The Nine Lands (Marie Brennan)

The Nine Lands is a short story collection by Marie Brennan.
Finished on: 28.2.2020
[I won this book in a librarything Early Reviewer give-away.]

The Nine Lands collects seven short stories that are all set in the same world, but other than that aren’t really connected. I really enjoyed the stories. They are well-written and show a great variety of ideas without feeling disparate. I have had my eye on Brennan’s Lady Trent series for a while, I will most definitely will give it a go now.

On a more technical note, they really made the most of this being an e-book – with author’s notes linked to every story and making it easy to jump between the stories and the notes. Awesome.

The book cover showing a pencil-drawn map.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

Calling Into Silence

Ngwela has bled for the first time, so it’s her turn to dance and call for the spirits. But when she calls, no spirits come – and that’s unheard of.

This was an excellent beginning to the collection, opening this intriguing world with a culture that is not rooted in European imagery that still dominates so much of high fantasy and is filled with black characters. The plot was not that surprising or exciting, but the entire atmosphere is evocative and to me, Brennan really nails the relationship between spirits and humans here. So I really enjoyed it.

Kingspeaker

After the necessary rituals of purification, she becomes the voice of the King of Anahata. From then on, she only speaks his words – not always an easy task.

I really liked the concept here (and in the notes Brennan mentions that she heard about it in an anthropology class, so it probably actually existed). Brennan looks at what it means to be someone else’s voice – the responsibility that comes with it and also the question how much of yourself you can put away. I liked that she tackles such big questions with that idea – and that she gives a thoughtful answer to it, too.

Sing for Me

Caríchio plucks Ema from poverty and brings her to court because she has the gift of seeing and he hopes he can serve the court with her. But Ema has trouble controling the visions and if she can’t control them, she really is of no use.

This story was surprisingly gory and hard to take, in a very good way. It’s a cruel story, it’s only appropriate that it should be hard to read. But it’s also an important comment on powerful people treat the powerless.

Execution Morning

Captain Sarienne has to oversee an execution of three Kagi, shapeshifters. She feels uneasy about it, but she knows her duty and just hopes everything will go okay.

I liked this story, although I did struggle with the equivalence Sarienne draws between the oppressive violence against the Kagi and the violent way they fight back. It is an understandable position she takes as a military captain, but I just wished that the story took more of a stance against its own character.

The Legend of Anahata

Kirtti is supposed to be King of Sahasrara – he is the last of the royal family of an occupied country. Now he has a chance to take a city back. If all goes well.

This was probably the weakest story in the collection. It’s not bad, but it just didn’t speak to me, it didn’t get so emotional for me. Maybe because the themes of sacrificing yourself to build your own legend isn’t so much my thing.

Lost Soul

Andris hears Tirean busk at the fair and he is intrigued by the court music she plays. He strikes up a conversation and soon finds out that there’s more to her – and he might be able to help.

Lost Soul was a story that made me smile a whole lot, despite the fact that there is some pain here, too. It’s the lightest story of the collection, has got a touch of romance and its peopled with genuinely nice characters. I loved it.

White Shadow

It’s time for her to find her otherform – and that means running off into the wild on her own and looking for it.

It was nice that they chose this story to close out the collection as it nicely mirrors the first, in tone and setting, although it really doesn’t tell the same story. I liked that we got a look at yet another culture at the very end, too.

Summarizing: Really good collection.

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