New York Times bestseller and Hugo, British Fantasy, Romantic Times, and Eisner award-winning author of the graphic novel, Monstress, Marjorie Liu leads you deep into the heart of the tangled woods. In her long-awaited debut story collection, dark, lush, and spellbinding short fiction you will find unexpected detours, dangerous magic, and even more dangerous women.
Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.
Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
This is my first foray into Liu’s work (Saga sits, frowningly, on my shelf unread) and while I can’t say I liked all the stories in this collection, the ideas presented and the worlds created were so incredibly unique and bizzare that I’m now very interested in her other works. I usually review anthologies as a whole because individually reviewing 10+ stories, some merely a couple pages, is difficult. The Tangleroot Palace only has seven stories, all of which nicely fleshed out and ‘full’, so I’ll review these independently.
Sympathy for the Bones – 4/5
- A creepy, Appalachian(?) inspired story about a young girl trained by her grandmother to kill people through voodoo dolls. I enjoyed the overall vibe and MC’s determination to free herself from this vicious cycle of grandmother indoctrinating granddaughter
The Briar and the Rose – 5/5
- A sapphic sleeping beauty retelling, told from the perspective of the beefy sapphic duelist. Big sword lesbian/book lesbian vibes and overall very cute
Call Her Savage – 2.5/5
- A ragged old superhero called to duty one last time, set in an alt-history backdrop where China has colonized the West Coast of America and losing a war to the Brits. There’s a lot of moving parts here and I can see what Liu is trying to do, but this is one of those, would work better as a novella or full length novel stories
The Last Dignity of Man – 5/5
- SadGay™ wannabe Lex Luthor slowly learns to let go of his childhood comic book ideals and learn that he doesn’t need a Clark Kent to be happy. My favorite of the entire collection. CW for graphic descriptions of worms
Where the Heart Lives – 3/5
- A Forest with a Secret story. The concept was interesting but I wasn’t really engaged with any of the characters
After the Blood – 2.5/5
- There were a lot of moving parts and I didn’t understand what Liu was trying to do. Post-apocalyptic, people with superpowers hiding from those without, the Amish are involved in some form? Apparently this is a prequel to one of Liu’s other stories, which is probably why I didn’t understand it.
The Tangleroot Palace – 2/5
- I think this is a very loose interpretation of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, where a young princess, forced to marry a feared Warlord runs away to a forest to do….stuff? Just didn’t like this story in general.
Overall, I rate this collection a 3.5/5. A lot of interesting concepts and I adored The Briar and the Rose and Where the Heart Lives but the rest of the collection was a miss for me.
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
- Five Short Stories (hard mode)
- Published in 2021
- Forest Setting
Publication Date: 15 June 2021
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Format: eBook, ARC
Word Count: ~83,000
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