Weak Heart by Ban Gilmartin
Release Date : April 25th 2020
Something has gone very wrong on the sleepy Scottish Isle of Mab. The tides are angry. Reality has shifted. Selkies are coming up from the ocean, boys are missing, magic is going haywire, and memories are being pulled from people’s minds.
Thomas Madigan is living in a nightmare.
Isla just wants to go back to the sea.
Kit Macrae thinks he’s drowning.
Tanis Hughes needs to feed.
And Owen Darrow doesn’t seem to exist.
“You’ll be the one to pay the price later.”
Atmospheric and neatly woven queer story that will place you in the middle of the Scottish Isles feeling weak in the knees. Ban Gilmartin serves quality and tenderness in their emotional self published debut!
It has been some time since the last time I picked up a self published book. Weak Heart by Ban Gilmartin caught my attention when a couple of my mutuals started tweeting quotes from the book. Long story short their promotion made me purchase the paperback for this book immediately. For interested readers the book is only available through Amazon. If you are from a country that does not have Amazon I suggest reading the story on Tumblr, Weak Heart is posted chapter by chapter by the author and you can read it for FREE. Click here!
Weak Heart is a story that follows a cast of characters on the Scottish Isle of Mab as they try to figure out the mystery surrounding the disappearance of their friend. There are a cast of characters but there are only two main POVs, Thomas and Isla, and a few POVs from other characters in the cast. Thomas is a magician that has lived with a chronic condition of being haunted by hallucinations and nightmares whenever he sleeps. Isla is a selkie that has dedicated her future to find her best friend Kit that has suddenly disappeared into thin air. To find Kit, Isla has reached out to Thomas, who previously has a strong relationship with Kit that left him traumatized. Reluctantly Thomas decides to help Isla find Kit and go back to his home on Mab.
When they arrive on Mab, Thomas notices changes since his departure years ago. It seems that nobody remembers the third person he grew up with Kit named Owen, there is magical residue in the air, and something sinister is swimming near the coast. The unlikely duo is joined by Tanis, Thomas’s ex-girlfriend and baobhan sith, who is also concerned of Kit’s well being. Together they travel across the island, unpack a lot of baggage, and have several mental break downs as reality isn’t always as it seems on Mab.
“It’s not about what you give up. It’s about what you get.”
Gilmartin’s writing is atmospheric as they anchored the story to the island. The weather and the roiling seas in itself is an important character of the story that brought the story to life through the chilly sea winds and the bone deep cold waters. There are multiple details in the setting and environment that foreshadowed the events that happened between the characters. Every time I sit down and read this book I feel cold and chilly (or maybe I’m just coming down on something lol) as though I am standing on the edge of the cliff of Mab.
After finishing the story the strengths Weak Heart is its well developed and thought out plot. The structure is neat and clean from start to end. Gilmartin foreshadowed many things in the story and each foreshadowing is answered in the most satisfying way. The magic and world is quite simple and straightforward that made it easy to fully invest into the story. The folklore and mythological beings included in Weak Heart are all quite interesting. My favorite is one of the eldritch abominations that made an appearance around 60% of the story. I will not mention the name of the creature to avoid spoilers but if you do pick up Weak Heart, I suggest googling what it looks like because the creature is top tier horrifying.
“We’ve never said I love you. That’s not what we do. He says you keep me sane. I say you keep me focused. We talk around our feelings. We’ve planned a future together, but that’s not new. We’ve always had a future together, ever since we were kids. Wherever he went, I was always going to follow.”
The core of Weak Heart are the character relationships and the character development as the plot is peeled throughout the story. Thomas is an anxious and traumatized character that have rough edges that bleed out of the page. His relationship with Kit is pre-established, readers will peel back layers of their relationship from how they met to their eventual falling out. The parallels between the current events and past events are interwoven wonderfully by Gilmartin with clear and precise intent that is satisfying to see. The vulnerability and emotional weight in Thomas is realistic as the trauma and pain he felt bleeds out of the page. Thomas’s progression as a character from start to end is complete as everything comes full circle with no loose ends. It would’ve been more satisfying if Gilmartin included an epilogue.
While Isla is the spunky, brave, and inexperienced in being human selkie shines a light of hope for the other characters, especially for Thomas. Isla is positive and dives head on with her belief even when the person she recruits to help (Thomas) annoys her a lot. Isla’s character development for me is the most memorable as she is the catalyst that started the story and eventually became the one that ends it all. The relationship Isla established with all the characters in some way endearing as Isla isn’t afraid in placing her trust. Even though she is careful on who she trusts she still follows her instinct more than her head, but thats what makes Isla a good character that balances out Thomas. Isla’s relationship with Tanis felt a bit instantaneous it was done in a way that made sense. It is a cutest meet cute I have ever read honestly.
“You don’t have to pick just one person. Love isn’t exclusive.”
Weak Heart isn’t a weak book. It is a strong self published debut. The sheer quality of the story is impressive as Gilmartin writes a neat, emotional, and well structured plot of a book. The story itself is unapologetically queer and shows a deep level of tenderness in representing the vulnerability and love shared between multiple characters. It is not just a fantasy story with a bit of mystery following queer characters, it is a story with heart and depth.
I highly recommend this gem of a book if you have read Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell. Because Weak Heart shows the same level of vulnerability and tenderness between the characters as Kiem and Jainan from Winter’s Orbit. To readers in general pick up this book if you want to read about queer characters solve a mystery complete with magic and cool magical creatures.