A.J. Fitzwater’s new book contains seven linked tales about Cinrak, a very dapper lesbian capybara pirate. My short and quick review of the book is this: if you’re looking for fantasy full of dazzling fun with a joyful and giddy sense of adventure, set in a world where everything from the stars to the wind to the whales and the chinchilla cabin kit, sparkle and glisten with magic (and that is also very queer), then this book is everything you need and more.
To quote the official blurb from the publisher, Queen of Swords Press:
Dapper. Lesbian. Capybara. Pirate.
Cinrak the Dapper is a keeper of secrets, a righter of wrongs, the saltiest capybara on the sea and a rider of both falling stars and a great glass whale. Join her, her beloveds, the rat Queen Orvilia and the marmot diva Loquolchi, lead soprano of the Theatre Rat-oyal, her loyal cabin kit, Benj the chinchilla, and Agnes, last of the great krakens, as they hunt for treasures of all kinds and find adventures beyond their wildest dreams. Let Sir Julius Vogel Award-winning storyteller A.J. Fitzwater take you on a glorious journey about finding yourself, discovering true love and exploring the greatest secrets of the deep. Also, dapperness.
In the book, we follow Cinrak from her first trip on board a pirate ship when she’s hardly more than a pup at the orphanage, through many dazzling and magical adventures. Along the way, the saltiest capybara finds a loyal pirate family and crew, romances a queen (and others), traverses seas and chases stars, and journeys to the deepest depths of the ocean. Getting to know the cast of characters is an absolute trip, and I especially love Benj the loyal cabin kit who can talk to Agnes, the orange kraken, and who goes on his own adventure to get a beard (among other things).
Beyond the wonderful cast of characters, the world Cinrak inhabits is a huge part of what makes these stories such a delight. It’s a world that feels vast and challenging, full of treasure and mysteries and magic. There is danger to be found, for sure, but the real wonder of The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper, is how there is no “big bad”, no terrible evil monstrous boss mobs to fight. Instead, there are challenges and obstacles to conquer, deep mysteries to explore, and new things to learn about the creatures and characters and places Cinrak encounters along the way. To me, this explicit lack of A Giant Evil Foe, echoes one of the things I love the most about many Miyazaki movies: the ability to tell compelling and exciting stories without the need for death and destruction and bloody fights to the death.
I adore all the stories in this book, but one of my favourites is definitely “Cetaceous Secrets of the Jewelled Nadir”, where Cinrak and her pirate crew go on a quest to find Whale Fall. There are many breathtakingly gorgeous and audaciously mind-expanding scenes in The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper, but the journey she goes on here with the translucent, glass whale Xolotli is vividly drawn and exquisitely described.
In short: read this book. It is full of delightful wonders and a whole lot of capybara fun. It’s GOOD in the best kind of uplifting way. Joy is important, after all. To quote Fitzwater’s introduction:
“this book is serious about its joy….speaking to joy in times of turmoil, if being open about queer lives when others seek to suppress those voices, is serious business…”
- To get a taste of what you can expect in this book, you can read “The Wild Ride of the Untamed Stars” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
- Also check out A.J. Fitzwater’s website for more wonderful fiction.
The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper includes seven stories about Cinrak and her crew:
“Perfidy at the Felidae Isles
“The Wild Ride of the Untamed Stars”
“Search for the Heart of the Ocean”
“The Hirsute Pursuit”
“Cetaceous Secrets of the Jewelled Nadir”
“Flight of the Hydro Chorus”