The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie M. Lui is the authors debut story collection that includes six previously released stories and one new novella that has dangerous magic and even more dangerous women. That tag line was what got me interested in this collection as the only other thing that I’ve read by Marjorie Liu is the Monstress graphic novel series. However, this collection is also about hope and making your own destiny. Each story made me fall in love with the characters and world and though I would love more each story had a satisfyingly ending. I received a review copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The stories included are:
Sympathy for the Bones which focuses on a young woman Martha who works for the old witch in town that uses bone magic to hurt people and grant others wishes. Martha can’t escape because the witch owns her soul but she finds a way to make her own way in life though that freedom does cost her. This is a very creepy story that sucked me in and made me keep reading.
The Briar and The Rose is a take on Sleeping Beauty but in this world the witch has taken over the body of a young woman name Rose. The witch has a Duelist in her service who finds out what the witch has done, meets and falls in love with Rose. The story is about their love and women saving each other.
Call Her Savage is a Chinese inspired steampunk story where the main character Xing, who is considered a hero though she doesn’t want to be any more, ends up fighting an old friend to try and stop the march of war. This story throws you into the action but gives you just enough world building to understand the setting and the stakes for the characters. I would love there to be more stories in this world but the ending felt right.
The Last Dignity of Man the follows a rich man named Alexander Lutheran who in many way emulates Lex Luthor from the Superman comics as he believes that maybe if theirs a supervillain a superhero has to come out to save the day. However, its clear that Alexander knows that its not real he also knows that if he’s the one ding these not great things he might be able to stop someone worse. Though that’s the main plot of the story its more about loneliness and hope that there is love out there for everyone.
Where the Heart Lives is the most fairytale like of all these stories. We follow Lucy who is sent to work for Miss Lindsay who maintains a property in the woods where many people come to bury their loved ones. However, the forest is inhabited by “ghost” that try to steal other way. It turns out that its the fairy queen of the forest that takes them. The story itself is mostly about heart break and how love and family make people vulnerable and stronger. This story is also an early prequel to the Dirk & Steele paranormal romance series but you don’t need to know anything about the series to read this story.
After the Blood is about a world where plague has killed off most of the world and forest grew up around the old cities but are not natural as magic is involved though many don’t want to believe it. The communities that have survived are mostly the Amish and those who grew up around them. In this world some people have been turned into vampires and zombie like creatures attack the settlements. The story follows Amanda who due to the nature of her blood can use it to protect land and building from these creatures. After her friend Steven is found out to be a vampire they save what is left of his family and decided that they end to move from this settlement. This is a possible future for the Dirk & Steele series but again you don’t need to know anything about the series to read and understand this story.
Tangleroot Palace is the new novella for this collection. We follow Sally who is a princess about to be forced to marry a fearsome warlord to help protect her fathers kingdom. She doesn’t want to marry and goes on a journey to find answers in the Tangleroot Forest and is full of magic and can trap people. Along the way she meets a traveling band of performers led by Mickel Thorn and Sally realizes that she is starting to fall in love with Mickel but still wants to find her answers. Sally ends up in the forest and confronts the queen that is trapped there who tries to force Sally to free her. In the end Sally saves herself and Mickel, who turns out to be the warlord but all of his actions are just stories.
Overall, I loved this story collection. A few I felt where better than others but I liked everything. If you like any of Marjorie Liu’s other work or if the description of this collection sounds like something you would like then I would recommend that you read it. Currently its scheduled to release in June 2021.