Review: A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology

Authors: Tara Sim, Natalie C. Parker, Libba Bray, Anna-Marie McLemore, Kwame Mbalia, V.E. Schwab, Rebecca Roanhorse, Nic Stone, Jenni Balch, Dhonielle Clayton, Mark Oshiro, Samira Ahmed, Tessa Gratton, Zoraida Cordova, Tochi Onyebuchi
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Released: December 8th, 2020
Received: Own

4 kitties

A Universe of Wishes is another amazing anthology that I cannot recommend enough to science fiction and fantasy fans out there. It contains fifteen short stories, all with the single minded focus of celebrated own-voices, diversity, and representation.

I knew that I had to read this collection, not just because of that description (though there is that), but because of many of the authors involved in this project. We’re talking about some of my favorites, so of course I was excited about this beauty!

While I’ll go into each short in more detail below, here are the fifteen short stories you can find inside A Universe of Wishes: A Universe of Wishes by Tara Sim, The Silk Blade by Natalie C. Parker, The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libba Bray, Christal Y Ceniza by Anna-Marie McLemore, Liberia by Kwame Mbalia, A Royal Affair by V.E. Schwab, The Takeback Tango by Rebecca Roanhorse, Dream and Dare by Nic Stone, Wish by Jenni Balch, The Weight by Dhonielle Clayton, Unmoor by Mark Oshiro, The Coldest Spot in the Universe by Samira Ahmed, The Beginning of Monsters by Tessa Gratton, Longer Than the Threads of Time by Zoraida Cordova, and Habibi by Tochi Onyebuchi.

A Universe of Wishes by Tara Sim

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A Universe of Wishes is set in a world where magic is hidden deep within, and one desperate and lonely person has found a way to use it. Thorn learned a dangerous secret – that he could make use of the hidden magic, but only by harvesting it from the dead.

“He had taken to making wishes whenever he could.

At the last morning star, on the edges of tarnished coins, along the cracks of bones that split in fires.

It was never enough.”

This was such an intense but amazing story! Thorn’s narrative cut to the quick, but was still so captivating. I would have read another hundred pages about this one, though I will admit that it was the perfect amount of story.

The Silk Blade by Natalie C. Parker

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Willador Mayhew, the main perspective for The Silk Blade, is a young woman who has one goal. To gain the attention of The Bloom of Everdale, and become his consort. It’s the best way to serve her family, but perhaps not her heart, as she is soon to learn.

“I’d answered the first call with a trembling kind of desperation, my mother’s hopes always stirring in my chest.”

Since this was written by Natalie C. Parker, I knew that it was going to be amazing. Still, I was impressed, and love how she made as much use of what was left unsaid, as what was actually written down.

The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libba Bray

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Gemma Doyle’s story continues in The Scarlet Woman, a short story set in the same world, and using all those same beloved characters. You see, there are still some mysteries that need to be solved, and she’s the best person for the task.

“Like a cat, I am insatiably curious. And, probably, like that cat, my curiosity will be the death of me one day.

I do not intend for that day to be today.”

Dull disclosure: I haven’t read any of the Gemma Doyle series. Still! I really enjoyed this short. I just know that a fan of her series will enjoy this one a hundred times more than I did, for obvious reasons.

Christal Y Ceniza by Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Christal Y Ceniza is a twist on the whole Cinderella tale, but it is one that thoroughly fits the theme and focus of this anthology. This is a world where families and loved ones are being torn apart, but an unjust rule. It’s up to one brave woman to try and stand up for them all.

“I believed so little in los cuentos de hadas that any mention of such fairy tales left a taste of ashes on my tongue. Of course they did. Lately, las cenizas were far more familiar to me, to all of us, than magic.”

This is both a heartbreaking and beautiful story! I loved it so much. It’s absolutely my favorite Cinderella retelling to date, which actually makes me wish that there had been more to read. Not because it was cut off abruptly, but simply because I enjoyed it so.

Liberia by Kwame Mbalia

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Kweke’s job and heart belong to caring for the plants on a spacecraft known as Liberia. The plants and lore of this ship are rooted deeply to the people and land that they have left behind, and it cannot be forgotten.

“I shook myself out of my memories. The ship’s ancient lift groaned to a halt at the Science and Research module. This was my stop.”

Another great story in this anthology! I really enjoyed the merging of technology, plants, and ancestral ties that were woven into this narrative. It was deeply powerful, and once again left me wishing that I could have known more about all of it.

A Royal Affair by V.E. Schwab

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Is it true? Are fans being transported back to V.E. Schwab’s world of Shades of Magic? We are! This is the heartbreaking backstory of Alucard Emery. How he fell in love, had his heart broken, and in return, broke the heart of a prince.

“He had watched Rhy grow from boy to youth, and youth to royal, had always felt a certain warmth toward the prince, but four years was a chasm between children.”

Be still my heart. The timing for this short made it pretty clear how things were going to go down, and yet it still tugged at my heartstrings. I will always root for a happily ever after for Rhy and Alucard, though it was fascinating to learn a bit more about their in between times.

The Takeback Tango by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Thieving, in space you say? Rebecca Roanhorse’s The Takeback Tango follows a young woman as she risks life and limb in order to steal back precious artifacts from her homeworld. Artifacts full of history and pain, that have been put on display for those that conquered her people.

“Once I had a family, brothers and sisters and cousins, but the Imperium had taken them all. Razed the planet for its natural resources and enslaved the people to work the mines and pipelines and space elevators.”

Wow. The Takeback Tango is an amazing read, but given the author, that probably isn’t a huge surprise! This is a story that hits hard, and does it well. The use of science fiction elements to open discourse is wonderfully done here.

Dream and Dare by Nic Stone

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Dream is a girl of many things. She is afraid of the dark, yet loves the woods. She has hopes, and dreams, and doesn’t want to follow the path that the village and her family have laid out for her. Perhaps that is the reason why she takes to the woods, hoping to help the monster within.

“Everyone in town thinks Dream is strange. She knows that for sure. They always have. When she was small, she was that bizarre one who thinks she’s some sort of lady knight.”

I love the twisted expectations that are set up in Dream and Dare. It’s creative, and resulted in a quick and fun story. One that I found to be highly entertaining. Though I do wish that there had been more, both before and after this one. It felt like something was missing, but only slightly.

Wish by Jenni Balch

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Lane is a genie, and as such is quite used to granting wishes, and overall being used by those who are in possession of his lamp. He’s made peace with it. Still, even he was not prepared for the person who woke him up, with a most desperate desire.

“A hint of wonder: he recognized that. He’d seen it so often by now that he could see it before they knew they were feeling it.”

Lane and Ariadne’s story is a really compelling one. It merges fantasy with science fiction, something that I’m always a fan of. Ariadne’s story is one that I can really sympathize with, made all the more interesting by having it told through Lane’s perspective.

The Weight by Dhonielle Clayton

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

When two people are in love, or falling out of love, or anywhere in between, sometimes they go to have their hearts weighed. It’s the best way to learn the truth within a heart, after all. Marcus and Grace have decided to do exactly that, to know what path they should follow going forward.

“Every heart tells a story.”

This was an extremely unique read, if I may say so. The concept of weighing and reading a heart – of literally telling a story. It’s interesting, and perhaps just a little bit terrifying. Still, I enjoyed Marcus and Grace’s story.

Unmoor by Mark Oshiro

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

A broken heart can make you feel like you’re dying. It can make it impossible to focus on anything else, regardless of how important those other things may be. That is why Felix, brokenhearted and hurting, asked for help. For someone to unmoor his memories, and give him a reprieve.

“There’s a spark in the air, just beyond Mirella’s fingertips. Runes. She draws one in front of his parents, and he doesn’t recognize it. A curtain of light drops, then sparkles. It’s a sheet of magic, one that helps determine if someone is telling the truth.”

This was beautifully written, but painful to read. Heartache always is, isn’t it? It’s an interesting idea, to unmoor memories so that their emotional impact doesn’t hit in the same way. It’s also a little terrifying, thinking about messing with one’s memories and heart.

The Coldest Spot in the Universe by Samira Ahmed

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

A dystopian short story told through journal/diary entries, all of which focus on the worst possible results from climate change, and of the hope (and lives) that are lost in the process.

“That kind of courage gets you killed” she warned me. She didn’t add “sooner.” Gets you killed sooner.”

If you’re looking to feel an emotional gut-punch, then The Coldest Spot in the Universe is the short to read. It hurts because it hits so close to home – the fear of climate change and what is happening around us, even as I write this review.

The Beginning of Monsters by Tessa Gratton

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The Beginning of Monsters takes some of the biggest risks in terms of storytelling, creating a world where bodies can be built and designed. But only by those with the talent for it. Eli is one of those, and she’s been tasked to create a new body for King Insarra, but finds more in store for her along the way.

“The collect of Dedicated Renovation had agreed to make Lady Insarra a new body because she was tired of being a woman.”

I love how much The Beginning of Monsters makes you think. Not just for the subjects it brings up (though there is that), but because of how complex it is. This is not a story that holds your hand, handing out the answers. It wanted you to think for yourself, and I have to appreciate that.

Longer Than the Threads of Time by Zoraida Cordova

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Longer Than the Threads of Time is a retelling, of sorts, of Rapunzel. Only there are several major twists along the way. Belvedere Castle has long been a building avoided by most, especially the supernatural. Yet Fabian’s kind ways aren’t so keen to listen to those warnings.

“Fabian Marcus had the Sight, and it sucked.”

A second (fantastic) retelling, in one anthology? Yes, please! Longer Than the Threads of Time is another really well done twisted fairy tale, and I really enjoyed the way this one unfolded. I especially enjoyed that air of mystery that lingered over it all.

Habibi by Tochi Onyebuchi

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Habibi is told through a series of letters, sent between a Middle Eastern protestor and a Black prisoner. Worse, the prisoner writes about time spent in solitary, in a way that will dig right down into your soul.

“You’re going to have to make a choice between your future and your friends.”

Wow. This is one of those shorts that really will hit you right in the feels. No wait, that is the understatement of the century. It’s gut-wrenching and so painfully human all at the same time, and the humanness of it all adds to the impact, in a spiraling effect that will pull you under and refuse to let go.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
This entry was posted in Fantasy, Fiction, OwlCrate, Science Fiction, Short stories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s