up turning into, this moved way, WAY too fast. These characters have known each other for a week and already they're literally professing their love for one another and being willing to die for each other. Also the plot just needed more time to breathe, frankly. And the worldbuilding is so damn sparse! What could I even tell you about this world other than it's vaguely Greek-inspired and has bloodmages? It feels so small when it didn't have to be.

And speaking of bloodmages. I still have absolutely no idea how the magic systems work. Apparently there's blood magic and death magic and the two shouldn't mix, and you can use sigils to make blood magic work but like??? Other than that I have no clue how any of it actually works and at some point I just stopped trying to understand and went with the flow. I think this could have been really cool if it had been explained more, or if we'd gotten more context for it, but it felt like the magic was sort of just there. Same with death magic, which I was actually much more fascinated by, but we barely get a glimpse of it. I would have much preferred if this had been an adult multi-POV story, because there is actually a lot here that is well worth exploring further, but instead it's all just so rushed.

There's such a weird dissonance to this book, too. There's so much sex and violence and cursing and just general ~darkness~ and yet at times it's so immature and heavy-handed. At times I felt like I was reading middle grade, which was utterly jarring in a book that wants to tackle such mature themes. Part of what contributed to this are the villains, who were utterly, bizarrely cartoonish. The crown prince is literally Ramsay Snow, and like, for why??? To be honest I didn't really like any of the characters, or feel that they were real people (well, except Japha, who I did enjoy).

I did appreciate the representation -- polyamory, pansexuality, a non-binary character -- and I was mostly entertained by what ended up being a relatively light, quick read, so I'm rounding up my 2.5 star rating.
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In the Ravenous Dark was a story that really gripped me and took me by surprise. In my opinion, it just got better and better the more I read. Dark, twisted and very bloody, this book isn't for the faint of heart. First off, the worldbuilding in this book is phenomenal. A world filled with bloodmages, revenents, shades and duplicitous royal, Rovan's world is very clearly defined and Strickland does a fantastic job with that. I didn't really feel all that confused with all the detail for the most part and didn't feel that it bogged down the plot, though others may disagree. I would have really liked seeing a little more clarity in terms of the religion mentioned in this book but not clearly explained but that is a minor curiosity. I loved Rovan as an MC, and I love how her path just got more powerful and more dark. I just kept rooting her on as she took down the establishment with her fiery and emotional personality. There's also fabulous levels of representation in this book and I commend the author about that as well. This book took a darker turn than expected but I think it was a risk that paid off in spades. Pacing overall was pretty good, even though there were small moments here and there that just didn't fit well with the pace of some parts of the book. In the Ravenous Dark is a story about dark magic, political intrigue and power and was one I thoroughly enjoyed.
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3.5 stars/4 IDK SEND HELP
Okay, wow, this was such a good book! It follows Rovan as she is discovered to be a bloodmage and taken into the palace to be trained and work for the royals, but throw in lots of disagreements and politics and death and boom, a summary. This book can be violent, for starters, there are some gruesome scenes (not overwhelmingly so, but they're there) and a good bit of death, definitely leans more toward the upper-YA category. There's also tons of representation: Rovan is pansexual, there's a lesbian love interest, Rovan's best friend is nonbinary and asexual, and there's also a m/f/f relationship. Now, into the plot and likes and dislikes and such. I really liked Rovan, she was a really awesome protagonist/narrator and had a darker, ruthless side that shone through really well and was interesting to see. The romantic relationships were developed well but I thought they were kind of instalovey? I just wanted more leading up to the professions of love, ya know? I feel like we could have seen more interactions and dialogue before we dropped the l-word, but to each their own, they were still done really well. The politics and royal families were a lot, there was so much going on and a lot of different relationships and I got confused  when there were more than like 3 characters in the scene, but I think there will be a family tree in the book so I'd recommend using that;) The plot and world building was so well done, especially for a standalone fantasy. The magic was also unique and interesting and unlike what I've seen before. I still have questions about history and such but it's amazing how much was packed into this book. I had a great time reading it and finished it in two days, but it was just lacking a certain *something* for it to be an all-time favorite. I'd still highly recommend it if you're into darker fantasy!
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I loved this book! I was sucked into it so quickly and just wanted to keep reading and reading. Yes, this is my first A.M. Strickland book, but I had a feeling I would enjoy it, so I also picked up a copy of Beyond the Black Door as well, so perhaps I’ll read it soon enough. Anyway, I picked both books up in a release-day event signing that the author was doing at her local bookstore in Alaska. So I had to wait a few extra days to get my finished copy, but it came signed and with some pretty neat bookmarks and such, so well worth it.

Rovan and Ivrilos and Japha and Lydea were such an intriguing core group of characters to follow, though I enjoyed the secondary and other side characters as well. There was such an interesting blend of appearances and sexual and romantic preferences, and to me it all felt very natural. The family and relationship dynamics in this story were so wonderful and delightfully complex and fantastically realized. There was just a lot going on, but I don’t mean that to mean that it was complicated or difficult to understand.

Actually I think Japha was probably my favorite character and their relationship with Rovan and with the others at the palace was really interesting. Then again, I think the Lydea-Rovan-Ivrilos relationship is utterly fascinating as well. That’s not even a spoiler or anything…it’s pretty much stated in the summary, with the spirit and the princess battling for Rovan’s heart.

The magic system was also really intriguing to me. There’s blood magic but then there’s like death/spirit magic as well, and I think both magical ideas were put together in an interesting way that also made sense for the setting. It was also interesting to see how Thanapolis treated the magic differently then other countries.

There is a fair amount of class politics and international politics going on in this story as well.

Honestly, I don’t even know if this review sounds cohesive or anything. It’s basically just me throwing out parts of the story and expressing how much I enjoyed it or loved it. Because I can’t even really think of anything that I didn’t like about the story.

I was hooked on the characters and the world and the story so quickly, and I just devoured this book in very little time. I’m probably going to re-read it, both because I liked it, and because I’m sure I probably missed out on some cool things in my desperation to keep reading.

Basically, I loved this book and I can’t wait to read more books by A.M. Strickland.
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Rovan isn't the last of her kind, but she's the last of her kind in Thanopolis that is free. As the blight creeps closer, and the Royal Bloodmages weave spells to protect the city, they also alert the authorities when potential bloodmages cross the borders. In a city where bloodmages are forcibly kept for the sole purpose of serving the royal family, Rovan hides her magic like her father taught her right before he was killed. However, Rovan's freedom comes to an end when she saves her friend and her magic is revealed. Toted away to the palace, Rovan is bound to a spectral overseer Ivrilos who has the ability to stop her from harming her captors. Despite the lavish elegance of the palace, Rovan finds herself unraveling secrets that could threaten to destroy all of Thanopolis, and the culprit is a little to close for comfort. Set in a stunningly beautiful world that mimics Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, In the Ravenous Dark is a fantasy driven mystery where everything depends on the battle of good vs. evil. With rich diverse characters, thrilling twists, and simmering romance, A. M. Strickland crafts a world that readers will become immersed in.
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Everything about this book was absolutely amazing!

The characters, their development and structure were superb. Rovan was the butt kicking main character I have been looking for! Her give zero cares attitude and willingness to be honest with herself and others was so refreshing. Japha was a character written for the times. Unashamed to be exactly who they are in every moment of every day. The representation in this novel was written so well and I am thoroughly impressed. 

The world building and magic system are beautiful in a dark macabre way. The villain was sneaky about being and staying hidden for longer than it usually takes me to figure it out, which is a huge boon where I am concerned. 

I honestly cannot rave about this book enough. Excellently done.
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LOVED. These characters are so easily to fall in love with. They are flawed and imperfectly perfect.

The family and friends dynamic was interesting and refreshing.

I would have loved a little more time for people to "fall in love", I feel like there was some instalove and I'm not a HUGE fan of that, but it all worked out and was cute.

I love the technicality of the magic and the differences between blood and death magic. I do feel like there was a little bit of...easiness that came with Rovan and her magic. She was completely untrained yet picked it up instantly. I know it had to do with her lineage, but still. Some pieces of this story just fell into place a little too nicely.

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this book. It kept my attention the whole time and it wrapped up nicely. I'm glad they didn't try to turn this into a duo/trilogy even though the story ends in a way that we could see more of these characters!
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Gothic Fantasy

"Get ready for a blood-spattered, kiss-filled roller coaster ride.”

Tags: YA, gothic, dark fantasy, lgbtq, blood, magic, spirits, ghosts, underworld,

TW: blood, gore, death, addiction, abuse

Magic and mythology collide in this new Gothic Fantasy by A.M. Strickland.

In Thanopolis, those gifted with magic are assigned undead spirits to guard them (and control them). Our main character, Rovan, was taught to hide her powers to keep her safe from the spirits. But when her powers are accidentally revealed, she is thrust into the world of magic and politics, and along her journey uncovers dark secrets that can destroy the world she knows. In order to save her world, she must learn how to trust, and how to love...because the fate of everyone, mortal and immoral, depends on it.

Fast-paced and action-packed, there was always something happening that keeps readers on their toes.

Parallels can be drawn between identity and sexuality in this book — from the beginning, there is a heavy theme of hiding. Rovan and her father must hide their magic to keep them safe, just as many in the lgbtq community feel the need to hide their sexuality to protect themselves from judgement and discrimination. Rovan’s character makes a good role model for those hiding secrets of their own, and she shows us how embracing our truth can be the first step towards finding acceptance.
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Everyone needs to read this, what a story! Darkness unfolds, characters were written so well, the plot was exquisite.
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Rating: 4.5/5 Mysterious Sigils

Format: ebook then switched to hardcover. I’d like to thank the author and Macmillan for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review!

To sum up:
“A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.”

I mean, that sums it up pretty well! Notable characters are Rovan (the pansexual bloodmage), Ivrilos (sexy ghost warrior bound to Rovan), Lydea (hot princess with eyes on Rovan), Japha (non-binary, beautiful badass, and Lydea’s cousin). This quartet gets thrust together and must decide whether to trust each other in order to save their city.

What I enjoyed: 
This was such a dark, twisty, and sassy tale! I loved the writing style, Strickland is sharp, clever, and took this story to interesting and satisfying places! It does have mature content, so be aware younger readers, look up the content warnings beforehand (I’ll list a few below!). I thought the magic systems were complex and interesting. I loved the whole idea of Rovan’s magic being tempered by ancient grumpy ghost that feeds off her magic to stick around! I also super enjoyed the casual queerness in this story. It was so cool to see this Greek-Roman-inspired world without homophobia and fierce queer characters living their best lives in an opulent and dangerous environment. 

What was meh:
I actually didn’t realize it was a standalone until I got about ¾ of the way through and started to panic for these babies lol I think this book could have paced better as a duology because the last quarter felt a little rushed. I also felt like the magic outpaced the plot a little towards the end. Without going into spoilers, certain characters gain immense power very quickly and somehow are very good at it? I think the author had to do this in order for the climax to work, but if this had been broken up into two books then we could have seen them struggle with new abilities for a bit to make this more realistic. 

Overall, I loved this dark and sexy story. It’s got ghosts, political intrigue, awesome rep, powerful magic, cool fights, and spicy romance! I will definitely read whatever Strickland writes next and I hope we get to revisit these characters again! 

CW from the author: 
- Death (lots, major and minor characters)
-Death of queer characters, but most main characters are queer
-Parent death, on page and off
-Sibling death by suicide (off page)
-Fratricide
-Violence (lots)
-Blood (lots)
-Gore (not excessive, but there’s, uh, a scene or two for sure)
-Mild body horror
-Mild substance addiction (alcohol)
-Enforced gender roles
-Forced marriage and pregnancy (including rape, but the latter is off page, in the past, and not involving main characters)
-Threat of rape/abuse of the main character
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This one was a pleasant surprise, not really sure what my expectations were, but it turned out more intense and twisty than I expected it to be, turns out I couldn't put it down! I thought it would be my typical read and take a few nights to finish, but instead it kept me up most of the night, reading it pretty much in a single sitting. 

Before I continue: **Thanks to Imprint and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest review!** Also worth noting I also got the Illumicrate special edition of this book and its GORGEOUS! 

The Lowdown: With the magic of the ruling class heavily draped in secrecy (a little like the world in From Blood and Ash), appearances are somewhat deceiving as our heroine tries to suddenly navigate the political intrigue of a life at court after being outed as a rare Blood Mage (after a childhood spent hiding her magic in order to retain her freedom, Blood Mages basically belong to the Rulers), all while being bound to a spirit that can control her body and soul should she step out of line. Meanwhile she embraces her attraction to a Princess (while denying her growing attraction to her Spirit), as she digs into the mystery behind the magic and its connection to the rulers, and uncovers a connection between the realms of the living and the dead, one that could spell doom for them all.  

With ancient world almost Roman vibes, combined with a unique magical system/set-up and the inverse "under world" of grey desert scape and oozing blackness, the world building was on point. And like Armentrout's series she offers an interesting take/twist on vampiric themes. 

Touted as having a pansexual MC I was hoping this wasn't going to be a political statement to the detriment of the story (I read primarily to escape the real world and be entertained, and hate when political agendas make a plot feel forced), and it wasn't. Both love interests were natural and integral to the plot, although the FF was more physically based and the FM held more of the building romantic tension (a good enemies to lovers story arc) in terms of the plot. I appreciated the openness of love based on legitimate feelings regardless of a persons sex.  

Highly recommend, it definitely stands out as a unique, interesting, and entertaining fantasy in what can be an overworked genre sometimes. It's a fresh and exciting read.
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Blood magic, revolution, and queer romance collide in A. M. Strickland’s In the Ravenous Dark. What can I say about this Greek-inspired dark fantasy? It has a little bit of everything: vampires, dark conspiracies, undead spirits, and a whole lot of death. It’s incredibly intriguing from the first few pages. The book wastes no time dropping us directly into the action–and betrayal. Within the first chapter, the main character finds her entire world unraveling and her secrets exposed. At that point, things escalate very quickly into a conflict that spans the world of the living and the dead.

As someone who appreciates messy characters, this book does not disappoint. Rovan, the pansexual mage at the center of a royal intrigue, is impulsive, reckless, and sharp-tongued. I enjoyed her immensely, especially as she failed to temper herself against the palace royals around her. Her behavior, while often frustrating, never feels unwarranted.

Ultimately, I wanted more time with the characters to off-set the breakneck speed of the plot. Given how interesting they all are, I wanted to see them spend more time together. I wanted to see more of Rovan outside of her romantic pursuits or the royal plotting. Given how quickly we jump into the story within the first few chapters, the fast pace of the novel prevents the opportunity for contemplation. Transitions happen suddenly, often with a character drunk or knocked out. Then, the story jumps ahead by several days to the next important thing. The book lacks many smaller, more intimate moments that happen in between the big plot points.

The characters don’t get enough time to be still, especially as the narrative bounces from dark to light and back once again. However, the tonal shifts aren’t distracting so much as incomplete. If anything, I wanted more of those moments. I wanted a chance to explore Rovan, her love interests, and her friends in greater depth. I wanted to see her interact with the court-and society–to get a better feel of how she fits into the story.

As a reader, love triangles rarely appeal to me. Most of the time, they end up far too one-sided and predictable. Fortunately, Strickland sidesteps the concept entirely. She lets the characters take a different approach to the “traditional” forms of romance and relationships with delightful results. It’s great to see a fantasy world not confined by the social norms and expectations of our own. Even as the book dips into the rigid social and gender norms expected of Thanopolis society, there’s no constraints against queer relationships or polyamory. The book treats them as casually as any other romance.

Strickland shines in her worldbuilding abilities. Thanapolis, and its death-obsessed culture, feels grounded and realistic. Heavily inspired by ancient Greek culture with some philosophical elements, the world feels lived-in. Often a lackluster part of fantasy books, I loved the magic system of In the Ravenous Dark! Blood magic remains appropriately grim while still intriguing. With their bloodlines inked into their skin, blood mages are then bound to “guardians” who keep them loyal to the crown. The outside population sees them as powerful while they remain leashed by the religious power of the crown. When Rovan seeks to save herself from her fate, she finds out that there’s a lot she doesn’t know.

While this book is technically classified as Young Adult, it fits better as a New Adult novel as it contains sexual content and darker elements. As the synopsis suggests, there is a lot of death, bloodshed, and gore. While it’s never seen on-page, sexual assault is mentioned in the book. However, I don’t feel that it is egregious in any way, especially considering how these elements tie into the larger narrative.

In the Ravenous Dark is lush, brooding, and magical. However, I felt like the ending was tied up too neatly and too soon. It didn’t feel as if the characters had time to process their choices and how the resolution would affect any of them moving forward. The complex plot might have been better served by expanding the story into two books. However, I do appreciate a good stand-alone fantasy novel, and In the Ravenous Dark accomplishes just that.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and found myself appreciating the care taken with developing the world. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a good dark fantasy novel with solid queer representation and a unique take on the darker elements of magic.
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I was quickly hooked as the book opened with Roven's dad sacrificing himself to try to conceal Roven's identity from the bloodmages sent to retrieve him and any family he might have. While the book initially held promise, my hope began to unravel as I delved into Thanopolis and the palace intrigue awaiting Roven. Although there is a lot to like about the book, I couldn't quite overcome the parts I didn't like. 

With its sigils, blood magic, and bloodlines, the magic system was primarily the most interesting part of the book. I was entranced by the complexity of the system and wanted so much more information than was provided.  The romance is likely one of the most disappointing aspects of the book. Emotional depth is absent in each relationship pursued. Lust and attraction immediately transform into deep affection with the word love easily escaping from the mouths of those supposedly having fallen into it. I, on the other hand, was still trying to understand how and when love happened. 

The book moves at a fast pace, jumping from one event to the next. There were limited opportunities to relish what the book had to offer, with its greatest effect being my lack of connections with many of the characters.  I wasn't invested in anyone other than Rovan, and it didn't matter much to me what would happen to the rest of them. 

As much as I liked the magic system, I was a bit disappointed by the book. Despite enjoying parts of it, I thought it was lacking in certain areas, particularly the romance. It was difficult figuring out how to rate this because even with all the things I did like about it, I just kept thinking about how the execution was lacking. (2.5 stars rounded to 3 stars)
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3.5 
Things I loved:
Queer characters
Diverse characters
Blood magic
The found family element

Things I didn't love:
The ending was dragged out

Over all I really enjoyed this stand alone. The characters were badass, the magic was cool, and the representatives was "chef kisses." I thought Rovan was a strong lead character and the side characters really helped her move the plot along. My only qualm with the story is I felt like the ending kind of dragged out.
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I really enjoyed this book overall. I loved all the character dynamics and it was full of representation which was the best part. Definitely has alot of potential and cant wait to see where this story goes.
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With a premise promising a pansexual and polyamorous blood-mage, I was both really excited and, to be honest, nervous. A book that sounds so up my alley? How can it end? Well friends, this one has the found family trope we know that I love. AND a really stinking cool magic system. Do not mind me, I'll be over here swooning still.
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I am happy to report this novel lived up to its gorgeous cover! I am loving the gothic ya fantasy that is taking publishing by storm! It is easily one of my favourite genres. 

We follow Rovan, a pansexual bloodmage, who is very gifted in her magic. She grows up with this secret after her father was captured and killed for possessing the same magic and not turning himself in to the palace. 

Unfortunate for Rovan, she is discovered and thrust into royalty with a dead guardian she despises and a princess and her cousin (who is non-binary and asexual) that she befriends but cannot fully trust.

Soon Ivrilos, the guardian/handsome spirit, and Princess Lydea fight for Rovan’s heart. Meanwhile, Rovan is planning to betray them. 

This was witty, angsty, and tense! I absolutely loved this but oh my gosh I wish there was more! The magic system was unique and the politics really set the stakes. 

In the end, this is a great story of found family. I loved seeing how close these characters became and how they fought their individual battles. I also adored all the unquestioned queer representation!
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