Review – The Key of Behliseth by Lou Hoffmann

A Harmony Ink YA book.

I’ve read a lot of YA fantasy over the years, having got hooked into the genre through authors such as Susan Cooper and Ursula Le Guin.

Reading The Key of Behliseth reminds me of why those stories hooked me in and why I still read fantasy today. It’s the story of a gay teenager sucked into a situation and a world that only exists in imagination. Or does it? Not only must he keep his wits to survive, but he’s connected to that world and needs to embrace who he truly is and follow his destiny.

This story has all the key things I love about fantasy. A very likeable believable hero who not only makes mistakes but perseveres through those mistakes, magic, world building which has been very well thought through, and an ensemble cast of characters I want to read more about. Although this is Lucky’s story, the other characters are also very well drawn and have their own motivations and quirks. The dialogue is great, and fun in places which adds to the enjoyment of the story. I read as escapism and to be taken to other worlds within the pages of a book. If the story I’m reading is all doom and gloom, it can become very tedious very fast. Lou Hoffmann has that balance right in this story, even though she made me cry—but no spoilers. You’ll have to read the story to find out why.

Lou has a gift for language, and paints pictures with her descriptions. The words flow, and there are elements of the story—echoes—that makes reading it feel like coming home to me as a long time reader of the genre. I want to see more of this series, and find out what happened to these characters I’m now invested in. I’d also love to see this book on the YA shelf in libraries. It would fill the gap that sadly still exists for good fantasy with gay teenagers perfectly. Not just gay teenagers, but stories where being gay isn’t the issue, but something that is just accepted. It’s other stuff that provides the conflict which the main characters need to work through.

Five out of five stars, and highly recommended.

Please, Lou, can I have some more?

On his way to meet a fate he’d rather avoid, homeless gay teen Lucky steps through a wizard’s door and is caught up in a whirlwind quest and an ancient war. He tries to convince himself that his involvement with sword fights, magic, and interworld travel is a fluke, and that ice-breathing dragons and fire-breathing eagles don’t really exist. But with each passing hour, he remembers more about who he is and where he’s from, and with help, he begins to claim his power.

Lucky might someday rule a nation, but before he can do that, he must remember his true name, accept his destiny, and master his extraordinary abilities. Only then can he help to banish the evil that has invaded earth and find his way home—through a gateway to another world.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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