Seltzy stood in the center of a very elaborate, very beautiful workshop. Bolted to the walls were hundreds of shelves with filled with jars of random powders. One dark-brown one was labeled “pragmatic.” Another one, two shelves down and three across, was the bubblegum-pink “energetic.” And there, by the door, was a shelf with a foggy-gray jar labeled “mysterious.” That one was her personal favorite, though she hardly ever used it.
She perused the shelves, grabbing a few random ones that generally fit well together, then grabbing a few that didn’t. By the time she made it throughout the whole shop, her tray was full of miscellaneous bits and pieces that she could use.
Seltzy scuttled through her workshop and set the tray down on a table etched with a story about a princess in a tower and a wingless dragon trying to tear it down to reach her. Next to the table was her favorite piece of artwork: a large black pot with random swirls in its body like magic eddying in a pool. She hefted the pot onto the table, right next to her tray.
The young woman turned away from the pot and stood on her tiptoes, thinking. There was a certain mix she’d tried a week ago that had looked like it worked… until she set her little creation down in his little setting and all he did was sit in a corner and cry. Seltzy was certain it had something to do with mixing in too much “suspicious” powder with the “betrayal” leaves, but that baby blue powder had always given her trouble. Add too much, and they sit in a corner and cry because everything looks like a monster. Add too little, and they end up jumping off the cliffs with the lemmings.
Ah well. At least it gave her something to work with today.
The floor of Seltzy’s workshop was covered in row after row of more shelving. Glass jars of a hundred different types of leaves were perched on the dark oak bookshelves situated closest to the cauldron. She had tubes of animal hairs and shelves of dried bark or twigs. The leaves were Events, the hairs dictated by Who. And the powders, of course, determined the emotions felt by the event. And the bits of wood… oh, those were interesting bits of magic too. Wants and needs and desires, all organized and kept full.
She grabbed a little bit of everything and piled it onto the table. Then she grabbed the last piece she needed: one of the cotton figurines sorted based mostly on size and gender.
What came next was naturally her favorite part of the whole process, because everything was so deliciously fickle. One time, when Seltzy was still new at this, she’d accidentally concocted a mix that was so at odds with everything else that her creation had gone in circles until he was so dizzy he fell over and didn’t bother getting back up. A bear figurine had trundled in on him and gobbled him up before she could even squeal, let alone intervene.
Most disasters didn’t end quite so dramatically, though. Especially now that she’d learned how to work with the basics, most of Seltzy’s creations simply ended up populating her sets without accomplishing much of anything. Her only consolation was that hardly anyone was a hero in real life, either.
She came up to the table, placing the second tray next to the first, and poured just a few splashes of water into the pot. Then she crouched down to look at all her bits and pieces at eye level. One… wolf hair, for his mother. And three little cat hairs, for the sisters. Oh, and a single strand of dog fur for a younger brother.
An only mildly dysfunctional family for him, then. Out of the picture for the moment, but not for anything done in the past, or she’d have had to do something to the hairs before she tossed them in. As it was, all five strands floated on top of the water, bumping into each other boringly.
Next, Seltzy grabbed a long bit of lion fur that was to represent one of her creation’s best friends. Or had been. She withdrew from her second tray a leaf that looked a lot like basil, and dumped a good portion of baby blue on its top, to show the severity of the betrayal.
She threw in first the lion fur, then the coated basil leaf. The blue powder quickly soaked up a lot of the water. Now… now, she needed to figure out a way to mute that suspicion from the betrayal.
Seltzy gazed into the pot, thinking. The closest thing she had to a friend was Losklen, the man who had given her all those sets to put her creations in. If he betrayed her, she supposed she simply wouldn’t speak to anyone again, choosing instead to spend her time here. But the little man she was trying to create couldn’t just lock himself away; that was boring.
Which meant she needed to find a way to open him up to the idea of trust.
Seltzy smiled, and darted to the shelf by the door to grab the foggy-gray Mysterious powder. She tossed in a pinch of it, then a slightly bigger pinch of extroversion, with a splash of dreamer. Yes, yes, that ought to do the trick. She imagined it would drive him crazy, not trusting to get close to anyone yet wanting company to do great things with. Those sorts of conflicts were what made such good shows, she knew, because how long could her little creation truly stay away from people? How long until his true nature came through?
And how long until some other creation of hers saw the closed doors around his heart and became determined to open them?
She tossed a few more things into the pot to give him a slightly more thorough backstory, and then she grabbed the cotton figurine. The pot was full of a muddy swirl of colors, only partially mixed together. Seltzy placed him in the pot and covered him with the muddy magic.
Then she left the workshop, stepping into her bedroom where a dozen different sets were perched on a dozen different surfaces. Seltzy found the one she’d made him for, a simple historic piece that put ladies in beautiful dresses and men in fancy suits. There were little villages on the map, and a few big cities, and one great big manor in the middle of nowhere. She opted to put him in the uninhabited manor, hoping his dreams would drive him to the city.
When she set him down, little white lights swirled around the cotton figurine. Then they disappeared, leaving her very human-looking creation rising to his feet and staring out the manor’s window, thinking. Dreaming.
Now, Seltzy supposed, she’d have to build someone to draw him out.
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Sci-fi novella
Rating: 3 stars
Marissa Meyer is an exceptional writer, I will grant her that. And she’s great at creating characters. I will also say that it was hard to put down. The problem I had with this book was that it felt more like a history of Levana than a novella with a clear plotline. There were a lot of really good bits in it, and I think technically, things got more and more tense as the novel went on. However, Levana did horrendous things from the beginning to the end, and the last horrendous thing, the one that served as the “climax” didn’t feel any more horrendous than the ones before it. Basically, besides telling Levana’s story (which it did pretty well), there didn’t seem to be much of a point to it, and the ending fell flat.
Winter of Magic’s Return
Author: Pamela F. Service
Genre: Futuristic Arthurian retelling
Rating: 3 stars
Setting aside the fact that I’m not the target audience, this book was a bit of a disappointment. I think the idea had some potential; it was definitely original. However, I think the author put too much focus on making the story original that she didn’t focus on making it work. The nuclear holocaust mentioned in the blurb plays a small role in the novel, but mostly as a setting that exists rather than one that interacts in any meaningful way with the characters. The “muties” that resulted from this “Devastation” pop up a few times, but most of the threats the kids face have to do with magic or evil. Basically, the book could have probably happened in any other setting, and this setting was only used because it was cooler that way. I didn’t particularly care for the characters, either, and as always, the Big Bad is only big and bad because she wants power. Which seems an unfortunate cliche to fall back on. I dunno…. the whole thing just didn’t really work for me.
“Well at least I’m not referenced in this prophecy by way of a pigeon metaphor.”