3 of 5 stars.
The fictionalized, gritty urban-fantasized Victorian era often receives the full steampunk treatment. Less common is Charles Dickens’ Hard Times made somehow grungier and baser with magic. Usually, magic makes things better–why else bother? The withs fare better and live better than the Muggles, as a rule–a rule that here gets broken . . .
At the peak of the Industrial Revolution, England is losing ground to Prussia’s coal developments. England discovers its own national resource in–Squalor. The raw emotions of those living on pennies and crumbs in inadequate housing, the fear and desperation, produce Squalor, a natural surge of supernatural energy that provides healing and strength until it’s spent at which point the practitioner usually dies. It’s a miserable life providing just enough energy to carry on. The Catch-22 keeps the Squalor-tapping lower classes trapped in a cycle of poverty and misery, because if they weren’t desperate, there’d be no Squalor.
It’s sister-magic, Sympathy, has potential for similar results, if it hasn’t been completely beaten out of the populous . . .
This contest-winning tale appears in Writers of the Future 32 edited by David Farland. It’s illustrated by contest-winning artist, Adrian Massaro. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.
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