Carnival - Elizabeth Bear
Another bookswap book and my first experience of a book by this writer - essentially the premise of Carnival is that our protagonists, Vincent and Angelo, are two men who have previously worked together as diplomatic agents. They also happened to be lovers in a universe where this is frowned upon because of the scarcity of healthy human beings, so when their employer found out, they were separated and made to choose either therapy or exile.

They are forced together by the needs of a particular mission, to female-ruled New Amazonia which will only accept envoys who are either women or homosexual men, and so Vincent and Angelo get paired up again. During their time on New Amazonia, they encounter a society which is fixated by the concept of honour and where duels are commonplace, but where straight men's only roles are semi-gladiatorial combat and the strictly controlled procreation of the species.

The main problems, however, with Carnival are that I found the main characters quite 2-dimensional and the ending somewhat predictable. While it was nice to see a story where the romantic subplot wasn't just feisty female + domineering male, the spark that the author seemed to see didn't catch for me and I couldn't share her enthusiasm. All in all, it's a book I'm glad I checked out but am equally pleased I didn't spend much money on, which doesn't bode too well for my picking up anything else by this writer.