Short Story Review: “Speechless in Seattle” by Lisa Silverthorne

2 of 5 stars.

In the wake of Harry Potter, it’s tempting to tell the untold tales of the unseen magical communities in other cities and countries around the world. Immediately apparent are themes of belonging, being special, or being ostracized. Differentiating the new urban fantasy world from being mere expansionist fan fiction to Potter-world remains important. Even better is when the new take stumbles upon an untapped theme worth plumbing.

This tale hits and misses as it lays out an alternate history of Seattle in which 5 major magical families have established themselves along Puget Sound over the past 200 years. The kids go to special schools and take tests in anticipation becoming full wizards on their 21st birthdays in a magical rite of passage. Brant Trenerry of the Trenerrys stands atop that precipice. He’s chosen to invoke the rite in one of the more magical spots in town. Only, things don’t go as planned . . .

In this magical world, wizards rely heavily on their familiars to strengthen and focus their energies. These familiars take a wide variety of forms, as seen with Brant’s flying house cat whereas others have doves, tigers, dogs, griffins, etc. Brant’s miscast spell releases his familiar from its obligation to aid him. Even worse, it releases all familiars throughout the Seattle area.

An intriguing issue arises as all of the familiars abandon their wizards in that they haven’t been banished, merely released of obligation. However, the theme of the seemingly enslaved familiars that clearly have no interest in helping the wizard beyond this obligation goes unexplored. Brant’s only concern is for restoring his status and the status quo.

This tale appears in Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. The short story was originally published in Fiction River: Hex in the City [2013].
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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