Introducing a new young adult sci-fi fantasy diverse short story collection! This year has been the gift of good, diverse short story collections. All Out, Short Stuff, A Universe of Wishes just adds to the list. There’s probably more but I haven’t gotten around to them yet. But while this one shares in its diversity with the other two, it stands out because not only are stories of queer youth, but of youths of color. The stories range from completely new stand alone shorts, to extra chapters of already beloved books like the Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab and the Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray. Meaning, there is something here for everyone.
The first story really sets the pace for the book, it is also the title story. It had great world-building, characters, and energy. It really immerses the reader into the journey they are about to have. From there the stories get even more unique and diverse. Obviously, my favorite story is the one about Prince Rhy and Alucard Emery from the Shades of Magic series, this extra little glimpse into their lives and story was just so great. That story does contain spoilers if you have not read the second book yet so be warned.
The best thing I can say about this collection is that I didn’t dislike any of the stories. Some may have been just fine, but they were all enjoyable and had qualities I really enjoyed. It’s a testament to the quality of work these authors produce because, let’s be honest here, any project that is touting itself as diverse is going to be under the microscope and people will use whatever excuse they have to tear it apart. While I’m not saying that that won’t happen (if there’s a will there’s a way), I am saying that this makes it harder for them to do so. Anyone who goes into this with an open mind will find themselves happy.
Some of my favorite stories (other than A Royal Affair) are Cristal y Cenzia, The Takeback Tango (this gave me Black Panther vibes, but a very specific scene BP vibes), Unmoor, and Habibi. Habibi is the final story in the collection and wow is it one of the best. I felt like this one really just hit me. I felt for the characters and their predicaments, and was moved by how they viewed themselves and the world. It was just a really beautiful story. The levels of sci-fi and fantasy in each story varies, Habibi being one with, in my opinion, with more reality and just a dash of fantasy. I think this lends itself really well to a wider audience and can even help people find a level they like.
If you liked Crier’s War, the story The Beginning of Monsters would be right up your alley. I would also include This Is How You Lose The Time War fans, but that is more of a stretch. That comparison is just pure vibes not so much as content. If you’re a fan of Binti, then Liberia may be one that you really enjoy, I sure did. Heck, if you’re passionate about Climate Change, The Coldest Spot in the Universe is one that you will most likely enjoy.
I hope I’m making my point clear: there is every reason to pick this up and no reason not to. Enjoy some light-hearted and some heavy-hearted stories about queer people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, species, genders and sexualities.