the tangleroot palace: stories – marjorie m. liu | arc review

The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie M. Liu


Standalone
Expected publication: June 15th 2021 by Tachyon Publications
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories, LGBT
Representation: Lesbian MCs, Gay MC, Chinese MC

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Marjorie Liu leads you deep into the heart of the tangled woods. In her long-awaited debut story collection, dark, lush, and spellbinding short fiction you will find unexpected detours, dangerous magic, and even more dangerous women.

Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.

Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.


☠︎☠︎☠︎☠︎☠︎

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

trigger and content warnings (in order of the short stories):
    1. death, murder, dismembering, bones, past child abuse, pedophilia, blood
    2. rape, possessing, hints of slavery, racism, mention of war, blood, death, pregnancy, miscarriage, dismembering
    3. war, blood, drowning, death, poison, bullets, mention of rape
    4. gore, blood, bone, hospitalization, mention of death, mention of drunk driving
    5. kidnapping, mention of death
    6. blood, cutting, gun, pandemic
    7. blood, death, arranged marriage

Each setting is unique and different. At the end of every short story, Marjorie M. Liu would insert a short note to explain what inspired her to write it which I thought was a really nice touch.

As it’s a collection, at every start of a new story, there’s a sense of confusion and disorientation for the first few pages. Despite that, Marjorie M. Liu’s immersive writing immediately snapped my attention and I just found myself back into the flow of reading each story.

“Those of us who ever lived in the shadow of the Tangleroot know of odd truths, and odder dreams that are the truths, echoes of a past that slumbers, and of things that walk amongst us, fully awake. Stories that others have forgotten, because they are too strange.”

☠︎ SYMPATHY FOR THE BONES

Clora’s under the teachings of Old Ruth, a hoodoo woman, who takes requests of those who are desperate. The crafting of hoodoo stitchwork requires bones and magic. In Sympathy for the Bones, it’s about the things people do for freedom without considering the cost they will be paying.

☠︎ THE BRIAR AND THE ROSE

Hired by her mistress, the duelist knows all her wicked ways and who she truly is. Rose and Briar could only meet on Sundays when the mistress slept, and through that time, they fell in love. There’s a whimsical, fairytale-esque vibe to The Briar and the Rose.

☠︎ CALL HER SAVAGE

As war rages between the Chinese and the British, Xīng McNamara returned to the battlefield reluctantly. The story develops as the reader finds out about the relationship between Xīng and Maude that left a 10-year gap. Furthermore, there’s great description of the war and incorporates steampunk into it.

Shut your heart to the blood, shut your ears to the scream. You were born to no other purpose. You are exceptional only in death.

☠︎ THE LAST DIGNITY OF MAN

RanTech is manipulating these worms that grow to huge sizes as they continue consuming sludges and toxins. Alexander, the CEO, questions the morality of it. However, there’s this question of is he a villain or the hero of the story? Regardless, this man’s story is saddening.

☠︎ WHERE THE HEART LIVES

This might be my favourite out of all the short stories. It has a combination of human connections and magical elements that created a perfect setting. The woods near their house is mysterious, magical and a dangerous place to enter.

☠︎ AFTER THE BLOOD

Post-apocalyptic setting after a plague that decimated the world and left only 20% of humanity behind. Features three characters who aren’t accepted by the people around them. This was a very quick read but Marjorie M. Liu still did a great job in the setting and the characters.

☠︎ TANGLEROOT PALACE

To quell any potential invasion by the barbarians, the king decides to let the notorious Warlord marry his daughter, Sally. Wanting another option that will prevent her horrible wedding-to-be and keep the peace, the only place she can get an alternative is in Tangleroot and that’s where Sally will venture to.

While it has a little predictability and the romance is the total opposite of a slow burn, this short story has it all: magic, a sleeping queen, a witch, and a traveling troupe. This full-length novella had me wishing for more.

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