UNIVERSE OF WISHES edited by Dhonielle Clayton
Titan, 351-page p/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Wishes are something that we would like to happen. If we are lucky enough, they come true. Dreams are something different. We can aspire to those and, given the right circumstances, achieve at least something of them. Whether or not we have dreams, we all wish. It may be for something we want, or think we need, or that something hadn’t happened, or that we might want to have happened, or been said differently. It is not surprising, then, that there are folk tales and fables that revolve around the granting of wishes, the most commonly known is the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp.
Although all these fifteen stories have wishes at their heart, the first in the volume, ‘A Universe Of Wishes’ by Tara Sim, exemplifies the essence of a wish. Thorn is a street urchin who has discovered that inside each body is a wish. He believes that if he can collect enough of these, his greatest wish will be granted. To this end, he collects the magic from corpses.
In most of the other stories, the wishes are not so well defined, but it is the actions of the characters that indicate that what they wish for or dream of having is what drives them. In ‘The Silk Blade’ by Natalie C Parker, Willador’s aim is to become the best swordswoman and be chosen as the consort of the ruler. Often, though, the path to the achievement of a dream is more important than the outcome. There is a vogue for remoulding fairy tales. Sometimes it is to put it in a contemporary or futuristic setting; in others, it is to put modern concerns against a timeless scenario. ‘Cristal y Ceniza’ by Anna-Marie McLemore is a version of the Cinderella story, and like ‘The Silk Blade’ the narrator sets out to win a prince. In this case, the motives are different. ‘Longer Than The Threads Of Time’ by Zoraida Córdova is another retelling of a fairy tale, this time of Rapunzel but is set in New York’s Central Park. The trapped Danaë uses Fabían’s desire to fulfil her own wish to escape. A geni that grants wishes is another familiar trope, but in ‘Wish’ by Jenni Balch, it is the geni that is the point of view character and finds himself summoned in a world where Venus has been colonized.
The desire to forget is at the heart of ‘Unmoor’ by Mark Oshiro, while in ‘The Coldest Spot In The Universe’ by Samira Ahmed, the wish is to tell a story, here about the last days as the Earth froze, to the people who discovered the bodies centuries later. ‘The Weight’ by Dhonielle Clayton contains a wish to know the heart of another, and in the future of this story, that can be discovered by extracting and reading what is engraved on the organ.
Sometimes, the characters carry the dreams of others. In ‘Liberia’ by Kwame Mbalia, the ship filled with intelligent teenagers to colonize a distant planet carries the hopes and wishes of those left behind.
Some of the stories involve characters from the authors’ other writings. Readers of Libba Bray’s novels should be familiar with her character, Gemma Doyle. ‘The Scarlet Woman’ is a historical fantasy involving Gemma. It has the feel of the opening chapters of something longer. By contrast, ‘A Royal Affair’ by V E Schwab will be welcomed by followers of her books s it explains the antagonism between two of her characters, Rhy and Alucard.
These and the other stories in this volume mainly have elements of fantasy in them but the scope of the theme also covers SF. It is worth being aware that although published by Titan, this is a We Need Diverse Books anthology. This organization encourages writers of ethnic minorities and LGBT+, especially for younger readers. The authors represented in this volume are representative of these groups and are expressed within these stories, all of which are well worth reading.