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A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology

de Dhonielle Clayton (Editor)

Outros autores: Samira Ahmed (Contribuinte), Jenni Balch (Contribuinte), Libba Bray (Contribuinte), Zoraida Córdova (Contribuinte), Dhonielle Clayton (Contribuinte)10 mais, Tessa Gratton (Contribuinte), Kwame Mbalia (Contribuinte), Anna-Marie McLemore (Contribuinte), Tochi Onyebuchi (Contribuinte), Mark Oshiro (Contribuinte), Natalie C Parker (Contribuinte), Rebecca Roanhorse (Contribuinte), V.E. Schwab (Contribuinte), Tara Sim (Contribuinte), Nic Stone (Contribuinte)

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(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Netgalley. Trigger warning for depictions of homophobic, transphobic, sexist, racist, and colonialist violence, as well as child abuse.)

"In the far corner, more than twice as tall as the others, stood a single cassava plant. Deep green leaves the size of my arm fluttered in the manufactured breeze, and the thick stem dropped ramrod straight to a wide patch of soil all its own. Beneath it spread a tuber-and-root system that arched out of the soil like leaping dolphins frozen in time.
"'Nice to see you again, Nana,' I murmured."
("Liberia" by Kwame Mbalia)

"What makes Dream angriest is that she knows they’re mistaken. It’s why she’s in these woods. She’s going to prove them wrong. About Dare, yes, but also about herself. The townspeople, the suitors, they think of Dream as the dream girl. The dream wife. Pretty, sweet, compliant. Everything Dare was—is—not. But they are incorrect. They don’t know Dream, and they certainly didn’t know Dare. Dream, though, knew Dare. Knows her. Dream knows Dare doesn’t need to be rescued. Not in the least. The monster does."
("Dream and Dare" by Nic Stone)

"The New York Public Library is anything but a fossil. It is a living, vibrant thing, like being inside some time-traveling ship that is also a sea creature."
("The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story" by Libba Bray)

With tales from Anna-Marie McLemore, Libba Bray, Tara Sim, V.E. Schwab, Zoraida Córdova, Nic Stone, and more, this diverse collection of SF/F short stories is, in a word, magical. (I use that word a lot in this review, but humor me.) Anthologies tend to be uneven, in my experience, but A UNIVERSE OF WISHES is solid. A handful of stories are "meh" at worst (that translates to three stars for me), but there are some really marvelous and bewitching pieces in here.

Anna-Marie McLemore's "Cristal y Ceniza" is probably my favorite; no surprise there, since they're one of my favorite YA authors. (Do yourself a solid and read THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, if you haven't already.) Along with Zoraida Córdova's "Longer Than the Threads of Time," "Cristal y Ceniza" is one of two fairy tale retellings (Cinderella and Rapunzel, respectively), and I am nothing if not a sucker for fairy tale retellings.

You'll also find a nice mix of fantasy and science fiction, magic and time travel, monsters and villains (and they aren't always one and the same), along with two short stories set in existing series ("The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story" by Libba Bray and "A Royal Affair" by V.E. Schwab).

Though my expectations were ceiling-high, one thing I didn't expect was how damn flirty and downright sexy things would get. The prose in some of these stories is nothing short of sumptuous. For your consideration (and enjoyment!), may I present exhibits A through C:

"And then, somehow, they were crossing the small distance. The warmth of Sage’s mouth on his was another reminder that Thorn was alive, that he was made up of so many parts, from the wild pumping of his heart to the buzzing tips of his fingers. He felt as if he had been spooled out into the universe only to come back to a body that was lighter and more extraordinary than the one before it." - "A Universe of Wishes" by Tara Sim

"Her eyes are a golden honey brown, barely darker than the sun-warmed tan of her skin. Her round cheeks perch above lips pressed into a lopsided smile. Only her top lip has been painted in a dark berry purple to signify she is unpaired, and I don’t think I have ever been so grateful to see an unpainted lower lip. It is full and pale peach, and I immediately wonder what it would taste like between my teeth." - "The Silk Blade" by Natalie C. Parker

"Rhy furrowed his brow and drew his mouth into a pout, and even though it was a farce, Alucard found himself impacted, wanted to wipe the lines from the prince’s face, to kiss away the crease between his eyes, to make him smile. It was a kind of power, he thought, even if it was not magic." - "A Royal Affair" by V.E. Schwab

Anyway, what follows is a brief summary and rating for each story. I tried my best to keep things vague and spoiler-free.

"A Universe of Wishes" by Tara Sim - 4/5

"[W]ishes were granted only by the dead." When he's caught breaking into a funeral home to harvest magic from the ribs of a corpse, grave-robbing orphan Thorn makes a deal with Sage, the heir to the family business: in exchange for three wishes, Sage must give him free access to the bodies, and help Thorn capture their magic. But is a universe of wishes enough to raise the dead? The titular story features some great world-building, a super-sweet M/M romance - and an ending that promises justice, and hope. Such a lovely and magical start to an equally lovely and magical collection!

"The Silk Blade" by Natalie C. Parker - 4/5

Willador Mayhew is among the best of the best: an elite warrior, she's just one of three finalists competing to be the consort of the Bloom of Everdale. Should she win his hand, her family would be set for life. Willador arrived at the castle hoping to be married - but she didn't expect to fall in love. With lush language and sensuous imagery, Parker upends gender expectations and positively slays heteronormativity.

"The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story" by Libba Bray - 3.5/5 stars

Now living in New York City and attending Barnard College, Gemma is pulled into a supernatural mystery involving two dead Rakshana agents and a missing archaeologist. It seems a new, all-woman fraternity called the Order of the Scarlet Woman is fixing to rule the realms.

While the writing is delightful, I'm afraid it's difficult to fully appreciate this story without having read the Gemma Doyle trilogy. Most of the time I felt like I was missing out on some pretty important backstory, even if Doyle does a commendable job setting it up.

"Cristal y Ceniza" by Anna-Marie McLemore - 5/5

A swoony gif would sum up "Cristal y Ceniza" perfectly, but I wouldn't insult McLemore with such laziness. This is a positively enchanting retelling of Cinderella in which a brown-skinned country girl, with the help of some magical slippers from her local bruja, travels to a neighboring kingdom to crash the Prince's coming out ball. She's not in search of a husband, but amnesty: from the homophobic violence and family separations - la corrección - threatening LGBTQ families in the adjacent lands. Since they've been so supportive of their trans son, at least in public, she's hopeful that the King and Queen will welcome her family as refugees. Never in a million years could she imagine that her bravery would transform the lives of so many like her - or steal the heart of the Prince.

"Liberia" by Kwame Mbalia - 4/5

The young crew of the Liberia carry their ancestors with them, as they travel the 'verse to found the colony of New Africa. Their elders, whose bodies were too old and fragile to make the grueling passage, nonetheless walk beside them: they live in the recordings that give the pioneers knowledge and guidance (and hope!), in the seeds and plants that provide nourishment; and in the hearts of their children. So when the research level of the Liberia is threatened, it's up to Kweku - the ship's seventeen-year-old research officer - to rescue the crew's past, as well as its future. (Imagining Kweku's relatives signing off at the end? Reduced me to a puddle of tears.) This feels like part of a larger, more epic story, one that I'd love to see on the big screen some day soon.

"A Royal Affair" by V.E. Schwab - 5/5

The second and final story that takes place in an already-established universe, "A Royal Affair" is a Shades of Magic prequel story about the affair between Prince Rhy Maresh and budding magician Alucard Emery. Three years after being banished from London, Alucard is returning - and, as his ship brings him closer to the one he loved and lost, he reflects on his star-crossed romance. Sweet and sad, this story stands perfectly well on its own.

"The Takeback Tango" by Rebecca Roanhorse - 4/5

At just sixteen, the Imperium orphaned Vi twice over: first when they conquered her planet, and again when they murdered the pirates who took her in and made her one of their own. Now she's crashing their gala to liberate her ancestors' sacred artifacts from the Museum of the Conquered. But it turns out that she's not the only thief looking for a little justice. "The Takeback Tango" gives a heartrending glimpse into the indigenous experience in the Americas.

"Dream and Dare" by Nic Stone - 4/5

Under pressure to choose a suitor, Dream instead runs away into the woods - the same woods her mother forbid her from playing in, ever since a monster took up residence there a few years back. Dream hopes to succeed where many boys ("pursuers") before her have failed: finding the missing Princess Dare and rescuing her from the monster. Or vice versa.

"Wish" by Jenni Balch - 3/5

A teenage girl with immune thrombocytopenic purpura is stuck in stasis (of a sort) on Vale, a research station in Venus's clouds. Unable to attend school on Earth with her peers, and too young to work on the station, she is adrift. Bored and desperate, she finds a LAMP and eventually summons its genie ("Granter"). Though her wish cannot be filled - there are limits to these sort of things! - Lane does give Ariadne the next best thing: hope. While there are some charming details here - the Granter's amazement over space travel, for example - overall the story didn't quite grab me.

"The Weight" by Dhonielle Clayton - 3/5

A young couple undergoes a procedure at the Heart Scale Center to see if they should stay together when they head off to different colleges next year.

"Unmoor" by Mark Oshiro - 3/5

After Felix's heart is broken, he uses the money he and Arturo had saved for a trip to hire a magiquita. The goal? "Unmoor" his memories of Arturto so that Felix can live his life without being so easily triggered. But is he erasing a piece of himself in the process? Idk, maybe it's because I'm old and bitter, but this seemed a bit of an overreaction for a HS romance.

"The Coldest Spot in the Universe" by Samira Ahmed - 5/5

A thousand years in the future, explorers from another planet arrive on a long-dead earth to study its ancient civilizations (that's us!) and coax life back to the surface. A seventeen-year-old archaeologist, named after a mythic warrior woman, is drawn to her 21st century counterpart, a promising young scientist who saw her world end. This one is positively haunting.

"The Beginning of Monsters" by Tessa Gratton - 4/5

Elir is a young designer who's commissioned to craft a new, male body for Insarra, the King of Rivermouth. But she's got a side mission: her superiors at the College of Dedicated Renovation have recruited her to assassinate the King by sabotaging Insarra's body. The King is suspected of supporting the hope cult, you see, and they simply cannot abide by the cult's recklessness, no matter how noble the cult's goal (namely, improving humanity). Elir's mission goes sideways when she falls in love with the King's only child, Irsu. Also: why have four genders when you can have them all?

"Longer Than the Threads of Time" by Zoraida Córdova - 4/5

Another fairy tale retelling, this time of Rapunzel, "Longer Than the Threads of Time" is equal parts spellbinding, bittersweet, and unexpected. After seventy-five years spent locked in a magical tower, known only to the supernatural creatures that pass through Central Park, Danaë finally gets her first visitor. Fabían is a young brujo with the gift of Sight - which will ultimately prove his downfall.

"Habibi" by Tochi Onyebuchi - 4/5

Two young men - Quincy, locked in solitary in a Californian prison, and Omar, a Palestinian political prisoner - start a magical pen pal correspondence with letters swallowed and passed through their colons. (Weird, yes, but it works.) They find strength in each other - and perhaps more. ( )
  smiteme | Dec 2, 2020 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Clayton, DhonielleEditorautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Ahmed, SamiraContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Balch, JenniContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Bray, LibbaContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Córdova, ZoraidaContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Clayton, DhonielleContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Gratton, TessaContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Mbalia, KwameContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
McLemore, Anna-MarieContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Onyebuchi, TochiContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Oshiro, MarkContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Parker, Natalie CContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Roanhorse, RebeccaContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Schwab, V.E.Contribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Sim, TaraContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Stone, NicContribuinteautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
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