From the author of the brilliant Gentlemen Bastard series comes another tale about clever, lovable rogues and rapscallions. This novella is set in its own evocatively described world in which magic inundates everyday life like the waves on the shore or the clouds in the sky. The descriptions are pure bliss as, for example, a single storm may get woven into a series of microscenes revealing its waxings and wanings and various permutations throughout:
It was raining when Amarelle Parathis went out just after sunset to find a drink, and there was strange magic in the rain. It came down in pale lavenders and coppers and reds, soft lines like liquid dusk that turned to luminescent mist on the warm pavement. The air itself felt like champagne bubbles breaking against the skin. Over the dark shapes of distant rooftops, blue-white lightning blazed, and stuttering thunder chased it. Amarelle would have sworn she heard screams mixed in with the thunder.
Amarelle is the former lead thief for the retired retinue, but she still gathers weekly with her ex-troupe of troublemakers to boast about the good times and to win all their money in cards. She’s joined by the house-sorceress Sophara Miris, the artificer/tinkerer [and sorceress’ wife] Brandwin, the steampunk-worthy android Shraplin [the only non-female in the group], and the forger goblin Jadetongue Squirn who skips the drunken reminiscing.
As drinking continues, Amarelle slowly slides past the point of coherence and good judgment:
… the room had more soft edges than [Amarelle] remembered and her cards were not entirely cooperating with her plan to hold them steady. “This is a mess. A mess! Shraplin, you’re probably sober-esque. How many cards in a standard deck?”
“How many cards presently visible in our hands or on the table?”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Amarelle. “Who’s not cheating? We should be pushing ninety. Who’s not cheating?” …
The room, through her eyes, had grown softer and softer as the noisy night wore on, and had now moved into a decidedly impressionist phase … Even the cards on the table were no longer holding still long enough for Amarelle to track their value …
Some dutiful, stubborn fraction of her awareness kicked its way to the surface of the alcoholic ocean in her mind, and there clutched at straws until it had pieced together the true sequence of events …
The world had a fragile liquid quality, running at the edges and spinning on previously unrevealed axes. She was not drunk enough to forget that she had to take extra care and still far too drunk to realize that she ought to be fleeing the way she’d come.
Impaired logic leads Amarelle to confront an uber-powerful ruling wizard who can call for Amarelle’s death. But instead, calls her and her troupe out of retirement to sway the balance in the wizarding wars wracking the city politics and landscape. For that quest, they are given a year and a day …
This novella is highly recommended. The characters are well developed, clever and fun. It’s classic Lynch in bite-size.
This tale appears in Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. The short story was originally published in Rogues [Bantam Books, 2014]. I’ve previously reviewed this author’s:
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentlemen Bastard, #1)–5 stars
Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentlemen Bastard, #2)–5 stars
[Check out my other reviews here.]