You may recall I read Iona Datt Sharma’s lovely historical fantasy short “Penhallow Amidst Passing Things” as part of the anthology THE UNDERWATER BALLROOM SOCIETY earlier this year. It was one of my favourite stories in that anthology, very deftly mixing some old-school smuggling with romance and magic.
So when she offered me an ARC of her new novella (co-authored with Katherine Fabian) SING FOR THE COMING OF THE LONGEST NIGHT, I said “yes please!”.
The world you know is underneath the substance of another, with cracks in the firmament that let the light of its magic in…
Layla and Nat have nothing in common but their boyfriend – enigmatic, brilliant Meraud – and their deep mutual dislike. But when Meraud disappears after an ambitious magical experiment goes wrong, they may be the only ones who can follow the trail of cryptic clues that will bring him safely home.
To return Meraud to this world, the two of them will confront every obstacle: the magic of the wild unknowable, a friendly vicar who’s only concerned for their spiritual wellbeing, and even the Thames Water helpline. All of which would be doable, if only they didn’t have to do it together.
But the winter solstice is fast approaching – and once the year turns, Meraud will be lost forever. In this joyously queer novella, Nat and Layla must find a way to overcome their differences before it’s too late.
My quick scan of the blurb somehow left me with the impression that this was SF (goodness knows why, as having re-read it properly, there is nothing science fiction-y about it at all), which meant I was slightly thrown by the very contemporary opening at a London school nativity play and it took me a while to play catch-up.
Once I did, I was fully absorbed in Layla and Nat’s story, which wasn’t really about their quest to save Meraud. Well, it was and it wasn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Layla and Nat figuring out their own relationship, independently of Meraud. For a novella, it packs in a lot – there’s great character growth and fantastic supporting characters, some very hilarious moments, and equally some rather touching moments. The writing was beautifully smooth and brought to life the London I know, not a Disney version of it. And I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that it closed on a feel-good note. It’s a wonderfully queer novella that reminds you it’s really about the family you make for yourself, a perfect read for this festive season.
Review copy courtesy of author