Title: A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology
Author: Dhonielle Clayton & more
Genre: Fantasy/Short Story/Collection
Synopsis: In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.
AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, Victoria Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone, and a to-be-announced debut author/short-story contest winner
Review: This review will be similar to my other short story collections; I will be reviewing each story individually and then the collection as a whole. As a massive fan of fantasy books especially YA fantasy I was excited to see what some of my favourite YA fantasy authors had in store for me.
A Universe of Wishes by Tara Sim
A Universe of Wishes takes place in a city called Rastre where wishes can be made but the magic has to be harvested from the dead. We are then introduced to Thorn who is a street urchin, like Aladdin who has been robbing graveyards in order to harvest magic but now decides to break into an undertaker’s instead as it is less work for him. However, during the act of harvesting he is caught by Sage, the owner of the undertaker’s and he refuses to let Thorn go without an explanation. Thorn doesn’t believe that Sage is going to believe him, but he does after a demonstration and Thorn proposes that Sage lets him harvest magic and in return, he will give Sage three wishes.
Sage and Thorn spend a lot of time together where they eventually become closer even sharing a kiss when Sage accidently wishes to know who Thorn really is and the magic forces him to speak even though he doesn’t want to. He recounts a heart-breaking tale of how his parents discovered magic and wanted to share it with the world, but they were killed before they could, but he managed to escape and has been collecting wishes even since to try and bring them back without success. IN the aftermath, Thorn/Rowen flees and goes back to graverobbing only to be caught, Sage appears at the right moment making his final wish which changes everything. A Universe of Wishes is definitely a story I’d like to see in a full length novel, and it has opened my eyes to Tara Sim’s writing, and I will definitely be reading her books in the future.
The Silk Blade by Natalie C. Parker
The Silk Blade takes place in Everdale as Willador Mayhew is competing to win the hand of The Bloom of Everdale essentially the Prince. In this world there is no real difference between the genders as women like Willador can be more masculine and men like The Bloom can be more feminine and in addition to this both men and women are competing for The Bloom. Three competitors have made it to the final stage, one man and two women and Willador meets her female competition and finds herself instantly attracted to Arabeth “Rabi”. In the final challenge all 3 are given a vase with a flower to protect while the other two competitors attack them. While Rabi and the male competitor have their vases broken, Willador manages to protect hers meaning she has won the hand of The Bloom but she is torn since she wants to accept it for her family but she knows The Bloom would never have her heart. While the concept seems interesting to me it reminded me of two books I have read with polarising opinions. On the one hand, it reminds me of Empress of All Seasons which I loved and Girls of Paper and Fire which I hated, but I would be interested to read more from this universe.
The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libba Bray
I haven’t read anything in the Gemma Doyle universe, so I was worried going into this story that I wouldn’t really understand anything since it takes place in an existing universe of Libba Bray’s. My suspicions about this story were correct, I have never read the Gemma Doyle series and I didn’t understand half of what went on during this story. I know there is a murder mystery element to it but everything else, the characters and the fantasy elements just didn’t come together for me because they references characters and events that happened in other books, I haven’t read so that was a disappointment. Let me know in the comments if I should pick up this series.
Cristal y Ceniza by Anna-Marie McLemore
Cristal y Ceniza is my favourite story so far in the collection as it is a Cinderella retelling with a twist. We are introduced to the protagonist who lives in a world where same sex couples are being separated and married off to the “appropriate” sex and her mothers live in fear that she will be taken from them and they will be separated from each other but there is hope as the royal family are holding a ball for their transgender son. At the ball, they meet and end up making a connection when she is propositioned by a rich woman to vanish at midnight so her daughter can “comfort” the Prince and she agrees. However, when she attempts to flee her magical slippers stop her so she can witness the same girl kissing another girl and returns to the ball to plead her case to the King and Queen where the decision is handed to the Prince who helps her and travels home with her to inform her parents of the good news. The representation in this story is flawless especially regarding trans men and things like binding and I would love to see this a full-length novel in the future.
Liberia by Kwame Mbalia
Liberia was a story I didn’t really get completely but I understood the concept of it. We are introduced to Kweku aboard the research vessel Liberia heading to the new colonies and the only people aboard are the young, people under 18 as they are the only ones who can survive the journey. This means everyone left behind family, but they are charged with protecting the plant life aboard as it will be the basis of the colony’s food supply. When the ship is damaged, Harry, the Captain orders Kweku to leave the plant behind but it isn’t possible and they do everything they can to save the plant, however, the end makes it seem like Kweku didn’t survive but it is ambiguous.
A Royal Affair by V. E. Schwab
V. E. Schwab is an author I have a love/hate relationship with as I loved City of Ghosts, but I didn’t really like A Darker Shade of Magic and I didn’t finish the Archived series, so this is going to be interesting to read. However, there is a warning at the beginning of the story about it contains the beautiful beginnings and tragic end of the affair between Rhy and Alucard which seems like it might hold spoilers for the rest of the series which I haven’t read yet so I decided ultimately to skip this story until I have finished the Shades of Magic series.
The Takeback Tango by Rebecca Roanhorse
The Takeback Tango was another story that had real potential to be a full-length novel. We are introduced to Violet “Vi” as she is heading to the Museum of the Conquered to steal artefacts from her destroyed homeland from the Imperium. However, during her scoping out of the place she is interrupted by a boy who also turns out to be a thief and helps her steal back the sacred artefacts before getting arrested to allow Vi to escape. Nearly six months later they meet again, and he introduced himself as Valerian and wants Vi to be his partner in stealing the jewels belonging to the Empress of the Imperium and she agrees. It was a short wholesome story with a surprising amount of rich storytelling and worldbuilding in such a short space of time.
Dream and Dare by Nic Stone
Dream and Dare was another story that I greatly enjoyed as it follows a girl called Dream who has interests that are much more suited to boys and is brought down because of it. However, we learn that Princess Dare who a woman who dressed like a man and disappeared before her 14th birthday and people have been looking for her ever since even if it is to only win her hand in marriage. When the story begins Dream is sneaking away to find the Princess as she has been following her for years and understands the meaning behind the monster in the woods. The ending of this story was beautiful and adds a nice twist on the Beauty and the Beast retelling.
Wish by Jenni Balch
Wish was a futuristic retelling of Aladdin which I found really interesting. We are introduced to Lane who is a Granter (read as Genie) as he is summoned but when he arrives at his destination he meets Ariadne on Venus and she has no idea how the process works which is strange to Lane as the previous Wisher should have told her what she needed to know. Ariadne gets Lane to explain the process but realises he cannot heal her of the illness that means she can’t return to Earth like other children so he decides to bend the rules and takes her to Earth but it only lasts a few moments before they are transported back to Venus. While Ariadne is unconscious Lane decides he is going to stick around for a while even if it is going to be a problem for him.
The Weight by Dhonielle Clayton
I have read the Belles but this author and loved it and The Everlasting Rose is on my TBR for next year, so I was really excited to read her short story. The Weight actually turned out to be far more than I was expecting. In the Belles Clayton looks at beauty and, in the Weight, she looks at love. We are introduced to Marcus and Grace a couple who have gotten an appointment at the Heart Scale Center where their love for it each can be measured. It goes through the process and the differences in the loves between Marcus and Grace, their old loves, new loves, current loves and much more but after they awake both are nervous about the results but as they come in, they only look at each other. While the ending was left open, I did really enjoy it and would love to see the themes expanded upon.
Unmoor by Mark Oshiro
I haven’t read anything by Mark Oshiro in the past, but this story is genuinely making me reconsider. It reminded me a lot of Adam Silvera’s writing as it follows Felix who is going through the Unmoor process. It is a magical process that allows people the unmoor memories from specific locations, the memories are still there but they don’t come forward everything the person enters a specific location. Felix is steadily unmooring all the memories linked to his and Arturo’s relationship since Arturo was cheating on him. However, at the final location, Arturo is also there, and Felix begs for the spell that completely erases a memory and it is given to him making him forget Arturo but at what cost.
The Coldest Spot in the Universe by Samira Ahmed
The Coldest Spot in the Universe was an interesting story, but it took a while to come together. The story bounces back between June 21st, 2031 and 3027 and it follows two girls. The first girl in on Earth as she witnesses the Earth rising up against them in the form of an ice age but we also get the perspective of another girl coming from another world to study the now reanimating Earth and collecting the stories of those that died there. We get to hear the final words of the final survivors of Earth as their lives come to an end even as she is searching for the cause and cure of the ice age but time is against her as the girl from another world learns her story and promises to carry it with her and not to forget what lead them there in the first place.
The Beginning of Monsters by Tessa Gratton
The Beginning of Monsters was a story I didn’t really understand despite it being one of the longer stories in this collection. We are introduced to Elir, a design from The College of Dedicated Renovation who has been hired to craft a male body for Lady Insarra because she is tired of being a woman. Throughout the designing process, Elir begins a relationship with Lady Insarra son, Irsu but he is a member of one of the warring cults and friend with the leader Lady Insarra has asked her to kill and the story ends with the cult rising and a final interaction between Elir and Irsu. Despite this the language of the story was difficult to follow and it seems all over the place because it needs more explanation. I feel that this story would work a lot better as full length novel where it could be given the depth of explanation that it needs.
Longer Than the Threads of Time by Zoraida Cordova
Longer Than the Threads of Time is another story I really enjoyed by an author I haven’t read anything from. We are introduced to Fabian who is a brujo with the gift of Sight, allowing him to see all the magical creatures in New York. We are also introduced to Danae a young girl trapping in a magical tower which has also trapped her in time, so she doesn’t age. One day Fabian decides to approach the tower and speak to Danae despite people warning him against it. Quickly they become friends and eventually begin to fall in love, but even true love’s kiss won’t break the spell binding Dane, the only thing that can break it is a willing exchange which Fabian unconsciously enters into. We learn right at the end that there was something strange about Danae which led her mother to locking her in the tower which now contains Fabian, but she promises to return for him after a family reunion. I will definitely be adding Cordova’s books to my TBR for next year and I would love to see this story expanded upon more in a full-length novel, but it was a great short story too.
Habibi by Tochi Onyebuchi
Habibi was the final story in this collection and again it was written by an author I haven’t read anything from. Habibi was a story I wasn’t really connecting with at first and then it hit me like a truck. It follows Omar and Quincy as both are in prison for different reason but can somehow magically transport letter to each other. Through the letters we learn more about theirs lives and the persecution both face in America and Gaza and through the letters they begin to fall in love with one another. However, it seems like Omar is dying and he begs Quincy to come and find him when he can, if he can and Omar refers to Quincy as Habibi which means beloved. The final letters are Omar’s explanation of the word to Quincy and Quincy telling Omar he is coming. I really want to know if the pair ever managed to meet and what happened to them after the last letter but it was an amazing story to end the collection on as it almost literally punched a hole in my heart and I will definitely have to read Onyebuchi’s books. If they pack the punch this story did then they are definitely going to make me cry more than once.
Overall, I had some mixed feelings about A Universe of Wishes. On the one hand, there were some outstanding stories in this collection and it opened my eye to a lot of authors I haven’t read from. However, on the other hand, there were a few stories that just didn’t make sense to me for various reasons and there were also two stories that I couldn’t read because I hadn’t read other books by those authors. One being The Scarlet Woman as I haven’t read the Gemma Doyle series and A Royal Affair by V. E. Schwab as it takes place in the Shades of Magic series which I have yet to finish and I don’t want to be spoiled. Due to these reasons I can’t give the collection 5 stars, and I debated for a long time between 3 and 4 stars. I ultimately decided on 3 stars because 4 and 5 stars for me mean that I would re-read the entire thing more than once which I wouldn’t in this case but I may re-read a select few of the stories.
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I was sent this copy for review consideration by Book Terminal Tours