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Mini Reviews: Burning Roses, Kalpa Imperial, Briarley, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

And once again I read enough novellas (and one anthology) that I have enough for a mini review post! This time, it has been a rather mixed batch. 

Burning Roses by S.L. Huang

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ARC received from the publisher ( in exchange for an honest review.

Sadly, something about this one just didn’t click with me, even though I’m normally a sucker for retellings. I think it might be because it tries to do so many things at the same time – several different fairytales mixed together, present and flashbacks, mixing eastern and western influences, two protagonists’ intertwining stories – far too much for a novella.

I liked that we follow two complex, middle-aged women, both of whom have complicated pasts and have hurt people, I liked how it handles the themes of family and choices and morality. But in the end, I can’t avoid the fact that it did not fully work for me.

Enjoyment: 3/5
Execution: 3/5

Recommended to: those who like retellings that mix several different influences/traditions, those looking for queer stories (lots of wlw in this one!), fans of ambiguous morality

Content warning: abuse

Tags that apply: fantasy, LGBTQ+, folktale-inspired, female author, novella, non-western, cw: abuse

Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer



A collection of strange stories from the history of an imaginary empire, as if narrated by a storyteller. It’s beautifully written and I have always had a weakness for the weird and unusual, but even so, I struggled with it a bit because I am not really a fan of short stories and I expected them to be connected. Which they weren’t really.

Even so, if you like strange, literary fantasy short stories, this might be a good fit for you.

Enjoyment: 3/5
Execution: 4/5

Content warning: sexual violence

Tags that apply: anthology, standalone, fantasy, female author, the fuck did I read, literary, good prose, concept-focused, cw: rape

Briarley by Aster Glenn Grey

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A m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast set during WWII, featuring a bisexual country parson and a gay man cursed to be a dragon. I was a little doubtful if I’m really in the mood for it at first, but it quickly won me over with just how damn sweet it is. I really loved how their relationship developed over the course of the story, and if you’re looking for a short, cute romance book this is just the thing.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Tags that apply: romance, fantasy, LGBTQ+, disability, uplifting, folktale-inspired, female author, novella, wwii

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (The Singing Hills Cycle, #2)

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I liked it! The first novella worked much better for me, but this one was just fine. I was initially a little worried because from the excerpt it didn’t seem like it’d have the same story-within-a-story structure which worked so well in the first book, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it did. The pacing and writing were just as good, too, but something about the plot itself didn’t work quite as well for me here – though perhaps it’s just that the novelty wore off.

Still, if you liked The Empress of Salt and Fortune, you should go and read this one too.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Tags that apply: good prose, non-western, lgbtq+, female author, novella, folktale-inspired


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