Also Reading…

November was our first month: Joanna kicked off her fairytale season with retellings of Rapunzel and Tam Lin, while Rachel reviewed sci-fi epic Ancillary Justice and young adult adventure The Walled City.

But sometimes there are just too many books, and too little time to review them all in-depth. And sometimes there are short stories, which are marvellous but too brief to merit a full review. Here’s a quick round-up of everything else we’ve been reading during the first month of Strange Charm.

Threats of Sky and Sea by Jennifer Ellision
This epic fantasy revolves around Bree, who has grown up with her father in a country inn, a life in which she’s always been perfectly happy. When a small group of elementals turn up in the village, hunting a fugitive, she doesn’t imagine it could have anything to do with her — so she’s shocked to discover her father is actually an Egrian noble who can summon the power of the wind. A promising series start, with plenty of action and politics, and a hint of romance.

A & A Salvage by Lucy Kemnitzer
In this sci-fi novella, Elisabeth and Melissa run a rural mechanic shop, tucked away in a peaceful valley. Then a mysterious car turns up, abandoned at the side of the road, driverless and without the mark of any recognisable manufacturer. From its radio comes the music of another world, calling to something in Elisabeth’s soul — as things she thought she’d left firmly in her past come back to haunt her. Brief but compelling, with a believable lesbian couple in the lead roles.

Witch Hunt by S.M. Reine
Cèsar Hawke works for the Office of Preternatural affairs — right up until he wakes up to find a body in his bathroom and the police at the door. Cèsar is an engaging (if not always likeable) protagonist, and the action is non-stop. I was somewhat disappointed by the ending, which was wrapped up too suddenly and with too much deus ex machina for my tastes, but despite that the writing was strong enough that I’d certainly give a chance to the next in the series.

Remake by Ilima Todd
With her remake date closing in, Nine must decide who she wants to be. Male or female? Tall or short? Before moving on from their childhood homes to live in the wider world of Freedom, the batchers must choose the looks, names, and trades that will define their adult lives. But on their way to the remake facility, a plane crash dumps Nine into the sea, and she washes up on an island where people live outside of the controlling system she’s grown up in. Young adult dystopian fare, with a likeable protagonist and promises of a revolution to follow in future books.

Short stories:

Octavia Cade — The Mussel Eater
A man is drawn to a Pania, a sea-dwelling woman, but everything that fascinates him also disturbs him, and he keeps trying to change her.

Amal El-Mohtar — A Hollow Play
Emily feels out of place everywhere: her Middle Eastern family can’t quite accept that she’s queer, but although she lives in Glasgow, she doesn’t want to give up her roots to become less herself. A chance meeting with Persian spirits shows her she isn’t the only one feeling displaced.

Kelly Jennings — Dream Cakes
Ella works magic through the medium of cake.

Nancy Kress — First Principle
Gina is Martian, her body adapted from the form of her human ancestors, the better to live on the red planet. It’s been five generations since the last influx of immigrants from Earth, but David is dying, and when his parents bring him to Mars, Gina is asked to keep him company.

Ann Leckie — She Commands Me and I Obey
In a world where political leadership is determined by the gods, through the medium of a ball game, Her-Breath-Contains-The-Universe is a novice monk who is slowly learning that divine providence doesn’t exclude human politics.

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