Author: Chuck Tingle
Publisher: Chuck Tingle
Publication Date: June 12, 2020
Shelves: Female-fronted, Transgender
Somehow weirder than I expected and yet more down-to-earth at the same time, Trans Wizard Harriet Porber and The Bad Boy Parasaurolophus was an interesting introduction to the Tingleverse.
Full confession here, I love the fact that Chuck Tingle declared his support for trans rights and made a donation to the Transgender Law Center, but I bought this purely out of spite, a literary “screw you” to a certain Muggle Minister of TERFs. I regret nothing!
The plot here is something of a grown-up romantic sequel to the HP fantasies, but with a contemporary awareness of things like social media. Harriet Porber is still a wizard, a transgender woman who is struggling to craft a follow up spell her viral hit. Her agent, Minerma, sends her to an island off the coast of England to relax and find some inspiration, which is where she meets up with Snabe, who is still an infuriating wizard of unknown loyalties, a transgender parasaurolophus who is struggling to record new bardic magic for this band Seven Inch Nails. Tagging along with Snabe is Dellatrix and Braco, who are still cruel and crazy, but also a pair of sentient motorcycles in this reality. Yeah, it’s weird. There’s a unicorn sheriff too, and an emergency room doc who prescribes rest and motor oil. Just go with it, it’s worth it.
While I was expecting slapstick parody, especially with the sentient motorcycles, this is actually a sincere homage to the other HP (and the characters surrounding him), who we are reminded should not be judged by the words or actions of their authors. In fact, in a very meta book where Snabe is fully aware of having been written as the bad boy in a romance novel, we get comments like this:
“So I’m well aware this is a bad boy romance novel, and I’ve got a job to do,” he explains. “Trust me, I don’t love acting this way, either. I guess it’s just important to remember just because a fictional character is a jerk, it doesn’t mean the author is, too. Likewise, if a fictional character is sweet and awesome, their author could still be really awful and bigoted.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I question.
“I’m not telling you, I’m telling the reader,” the dinosaur informs me.
In another little author dig later in the book, Bumbleborn – who a woolly mammoth, but still an old wizard with scraggly white hair and a wizard’s hat – gets the following introduction to Harriet:
“I’m gay,” Bumbleborn says.
“Uh… what?” I stammer, a little confused. “That’s cool.”
“I just wanted to say that clearly in this story instead of claiming years later it was there in the subtext the whole time,” the woolly mammoth continues.
The romance between Harriet and Snabe is actually a lot of fun, a total enemies-to-lovers transformation, complete with bickering, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, romantic frustrations, hot sex, and (eventually) tender, honest love. There’s not a lot of sex to the book, just a few scattered scenes, but there’s something charming about the way Tingle goes all-in with setting expectations and establishing terminology:
SNABE: “Before we go any farther, this is my cock,” the dinosaur informs me. “Don’t call it a strap-on, don’t even think of it as a strap-on. This is my dick. Understood?”
HARRIET: “You can touch it,” I explain, “and you can suck it, but call it what it is: not a dick. That’s my clit.”
What really surprised me was how the individual creative struggles, the blossoming romance, and attempted sabotage all came together in the end to create what is genuinely a thrilling, suspenseful final few chapters full of triumphs and tears. Yes, parts of Trans Wizard Harriet Porber and The Bad Boy Parasaurolophus are very silly, the whole meta aspect is completely odd (albeit with a purpose), and the scattered erotic scenes are a curious mix of amusement and arousal, but Harriet and Snabe are fully developed, lovable characters in a romance that works, and there’s an actual story holding all the parts together.
I’d give this 4 stars for the story itself, rounded up to 5 stars for taking what could have been something spiteful and turning it into something so positive. On that note, I’ll leave you with this:
“So the songspell is finished,” I observe. “It’s really beautiful.”
“It’s almost done,” Snabe informs me. “Very close. It’s effecting characters within the book, but I want it to do more than that. I want the reader to know they’re beautiful and strong and important in whatever body they inhabit.”
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀