The lost child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell

The lost child of Lychford Book Cover The lost child of Lychford
Lychford #2
Paul Cornell
Fantasy
Tor.com
November 22 2016
e-book
136

It’s December in the English village of Lychford – the first Christmas since an evil conglomerate tried to force open the borders between our world and… another.

Which means it’s Lizzie’s first Christmas as Reverend of St. Martin’s. Which means more stress, more expectation, more scrutiny by the congregation. Which means… well, business as usual, really.

Until the apparition of a small boy finds its way to Lizzie in the church. Is he a ghost? A vision? Something else? Whatever the truth, our trio of witches (they don’t approve of “coven”) are about to face their toughest battle, yet!

We're going back to Lychford! Because, of course, this is not our first visit - or it shouldn't be.  You can absolutely read The lost child of Lychford as a stand-alone and be quite happy with that, but I recommend starting with Witches of Lychfordanyway. Because Lychford is worth the time spent there.

Lychford is home to a coven of witches. One of them, Autumn,  runs a magic supply shop - I can't help but envision the shop from The Craft, but it's not a good comparison - I don't think Autumn would lecture her neighbours about magic morality when they were only trying to buy a scented candle or some other knick-knack.   Mostly, Autumn spends her time wishing a romcom could just hurry up and happen to her.

Lizzie is a witch, but mainly a reverend. It's a long story, but she's quite clear-headed, thank you. Except when she isn't. In this story, Lizzie meets a ghost, and almost loses her Christmas spirit in attempting to figure out what the ghost is all about. 

Um, yeah, she might lose rather more than just her Christmas.

And then there's Judith, who I think is awesome, largely because she's old and crotchety and belligerent and simply not nice.  She appears to work for Autumn in her shop, though in reality, Autumn is Judith's apprentice.  But Judith isn't very forthcoming, about magic or about herself or about anything else.  Her home life is a mystery.  

...Unfortunately, for everyone involved.

Lychford is a small magical place residing somewhere amongst both faeries and something rather Lovecraftian,  and you should go explore it.

The devil you know, by K.J. Parker

The devil you know Book Cover The devil you know
K.J. Parker
Fantasy
Tor.com
March 1st 2015
e-book
128

This novella is terribly stylish and terribly clever. Not only that, it is the second novella of that description by K.J. Parker published by tor.com.  I only mention this because if you like The devil you know, and haven't already read The last witness, you will want to!  They aren't really connected - although I believe they're set on the same map.

So! A great, aging philosopher decides to make a deal with a devil.  He doesn't have a history as a religious man - rather the opposite - but he's very, very good at making a convincing case for just about anything. Including the existence of entities interested in the eternal torment of human souls.  Specifically, his soul.

The story is told from two changing points of view; that of the philosopher and that of the devil. These transitions aren't marked, which isn't much of a problem if you're reasonably awake while reading, but, well, can confuse you if you're not.

The philosopher is said to have asked for this particular devil by name, but that name is never explicitly offered to readers - probably because the devil is every devil,  and the philosopher is every philosopher. (This is actually quite funny as several well-known titles are attributed to this one philosopher throughout the book.  A lot of the story makes him out to be Nietzsche, but, well, there's some stark moral philosophy and there's some Adam Smith and... okay, maybe this isn't going to amuse everyone as much as it did me.)

Can a human outsmart a devil?  Maybe that depends on exactly what defines human and devil.  What can a human do that a demon can't,  and vice versa? It tends to look like a game of definitions, and I thorougly enjoy reading that - I mean, this- sort of thing.

I hope the rest of the books published under this name (I know K. J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt) are of the same ilk as these recent novellas - Clearly, I must go forth and find out.

 

The Donor, by Nikki Rae

The Donor Book Cover The Donor
Nikki Rae
Paranormal
self-published
October 30 2014
e-book
115

The Donor was a strange and pleasant surprise.   (One of the surprises is nicely spoiled simply by looking at the shelving on GoodReads, actually - I don't mind much, but I'm not very bothered by spoilers anyway.)

Ah. It's really hard to say much about this without giving away any of the things the story uncovers quietly, one thing at a time.  We meet a young woman, 18,  working a job instead of going to college as planned, putting all of her income into her father's medical bills.  Casey and her parents don't have much to spend. She dismisses her own headaches and nosebleeds; Getting it checked out would cost money she doesn't have.

She makes a match at a website; one that isn't like okcupid and the others, according to her work friend, "Most of these guys are loaded."

Casey travels from California to Boston to meet her match.  It seems like the only reasonable choice now, given her situation. At least there's money to be made.

This is the basic setup, and it implies a certain set of events, so clearly that of course the reader knows those expectations are not going to be met.   I could predict much of it, but that didn't detract from the reading - Casey's narration is quiet, poignant,  moving forward with heavy inevitability.

I enjoyed the read rather more than I expected to. Might recommend to others looking for a mini-tearjerker of the paranormal variety.   It is, however, all about interactions between a small cast of characters, so stay clear if you're looking for worldbuilding or thicker plotlines.