Tag Archives: fantasy

Lost and Found 4: Wanderlust

He assumes it was an accident, rather than deliberate cruelty. He assumes it was drunken forgetfulness, or frustration with a blister, or something to spite the original owner of the shoe.

He tells himself it was not knowingly cruel.

It’s cruel, all the same. Somehow it’s worse that it’s only one shoe. One garish purple boot, made for striding confidently out into the world. A statement of sorts. I wear sturdy footwear, for the road I walk is long and hard; but I wear my footwear purple because fuck you, that’s why.

The shoe rests against his own feet. He sees it with his peripheral vision, stuck as he is with his gaze forever drawn upward, his mouth in that moue of astonishment.

When he first reached this town, with his two equally gormless, equally impressed bronze friends, he was astonished. He was impressed. Now he’s just here. All the time. Every day. Staring at the roofscape and wondering what else he’s missing. The people who pass him talk of other things. A river nearby. A tall gilded tower that can see way out to the ocean (and what is an ocean, he wonders? The closest he can understand is that it’s vast like the sky and wet like the clouds: to him the moon on stormclouds is his understanding of ships and seas).

Other people speak of even stranger places. Sand and forests and cities with great bridges and snowfall. He doesn’t really know what those words mean, but they sound wonderful.

He longs to go. To bend and snap his metal feet from the concrete and take a step. Take two. Three and four and to see a new angle of those rooftops, a new street, who knows, maybe that river (a ribbon of dense cloud on the ground, he wonders, is that what it looks like?).

He longs to move and to discover.

Instead, one purple shoe leans against his own cold feet and reminds him that his wanderlust is futile. All he can do is stand and gawp and wait for the world to come to him, and hope that their exotic words like pyramid and lake and mountain and free will one day make sense.


Review: Ruby Coral Carnelian by Mary Borsellino (AWW Challenge #8)

rccYou may have read on this blog before how very much I love the work of Mary Borsellino. Well, here’s some more of that love heading your way.

Borsellino’s latest is a shortish YA fantasy called Ruby Coral Carnelian. The title is a reference to this world’s wizards, the kind of magic they use and their willingness (and success) in using blood magic.

The story sees Del, assistant to the Ruby Warlock, discovering the wizard intends to sell him on to another wizard and realizing that this isn’t going to end well. As Del plans to run, he discovers that one of the Ruby Warlock’s twin step-children, away at boarding school, is in trouble and that the other plans to rescue him. Del ends up helping, and he, Nicholas and Kelsie end up on the run, escaping from powerful people who mean them harm.

So far, so straightforward, and it gets difficult to provide details without also providing spoilers. As always with Borsellino’s work, there is more going on than a simple plot explanation can reveal. The characters are flawed yet sympathetic, the story taking some unexpected turns as they learn about themselves and each other.

Ruby Coral Carnelian initially reminded me of my old favourite Diana Wynne Jones. Like many of Jones’s books, here’s a tale that partly explores what happens when kids learn that the adults in their life aren’t necessarily dependable, and are possibly even dangerous, and must fend for themselves and grow up at the same time.

Adding texture to this are themes relating to gender identity, concepts of privilege, the assumptions we make, and even notions of disability and wholeness.

In trying to capture the flavour of this book, I told a friend ‘imagine Diana Wynne Jones pencilled the art, but then it was inked by a Vertigo artist’.

So that’s sort of it. The core of a story that feels as traditional and as sound as a book by the late great Jones, but with its own freshness (and darkness) that explores new territory and reaches different conclusions.

There are many reasons why I think Mary Borsellino is one of the great underappreciated genre writers this country has to offer. The way she combines horror and compassion. Her capacity to create detailed, believable worlds full of cruelty and beauty. Her splendid characterisation. Her queer sensibilities and sure sense of creating people with real flaws and imperfections that are somehow both very real and simply perfect.

Frankly, I know the hyperbole is a lot for a writer to live up to, but also frankly, I have never yet been disappointed by one of her books. I struggle more to tame my praise than to find enough adjectives to add.

If you’re not sure you want to tackle Borsellino’s longer works like The Wolf House or The Devil’s Mixtape, give Ruby Coral Carnelian a try to see if what makes me pretty much get a literary boner speaks to you too.

Read my reviews of The Wolf House and the Devil’s Mixtape

Read my review of Mary Borsellino’s latest erotica story, A Brighter Spark.