Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe
Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe is a Shakespearean-inspired tale for the modern YA reader. Told by Mae, a ward of the Prosper family patriarch, this tale is full of magic, spirits, greed, unrequited love, and tragedy. I enjoyed the setting inspired by The Tempest and all the other aspects that are very in keeping with the intent of Shakespeare’s plays which was to entertain the masses and allow them to see traits reflected exaggeratedly. The only character I felt sympathy for is Ivo, one of the many Prosper grandchildren. Even though Mae did not want to admit it, he is truly a tragic hero. He was caught up in a world that he disapproved of but felt powerless to change until the stakes became too high, and he could no longer look the other way. The other characters tend to be vain and selfish and the perfect foil to make Ivo’s actions stand out for his heroism. The first-person narration pulls you into this atmospheric tale and keeps the tension high and the story very personal, but I wish I could more easily tell that it is set in the 1920s. There is very little in the story that reflects the period. If you are looking for a different kind of YA Fantasy, Bright Ruined Things is just the book you are looking forward to as your next read.
I think this famous quote from The Tempest sums up Bright Ruined Things perfectly:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”― William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Reclaim the Stars by various Latinx Authors (short stories)
Reclaim the Stars is a book containing seventeen Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories by Latinx authors representing Latin America diaspora and includes stories full of sexual diversity, Latinx culture, lore, and unique magic systems. I enjoyed the fantasy stories a bit more than the science fiction ones, but that might be because I love magic systems, especially ones that are unique to me.
I noted three standouts, in particular, that left me wanting an entire novel based in the fictional world: Color-Coded by Maya Montayne, Rogue Enchantments by Isabel Ibañez, and Tame the Wicked Night by Zoraida Córdova (who is the editor of this anthology). The magic system in Color-Coded is a world where the hair of females changes color when they become of age (usually around 16). That color represents their particular magic, which also develops at that point. Rogue Enchantments reminded me, in minimal parts, of the movie Encanto, which I adored, and the magic system is very individualized and seems to rely on encantos (or spells/charms). Lastly, Tamed the Wicked Night reminded me (and perhaps is) of a retelling of a folklore story with gods and goddesses and a love-conquers-all theme.
Just as these three were standouts for me, the wide range of tales truly has something for everyone, such as space battles, different reflections on death and the meaning of life, following your path, and even a few reflections on environmental concerns. If this appeals to you, then this collection is one you won’t want to miss.