Holly Black AG Slatter

Laurie Anderson with Paul D. Miller

Bernard Piffaretti with Raphael Rubinstein

Tavares Strachan with Amanda Gluibizzi

Ebony G. Patterson: to kiss a flower goodbye

Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme: May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth

Guadalupe Maravilla: Tierra Blanca Joven

Fictions of Emancipation: Carpeaux Recast

Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe

Tobi Kahn: Formation: Images of the Body

Bang Geul Han: If You Grind The Threshold of Three Other Houses

Richard Nonas: As Light Through Fog

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Disappearance

Bas Jan Ader: Missing at Sea, Missing at Home

Now You See It. Now You Dont.

Once mountain, now pit, pile, pipe:

Thirteen Other Ways of Looking at Disappearance

Steve Yarbroughs Stay Gone Days

Matthew Vollmers The World Is Not Your Home

Terri Gordon-Zolov and Eric Zolov with Camilo Trumper

Valgeir Sigursson with Ondrej Vesel

Sorry/Please/No: A Dance for Survivors, Citizens, and Queens

Tom Gormicans The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomess The Tsugua Diaries

Payal Kapadias A Night of Knowing Nothing

How to Make Ambitious Theater on a Budget, According to Clubbed Thumbs Maria Striar

By Antnio Osrio, translated from the Portuguese by Patricio Ferrari and Susan M. Brown

Meeka Walshs Malleable Forms: Selected Essays

Accra Shepps Radical Justice: Lifting Every Voice

Celia Pauls Letters to Gwen John

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmores Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artists Reckoning with the South

Lisa Slominskis Nonconformers: A New History of Self-Taught Artists

Rikers, what good do you think you do?

7. January 7, 1955, the Metropolitan Opera House, New York

8. March 4, 1955, Broadway just above West 52nd Street

9. November and December, 1955, Paris

10. 1955, Paris; 2016, Bregenz, Austria

Holly BlackBook of Night(Tor Books, 2022)

A.G. SlatterPatch of Thorns(Titan, 2022)

I grew up reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi where Id often pretend I was the hero, somehow transcending (or denying) my own gender in order to center myself in the story. There were few if any inclusive voices back then, but I could imagine myself in Mordor or Earthsea, the Courts of Chaos, or riding dragons in Pern. As I grew older, I veered away from most fantasy into literary fiction, horror, and graphic novels, but when a friend gave me a collection of Angela Carters stories, I was thrilled to find not only great writing but girls and women at the center of their own stories. I wish Id had Holly Black and A.G. (Angela) Slatters books to read when I was growing up. As it is, Ive recently devoured nearly everything theyve written. Id finished my latest reread of Patricia McKillips work a while ago and stumbled across A.G. SlattersAll the Murmuring Bones. It was brilliantwell written with compelling characters and a world that incorporated just enough of known mythologies and darker fairy tales to keep me reading. I went on to read everything Slatter has published, including the rollicking good fun supernatural crime novels featuring Verity Fassbinder, a hero(ine) solving mysteries and fighting crime. Slatters short story collections are set in a world that is both familiar and not, where women and girls suffer under oppressive patriarchal systems that are not too different from our own past (and future?) horrors. The women inSourdough and Other Storiesand Slatters other collections are the keepers of arcane knowledge, witches and healers, and women doing whatever it takes to survive if not necessarily thrive. In her new novel,The Path of Thorns, there are no heroes, there are only survivors. As Slatter has said herself, the novel pulls themes fromJane EyreandFrankensteinwhile pushing back against the idea that men are the center of stories and that womens narratives must always end with marriage and/or suffering. Certainly, there is suffering in great quantities for the women inThe Path of Thorns, as is common in Slatters work: women suffer at the hands of other women, men, or because their world does not value them, their bodies, or their knowledge.

The novel begins as a young woman, Asher Todd, travels alone to take the position of governess to the three Morwood children. Their father, Luther, is an abusive drunk. Their mother, Jessamine, cowering and fragile. Once a force to be reckoned with, the matriarch Leonora Morwood is losing her eyesight and confined to her rooms in the Morwood mansion. When Asher arrivesin the midst of a classically gothic thunderstorm and pursued by an unknown beastthe family is in dire need of her direction. Asher soon begins teaching the children, and when she learns of Leonoras condition, promises a cure. As the novel shifts between past and present, we learn that Asher is a young woman set on revenge and delivering a terrible promise she made to her dying mother Heloise.

Asher gradually reveals her secrets to us while she pries into the Morwood family history. We learn Ashers mother Heloise was Luthers sister and rightful heir to the Morwood estate. But Heloise was sent out into the world pregnant with Asher, banished from her home. Surviving with her wits and beauty, Heloise was often cruel to Asher, blaming her for their frequent poverty. Asher learned as a child that her mothers love was conditional and unpredictable: Once upon a time, there was a stupid little girl who thought if she could just try hard enough, her mother would be happy. Would be pleased. Would be good. And when Heloise discovers that her daughter has a special gift for magic, Heloise begins to plan her revenge. But Heloise also warns her daughter to hide her gift because those who are different are burned or drowned. This is a world where women who stand out are punished, a world where past marvels created by women are cause for those same women to be burned by the Church as witches.

As in Slatters other work, there are fairytales woven throughout the novel, some familiar and some told askew, giving depth to the larger story. The Morwood children tell Asher a tale of the wicked wolves of the wood and how a good priest defeated them, saving the villagers. But the groundskeeper, Eli Bligh, suggests a different version saying theres no point in telling stories that make priests out to be heroes. Its no surprise when we learn that Ashers father is the local priesta terrible man who meets an equally terrible fate. Eli Bligh is elemental: a man/beast of the forest linked by blood to the original inhabitants of the estate. He and his cottage become a haven for Asher from the terrors of the Morwood home (a house that eats secrets) as well as a balance to Luther Morwoods toxic masculinity. Luther is a brutal man and his brutality extends to the villagersnot merely fathering illegitimate children on willing (and unwilling) village girls but also refusing his duties as lord of the manor to provide appropriate care for the villagers. Through word of mouth, Asher quietly begins to treat their various maladies leading to a violent confrontation with Luther. As mystery piles on mystery (What happened to the previous governess? What illness is killing one of the village families?) Asher reminds herself, Courage, Asher. There is no one else to have it for you.

Asher is able to help Leonora regain her sight and Leonora reasserts her dominion over her son and his family. This seems positive at first but Leonoras desire to regain her youthful looks leads her to make a terrible demand of Asher. Soon we learn not only what dark magic Asher is capable of but exactly what Heloise demanded Asher do for her. As Ashers past, her lies and promises begin to pile up (along with the bodies), she dreams of escaping her mother and the Morwoods, Just as I came to break this house, so too Im breaking I must leave before Im entirely sundered. In a heart-pounding climax, all of the lies and plotting come to the fore, dark secrets are revealed, and Ashers story resolves in a non-traditional firestorm of an ending.

Holly Black states in the afterword toBook of Nightthat this is her debut adult novel. But Blacks previous YA novels are great reads, even for jaded grownups like me. Her stories of strong young women pushing back against oppressionwhether from boys/men or the wicked folk of Faery, are compelling and entertaining.Book of Nightisnt set in the Faery realm but in a skewed version of the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts. Charlie Charlatan Hall claims shes been crooked, from the day she was born. Never met a bad decision she wasnt willing to double down on. Had fingers made for picking pockets, a tongue for lying, and a shriveled cherry pit for a heart. But Charlie is a highly likable protagonist, and despite her own self-assessment, we learn that she (like Asher) has been shaped by a less-than-ideal mother: a woman so self-involved that she allows a shady con man to use a twelve-year old Charlie for his cons. That is, until the day he oversteps at the home of the wealthy and powerful Lionel Salt and comes to a violent end, young Charlie barely escaping with her life.

Charlies world is both familiar (bar jobs, boyfriends, rent, hangovers) and unfamiliar. In this world, peoples shadows are part of shadow magic where shadows can be altered to look like wings or cats but also used to intimidate others, to increase ones own power. There is a market for stolen shadows and a powerful cabal that rules over shadow magic. Black does an excellent job of explaining this worldwithout breaking narrative pace with extended expositionand we learn about power structures and shadow magic as the pace of Charlies life moves rapidly forward. Alterationists comprise one of the four shadow disciplines: they cosmetically shape shadows, using them to trigger emotions so strong they could be addictive. Work with shadow magic is gloaming, and the other disciplines include carapaces focused on their own shadows who can fly, puppeteers who send their shadows to do the kind of foul shit no one wanted to talk about, and the masksa bunch of creeps and mystics intent on unraveling the secrets of the universe, no matter who it hurt. There are also Blightsshadows walking free after their gloamist has died.

Charlies boyfriend Vince has no shadowhe tells her it was stolen (a frequent occurrence in a world where shadows have power). Charlies younger sister, Posey, is obsessed with activating her own shadowrisking her health and sanity. When an acquaintance, Doreen, asks Charlie to find her missing partner Adam, Charlie starts a search that sets in motion a series of events reaching back to her own childhood trauma and involving all of the shadow magic elite in the Valley. At the bar where Charlie works, a tweedy man (Paul Ecco) is thrown out for trying to sell part of a mysterious book, theLiber Noctem, wanted by Lionel Salt. Later, walking home from work, Charlie sees Eccos body, cracked open like a walnut and nearby a man whose hands are entirely made of shadow. She makes it home, but the man with shadow hands will become a terrifying part of Charlies life as she begins her search for Adam and the book. Charlie is intrigued by theLiber Noctem, and although shes sworn off her past of stealing and trading in rare books and objects wanted by gloamists, it turns out that Adam may have the book. Charlie is drawn back into her old life because she might be able to have something she never thought she wouldthe satisfaction of taking something away from Lionel Salt.

Shifting between past and present, we learn how Charlie became who she is and just what it was Lionel Salt did to her. And we begin to be suspicious of Vince and of everyone else in Charlies world. Although Charlie has a tattoo that reads fear less, we feel her fear and recklessness as she dives deeper into the Valleys underground of shadow magic, learns what she believes to be Vinces secret, and discovers that her own shadow is quickening. Charlie decides If she couldnt be responsible or careful or good or loved, if she was doomed to be a lit match, then [she] might as well go back to finding stuff to burn. At a rapidly increasing pace, she does just that: setting in motion a complex plan that ultimately leads to a confrontation with the Cabal and Salt at his home and the revelation of many truths: including Vinces identity and the importance of theLiber Noctem. Similar to the ending ofThe Path of Thorns, dark secrets are revealed and the shadow world implodes thanks to Charlies lit match.

Yvonne C. Garrettholds an MLIS, an MFA-Fiction, two MAs (NYU), and a Ph.D. with a dissertation focused on women in Punk. Shes been published in a wide array of journals & magazines & has published five poetry chapbooks. Senior Fiction Editor at Black Lawrence Press, she also edits the weekly publishing newsletterSapling.

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Laurie Anderson with Paul D. Miller

Bernard Piffaretti with Raphael Rubinstein

Tavares Strachan with Amanda Gluibizzi

Ebony G. Patterson: to kiss a flower goodbye

Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme: May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth

Guadalupe Maravilla: Tierra Blanca Joven

Fictions of Emancipation: Carpeaux Recast

Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe

Tobi Kahn: Formation: Images of the Body

Bang Geul Han: If You Grind The Threshold of Three Other Houses

Richard Nonas: As Light Through Fog

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Disappearance

Bas Jan Ader: Missing at Sea, Missing at Home

Now You See It. Now You Dont.

Once mountain, now pit, pile, pipe:

Thirteen Other Ways of Looking at Disappearance

Steve Yarbroughs Stay Gone Days

Matthew Vollmers The World Is Not Your Home

Terri Gordon-Zolov and Eric Zolov with Camilo Trumper

Valgeir Sigursson with Ondrej Vesel

Sorry/Please/No: A Dance for Survivors, Citizens, and Queens

Tom Gormicans The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomess The Tsugua Diaries

Payal Kapadias A Night of Knowing Nothing

How to Make Ambitious Theater on a Budget, According to Clubbed Thumbs Maria Striar

By Antnio Osrio, translated from the Portuguese by Patricio Ferrari and Susan M. Brown

Meeka Walshs Malleable Forms: Selected Essays

Accra Shepps Radical Justice: Lifting Every Voice

Celia Pauls Letters to Gwen John

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmores Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artists Reckoning with the South

Lisa Slominskis Nonconformers: A New History of Self-Taught Artists

Rikers, what good do you think you do?

7. January 7, 1955, the Metropolitan Opera House, New York

8. March 4, 1955, Broadway just above West 52nd Street

9. November and December, 1955, Paris

10. 1955, Paris; 2016, Bregenz, Austria

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