Walking on Knives, now at LT3 Press

I am pleased to announce that my little mermaid f/f novelette, formerly under contract with Torquere Press, will be published by Less Than Three Press. Here’s the Goodreads page, here’s the preview, and below is my summary:

A fairy tale romance based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”– with a happy ending that may not be what you expect.

The little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.

When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…

Lorenzaccio – Alfred de Musset

Lorenzaccio, a heavily fictionalized account of the assassination of Florentine ruler Alessandro di Medici by his cousin Lorenzo, is one of the masterpieces of French Romantic theater. I don’t think, however, that it is an unqualified masterpiece. Structurally, it’s kind of a mess, with characters being established early on and then not showing up again, or alternately with, for example, students who have never appeared in the play being massacred at the end. It’s hard to care about people who we haven’t seen before, and it’s annoying to see interesting characters dropped. The characterization of Philippe Strozzi is hard to follow in terms of the changes he undergoes, and he’s one of the major characters who appears throughout the play.1w-art-086-lorenzaccio-mucha-1896

On the other had, there’s Lorenzo, Lorenzaccio himself (Musset very skillfully uses Italian suffixes and diminutives throughout the play), and the fantastic scene (Act III, scene iii) where he unveils his motivations to Philippe. Lorenzo has taken on a debauched lifestyle in order to get close to his tyrant-cousin and kill him. “All the Ceasars in the world made me think of Brutus,” he puts it. But over the years, he finds his own character deteriorating as he becomes the mask. Moreover, where he once believed in “human greatness, like a martyr believes in his God,” his experience of the world (from an admittedly skewed perspective) has destroyed this belief, and he no longer thinks a republic will be reestablished when he kills Alessandro (Alexandre in the French text). The intensity of Lorenzo’s despair, and his self-asserting decision to kills Alessandro anyway, as a means of maintaining some tie to his former self and challenging the world, make this scene incredibly compelling.

Lorenzaccio was written under the July Monarchy, after a revolution had led, not to a republic, but to a new constitutional monarchy that was backsliding every day. Alfred de Musset wasn’t involved in radical politics–he even lost his government position as a librarian after the next revolution, in 1848. He took the subject of Lorenzaccio from a sketch by his more politically involved lover, the writer George Sand.

But in Lorenzaccio, Musset channels the despair of someone who really cares, but is past hoping for any improvement.


The Olive Conspiracy – Shira Glassman

Book four in the Mangoverse series (I reviewed book two, Climbing the Date Palm, here) represents a marked improvement in Glassman’s writing skills. I didn’t see the ending twist coming and had my feelings skillfully manipulated. This review will not contain spoilers.

Queen Shulamit’s ex-crush Carolina has recently inherited the throne of her own country, and almost immediately, plagues fall upon Shulamit’s country’s agriculture. Is Carolina behind what is clearly intentional sabotage?
To get the bad stuff out of the way: the economic structure of Carolina’s country, a huge factor in the plot, was not terribly clear beyond “stratified society where workers can be physically abused”. I feel like this structure could have been more detailed or more subtly shown.

Also, I noticed that Glassman’s descriptions can be vague, eg telling you that customers in a restaurant chatted noisily instead of showing you eg an absorbing card game and a lovers’ quarrel among patrons. Specificity of detail is what I missed.

The good, however, far outweighed the bad.

Where the villain in Date Palm was a greedy and repressive ruler, the antagonist in this book had much more complicated motivations. In fact, they were my favorite character, even though their positive actions are balanced out by the evil they do, so Shulamit is clearly in the right.

Glassman also resists the temptation to exalt Shulamit’s current happy partnership by denigrating her previous crush–there are good reasons she ended up with her wife instead of Carolina, but her feelings as a teen are also granted respect.

The common thread of these is the increased complexity of characterization and the recognition of competing goods, always a great narrative technique.

Two emotionally powerful scenes stuck out: the burning of an olive grove to slow the blight, watched by the unhappy farmers, and Shulamit’s and Carolina’s big scene together at the end.

I look forward to what Glassman does next.

Code Name Verity prequel- description of The Pearl Thief

So you may have heard that Elizabeth Wein is writing a prequel to Code Name Verity. Below is the description I found on her publisher’s website:

Before Verity . . . there was Julie.

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital with a head injury and no memory of the events that landed her there, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family from the opposite side of the banks, she finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body turns up, her new friends are caught in crosshairs of long-held prejudices. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

In the prequel to Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this thrilling coming-of-age story returns to a beloved character just before she learned to fly.

The Swan Riders – Erin Bow

You may have noticed that I loved The Scorpion Rules. I loved this one too. It doesn’t come out till September, so you will have to wait to get your hands on it, or you could enter the Twitter contest run by the author to get an ARC.

My number one, somewhat idiosyncratic concern with the sequel was that Elián not be made a bad guy, though he often does things that run counter to how Greta does things and the flap copy hinted at violence on his part. Anyway, he remains a wonderful character and very brave, so I was happy. He and Talis even come to a sort of understanding, which is great.

This is very much Talis’s book, maybe even more so than the narrator Greta’s. Talis is the one who learns and grows, on whose choices the climax turns. Greta’s still great, dignified and selfless and clever, but she’s mainly dealing with the consequences of her choice to become AI in the previous book, rather than making new choices. Her big moments are more epiphanies than actions. Talis, on the other hand, is thrust into a brand-new, identity-altering situation, and learns a great deal as a result about what it means to be human, to be AI, and to love, until finally he has to make a choice.26409580

One thing that I think had improved from the previous book was the handling of race– where in the previous book many nonwhite secondary characters didn’t feel right, in this book, they’re more individual.

Some things I loved:
– Greta’s attempts to hang onto her memories and feelings as an AI, even though they risk destroying her. Talis can help her by taking away the memories’ emotional content, against her will if necessary, but as this goes on, Greta becomes less and less the person she was. “I have lost none of the data,” she repeatedly says, revealing how much she has truly lost.
– Sucking chest wound. Nope, not saying anything more about that.
– The scene where they pretend to torture Elián (and for real dislocate his shoulder). It was the right combination of funny, tense, and revealing of both character and plot.
– The complex motivations of the titular Swan Riders

I was a bit ambivalent about the very end, which I will do my best to discuss with minimal spoilers. Greta divests herself of unjust power, which is very, very important, but I’m not sure she has a plan for what comes next. And while it is morally incumbent on her to get rid of that power regardless, I would be happier if she made a plan for how to do so with the least bad consequences.

A side note: Greta is queer, but her girlfriend is off-stage (though a major motivating force) during this book. So don’t go in expecting more Greta/Xie. I think readers of the previous book will enjoy this one (I couldn’t put it down), but it’s important that they have the right expectations.