Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.
Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.
I’ve not read any of the author’s novels before but I have enjoyed her Monstress graphic novel series for it’s beautiful art and a host of powerful and brilliant female characters. So it was no surprise to know that this collection of stories too is mostly about women – women who are strong of will and determined to survive. There is a bit of a common theme about magical woods through most of these stories and the descriptions truly gave me chills, as did some of the events which took place. The author doesn’t shy away from showing us the darkness and all of these stories revel in toeing the line between light and dark, letting us to believe what we choose. A very interesting collection, which is even more enhanced by the author’s commentary about why she wrote each story and what she feels about them now.
Sympathy for the bones
Dark and twisty tale about what one woman would do for the sake of freedom, for being relieved from being shackled to someone cruel, and what would she do differently than what was done to her. A bit gruesome, but nevertheless quite interesting.
The Briar and the Rose
A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, this story was a wonderful tale of female agency, finding the courage to survive in desperate circumstances when there doesn’t seem to be any hope, and two women helping each other through the power of their love. Very beautiful writing.
Call Her Savage
Set in an alternate colonial world, this is the story of a powerful woman who was once famous for her strength and exploits in war, but who can only remember the grief and ravages of the time; how she has tried to stop fighting because she couldn’t handle it anymore, but ultimately it’s not always her choice, and circumstances decide what her path forward should be. Interesting combination of colonialism, magical crystals, advanced technology and plain old war.
The Last Dignity of Man
Parts of this story were horrific to read, but the emotions it invokes are even more intense. I don’t wanna give away much but amidst a combo of a tech billionaire who wants to be a comic book supervillain and meet his nemesis, and lots of morally ambiguous scientific experimentation – all I could feel was the desperate loneliness throughout.
Where the Heart Lives
Set in a mystical forest which is described stunningly, this is a bittersweet story of what loneliness does to a person, as well as how experiencing love and family for the first time can make a person strong and resilient.
After the Blood
Set in the bleak aftermath of a pandemic, this was hard to read because of our own reality but it was also interesting to see Amish vampires, and many other supernatural creatures fighting for survival in a very changed world.
The Tangleroot Palace
This eponymous story was more like a novelette than a short story and again had a mystical scary forest, a trapped queen, and a young woman bound to marriage who just wants her freedom but discovers her capacity for more along the way.
PS: Thank you to Tachyon Publications and Edelweiss for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.