A Universe of Wishes, Edited by Dhonielle Clayton
Authors featured: Samira Ahmed, Jenni Balch, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton (editor), Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, V. E. Schwab, Tara Sim, and Nic Stone.
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
A Universe of Wishes is a well-balanced and fantastic collection of emotional and thought-provoking stories with excellent pacing as a whole and individually.
I'm in awe of the editor who curated this. Stories with more stressful topics are placed with more relaxing ones between them, but in a way that (for me at least) never felt like mood whiplash. I read this slowly over several days, pausing to let some stories linger in my mind a while longer before moving on to the next one. There's a lot of them, so I've listed one or two sentence reactions with CWs for each. I loved some more than others, but that's just because heists stole my heart long ago and I've never minded since. The whole collection works really well together and while I suppose some other arrangement was possible, this one feels right.
A Universe of Wishes: Funny and sweet with just the right amount of darkness. CW for violence (brief), gore, parental death (backstory).
The Silk Blade: I’m absolutely blown away, this feels like a perfectly chosen snapshot of much longer book. I’d happily read anything in this style, it conveys so much emotion and context in such few pages. I’m dazzled by the ending, my goodness. CW for violence.
The Scarlet Woman: I haven’t read the trilogy that this story is tied to, but it was engaging and I enjoyed it. It’s definitely made to be read in connection with the original series, as it does great job of introducing the characters but leaves a lot unresolved. As a kind of teaser for the main trilogy it’s pretty perfect. Their personalities are obvious and engaging, their dynamic is interesting, and there’s hints at some pretty dark events that happened before (presumably in the novels). CW for sexism (examined), gore, death.
Crystal y Cenzia: This gracefully handles a setup and payoff in addition to the main plot in just a few pages. I had time to notice a story element, forget about it, then have it circle back around to surprise me and be even better. It’s a small thing but I really appreciate it. CW for queerphobia, racism, classism.
Liberia: Gripping and tense, making me quickly invested in the solution to the crisis which dominates the story.
A Royal Affair: A prologue for a series I haven’t read. It definitely feels like it’s best read in connection with the main series, but I enjoyed it. It’s complete and understandable, but its nature as backstory means it packs a lot of trauma into very few pages. CW for homophobia, domestic abuse, kidnapping, confinement, blood, violence, injury detail.
The Takeback Tango: So good that for a few minutes I forgot I was reading short stories and felt like I was about to dive into a long and heist-filled saga. I already knew I liked this author’s writing, but I love the feel of this particular story and I want more. CW for colonialism (backstory).
Dream and Dare: Packing the feel of a slow-burning mystery into a walk in the woods with an uncertain outcome. CW for queerphobia (backstory), ableist language (brief), cannibalism.
Wish: Perfectly balanced between what to show and what to imply about the setting, conveying a story which feels deeply impactful to the characters without getting caught up in minutiae.
The Weight: Plays with the tension and uncertainty inherent in desperately needing a question answered but dreading almost every possible outcome. CW for surgery.
Unmoor: A perfectly wound story of the ragged edges of grief and the lingering echoes of heartbreak. I felt winded just from reading it, the ending is very powerful. CW for memory loss.
The Coldest Spot in the Universe: The end and the remnants, and who carries their stories. CW for mass death (backstory), death.
The Beginning of Monsters: Establishes then reframes possibilities for moving and existing. I love stories like this which convey the way it feels to think about a technical topic one knows well, but without the exact details mattering to the audience. CW for child death (not depicted).
Longer Than the Threads of Time: This fits within the world of some of author’s other books, but it works really well by itself if you’re new to this setting. I hope I meet these characters again because I need to know what happens next, and it feels like there's a chance they'll show up later if the author continues setting books here. CW for imprisonment.
Habibi: A pretty perfect way to end the collection. The story touches on a lot of tough topics and ends in way that teeters between hope and despair. CW for imprisonment, suicide (not depicted), war (not depicted), starvation, death (not depicted).
Clear Your Shit Readathon 2020 prompt: Free Choice