A Quartet of Shorts

reviewamnestyMy huge plan to catch myself up on reviews during my vacation has gone hopelessly awry, in fact I think I’m even more behind now than I was when I started. Partially that’s because life, but it was also because I read a number of shorter works when we were travelling and they sort of added up. So I bundled a number of them and I present you with a quartet of shorts! 

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jessicalack-superiorJessica Lack – Superior
Here’s the thing about being a superhero intern: there’s a lot less crime fighting than you think there will be, what with the whole liability issue and the administrative headache of constantly monitoring the Heroic Help Hotline. The most action that Jamie sees happens when he is kidnapped by the supervillain of the week–and then waits for his boss, Captain Superior, to show up and rescue him. Again.

On his most recent nabbing, Jamie gets to meet Tad, Terrorantula’s new villainous apprentice. Even though they are supposed to be on opposite sides (or are they?), sparks fly almost immediately. So, when Tad offers to give Jamie much-needed self-defence classes, how could Jamie pass the opportunity to hang out with the coolest (and hottest) guy he knows?

But Tad has a secret–one that threatens the budding relationship between the two teenage sidekicks, and could destroy Captain Superior forever.

I loved Jessica Lack’s Superior to pieces. It has a great voice and Jamie is an amazingly fun protagonist. The concept of after-school jobs as super-hero sidekicks, including the occupational hazard of a kidnapping now and then and having to man the hotline in shifts so much fun. That sense of fun might be the first thing that comes to mind when I think back on this story, but it certainly isn’t the only or most important thing.

I liked the development of the romance between Jamie and Tad, they were adorable. I also liked the hint of darkness in Tad’s character arc. In fact, Tad’s obvious struggle with his past and the way Jamie and his mum include him in their family and what that means to Tad to me was the most touching of the entire story. Terrorantula’s unexpected actions were a cool way of humanising the villain, making this universe not so much a good versus evil place, but one where heroes and villains are two sides of the same coin; they are part of a balanced ecosystem.

My one complaint about this novelette? I wish it had been a novel. I wanted to spend so much more time with Jamie, Tad, Captain Superior and the entirety of the universe Lack created. Hopefully, Lack will return to this world in the future and we will meet our heroes (and villains) again!

You can read Superior for free right now at The Book Smugglers.

stephanieburgis-houseofsecretsStephanie Burgis – House of Secrets
Raised in hiding in the country and knowing nothing of her mother, Lily has been taught from birth that her existence can only bring shame to her wealthy father. But when she nears her seventeenth birthday, she is finally summoned to her father’s house in town…and discovers that everything she thought about herself was wrong.

And now she is a prisoner.

Locked among all the other mysteries in her father’s grand house – including one young man who could be an ally or an enemy – she may finally discover the truth about her own nature…and exactly why her father considers her so valuable after all.

Stephanie Burgis’ short story House of Secrets is a standalone YA story written with the same sensibility of Masks and Shadows–so historical, with a hint of the supernatural, and a big dose of romance. But it is also very much a Gothic story.

It is hard to talk about the story without giving spoilers and revealing the twist, which I loved so hard. The hints at it were really well-placed, because they could point to several different explanations, including a physical or psychological ailment on the part of Lily. I kept wondering whether this would become a sort of madwoman in the attic story, but it ended so differently and wonderfully at that.

nkjemisin-shadesinshadowN.K. Jemisin – Shades in Shadow
From the shadows of the greater stories, away from the bright light of Sky and wending ’round the sagas of the Arameri, come three quieter tales. A newborn god with an old, old soul struggles to find a reason to live. A powerful demon searches for her father, and answers. And in a prequel to the Inheritance Trilogy, a newly-enslaved Nahadoth forges a dark alliance with a mortal, for survival… and revenge.

Return to the world of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in this triptych of short tales.

N.K. Jemisin is one of my favourite authors and I absolutely loved her Inheritance trilogy. So when Shades in Shadow was released, I was so happy to get to go back to that world. I loved the way the stories connected to the three original books and to each other. Apart from featuring characters from the books, the stories also strongly echo some of the larger themes of the books: identity, free choice and self-determination, and how love takes many different forms.

Of the three stories, the final one, The Third Why, was my favourite, even if I have a huge weakness for Nahadoth. In The Third Why we follow Glee, Oree Shoth’s daughter, as she sets out to find her father. I loved Glee and her stubborn determination to find a way around the limitations set upon her father so she could accompany him on his journey of atonement.

For fans of the Inheritance trilogy Shades in Shadow is very much worth the effort of seeking it out, but one shouldn’t read these stories before finishing the books, because they certainly contain spoilers for the main series.

aliettedebodard-booksearthcourtshipAliette de Bodard – Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship
In a Paris that never was, a city of magical factions where Fallen angels mingle with magicians, alchemists and witches…

Emmanuelle is the Fallen archivist of House Silverspires, and only wants a quiet life with her books. But when Selene, the latest student of Lucifer Morningstar, walks into the library, Emmanuelle finds herself drawn in an adventure to steal from another House. It’s a thrilling and dangerous task, but the most dangerous thing about it might just be Selene herself–aloof and resourceful, and unexpectedly attractive…

I fell head over heels for the world of Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen in her House of Shattered Wings. And Emmanuelle, the Archivist of House Silverspires was one of the characters who intrigued me most. Both because she is essentially a librarian and because she is a powerful figure behind the scenes, who doesn’t mean to exert power or influence, but who does so nonetheless. So Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship was a treat as it is all about Emmanuelle. We get tantalising glimpses of her life before she became the Archivist and we get to see her fall — and fall hard — for Selene. Add to that a covert mission to a different House allowing us to see more of the Houses and House life beyond Silverspires and the story couldn’t help but delight me. A short read, I savoured every moment, and it ended far too soon. Also, there was kissing, did I mention the kissing? I can’t wait for The House of Binding Thorns which will be published sometime next year. If like me you can’t wait either then Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship is a great snack to tide you over until then.

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