I haven’t written a review in ages – nothing I’ve read recently was worth it – but finally, there is a book I want to talk about. Wen Spencer is one of my favorite fantasy writers. Her Elfhome series, which started with Tinker, resonates deep inside me. I love her multifaceted characters. I love her original world building. And this book fits into my love like chocolate fits a cake. Sweet and satisfying.
The book is a collection of shorter works from the author’s Elfhome universe. Some of those works are short stories. Others longer novellas. Still others are as brief as flash fiction or even drabbles. It is like the author wrote fan fiction to her own novels.
Some of them deal with the characters from the novels – their past, their side stories that didn’t line up with the main plots of the novels, and even their character studies. The author’s creative closet, so to speak, which is a rare treat for a reader. As I love most of those characters, my curiosity about them was insatiable, and the book fed it.
Other stories introduce new characters, but their tales are just as fascinating. Most stories in the collection happen in Pittsburgh, an American city stranded by a quantum physics accident in the parallel universe of Elfhome, the planet of the elves. That is where the bulk of the novels take place too.
Pittsburgh is a microcosm, a cauldron of the world’s conflicts and tensions and friendships. Its citizens come from all walks of life, from a hooker to a TV producer. Some are elves. Most are human. All of them are trying to create something better out of the haphazard maze of their lives in the war zone. Because there is a war going on the periphery of all the stories, a war between elves and their ancient enemies, a war everyone knows about, even though they try to live their lives as normally as possible.
However, the main theme of all the stories is not that war but the characters’ identities. Staying true to who you are often takes courage. Sometimes people who love us most are trying to change us, for our own good, of course, and many heroes in this collection grapple with relevant problems. Staying true to yourself, not conforming, takes them along the unexplored paths, the hard paths of being different. I enjoyed reading their stories and, as always happens between me and Spencer’s writing, I want more, even though the book is by no means perfect. It has its small share of glitches, and the writing is not as smooth or as polished as it should’ve been, but overall, it made me happy.
The cover is horrible though, no connection to any of the characters in the book at all.