The Heretic’s Guide To Homecoming by Sienna Tristen
A stunning piece of queer literary-fantasy that deserves to be read by everyone
This is the quote you would be greeted with if you pulled The Book from the shelf and flipped it over to the back – and it is the perfect line to describe it. Not only because it’s true, but because this book itself is transformative too.
I was handed The Book by a friend and was told to read it – no questions asked. Considering the way I had always spent hours fretting over reviews of anything I’d ever consider buying in the past (and sometimes still do) it was a hard ask of me, but I gave in.
The Book follows Ronoah Genoveffa Elizzi-denna Pilanovani, who is berated constantly by his own anxious inner voice, after he runs from his homeland. From there, he is whisked away by a magical stranger onto the road and through a journey of people, places, and most importantly – his own head and heart. Even though this is a fantasy book, it is not full of action, magic, and battles. This is a more ‘literary’ piece that is driven completely by the characters inside.
The people themselves feel like living and breathing people, with all of their flaws, goals, experiences, relationships, and lives. When some of them go away, it’s heartbreaking to see them leave and realize they’ll never return. You’ll wish you could sit around the campfire one final time, you’ll long to hear them tell their stories, and you’ll long for them to never leave your side. But change is persistent, and you are left with only memories to look back to and smile at.
The world is built so beautifully and the cultures of each person you meet feel real. Each detail that comes up just pushes it further and further into reality, until it feels like a place that exists and a place you want to visit. Sienna Tristen skillfully weaves questions of the world and of these places Into the Story ultimately letting them linger unanswered, leaving you to want more. It reignites the childlike wonder and curiosity that fades with age. This is absolutely by design, as this book is only one of The Books set in The Shale Project – an ‘multimedia storytelling initiative’ with various artists on a quest of building a planet.
The best thing about this book, is that none of these things are boastful. They sit, and they exist, and they let you come to them and experience them for the first time, like a scholar studying paint on the walls of a cavern. They slip into your life when they need to, and leave you on the other side of the experience as a better person – in one way or another.
Alongside the beautiful characters, the prose is another layer of beauty that could standalone as if a stained glass mural of a cathedral. Prose is one of those things that can either enhance a book tenfold or ruin it within the first chapter, but Sienna Tristen is a wordsmith of her own tier. There are many beautiful quotes that evoke feelings from deep inside and so many moments of Quiet Contemplation that exist only because of her word choice.
Honestly, it feels disingenuous to write a review about this, because this is not a book. Its an experience, and what an experience means to each person is so deeply intimate and personal, that it can never truly be conveyed in words.
In the end, this book is why I decided to start this series of reviews spotlighting ‘the small guys’ across my hobbies – If something this beautiful and transformative can be found waylaid and forgotten from mass market advertising, it made me wonder how many other beautiful things people are missing (or have already missed) simply because of a one or two digit number next to the product.
It hurts me that this book is not hailed as a masterpiece, but at the same time, maybe it was never meant to be.
Instead, perhaps it’s meant to find it’s own way into people’s lives when they require it most – even if they don’t know it is what they need.
Transcends normal media and earns a rare Blue Moon