I’m always excited when there’s a new Stephanie Burgis book! If you are in need of some clever and comforting writing, this is an excellent choice.
by Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press, 2022
Review copy received from the author, forgetting that I had already pre-ordered it. Disclosure: I sponsor Stephanie on Patreon.
Mia and her father have been hiding in a quiet town ever since their metal workshop in their old town was burnt down – though Mia prefers not to dwell on the details. She’s just hoping that if they keep their heads down and she keeps the flower boxes filled, their new neighbors won’t notice that her metalworking is unnaturally magical.
But the cozy house was affordable because it’s undesirably close to a necromancer’s castle. And when undead minions start falling apart on Mia’s lawn, she can’t help but repair the poor creatures – after all, it’s not their fault they were put together badly. And that naturally leads to social invitations from the necromancer, the indecently handsome Leander – because what necromancer’s heart isn’t warmed when someone takes the time to repair the minions he rescued from another necromancer? And as she gets to know him, she learns that behind his cool surface is a man who’s made a life for himself after a traumatic childhood.
This is, as promised on the cover, a cozy-spooky romance, one that I’ve already re-read since reading it for the first time in January. It was originally published as four short stories, which is apparent in the jumps in time and the little summaries of the previous sections woven into the beginnings of each, but which didn’t detract from the overall charm of the story.
But hidden behind the banter and duels with over-the-top evil necromancers are some deeper thoughts about the importance of being accepted and accepting yourself for who you are, whether your talents are considered normal or “unnatural.” And what starts as a clear mission for Mia to open up about who she is turns into a larger movement for other magical people to find a community where they can be celebrated instead of hidden or persecuted. I was also very pleased to see that both of side romances were same-sex, even as one was sweet, subtle and slow-burn, the other tempestuous. The sweet romance builds into a heartwarming and affirming ending, a story I expect to reread many more times.