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The Summer Prince: 05/19/17
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson is set in a futuristic, matriarchal Brazil. It opens with the sacrifice of the current king — a ritual that has been in place since the men started dying centuries ago. In his dying breath, he is to affirm or chose a new queen.
June, an aspiring artist, knows one of the three potential new Summer Kings. Enki is from the slums and has risen in part for his talent and showmanship. He's there to show that the Queen cares for the less fortunate — but he has chosen to use his short-lived position to start a revolution.
The setting is different from the typical dystopians. Not New York, not Los Angeles, not Washington D.C., not London. The matriarchal rule — done by the Aunties — was also nicely different. The racial diversity is nice — so many visions of the future are populated exclusively with white men. Enki's bisexuality is also a nice detail.
But all of these details feel like a shopping list. June's world, save for a brief time when she and Enki attempt to run away, is self contained. It's cut off from everything else. The violence and the superstitions don't seem to serve any purpose in the form of social commentary. Instead the government set up is there to be primitive, exotic and that serves no purpose beyond playing into stereotypes and prejudice.