Received an eARC from the author
Content warnings: In-universe prejudice, discussions of war, grief
The Birdverse is among the richest worlds I have ever been given the gift of visiting. Between The Four Profound Weaves and The Unbalancing, it is evident that this is a wholly realized world with its only political structures and magic system. This latest excursion, a collection of short stories and poems, really bring forth that incredibly unique creativity. Told in a multitude of styles, from missives to annotations to more structured tales, this collection offers an invitation to a world ruled by the magic of names and where the land responds to the human activity happening in its space.
R.B. Lemberg will be featured on the blog on November 29th, 2022.
The thing that will stay with me most about these stories and this world is the profound respect Lemberg shows towards people who work in crafts, from weaving to glassmaking to other forms “practical artistry.” Those characters carry the same weight as do the warlords and bureaucrats. There’s also an element of academia that comes into play which makes this such a refreshing world to read. War isn’t the primary plot driver, though it does inform backstories and linger in the background. That being said, Lemberg brings a unique voice and perspective to fantasy, and I’m glad that there are so many stories within the Birdverse.
Here are my favorites:
- “The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler”
- A story told in letters exchanged between a glassmaker and a jeweler
- Really showcase the incredible richness of the world of the Birdverse and shows a deep respect for those who make physical pieces of art
- “The Three Principles of Strong Building”
- Sets the tone for the remainder of the collection
- A seemingly rigid framework for the way deepnames and their balancing are constructed, told in verse almost like a scripture
- Of course, deconstruction immediately follows
- “The Book of How to Live”
- This feels like fantasy academia but in the context of gatekeeping around specific forms of magic
- Compelling in the way that it navigates a clash of mindsets and explores the roles people are assigned and the roles they make for themselves
- “Geometries of Belonging”
- A healer with strict rules about using healing helps a child break free from their parents and, at the same time, prevent a war
- Really stretches and defines the limits of deepname magic, including introductions of how
- CW: grief, references to deceased family, in-universe prejudice, attempted conversion therapy
- “Where Your Quince Trees Grow”
- Justifiable and justified rage encapsulated in a short story about a narrator stealing a quince
- The placement of this one after “Ranra’s Unbalancing” is absolutely brilliant
- CW: displacement as a result of war