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Lisa (Over The Effing Rainbow)

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Knight's Shadow: The Greatcoats Book 2
Knight's Shadow: The Greatcoats Book 2
Price: £4.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So when are we getting Book Three?, 14 Mar. 2015
Traitor’s Blade, which was Sebastien de Castell’s debut novel, the first book in this series and one of last year’s standout fantasy novels, left its sequel with quite a lot to live up to – and, as I noted back then, a thing or two to improve on as well. With all of that in mind, Knight’s Shadow was a book I was anticipating quite fiercely.

And I’m happy to report it was thoroughly worth the wait.

Everything that de Castell did well in the first book – the action, the adventure, the high drama, the zinging character interaction and dialogue – is taken to a fresh level here. As with any really good sequel, Knight’s Shadow raises its own bar. That said, what impressed me even more than everything it kept doing right were the aforementioned improvements.

I noted in my review of Traitor’s Blade that the antagonists felt a little less ‘real’ to me than our band of protagonist brothers did; that they were effective but a bit on the overblown side. Now, a good argument might be that when you’re reading a Musketeers-inspired fantasy adventure, ‘overblown’ is never out of the question, and I can accept that. At the time, though, it was something that stuck out to me, and so into the review it went.

Happily, I had absolutely no such nitpicks this time. With the return of Duke Jillard, who I recall mostly as the main source of my nitpickery in the first book, I admit I was a little nervous about the same problem repeating here. But it was not so! Thanks to the inclusion of a meaty (and bloody) little subplot/side adventure/gnarly tangle of whodunitness, the big bad Duke is back in the later half of Knight’s Shadow, and the depth of character that I felt was lacking before is very satisfyingly present and accounted for here. In short, I finally found some sympathy for the power-grabbing maniac I was merely side-eyeing previously. Nicely done.

That said, the turnabout regarding Jillard certainly doesn’t mean that this book lacks despicable villains. Knight’s Shadow was easily twice as long (or close enough to it) as the first book, and not a page of it felt wasted; of course there was despicable villainy, and plenty of it. And oh, how well it was used.

I won’t say much on account of spoilers, but I will say that “the Greatcoat’s Lament” does not exactly involve playful kittens. Yikes.

This story is bigger, darker and full of more violence than its predecessor. Generally speaking, it is not a comfortable read. I swore out loud at it so many times. But my only real annoyance is with the number of times I had to put it down, and by the end… Well. When you get there, I like to think you’ll know how I felt.

So when are we getting Book Three?

Transmuted: Book Six of The St. Croix Chronicles
Transmuted: Book Six of The St. Croix Chronicles
Price: £2.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Sad to see it end, but..., 2 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The final volume in The St Croix Chronicles is by far the best read yet, which is only fitting for a finale. One seven hour reading binge (broken only by the need to sleep) can testify to how easily, and utterly, I fell into this book. I have waited all series long for that experience, and it paid off tremendously. I was shocked, intrigued, overjoyed and heartbroken, and here at the end I can only say that I’m nothing short of satisfied across the board.

Though I may never forgive Cooper for the heartbroken thing.

It’s been noted that before I actually picked up the first book and settled down with this series, I’d mistaken it for something more akin to paranormal romance than urban fantasy – and while I’d say elements of PNR are definitely present, they’re far from being the focus. This is, all told, a story about relationships – but why focus on one when you’ve got a whole family to build? That’s the real bedrock of this story, and I loved seeing it unfold. Cherry has had to go through hell to figure out where she belongs in the world, but however dark the world got she was never in it alone. There’s a message in there somewhere, isn’t there…

On the other hand, this may not have been a flag-waving paranormal romance, but let’s not lie – there is a romance here, even if there isn’t much swooning and fainting involved…

Oh, Hawke. Goodness. *Fans self* I admit, if I was going to take on insane supernatural villains with mad dreams of immortality, I might well consider it for someone like him too. The button-pushing. Cooper does it well. Ahem.

Admittedly, Hawke and Cherry probably caused a lot of their own trouble just on account of not being able to leave each other alone – but then if they’d done that, we’d have much less here to talk about. I love to read about relationships that are actually about forming a partnership and not just about swooning and fainting and ohnoImustn’t, and for all that they butt heads and take FOREVER to actually ‘get’ one another (so to speak) … with these two, it’s worth it. I bought it. All of it. Would buy again.

And the finale. As with the book in general, if you’re going to spend six volumes building up to something, it’s got to be worth it. It’s got to be Big. And again, Cooper nails it. The spectacle playing out in my mental theatre had me on the edge of my seat. There was nail-biting, there was actual yelling at certain people (SPOILER CHECK), and if I hadn’t been holding my Kindle at the time there would’ve been applause.

In the build-up, though, there was also the aforementioned heartbroken-ness. Now here, I can’t say very much because I refuse to spoil things, but … well, this wouldn’t be much of a finale if absolutely everything came up rainbows, would it? And indeed, it doesn’t…

Just trust me. If you’re as invested in this story as I’ve been, you’re going to need tissues.

Damn it, Cooper.

Okay, so, in conclusion… Buy these books. And if you’ve bought these books and are going to buy this one, clear your schedule for a day. Evidence suggests you’ll need it.

Best seven hours I’ve spent sitting still in a long time. Farewell, Cherry and company. You’ll be missed, but I’m bloody glad I didn’t miss out.

The Boy Who Wept Blood (The Erebus Sequence Book 2)
The Boy Who Wept Blood (The Erebus Sequence Book 2)
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm ruined. It's awesome., 2 Feb. 2015
Den Patrick’s done it again.

The Boy With The Porcelain Blade was one of my favourite fantasy books of last year, and for very good reasons. Following this, The Boy Who Wept Blood had quite a lot to live up to. Having now read it, I can say this much – it doesn’t live up to the first book in this series. It surpasses it.

The damn thing made me cry, people.

In a well-played switch of character POV, there is (mostly) no sign of Lucien this time around. Instead, as the title and the synopsis suggest, this story belongs to Dino, who was just a boy the last time we saw him. Here, he’s doing a lot of growing up. This means having to deal with a lot of what Lucien had to, in a way. As Demesne’s new master swordsman and bodyguard to its new queen (Araneae/Anea), he has a great deal of responsibility. It also means he’s got a whole world of problems, as indicated by the scene upon which the book opens – someone’s trying to kill her. Cue swordfighting and snark – two of my favourite things, and written here delightfully well. As standards set for the rest of the book go, this is a pretty good one, and it only gets better.

In other less swordfighty areas, the kind of growing up that Dino has to do involves, shall we say, appropriately adult activities, and this is where the real emotional punch of this story swings from. I can’t and indeed won’t give too much away there, but the matter of Dino’s struggles with self-belief and the unavoidable nature of his feelings for a certain someone (I will leave the name out lest I get spoilery) is handled in a way that’s both frank with the facts, yet carefully, thoughtfully done. It’s a hit for me, and an important one, so well done there. (That said, I suspect it’s going to be a good long while before I can look at roses without getting teary-eyed.)

I mentioned that Lucien is largely absent from this chapter of the tale, and while this is true, I find it intriguing to think that he still maintains a sort of presence in Demesne. For much of this book, as with the first, his importance in Dino’s life is undeniable. He may not be there to be looked up to anymore, but nonetheless he permeates the book as a ghost of sorts. He might have gotten out of the hell he grew up in, but I spent much of this book suspecting that there were some people he left behind who still consider him (and what he did) to be dangerous, even as Dino still admires him. It was interesting food for thought, even if it’s only on my own part…

But, we were talking about Dino, weren’t we? As with the previous book, there is not much here to be happy about, generally speaking. There is still plenty of danger lurking, and nobody is safe from it. This is an idea that Den Patrick apparently takes quite seriously, and while it’s one that can turn me off if it’s overused (looking at you, Game of Thrones), it’s also one that I find immensely satisfying when it’s done right, and by that I mean remembering that little thing called balance. There might not be a happy ending, exactly, but there is always hope.

I might be emotionally ruined, but damn it, I’m still hooked. Maybe February is early days for saying this, but to hell with it. I just found one of my favourite fantasy books of 2015.

The Card Sharp: A Vestigial Tale (Vestigial Tales Book 4)
The Card Sharp: A Vestigial Tale (Vestigial Tales Book 4)
Price: £2.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Short and sharp, one more for Drystan fans!, 15 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This last story in Laura Lam’s ‘Vestigial Tales’ collection was one I’d especially been looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint me. Ever since picking up her first novel, Pantomime, I’ve been fascinated by the character of Drystan. With this story, along with ‘The Snake Charm’, I get what I’ve wanted from the get-go – more of his background. That said, now I want even more!

Taken on its own, this is a sharply paced novella, as lean and immediately intriguing as the rest. Set before the events of Pantomime, it shows us how Drystan met the magician Jasper Maske, and gives us another look into who he was and what his life was like before Micah Grey came into it. Aside from cranking my sympathy for him up another few notches, it left me with the distinct impression that Drystan isn’t someone to cross lightly – not because he’s especially volatile; he isn’t, but he is sharp, and as the events in this story prove, also more than a little devious when he feels the need to be. Without getting into book spoilers… let’s just say I really want to see what that sharp mind can achieve when (if?) we get book three in this series.

Prayerful pause: please gods, let there be a book three. *Sacrifices cake*

So, yes. This is another tasty little bite (damn, shouldn’t have mentioned cake) of story goodness from a world I love, with a character I can’t get enough of. It isn’t perfect, for me – there was a time or two where I thought a little more detail wouldn’t have gone amiss, generally speaking – but all in all, it’s another hit. Laura Lam is stupidly good at this sort of thing, you should be reading her stuff, and now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find cake…

Engraved: Book Five of The St. Croix Chronicles
Engraved: Book Five of The St. Croix Chronicles
Price: £2.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Swoonworthy!, 29 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Note: the review below will likely contain mild(ish) spoilers for previous books. Proceed with caution if you haven’t read them yet!

There is nothing in the world quite like finding a series you love absolutely. Better yet is finding one that immediately feels like sitting down with a familiar story, told often and well, yet which still manages to surprise and make you think things over. I’ve done just that with Karina Cooper’s Cherry St Croix series, and the more I think it over the more impressive it gets.

Sometimes the point of including a book in Rewriting the Script is to highlight the ways in which it immediately, obviously stands out from the crowd. In terms of urban fantasy, though, this is perhaps not one such series – at first glance, anyway. Female protagonist, flaws to overcome, mysteries to solve, peril to survive. Throw in the steampunk flavouring and you’ve got something that might sound an awful lot like The Usual.

Not so, and if you pick it up and read it you’ll see why. Cooper’s subversion of those tropes is kind of a quiet one, but the end result is a wonderfully fresh approach to urban fantasy – and, though that element is less dominant story-wise, to romance. For there is an underlying romantic entanglement powering Cherry’s goals, particularly in this book, but overlying it is not her need to be with her man, which might well shift focus from her to others, but her own personal development. Her struggles with opium addiction, handled so harrowingly well in the previous book (Tempered), dealing with hard truths about her family, and her unsuccessful attempts to find a place for herself in London’s high society, have seen her find rock bottom. With this book, she’s finding her way back at last, and by the end she’s finally able to start looking forward…

This is also the book where certain shrouds of mystery start to lift. One of those impressive aspects I mentioned is Cooper’s handling of the info-dump – and by that I mean that I don’t recall a single one. Like Cherry, we’re put in a position of having to persevere to get the answers we want, particularly where Micajah Hawke and the Karakash Veil are concerned. In there somewhere are our bad guys, that much is clear – but the who, the why and especially the how are the breadcrumb trails by which Cooper keeps us on the path through her wonderfully dark and creepy forest.

And it is dark indeed. There’s magic and mythology here, though that vein still mostly remains to be mined, but we’re starting to see just how dangerous the Veil really is. There is much more to Hawke than met the eye at the beginning as well, but as Cherry starts to really find her feet and understand her own motivations, that lifting of the mysterious shroud extends to the former ringmaster. He and Cherry have been at odds from the beginning, but nonetheless, here’s that romantic entanglement I mentioned, and … Well. Let’s just say that’s the other reason I’m so impressed with Karina as a writer.

I consider myself less than interested in romance as a genre, in general. I certainly don’t read urban fantasy for that element. And yet here I am, fanning myself and hanging on quite happily to find out What Happens Next, for them as well as with the Veil, or Cherry’s (mis)adventures in alchemy.

Therein lies another reason I love her as a character, in fact. Until now, Cherry has seemed to come across much of the information she gains by accident, or through sheer bull-headed stubbornness. She simply refuses to give up, and occasionally also to listen to reason. That said, this story would probably have ended long ago and been far less interesting if she had done so. Instead, what we have is a protagonist whose story is less about what others are doing to her, and more about what she’s doing to herself. The alchemy lessons, the drug abuse, the relentless throwing of herself into danger for Hawke – she really is lucky to still be alive at this point, and here is, I think, where she starts to really see that. Cherry has reached her turning point, and while she’d never have done it without that unbreakable stubborn streak, she is perhaps starting to see that she couldn’t have done it alone – and that she can’t. This is one more reason I swoon over her relationship with Hawke, and over this series in general. Can’t wait to see how it all ends.

Yes, I admit it. I found books I’m willing to swoon over.

Damn it, Cooper!

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (Fall of the Gaslit Empire Duology)
The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (Fall of the Gaslit Empire Duology)
by Rod Duncan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clever, enjoyable refreshment of a book, 17 Sept. 2014
The more I think on it, the more I realise how much I enjoy a good start to a promising series, whatever the genre. The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter is one such good start.

This is a clever little book. The premise, at least on the surface, might sound somewhat familiar – girl chafes at societal restrictions, girl dresses as boy and takes on quite scandalous profession, girl gets into spot of adventurous bother as a result. Now, I’m not saying I have any problem with this, because such a story in the hands of a capable writer can be well worth the reading time. Rod Duncan is, I suspect quite strongly, one such writer – because this book is more than just adventurous steampunk fluff. There is an impressively mapped world within this book; his alternate history angle isn’t just there for pretty decoration, but rather it raises some interesting, thought-provoking points about the potential effects of separation upon a formerly united nation (*looks very, very pointedly at UK current affairs*). Duncan takes these thoughts and the possible logical outcomes and sets a very intriguing, peril-ridden scene for our heroine – who is herself not your typical fluff dispenser.

Elizabeth Barnabus’s motivation for the double life she leads seems, at least on the surface, to be pretty straightforward – she has debts to pay, and in her alter ego as her ‘brother’, she intends to earn the money to pay them. Naturally, things don’t go according to her plan. Amidst all the danger and intrigue, however, there are some interesting relationships forming for her. Julia Swain (a would-be investigator herself) and her family represent a good, clean, wholesome alternative to the path Elizabeth chooses, even if they don’t remain blind to the trouble she ends up in. This eventually makes things pretty interesting for Elizabeth and Julia…

…But therein lies mild spoiler territory. Ahem. This way, ladies and gents…

There is a lot of setting-up being done in this book, which tends to be pretty much inevitable for any first entry to a series. What makes this one stand out among them is the consideration that’s gone into building this world. The divide between the Kingdom (south of the border, which in this case runs through Leicester) and the Anglo-Scottish Republic is, by this point in Duncan’s fictional time, pretty vast, culturally speaking. It’s worth tipping a hat to the author for the thought he’s put into making this world he’s built matter to the story, though at this point in our own time I suspect that taking it too seriously is a course best avoided…

But let’s not dampen the mood. As I said, this is a clever, enjoyable refreshment of a book (there’s a twist involving the title that I’m quite pleased to admit I didn’t see coming), and any fan of adventure, intrigue, steampunk or all three should certainly give it a try. I’m definitely glad I did, and I’ll be happy to return to the series for book two. Huzzah!

The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1
The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1
by Kameron Hurley
Edition: Paperback

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One to pay attention to..., 26 Aug. 2014
I’ve read epic fantasy before. I’ve read some good epics, some not so good, and I’ve read some truly amazing ones. Kameron Hurley has written something that, while still belonging firmly in that category of fantasy, is unlike anything I’ve read before. From start to finish, there is the definite sense that Kameron has written the epic fantasy that she wants to read – and while this is probably not a new tactic by any means, what she’s also done is write the kind of epic fantasy that we need to be reading.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying this book is perfect. It’s not. But in light of everything that I think Kameron does right with it, these flaws ultimately strike me as minimal, and indeed fixable. I went in with a lot of anticipation, and I must admit I’m coming out again with … well, more of the same, only keener, where Book Two is concerned.

I will now attempt to explain! *Clears throat*

From the word go, there are two things you need to be doing as you read The Mirror Empire. You need to have an open mind (no really, you need to throw those mental doors wide open or this book is not going to fit) and you really need to be paying attention. The world(s) that Kameron brings us into are vast, and they are complicated – to say nothing of the characters guiding us along the way. If you’re looking for popcorn entertainment or More Of The Same, you need to stop and turn back right now. Otherwise, yeah. Be paying attention.

There is a lot of information to take in, and quite the mental balancing act to be done before everything clicks into place and you really settle into the story here. To be absolutely fair, this might just have been me – it may well be easier than that for others, but these are the things I have to judge it on, and indeed the things I’ve been a bit critical of. There were a couple of times, early in the book, where I wasn’t sure if I could pull off that balancing act. Then again, I reached the end of the book and I’m here telling you that you need to read it, so that tells you as much, if not more, about what I thought of it all…

Let’s move on to the actual worldbuilding. Because seriously. It is spectacular. From the bloodthirsty plant life to the over-arching, perilous inevitability of the portal magic that gives The Mirror Empire its name, nothing about this world is less than dangerous, or less than impressive. And it is diverse! There, we’re getting into a big reason why this book matters. I’d happily believe the theory that Kameron Hurley is pathologically incapable of writing More Of The Same, and it’s freaking awesome to behold her results. As I said before, this feels like the kind of story that she’d want to read – and if this is true, then she’s got bloody marvellous good taste.

She is not easy on her characters. Big disclaimer, right there – they are put through the wringer time and again. (Anavha. Jesus, Kameron. ARGH.) As with any good approach to characterisation, though, it’s the conflicts and the dangers they face that really highlight who these people are, and pave the potential roads they’ll go down. I mention Anavha, specifically, here because for me he’s the most interesting character featured. If you’ve read the book, you probably know of what I speak. If not… Pay attention to him. Keep that open mind. Do this, and I think you will understand exactly what I mean when I say this book is important. And if his story isn’t ultimately vital within the larger scheme of things, I’ll be sorely disappointed. (In other words, Hurley, if you pull a GRRM here* there will be fan-rage. Possibly also book-throwing.)

As with just about any first book in an epic fantasy saga, however, this is the one where the plot threads need to be spun out before the weaving begins, and this achievement is indeed unlocked, but if I can nitpick again here for a second, it also kind of hits that first-book hurdle of being the one that needs a bit more polish. I love this book and the setup for future epic-ness that it leaves us with, but as I said before, it is by no means perfect. On the other hand, I try not to ever expect perfection. Just a story worth reading – and Kameron gives us that in spades.

So, there it is. The Mirror Empire isn’t flawless, and may have gotten off to a slightly shaky start, but I am thoroughly invested in where Kameron Hurley is going with this. Any fan of truly diverse, truly epic fantasy should be as well – this one has a lot of potential to change the game, and I sincerely hope that it does. Ready or not, fandom…

* I say this out of respect and admiration. Honest. Oh god, now I’m scared.

The Fisherman's Net: A Vestigial Tale (Vestigial Tales Book 2)
The Fisherman's Net: A Vestigial Tale (Vestigial Tales Book 2)
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet!, 14 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The second of Laura Lam’s Vestigial Tales short stories is considerably shorter than the first (The Snake Charm), but is just as well-told.

The story itself is pretty simple, and is as the blurb says – but what impressed me were the aspects it leaves out. The style of the story, for one – it’s written very much like a classic fable, which alone makes it stand apart from its predecessor. It’s a nice touch that doesn’t attempt to milk too much out of a story that’s better left as short and punchy as it is.

Another thing I loved was Laura’s description of the Chimaera sea maiden that the fisherman catches. No sweet and pretty Disney mermaids here; this is a creature that’s clearly enthralling to humans, but has that edge of something dangerous that makes it a better idea to leave them the hell alone. You know, if one is smart enough to take the hint…

Also, I’m really enjoying the exploration of various types of Vestige to be found in this fictional world from the Pantomime novels. These magical gadgets have fascinated me from the start, so having this as the common element, if you will, in these short stories is pretty pleasing to me.

Bring on the next one – and, hopefully one day, a print collection… *Goes off into a bookworm daydream*

Devourer of Souls
Devourer of Souls

4.0 out of 5 stars Good solid horror, one for Stephen King fans, 4 July 2014
This review is from: Devourer of Souls (Kindle Edition)
Being a long-time fan of Stephen King, I found it pretty hard to resist agreeing to review this book after I read that blurb, up there. Creepy horror in a small town has ticked my boxes since I was a teenager being seriously freaked out by It (and I suspect that explains a thing or two), so this was a bit of a no-brainer…

…And it pays off, I’m happy to say. The comparison to King is more than passing speculation, and Kevin Lucia clearly has a knack for writing creepy atmosphere into his stories.

Devourer of Souls appears to be an account of two stories within one book, though really it’s more like three stories. There are the two being recounted (see above) – one through a journal entry that is all that seems to remain of its writer, and the other through the recollection of one of the men reading it – and there’s the quieter background story of the narrator and his journal-finding friend, which frames the two. It’s that third story that really interested me, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The first of the stories is, to my mind, the stronger of the two. Sôphân is the written account by a man who’s gone missing of What Really Happened to a local boy who went missing years before. I won’t spoil it with detail, but the ‘confession’ (not a word chosen entirely randomly; the finder of the journal is a priest) both sheds light on one strange disappearance and simultaneously leaves a big old question mark hanging over the second – obviously, with its writer having gone mysteriously missing, there’s no actual resolution here. All we can do is wonder…

The second story, The Man In Yellow, has a bit more of the Lovecraft vibe about it. This time it’s more overt horror, a bit more on the side of shocking than subtle creeping, though it’s still effective. This one’s told by the priest, Father Ward, who finds the journal detailing the first story, and it ties the whole thing back into the third story in this book. The story of what these two men decide to do with what they know, and how they handle it.

Ha, you don’t think I’m going to give that away, do you? Nah.

But I will say that the overall story’s ending was a nice little thinker. There’s no dramatic posing of heroes here – though if you’ve taken that Stephen King comparison all the way to a conclusion you probably already guessed that. Kevin Lucia spins a couple of nicely creepy horror stories into a yarn that I’m still picking at and unraveling days after having finished the book. And that is a job well done. My only (small) complaint is a nitpick within the writing itself; there’s a bit of repetitive phrasing that kind of glared within the narrative, and that kind of thing tends to be a nuisance to me. All in all, though, it wasn’t bad enough to spoil my enjoyment completely. If you can overlook those little things, and you’re looking for good solid horror to enjoy, then I’d recommend this one, easy.

Apex Magazine Issue 61
Apex Magazine Issue 61
Price: £2.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent stuff!, 4 July 2014
I just want to take a moment here to apologise to my poor abused TBR…

*Adds more names/stories to the list*

Okay, first up is the fiction. I enjoyed all of the stories in this issue; “Soul of Soup Bones” and “Cape To Cairo” in particular are intriguing and instantly engaging. They strike me as having a little similarity, in that both narrators of these stories are searching for something – but while “Cape To Cairo” sees Alice, an introverted traveller, nervous about her journey’s end and uncertain of what she’ll find there, “Soul of Soup Bones” follows a protagonist who’s more impatient than nervous about achieving her goal (seeking the knowledge of a learned necromancer by locating his bones and summoning his ghost). I should also note that both stories left me nearly swearing – I want to know what they found!

Or do I…?

Then, there are the reprinted stories in this issue – “The Faery Handbag” by Kelly Link and “Harry of Five Points” by John M. Ford.

Both of these stories are kind of no-brainer, of-course-I’d-love-them deals. “The Faery Handbag” – okay, if you don’t know or at least suspect I’d love a story like this one, then hi, have we met? For those who haven’t discovered this little gem yet, it tells the story of a community of ‘underhill’ folk (the eponymous faeries, naturally) who survive a natural disaster by relocating to a magic handbag made from the skin of a black dog. Where you go when you enter the bag depends on whether or not you open the handle the right way. It’s passed to an elderly woman’s grand-daughter when she dies, but (d’oh!) said grand-daughter loses it… It’s a simple story, but really effectively told – I love these faery-story tropes, and they’re used marvellously well here.

Going a little more into surprise territory, there’s “Harry of Five Points”. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a poem (play? Work of short fiction? All three? What the heck is this who cares it’s fabulous) that reads like Shakespeare observing gangsters in New York and French ‘dames’ learning English (to hilarious effect, by the way, even if you don’t speak French). Words cannot express my nerdy joy at finding this thing. This beautiful, ridiculous thing. Just… Ugh!

So! Once again I’m finding wonderful jewels of unexpected awesomeness thanks to Apex Magazine. They need to stop doing this to me*.

*They should never stop doing this to me. Don’t listen to me. Check this out. It’s AWESOME.

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