A collection of short stories exploring the emotional complexity, diverse physicality, and layered sexuality of resourceful women.
In “Sympathy for the Bones,” Clora is old Ruth’s unwilling apprentice witch in Kentucky, forced to murder men with hoodoo magic or surrender her soul. Having lost her family, Clora longs to know what it feels like to love and be loved, even as she plans her escape. Another kind of escape is brewing in “The Briar and the Rose,” a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” only this time the charming prince is a brown warrior-woman who must walk the dangerous line between freeing the woman she’s come to love and her duty to her mistress—the sorceress who inhabits Rose’s body six days out of seven. In "Call Her Savage," a striking magical alternate history, ex–Lady Marshall Xīng MacNamara—who comes from New China, on the Pacifica coast of an America allied with its Native peoples—must kill her former lover Maude in order to stop the Redcoats from colonizing the world. Rounding out the collection are a story about Amish vampires and a secret marriage in a plague-ridden future that gingerly explores trauma and strength; a gay wannabe-supervillain looking for a superhero to love him in a story that asks what true vulnerability can awaken; and a princess, determined to forge her own path through sentient trees and evil queens, who wrestles with how to remain true to duty, heart, and mind. Within each tale, author Liu gives a masterclass in the art of storytelling. She doesn’t waste a word or a comma, nor does she miss an opportunity to dive into what makes us human, no matter who we are or who we love. In the title novella, the protagonist learns that “some trees are bark and root, and some trees have soul and teeth.” So, too, will readers find that Liu’s writing is all “soul and teeth.” Neither will release them quickly.
The only drawback to these seven stories is that readers will want far more time in each world.