by Anela Deen
Series: Magic Underground Anthologies #1
Also in this series: Wayward Magic, Forgotten Magic
Publisher: Magical Mayhem Books
Publication Date: March 10, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Simith of Drifthorn is tired of war. After years of battle between the Thistle Court and the troll kingdom, even a pixie knight known for his bloodlust longs for peace. Meeting with the troll king in secret is the only hope for a ceasefire. When the trolls ambush him instead, Simith flees through a doorway hidden by magic into another world. Wounded, he’ll need to defeat his pursuers and get home before anyone realizes he's gone. If his commanders find out what he's been up to, the trolls will be the least of his worries.
In Skylark, Michigan, Jessa leaves a party after some devastating news. Cutting through her neighbor’s sunflower farm, she runs into a fight between creatures straight out of a fantasy novel – only the blood is very real. When one of them falls to his attackers, Jessa decides to intervene. She’s known too much death to stand idly by, but what does a poet like her know about fighting? As their weapons turn against her, Jessa realizes how much she stands to lose, even for someone who’s already lost everything.
This is the first in a three-part novella series that will be published in the Hidden Magic anthologies. I grew up reading early-90s portal fantasies – where someone from the real world ends up in a magical land, or vice versa – so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for them, and the novella definitely hit all the high notes of that subgenre.
Simith, a pixie knight, has known war for so long that he’s not sure he can remember anything else. But he knows the only hope for peace is to negotiate with the trolls in secret, but when he’s ambushed and injured, he’s forced to flee to a land he’s never seen before – and one completely without magic. Jessa, reeling from the latest event to shake her world, is heading back from a costume party when she runs into Simith and his attackers. Rescuing him is possibly the stupidest thing she’s ever done – or perhaps it’s the smartest. Because things aren’t exactly what they seem, and more than pixies and trolls have found their way to rural Michigan.
“She didn’t know anything about war, but she understood the look in his eyes; the devouring grief, the vanishing self. She, too, had seen the stranger staring back from the mirror.”
Simith’s never heard of humans before, and while Jessa’s been told fairy tales, seeing them with her own eyes is something completely different. My favorite parts were Simith and Jessa’s conversations, and her attempts to explain the human world to him. Jessa’s life changed eighteen months before, and since then she’s been wrapped in a haze of grief, unable to find anything that makes her feel anymore – well, except for an encounter with a visiting professor, but that’s left with with another unexpected complication. Simith is fighting his own demons. After his village was razed to the ground by trolls, he joined the fairy legions to fight against them. But a decade later, it still seems peace is no closer, and he’s beginning to have doubts about his commanders’ true intentions, fed by grief of his own. So despite coming from very different backgrounds, they recognize something kindred in each other.
“I don’t often contemplate mythical creatures, but I wouldn’t have thought pixies would be so…”
He shifted the weight-laden table behind a few crates. “Yes?”
She waggled her fingers, adjectives abandoning her utterly. “Sturdy.”
While the book stars the common fairy tale characters – pixies, fae, trolls, fairies, even a pooka reference! – they’ve got enough of a spin on them to make it feel fresh. The pacing is tight, and quite a bit happens for such a short novella. It’s very easy to gobble up the whole thing in one reading – or, at least, it was hard for me to put down, and that’s what happened! While the main plot line is wrapped up, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m definitely looking forward to the next novella.
Overall, this is my second Anela Deen book, and I’ll definitely be back for more!