Almond, Quartz, and Finch

by Lisa Bunker

The Nezel are refugee servants, toiling in a desert land where their culture is barely tolerated. Two friends, prowling through secret tunnels, uncover a villainous plot that places the Nezel in jeopardy. Almond and Quartz hatch a desperate plan to aid Finch, rightful heir to the throne.  Even with the help of unexpected allies, their heroic efforts may not be enough—and the Time of Naming cannot be delayed. All adolescents must choose a gender and a new name for adulthood but Almond, intensely private, struggles to make this choice.

Almond, Quartz, and Finch strive to claim their true selves and protect their people in perilous times.

Fans of Ursula K. LeGuin’s EarthSea will relish this proud, loving homage to the golden age of fantasy, in which gender identity is explored in a contemporary way.

The author says: "This one is the book of my heart. It’s the high fantasy novel I wish 12-year-old closeted me could have discovered in the stacks of my school library. I wrote it in a retro style, inspired in particular by Ursula LeGuin’s original Earthsea trilogy. It’s my best work to date, and it’s a book I think the world needs."

and San Francisco Book Review says: "This book firmly places Lisa Bunker as a premier writer for the LGBTQ+ community."

E-BOOK and AUDIOBOOK, NARRATED BY THE AUTHOR, ALSO AVAILABLE.

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Reviews:Rosi Hollinbeck on San Francisco Book Review wrote:

In the land of Irzem, Almond, Quartz, and the rest of the Nezel immigrants are treated little better than slaves. Almond and Quartz are still children. They have not yet chosen their adult names or paths — man, woman, or that is both, neither, and in between — as followers of The Way. The ruler of Irzem, Omdyrum, is near death, and all celebrations, even naming celebrations, have been delayed. Almond meets Zilumek, the young royal next in line to the throne. He shares with Almond his agony at being transgender in a society that won’t accept this. Almond and Quartz discover a terrible plot by Nak to overthrow the rightful heir. Can Almond, Quartz, and others find a way to beat Nak?

Lisa Bunker has written a compelling fantasy with important themes for all, especially the LGBTQ+ community. The writing is beautiful and cleverly keeps readers aware of the main theme with non-gendered pronouns used throughout. The syntax carries readers to another time and place and keeps them firmly in Irzem. All the characters are well-developed and believable. This book, along with Bunker’s earlier stellar novel, Zenobia July, firmly places her as a premier writer for the LGBTQ+ community.

Betsy on Off the Wall Bookstore blog wrote:

I really enjoyed this book. The story was interesting and the characters were relatable. I loved the conflicts between how the characters saw themselves versus how they presented to others. I was relieved to have the main characters’ names be used not only in their own language but also translated into English. That made it easy for me to follow the story and keep track of who was which person from the very beginning.

I liked how the author used pronouns to describe not only how characters felt themselves to be, but also how the character was presenting from one moment to another. The pronoun usages and changes worked well. I’d never heard of vo/veir pronouns before reading this book so that was a neat neologism for me (I love new-to-me words and descriptions!)....The ending was very satisfying (no spoilers here!) and I may have shed a few tears while reading this book (a compliment).

I definitely recommend this book when it comes out!

Mombian on Mombian wrote:

Almond and Quartz are on the cusp of adulthood in a culture where all children are genderless until they choose a gender at a coming-of-age ceremony. They are also refugees in a land with far different values about gender, and become caught up trying to save the land from a plot to overthrow the legitimate heir, whose secret only Almond knows. The story not only includes gender diverse characters, but also centers a culture whose belief in gender diversity is tied to the fundamental texts of its religion, which are interspersed with the narrative. This imaginative and affirming tale, written in a style that evokes older fantasy tales, both looks back to its inspiration and envisions a world that could be.

Included in 2023's best LGBTQ middle grade fiction books.

Barb Shumer on Stand with Trans wrote:

Almond, Quartz and Finch must listen, learn, and work together to protect their peoples and claim their true selves, whatever the cost. This is a story about hardships and struggles, and it is also a story about friendships, and working together in the hopes of securing better lives. This story displays parallels to the struggles we see in our world today, with immigrants trying to communicate and fit in to new homelands that have different languages, cultures, and beliefs. The audiobook is read by the author, Lisa Bunker.

Barb Shumer on Stand With Trans wrote:

In this adventure-fantasy novel, we are introduced to two young Nezel friends, Almond and Quartz. They and their families are refugee servants in the land of Irzem, where their culture and spiritual ways are just barely tolerated. In Nezel culture, when children are born, they are named simple words from daily life, providing no hint of girl or boy, hence the names Almond and Quartz. When children reach their thirteenth summer, they are deemed ready for the rite of Naming, when according to the dictates of the Way, they choose their paths forward into the rest of their lives, whether as woman, man, or in between, as well as the names they will carry along those paths.

As the story begins, Almond and Quartz are exploring secret passageways and enjoying a private conversation in a hiding place deep within the Irzem castle walls. The elderly Irzemi ruler Lady Omdyun has long been failing and is near her death. Because of this, many aspects of castle life, including the Nezel Naming ritual, have been altered or postponed. Quartz is not happy. He has been ready for his Naming since forever and looks forward to using his long-ago chosen man-name “Cerach.” Quartz pesters Almond about veir need to pick a name too, and suggests, “Vo would make such a pretty girl, how about Lari for a name?” Almond does not answer and wishes people would stop trying to tell veir what is best. While still in their hiding place, Almond and Quartz learn of a secret plot to overthrow the Irzem empire, and to prevent Lady Omdyun’s grandson Finch, the rightful heir, from gaining the throne upon her death. Aided by a wise orchard-keeper and other surprising allies, Almond and Quartz come up with a desperate plan to help Finch gain the throne and foil the evil schemers. Finch also has veir own challenges in trying to be true to self, while living in the strict confines of Irzem culture.

Almond, Quartz and Finch must listen, learn, and work together to protect their peoples and claim their true selves, whatever the cost. This is a story about hardships and struggles, and it is also a story about friendships, and working together in the hopes of securing better lives. This story displays parallels to the struggles we see in our world today, with immigrants trying to communicate and fit in to new homelands that have different languages, cultures, and beliefs. The audiobook is read by the author, Lisa Bunker.


Almond, Quartz, & Finch is unlike any coming of age story I’ve read before, full of intricate world building, adventure, and gender defying characters. This is a life affirming book that many people— young and old— will find magic, belonging, and solace in; a tale about growing up, trusting in your community, and being brave enough to live exactly as you are.

— Mariama J. Lockington, Stonewall Honor Award winning author of In the Key of Us

From start to finish, Almond, Quartz, and Finch is a book I couldn't put down. Bunker's writing offers the perfect balance of action and intrigue, along with a groundbreaking exploration of gender identity. Lush prose, relatable characters, and a nuanced world are hallmarks of this beautiful, important novel, which is sure to resonate with a wide spectrum of readers.

— A. J. Sass, awarding-winning author of Ellen Outside the Lines

In this imaginative and fiercely hopeful tale about family, friendship, and freedom, Bunker articulates how deeply we know our true genders, and how important it is to honor that knowledge.

— Misa Sugiura, author of Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind

Bunker creates a rich world that feels lived in and full—one that allows for a nuanced and fresh exploration of gender. Fascinating and dazzling, it is a rare pleasure to follow this journey.

— Caroline Huntoon, author of Skating on Mars

About the Author

Lisa Bunker writes rainbow novels for young readers. Veir previous works include Felix Yz (2017),  Zenobia July (2019), and Joy, to the World (2023). Vo has made homes in New Mexico, the LA area, Seattle, the Florida panhandle, Maine, and New Hampshire. Vo now lives in Sacramento, California, with veir spouse Dawn, an expert on anxiety in children and an author in her own right. Between them they have three grown children. Lisa is a longtime trans/enby activist, and from 2018 to 2022 vo represented the town of Exeter in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Veir interests include chess, birding, choral singing, and playing bass and piano.

Check out the feature article about Lisa in the Sacramento Bee!

Listen to Lisa's interviews with the Transcending Humanity podcast

and the Big Gay Fiction Podcast
and with the Authors Over 50 podcast

Read Lisa's blog post at Reads Rainbow.

Read a recent interview with Lisa: https://www.karenbmccoy.com/joy-to-the-world-by-lisa-bunker-and-kai-shappley/