A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Another perfect recommendation from Liz, A Deadly Education is narrated by El, short for Galadriel, a wizard-in-training at the Scholomance. Her world looks much like ours, but you and I would qualify as ‘mundanes’ – people who don’t see or believe in magic. El is in school to learn spells and tricks and control, and as an independent wizard kid, possibly to earn an invitation to join an enclave. Wizards banded together in enclaves are much safer than indies like El, whose mother raised her in a yurt on a (mundane) commune in the Welch countryside. But her mother Gwen is much beloved, a talented healer and source of all things good, while El’s affinity or tendency is toward large-scale destruction, as in mass murder. She is not a bad person: in fact she has spent her nearly three years in school working hard to keep her affinity in check, hiding the true extent of her powers, and making no friends with her eternally sour attitude. The tension within El between her natural affinity (murderous) and her value system (protective and good) is one of the central conflicts of this story.

Now the school itself: the Scholomance is full of terrors, like mals (short for maleficaria), monsters of all sorts; they live in the in-between spaces so that it’s dangerous to go anywhere alone, even to the bathroom, which is hard on a loner like El. Each year the massive, circular, magical space rotates and ratchets around so that the freshman dorms move down to become sophomore dorms, etc., and everyone gets closer to graduation, which is a euphemism for the seniors being dumped into a space filled with mals where they’ll have to fight their way out to real-world survival. Many of them won’t make it. Thus are your four years at the Scholomance taken up with working to form alliances to help you through graduation, unless you were lucky to come in an enclave kid from the start, with privileges and protections built in.

This accounts for several other intriguing conflicts within the novel: class and classism are up for debate within the enclave system. School in general is filled with petty jealousies and social politics, in ways recognizable to those of us who attended mundane high schools, and with the essential addition of life-or-death machinations re: mals and magic. There are plenty of larger questions about right and wrong and personal agency and what ends justify what means, but none of this is overtly or pedantically the point of the story: this is a page-turning, deliciously readable story of one awkward, socially ill-adjusted, fundamentally sweet but somehow also deadly teenager. El wants to secure her safe place in the world, but she really doesn’t want to hurt anybody. (Well, sometimes. She has a bit of a temper, and she does take a lot of abuse.) She also really wants friends, although she wouldn’t be quick to admit it.

It’s a great story, with some great secondary characters, including those cautiously interested in working with El, and the enigmatic oaf who wants to protect her. By the final chapters (which include some great action/battle sequences to boot) I was hooked and cheering. The last six words of the novel (!) contain a bombshell, and I cannot wait to start book two of this trilogy. Strongly recommend this one for awesome female lead characters, intrigue and world-building, fun magic, and poignant human drama.

Rating: 8 argonet teeth.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

This was a fun one. Emily Wilde is an academic, and a bit of a type: grumpy, antisocial, deeply socially awkward and mostly unbothered about it; she is passionate about her work in the field of dryadology, which is faeries, or the Folk. Her hair is absolutely without exception a mess, even under the influence of magic. We meet her en route to do a season of fieldwork in the very remote, far northern village of Hrafnsvik, whose faeries, known as the “Hidden Ones,” are poorly documented. The research she hopes to accomplish here will complete the work of a decade or more, her Encyclopaedia of Faeries, whose publication should cement her academic reputation and finally get her out of adjunct work and into a position with tenure. (Those of you who know my personal life these days will hear me chuckle in bitter recognition.) This book takes the form of her journal entries, intended as notes for her professional work and as “record for those scholars who come after me should I be captured by the Folk.” Which, mild spoiler, she will be.

Emily arrives in Hrafnsvik with her loyal dog Shadow but fails to immediately thrive, because of her clumsiness with the locals (whose help she needs, whether she acknowledges it or not) and unfamiliarity with the climate (very cold). A few small quibbles with the novel’s consistency here: Emily is proud of her past expeditions into the field, which have ranged far and wide; she is far better with fieldwork than she is at working with other mortals. “I am used to humble accommodations and humble folks–I once slept in a farmer’s cheese shed in Andalusia.” But she’s also never started a fire (?!) and doesn’t know where to begin, and can’t figure out how to split wood (certainly an acquired skill; but her inability to jump in and begin feels like it belies an experience ‘in the field’). She is assessed as an ‘indoors type’ by a sneering local, at which she bristles but doesn’t disagree. And yet she does some massive mountain hikes in the course of her research; she estimates that her daily limit is twenty miles, and in precipitous conditions. In a word, these feel like inconsistencies in the character: is she an indoors type who is unable to light a fire? or is she an intrepid mountain hiker and experienced field researcher? (There is also a woman who mourns the loss of her husband. But then her daughter comes home to both parents.) Small details, perhaps, but they catch my brain distractingly. There is still much to love, however.

After Emily’s early struggles in Hrafnsvik, she is both assisted and further irritated by a new arrival: her colleague Wendell Bambleby. Famous, handsome, and well regarded in the field – if a bit academically lazy, in Emily’s view – he decides inexplicably to crash her fieldwork party, tidying up her lodgings, charming the locals, and generally causing trouble. (To highlight their different personalities, one of his first nights in town was “the most enjoyable evening I have spent in Hrafnsvik, as the villagers largely forgot about my existence amidst the gale-force winds of Bambleby’s personality. I was delighted to sit in the corner with my food and a book and speak to no one.”) The challenging local community, the region’s mysterious and intoxicating Folk, and Bambleby – both obnoxious and somehow appealing – combine to offer Emily chances she’s never really had before, in terms of research, friendship, and romance.

The result is funny, fun, frequently silly, and also suspenseful. Emily is definitely a type (the well-meaning but curmudgeonly professor), but still charming; her new acquaintances include mortals and faeries and at least one frightening faery king. Even Shadow, the loveable loyal hound, is more than he at first seems. I loved the worldbuilding aspect of dryadology, for example, the concept of oĆ­che sidhe, a housekeeping faery driven mad by disorder. The device of Emily’s journal means we get appended faery tales, which was fun. While the Hrafnsvik story is neatly wrapped up, Emily’s own ends on a bit of a cliffhanger; this novel is book 1 in a series, and despite some small quibbles, I’m in for book 2.

Rating: 7 needle-fingers.

The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin

It’s been nearly three years since I read The City We Became, and I wish I’d spent a few minutes reviewing that one first. I still felt close to the avatars of New York’s boroughs, but New York himself (he goes by Neek, as in NYC if you pronounce the Y like ‘ee’) felt less familiar, and I’d lost track of some of the rules of Jemisin’s carefully constructed world. For slightly better results, you might want to keep book 1 a little handier than I did here, but it was still a hell of a ride.

Highlights include the personalities themselves, their relationships, and the final action scene(s). I remembered loving Manny (Manhattan), Brooklyn and Bronco (the Bronx); I feel like we get to know Padmini (Queens) better here, and I really enjoyed that. I applaud Jemisin’s work with Aislyn, the bigoted Karen-in-training avatar for Staten Island; she is unlikeable but complicated enough that the reader grudgingly sympathizes, which is a feat (and an exercise in patience and empathy that some might have excused the author for not engaging in). These avatars have had time since the last book’s action to settle in to relationships among themselves in ways that are pleasing; the characters were strong to begin with but they perform best when they play off each other (true of all characters, probably). Then there are the avatars of other cities around the world: I imagine it must have been so fun to build characters for places like London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Paris, Budapest, Kinshasa, and Amsterdam… because this novel ends up in a massive showdown. In its course, we (and our avatars) learn more about the rules of the world of living cities and their great Enemy. The threat, as threats do, grows larger and then imminent, and a major brawl ensues. This series was originally billed as a trilogy, and actually I still thought it so at book’s end; it was only in Jemisin’s acknowledgments that I learned we’re done here. I do think the ending allows room for more if she finds her energies refilled, but I understand the effects of the pandemic and Trump’s evil on her intended storytelling, and (not that she needed my permission) I can grant her this ending, too.

Three years ago, when I read The City We Became, Jemisin was new to me. Now I return to this series having since read every novel Jemisin has ever written.* With this perspective, the Great Cities duology feels both familiar and very different from her other work. This one is set in the most recognizable of her fictional worlds, closest to our own real one. The characters are modern, urban, fresh and real-world-adjacent, while the characters in her other outstanding works are realistic but recognizably otherworldly. I don’t think I have a preference, but it’s a different effect. I guess for readers more reluctant to venture into proper sci fi/fantasy, this urban version might feel friendlier.

*I have not yet read How Long ’til Black Future Month?, her short story collection, which I erroneously thought comprised works by other authors that she’d collected and edited. I would have gotten around to that eventually. But it is in fact all her own work, which means I need to get there soon.

I love the action and attitude of these living cities, and Jemisin is an important figure in my lifetime of reading. Can’t wait for more – whatever she does.

Rating: 8 sticky toffee puddings.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

I no longer remember where I got this recommendation, but it was a *great* one.

In the opening pages we meet Mika Moon, a young Indian-born witch living in modern-day England. She was raised by a quickly-turning-over series of tutors and nannies, who were in turn employed by an elder witch named Primrose. Primrose is the keeper of the Rules for witches: in a nutshell, witches live in secret and in minimal contact with one another, because witches together mean too much magical dangerously combining in small spaces. Mika is lonely. As a relief valve for her enthusiasm for witchiness, she releases videos on her YouTube channel in which she brews potions and casts spells: it’s not meant to be taken seriously, of course. So she’s alarmed to be caught out by a strange offer to tutor three young witches at a mysterious estate called Nowhere House.

Mika struggles to balance her own strong desire for companionship, community, even family, and her passion for her work, with her grudging respect for Primrose’s Rules. Three little witches in one space should be very dangerous indeed, especially because (like young skunks!) they’re not yet in full control of their powers. Nowhere House turns out to be magical in many ways for Mika, though. She is just beginning to find the kind of kinship she feared would never be an option for someone like her – someone different – when it turns out there are still more layers of secrets than she’d realized.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is a lovely book. With themes involving outsiderness and the search for belonging, the risks of relating to other people, built families, passion for one’s calling, and every kind of love, it’s a beautiful, affirming study in humanity. Central characters show a nice diversity in age, ethnicity and sexuality. Especially with its realistic, fully-formed child characters, it feels like it wants to be friendly to young adults (such positive messages!), and I was going to classify it as such for nearly 300 pages – at which point there occurred a pretty heavy sex scene, so keep that in mind.

I’d recommend this to anyone – even kids if you’re ready to expose them to sex! – and am anxious to see more from Mandanna. I am so charmed.

Rating: 9 star fragments.

The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin

It’s getting hard to keep track of (let alone rank) the Jemisin novels I’ve read, but this feels like one of the best. I was absorbed by The Killing Moon (book one in this duology), but this feels better still. We’ve returned to the same world, where Hananja is the most revered Goddess in Gujaareh. We’ve kept the systems – for example, Hananja’s worshippers following the four Paths to become Sharers, Teachers, Sentinels and Gatherers; but now, ten years after the action of book one, Kisua rules Gujaareh as an occupying force. Sunandi, who we know from book one, returns as Kisuati governess of Gujaareh; despite her role as occupier, she retains a certain sympathy and understanding for those she rules over, and an uneasy near-friendhip with the Gatherer Nijiri (also returning from the earlier book). Our protagonist is new: Hanani is a Sharer-Apprentice, the first woman to serve on any of the four Paths (the Sisters are an unofficial fifth route of service, but not as respected or formalized in the same way on the Council). Hanani experiences the prejudices and underestimation you would expect as the first woman in her world, but she soldiers on, so to speak.

Both within the city of Gujaareh and outside of it, revolution is brewing. The occupiers’ forces have begun to step out of line, the locals have begun to chafe, uppercaste nobility are angling for advantages, and a would-be prince of the Sunset Lineage has surfaced, living with the nomadic and so-called barbarian Banbarra tribes of the desert. Meanwhile, a nightmare plague (literally – it is spread, and kills, in dreams) is racing through the city, even infiltrating the Hetawa (Hananja’s church). In an unlikely turn, Sharer-Apprentice Hanani is given an opportunity to prove herself through a most difficult trial, which lands her in the desert, in a canyon full of Banbarra tents, and in the company of Wanahomen, heir of the Sunset Lineage.

Wana is a prickly one, and despite the lingering traces of Hananja’s Law and Wisdom in his memory and his heart, he has been with the Banbarra long enough to be quite a cultural leap away from Hanani’s devout obedience to her faith. (Hint: the “barbarians” are in some ways the more enlightened.) The two are bound together by a common goal to save Gujaareh, and soon by shared traumas and a bit of something like chemistry to boot. They will struggle sometimes against each other but often together, both learning about themselves and from the other. They grow into stronger versions of themselves in hopes of saving their shared homeland.

Wana is an interesting and eventually sympathetic (although never perfect) character, but Hanani is the star, followed by other women she meets along the way, including Wana’s mother and his former lover, a really fun one who helps outfit Hanani with Banbarra clothing, ornamentation, wealth and customs. Hanani fears that as the first and only woman in her line of work, any mistake she makes will reflect on her entire gender (isn’t that familiar), but eventually learns that this also means she gets to chart a course no one’s ever known. I love what she does with that.

Reading these two books in proper sequence is a must, and familiarity with the world of the first absolutely enriches the second. This was one of the deepest, richest pieces of fantasy reading I’ve done lately. Only wish there were more.

Rating: 8 polished rubies.

Weyward by Emilia Hart

The stories of three imperiled protagonists across centuries connect in this suspenseful, magical debut about the power of women and the natural world.

Emilia Hart’s first novel, Weyward, glows and glimmers with hidden powers, thrills and danger, a close connection with nature and between women across time. Three distinct stories eventually link to form a larger tale about strength, resilience and love.

Altha goes on trial for witchcraft in the English countryside in 1619. In 2019 London, Kate attempts to escape an abusive partner while harboring a significant secret. And at a grand estate in 1942, teenaged Violet struggles against the limitations of her father’s strict household rules, consumed by an unladylike love for trees, insects and other natural wonders. In alternating chapters, each of these stories deepens. Altha, the daughter of a healer, tries her best to follow in her beloved late mother’s footsteps, helping her neighbors and causing no harm, while dodging the increasingly avid witch-hunters of her time. Locked in a Lancaster dungeon, Altha does what she can to protect herself. Kate flees the city undetected, holing up in a cottage inherited from a great-aunt she hardly knew, but her safety there is tenuous as she plans for an uncertain future. Violet is a tenacious and spirited 16-year-old, but powerless as she is imprisoned in her father’s world; she dreams of becoming a biologist or an entomologist, but cannot even visit the local village. Men in the Weyward world, in all three timelines, are sources of power and abuse, not kindness, but Violet’s loyal brother forms a notable exception.

Each woman must learn about and come to terms with her powers and her connections to the natural world. Violet is passionately entwined with a particular beech tree, with damselflies and weasels, but no one will even tell her her mother’s name, let alone the family history that she senses casts a shadow on her life. Having lost her father at a young age in a curious accident, Kate lives in fear of the birds and insects that most call to her. Altha is reluctant to exercise her full powers, having promised her mother she would be careful. But, she says, “I had begun to suspect that nature, to us, was as much a life force as the very air we breathed.”

Hart expertly weaves together disparate but connected storylines, with leaves and butterfly cocoons and a mountain stream. Her protagonists are strong, but hard beset by the forces around them, even across centuries. Her prose sparkles with wonder and simmers with danger. Weyward‘s atmosphere is compelling, as each plot thread offers suspense. With a momentum of its own, this debut draws readers inexorably to a glorious conclusion that celebrates connectedness and the power of women and nature.

This review originally ran in the February 2, 2023 issue of Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade. To subscribe, click here.

Rating: 7 feathers.

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

First in a duology by Jemisin who we know I love. Like the Broken Earth and Inheritance trilogies, this is set in a world that in some ways resembles our own and in some ways departs from it. We deal with a continent and, mostly, two city-states upon it. One is Gujaareh, where peace is the highest virtue and priority and the people worship the goddess Hananja above all; she is goddess of dreams, death and the afterlife. Gujaareen priests follow four paths, and we spend most of our time with one of them: the Gatherers, whose job it is to peacefully “gather” the final tithe of dreams from a person at the end of their life. (They share this dream tithe with their temple, and it is used by Sharers to heal and soothe other people in a sort of public health service.) In other cultures, it might also be said that Gatherers “kill” people. Ideally, this is done with consent, but not always. So, here is our first cultural relativism. Gatherers are pious, devout priests; they reject the idea that they are killers.

We also follow a woman from the city-state of Kisua. Sunandi is a Speaker, sort of an ambassador, in Gujaareh. She is not a big fan of the system nor of Gatherers, but finds herself thrown into awkward cooperation with some of Gujaareh’s most faithful when she uncovers a plot to drive their two powers into war against each other.

In this novel, I appreciated (as ever) Jemisin’s world-building: the details, like the special kind of stone that is used in dream magic, or the tethers to one’s soul; the pantheon of Sun, Dreaming Moon, Waking Moon, their children, the gods that are worshipped in various city-states, and the kinds of homage and behaviors demanded of Hananja’s followers. I loved that this land – Gujaareh, Kisua and the other powers in between – is multicultural, and their people treat each other with varying levels of respect and make assumptions based on appearance and clothing (etc.) in ways that felt familiar. In other words, Jemisin excels at creating a world that is different and inventive but also makes sense to a reader from this world. Although, I will also say: of all Jemisin’s novels, I think this is the one where the glossary may be most helpful in understanding the story as you go. I wish readers were more aware on page 1 that there is a glossary. Make use of it – it’s an excellent tool, if you find it.

I will head into book two as soon as I can make the time, because that’s how I feel about Jemisin and this world; but I’m also feeling good just now sitting with what I’ve learned. It’s a book with good closure, not merely a book-one-of-two. Strongly recommend.

Rating: 8 ornaments.

The Liar’s Crown by Abigail Owen

Pretty sure I got this one from a Shelf Awareness review, and I found it quite enjoyable. It definitely has a YA flavor, but that’s okay: I was entertained, absorbed, transported. I also learned a new label: it’s marked upper YA/NA, and I had to look that up. NA is ‘new adult,’ so that upper YA/NA takes us through late teens and early twenties, I guess. As ever, your mileage may vary, but I think that rating, if you will, makes good sense. For one thing, there’s not only violence but sexual content. Not graphic, but clear enough.

A brief prologue gives us a few details of the alternate world in which The Liar’s Crown is set. Also, there’s a map! The world is Nova, and there are six continents/kingdoms or dominions with their own rulers. Their names give clues as to climate: Savanah, Tropikis, Mariana, Wildernyss, Tyndra, and Aryd. Following the prologue (the birth of twins, and a blessing and a curse), our narrator is Meren. Her twin sister Tabra is princess of Aryd and will be queen once their grandmother dies. Meren’s existence is a secret; she lives in a city distant from the capital city, visiting her sister in the palace only in stealth. She’s been raised by her grandmother’s twin – also a secret. By tradition and heredity, her family line is ruled by queens with secret twin-sister body doubles, who stand in as queen in times of danger. Meren’s life purpose is to serve and protect her sister; she can have no true life of her own. She’s lucky to have a single friend, Cain, heir to a minor authority figure among the desert’s Wanderers. He does not, of course, know her true identity.

Meren and Tabra are 18 when this story begins, with a quick series of events: their grandmother the queen dies. King Eidolon of Tyndra, whom the girls have been trained all their lives to fear, proposes marriage to Tabra, and sends her a unique gift. Meren goes to her sister’s side, to take her place for the coronation, and to reject Eidolon’s threatening proposal; but then she is kidnapped by a man of Shadows, swept across dominions and into a world she never dreamt existed. Her captor is both terrifying and magnetic. He has surely grabbed the wrong princess, thinking he’s got the true heir to the throne; Meren must continue to play the role of Tabra, but her kidnapper is keeping secrets too. They are each responsible for lives beyond their own. They are in awful danger, and they might be falling for each other.

The Liar’s Crown has mystery and intrigue, magical powers and amulets, strange beasts and frightening environments. Meren is navigating the beginnings of love, romance, and sex – her old friend Cain has just voiced his amorous intentions as the man of shadows comes along. She yearns for her own identity (like any eighteen-year-old) but also feels her responsibilities toward her sister, her family, her dominion, her people. She has her own individual desires and also wants the best for her society. She is caught up in the difficulties of friendships, filial and romantic love – as are we all.

Meren is an accurate teenager, and sometimes feels a bit juvenile, which I guess is where I get that YA flavor I mentioned earlier, but that all feels true-to-life; and these themes are certainly universal. The storyline offers suspense, plotting for good and for ill, unknown intentions, the puzzle of whom to trust… there are battles, new alliances and tragic losses, and there are a handful of brief but well-written and compelling scenes of kissing and one memorable sex scene. This book had me looking forward to when I could snuggle back up with it, and that’s always a win. I smell a sequel, and I’m looking forward to it.

Rating: 7 death worms.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

My third Oyeyemi. She is brilliant and fascinating; her books have a momentum of their own. I am often left with the sense that she is smarter than me, that more is happening here than I was able to grasp. Gingerbread was the novel of hers that I most enjoyed, The Icarus Girl was the most confusing, and this one fits in the middle of the list by both measures.

I am going to keep this summary pretty brief, because there are some good-sized spoilers in the novel. We meet our protagonist, Boy Novak, when she is in her late teens. She has white-blond hair, a face somewhere between ‘harsh’ and ‘fine-boned,’ and a fascination with mirrors. She speaks to other versions of herself in them. She may be lonely. She lives in Manhattan with her father, a rat catcher and seriously abusive, until she runs away at age 20. She takes the last bus of the night to the end of the line, arriving in Flax Hill, Massachusetts in 1953 with few possessions, but she is able to start fresh, making friends, dating, working odd jobs, eventually marrying a man with a craft, a family, and a dear daughter named Snow. Part One is told in Boy’s first-person voice, but Parts Two and Three will shift perspective.

I can go no further with summary. The setting remains chiefly in Flax Hill, with exposition traveling to Boston, Mississippi, and back to New York. Oyeyemi’s characters are completely fascinating; among the secondary characters I love most are Mia, a driven journalist and free-thinker, and Mrs. Fletcher, who runs a bookshop and acts as a bit of a community mentor. Boy, Snow, Bird is concerned with race and gender identity, the true nature of love, family dynamics, damage and forgiveness, sisterhood, motherhood, and national and societal patterns around race and racism. It is billed as a bit of a riff on the Snow White tale, but is not exactly a retelling. There is the girl Snow; there is a stepmother who is (at one point) accused of evil; there is something strange going on with mirrors, and not only for Boy. There is definitely some commentary on vanity, beauty, and the shaping of family by these means. But it strays quite far from the fairy tale. Actually, this would be an awfully interesting one to study alongside stricter retellings. I feel unable to say more.

There are lots of images and concepts that I’m going to keep revisiting. I’m not sure I got it all: not always a comfortable feeling, but certainly a stimulating one. No question, I’m going to continue my study of Oyeyemi. Stay tuned. I do recommend this one, and feel free to come back and explain it to me.

Rating: 7 records.

Shades in Shadow: An Inheritance Triptych by N.K. Jemisin

He does not pay attention to most of what he detects via the dark that is his ears and skin and teeth and guts. Most of it is routine, and supremely boring. Stars–sparkle flare sparkle. Planets–spin shatter spin. Life–chatter chitter chatter. The unutterable tedium of a breathing, beating universe.

This trio of short stories returns us to the world of Jemisin‘s Inheritance Trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods, as well as the novella The Awakened Kingdom). Each story fits into the timeline already established by the larger trilogy, with mostly characters we already know.

“The Wild Boy” featured Nahadoth in the early phase of his imprisonment – the god of darkness kept in a pit in a dungeon – and meeting a young mortal with a grudge against the Arameri. This opening story was perhaps the weakest; the (digital) pages turned easily enough, but I didn’t feel that anything new was revealed about Naha or the world he inhabits. It was just a little extra time spent with him, which I don’t begrudge but didn’t advance anything. “The God Without a Name” was of more interest: Nahadoth’s human double for the spell of his imprisonment coming slowly to terms with his post-Naha identity, the emptiness and lack of purpose, his troubled relationships, and eventually his improvement of these circumstances. Finally, I think “The Third Why” was the best of this triptych, neatly linked again to the second story, so that they connect like links in a chain – not only joined by the Inheritance universe but by characters one to another, from Naha to the nameless god to Glee in this third story. “The Third Why” sees Glee leave her mother’s home to search for her father, whose identity is a spoiler if you haven’t read the trilogy… but if you haven’t read the trilogy, frankly, you will have limited interest in this trio of shorts. So, spoiler coming: Glee goes to find Itempas and travel “with” him (they cleverly circumvent the rule that he must travel alone by pretending it’s all coincidence – this only works, of course, if the other gods willfully look the other way). The development of these two characters and their relationship makes this story the strongest in my view.

On the whole, I think Jemisin’s novels are quite a bit stronger than these shorts. (And recall I really did love that novella mentioned above.) The short story format is truly a different art form than the full-length novel, to be fair. And what Jemisin undertakes here is something particular: a further development of a preexisting fictional world. The audience is necessarily readers already familiar with that world. As a member of that audience, I was pleased – increasingly so with each story, which represents a good choice, I think (better to end on a strong note). I would not recommend readers enter the Inheritance universe here, but those who miss our weird pantheon of gods should be satisfied with the small investment in this e-book only edition (which translates to just 64 pages). I’m perfectly happy to have spent my time this way. I am still more excited to get back to Jemisin’s big, fat, juicy novels.

Rating: 6.5 groundnuts.
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