Trans author Neil Cochrane's The Story of the Hundred Promises is a layered, sometimes cheeky and always enchanting queer fantasy with a big heart. This loose retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" features Darragh, a trans sailor with strained family relationships and a strong sense of self, who embarks upon an epic quest to save the beast character. Merrigan, more of a wicked enchanter than a beast, is a complicated, fully realized nonbinary weaver of magic that can heal or harm. Merrigan's magic, much like Merrigan emself, is not one thing or the other; instead, it's both and neither. Cochrane seamlessly weaves folktales--ones that center such agender or nonbinary pronouns as "em"--into the narrative such that the novel almost appears to be written from two points of view.
Cochrane (From Under the Mountain, writing as C.M. Spivey) builds queerness into the very bones of this story, evident from Merrigan's use of Spivak pronouns (e/em/eir) and a naming convention in which characters introduce themselves with their first name, pronoun and the name of their elder parent. Cochrane makes clear that the names people call themselves are important, but his brand of "queer optimism" focuses on the intentional formation of community and family in the face of what is often generational trauma.
Though he throws many obstacles in their paths, the author treats his characters with the care everyone deserves and leads them to hard-won endings that are satisfying on their own terms. The Story of the Hundred Promises is a joyfully queer adventure for the world-weary. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer