Three young adults negotiate sexuality in a science-fiction Ontario where the British Empire took a decidedly different path.
Helena, shy and practical, looks forward to marrying her best friend, August, after what she hopes will be a quiet, small-town debut. A surprise invitation to Toronto, where the queen herself will be visiting, upsets all her plans. Margaret, a visitor to Toronto from England, forms a bosom friendship with Helena but doesn’t reveal her secret: Margaret is Her Royal Highness, the Princess Victoria-Margaret, disguised heir to the throne. Helena has her own secret. When she enters her DNA into the Computer at the core of the Empire’s religion, it records her as having XY chromosomes. In an empire that believes genetic compatibility is holy and the Computer’s inspired by God, will being an intersex woman destroy Helena’s chance of happiness? Convenient coincidences and the teens’ own thoughtful choices come to the rescue. The worldbuilding, though clunky, fascinates. In this alternate history, Queen Victoria married her children outside of Europe’s royal houses. Brown-skinned Margaret, with kinky hair and epicanthic folds, has genes from “Hong Kong, Iraq, Zululand, and more besides.” This queer-friendly Canada is multiethnic (August is of Hong Kong, Chinese, and Irish heritage, while Helena is predominantly white); culturally, despite hijabs, kippot, and salwar kameez, it’s overwhelmingly Anglo-Canadian. Despite this bustle, the tale itself is a lovely, quiet coming-of-age.
A thoughtful exploration of class consciousness, genetics, and politics that doesn’t lose track of the human story. (author’s note) (Science fiction. 14-adult)