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It’s Complicated: Fantasy Novellas with Complex Relationships

16 Nov


Often with fantasy fiction and movies there is the “good” guy and the “bad” guy, but in two fantasy novellas I enjoyed recently, Tread of Angels and Nothing But Blackened Teeth, things are more complicated than that as are the relationships depicted between the characters.

Tread of Angels
by Rebecca Roanhorse

I had written previously about Rebecca Roanhorse’s Between Earth and Sky series so was curious when I was offered an ARC copy of Tread of Angels from the publisher. This story takes place in an entirely different setting from her previous works, in an Old West where the descendants of Angels and Demons reside. For a short work, it brings up a lot of complex issues about race, family, friendship, romantic relationships and what makes someone “good” or “evil.” Celeste, the main protagonist, can pass in appearance for one of the Elect, though she is of mixed descent and also part Fallen. When her sister is accused of murder she must try to find the truth, forcing her to seek the help of her former demon love for whom she still has feelings. The conclusion surprised me but felt satisfying to the story that was being told, which to me is always the signs of a talented storyteller.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth
by Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened Teeth was suggested by one of our Science Fiction and Fantasy book club members for our Halloween read this year, when we pick things that veer into the horror genre. It is set in an old Japanese mansion where a group of childhood friends go for a wedding, where the ghost stories they tell awaken the yokai, Japanese spirits, living there including the Ohaguro Bettari, a faceless bride whose only feature is her black teeth, a style that was popular with wealthy women in the Edo period to show they were married. This isn’t your typical haunted house story and like with Tread of Angels, I and the other book discussion group members were surprised by the ending. Again it is another work that will have you question who the “evil” ones really are. While some of the group members would have preferred the story be a bit longer, we had a interesting discussion about toxic friendships. I enjoyed the lush language throughout, which managed to bring beauty to the horror.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Information and Digital Services Manager

A Dash of History with Your Mysteries: Even Though I Knew the End by CL Polk, Peril in Paris by Rhys Bowen, and Of Dragons, Feasts, and Murders by Aliette De Bodard

9 Nov

Even Though I Knew the End
by CL Polk

I had previously read and enjoyed CL Polk’s novel about witches The Midnight Bargain so was curious to check out their latest novel, Even Though I Knew the End. Even Though I Knew the End is a supernatural noir which takes inspiration from The Great Gatsby and is set in an alternative Chicago in the early 20th century where magic and demons are real and deals at the crossroads bring your heart’s desire for the cost of your soul. The supernatural elements are cleverly integrated and the sweet Sapphic romance as well as a story of reunited siblings was fast paced. If anything, it was over a bit too quickly for my taste, I wanted more of the charming characters and their adventures. It also had probably one of my favorite fictional demons. Lucky for you no soul selling required, you can check out a copy from the library.

Peril in Paris
by Rhys Bowen

Peril in Paris, on the other hand, is a good choice for those looking for a historic mystery with less fantasy of the supernatural variety and a bit more humor. I wasn’t sure now that Georgina was married and pregnant with her first child if some of the adventure in the Royal Spyness might be lacking, but Peril in Paris cured any worries I’ve had. Although I’m always a fan of the capers of the poor yet aristocratic Georgina, this novel was one of my favorites with Georgie encountering such historic figures as Coco Chanel and Gertrude Stein when she visits her friend Belinda in France and assists her husband on a secret mission for Britain. Of course there is also a murder mystery to be solved. Rhys Bowen does a brilliant job of weaving together history, humor, romance, and mystery. Fans of cozy mysteries even those not typically interested in historic settings will be delighted. I received an early copy of Peril in Paris and Even Though I Knew the End for review from Netgalley. Hoboken Public Library patrons can borrow them using the Libby App from eBCCLS.

Dragons, Feasts, and Murders
by Aliette De Bodard

Another quick fantasy/mystery read, the novella, Dragons, Feasts, and Murders is the first in the Dragons and Blades series which spun off from the Dominion of the Fallen Trilogy. During Lunar New Year, the dragon prince, Thuan takes his husband Asmodeus, a fallen angel, home to spend time with family, however, the revelries are interrupted by a murder that Asmodeus can’t resist attempting to solve. The setting is an alternate history Vietnamese inspired kingdom at the bottom of the Seine River in post-apocalyptic Paris where characters have an aquatic creature side to their humanoid appearance, which is depicted in as intriguingly original a way as it sounds. You can also borrow the second in De Bodard’s series Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances from Hoopla.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Information and Digital Services Manager

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