Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman. ★★★★
Brother’s Ruin is the first in a planned series of historical fantasy novellas.
Charlotte Gunn is the daughter of a lower middle income family in 1850 England. Her father barely scrapes by as an illustrator, but Charlotte has her own secret artistic career that she’s using to help her older brother pay for engineering school. Then disaster strikes – Charlotte finds out that her father is in debt and doesn’t have the money to pay and is facing debtor’s prison or worse.
In addition to her own career as an illustrator, Charlotte has another secret – she has significant magical abilities.
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. ★★★ 1/2
Trigger warning: Suicide
Passing Strange is an enchanting tale of queer women and their love in 1940 San Francisco.
This novella begins in the modern day, with an elderly woman named Helen retrieving a piece of artwork she had secreted away in an abandoned building. We soon find that the drawing is the almost legendary final piece of the famed pulp artist Haskel. But what’s the story behind this artwork? The narrative then skips back to the year 1940 and a circle of friends revolving around the lesbian club Mona.
Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter. ★★★★
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this novella by a new to me author, Angela Slatter. What I got was a beautiful if dark tale with a feminist heart. I most certainly need to read more by Angela Slatter.
Mistress Gideon is a witch, and her life in Edda’s Meadow is tenuous at best in a world where witches are regularly killed. When a local and foolish shapeshifter gets herself caught, Gideon finds herself unwittingly involved. And as the authorities are roused to the existence of the supernatural in Edda’s Meadow, Gideon’s life gets more and more dangerous.
Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace. ★★★
Lena and Darren are two down on their luck chefs who’ve been blackballed from most New York establishment. They are contemplating – horror of horrors – moving to Jersey when they get an unexpected job offer from a catering company they’ve never heard of. As they soon discover, Sin du Jour is no ordinary catering company. It’s clientele are the supernatural denizens of New York.
Envy of Angels is the start to a series of novellas. And for better or worse, there’s a lot packed into this little novella. From warring demonic gangs to a heist at an iconic fast food company headquarters, Envy of Angels has it all.
However, the sheer amount of plot lines and the breadth of the cast meant that character development felt scanty. There are so many characters in this novella, but none of them are memorable. It might have worked better for me if it had narrowed the focus and expanded the development of a core cast.
Envy of Angels is one of the more imaginative urban fantasy ideas I’ve encountered. I did enjoy the time I spent reading it, but I don’t think I would ever reread it. I may or may not pick up the sequels. While I liked the central idea, I wished I liked the characters more.
Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire. ★★★★
Trigger warning: Suicide
When Jenna’s sister Patty committed suicide, Jenna blamed herself. She ran out into a rainstorm, overtaken with grief, and tragically drowned. But Jenna died too early, and now she remains in this world as a ghost until she gains the time she needs to reach her death day. Every day she takes from the living gives them one more day of youth, but Jenna sees this as theft rather than a gift. She has vowed to earn every minute she takes, and she does so by volunteering at a suicide prevention hotline. But as the ghosts of New York City start to disappear, Jenna will have to choose whether or not to finally take action.
The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell. ★★★★
The Lost Child of Lychford is a delightful sequel to the fantasy novella, The Witches of Lychford. While you do not necessarily have to read them in order, I would recommend it.
Lizzie, Judith, and Autumn have overcome the forces of evil that threatened Lychford and have each settled upon their own routine. With Christmas arriving, Lizzie, the parish priest, is increasingly busy when she begins to be haunted. The ghost of the little boy who follows her around may be more complicated than a simple ghost. Yet again, the witches of Lychford will have to protect the town and its residents.
Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell. ★★★★
Lychford is a sleepy English hamlet currently divided by the proposal of the addition of a new supermarket. However, dark forces are at work behind the supermarket, and only Judith Mawson, local crabby old lady, knows that Lychford is the key point at the boundaries between worlds… and those boundaries are growing weaker.
However, Judith does not find herself alone in her quest to save Lychford and thus the world. To aid her, she has the help of the village reverend, Lizzie, and the purveyor of the town’s New Age supply shop, Amber. Together, these three women will fight to save Lychford.