by Marjorie Liu ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 2021
The only drawback to these seven stories is that readers will want far more time in each world.
A collection of short stories exploring the emotional complexity, diverse physicality, and layered sexuality of resourceful women.
In “Sympathy for the Bones,” Clora is old Ruth’s unwilling apprentice witch in Kentucky, forced to murder men with hoodoo magic or surrender her soul. Having lost her family, Clora longs to know what it feels like to love and be loved, even as she plans her escape. Another kind of escape is brewing in “The Briar and the Rose,” a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” only this time the charming prince is a brown warrior-woman who must walk the dangerous line between freeing the woman she’s come to love and her duty to her mistress—the sorceress who inhabits Rose’s body six days out of seven. In "Call Her Savage," a striking magical alternate history, ex–Lady Marshall Xīng MacNamara—who comes from New China, on the Pacifica coast of an America allied with its Native peoples—must kill her former lover Maude in order to stop the Redcoats from colonizing the world. Rounding out the collection are a story about Amish vampires and a secret marriage in a plague-ridden future that gingerly explores trauma and strength; a gay wannabe-supervillain looking for a superhero to love him in a story that asks what true vulnerability can awaken; and a princess, determined to forge her own path through sentient trees and evil queens, who wrestles with how to remain true to duty, heart, and mind. Within each tale, author Liu gives a masterclass in the art of storytelling. She doesn’t waste a word or a comma, nor does she miss an opportunity to dive into what makes us human, no matter who we are or who we love. In the title novella, the protagonist learns that “some trees are bark and root, and some trees have soul and teeth.” So, too, will readers find that Liu’s writing is all “soul and teeth.” Neither will release them quickly.The only drawback to these seven stories is that readers will want far more time in each world.
Pub Date: June 15, 2021
Page Count: 256
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021
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by Brandon Sanderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2023
Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.
Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Pub Date: April 4, 2023
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023
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by Olivie Blake ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
The latest in a series of rereleases from a prolific fantasist’s previously self-published works is a contemporary spin on the fairytale “Godfather Death.”
Viola Marek is an aswang, a shapeshifting vampire from Filipino folklore. She’s also a Chicago real estate agent trying to sell a mansion even while the ghost of its last owner, Thomas Edward Parker IV, is doing his supernatural best to block the sale. In a desperate attempt to earn her commission, she hires Fox D’Mora, Death’s mortal godson, to use his connection to get the ghost to leave. Unfortunately, Death is unavailable: He’s been kidnapped, and to get him back and prevent a worlds-spanning catastrophe, Fox, Vi, the ghost, and assorted other supernatural creatures will have to enter a high-stakes gambling game that usually only immortals can play…but rarely win. The story begins with an unusual blend of myth, fairy tale, and cosmology and inevitably descends to an almost unbearable level of sentimentality, which is simultaneously a refreshing change from Blake’s usual tableau of self-involved, selfish characters who seem driven toward tragedies of their own making. Blake could definitely do a better job at showing the love between characters rather than merely telling the reader that they’re in love. She also has an unfortunate tendency to skip potentially intriguing bits of backstory if they don’t immediately drive the plot along, which is why readers never learn anything about Fox’s childhood and what it was actually like having Death as a parent. Nor does she explain why only two of the four archangels, Gabriel and Raphael, play outsize roles in determining the order of the cosmos, while Uriel and Michael are nowhere to be seen. Bits of anachronism—like the use of a rubber band as aversion therapy 200 years ago or the presence of a magical wristwatch from a time long before watches were common—might be intended to be Pratchett-style humor or chalked up to magic? It’s hard to tell what’s intentional and what is simply careless. Now that Blake has a traditional publisher, perhaps the editors of her future novels will guide the author to address these issues when they arise.A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023
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