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.

 

Lustlocked, by Matt Wallace

Lustlocked Book Cover Lustlocked
Sin du Jour #2
Matt Wallace
Urban fantasy
Tor.com
Jan 26 2016
e-book
224

Tor.com started publishing a bunch of excellent novellas in 2015. I love the novella format - it's short and tight and doesn't accomodate much fluff, while it also provides more meat than a short story. All good things!  One of the novellas I've loved so far is Matt Wallace's Envy of Angels: A Sin du Jour affair - The first book about the strange border-world of Sin du Jour, one of New Yorks finest catering restaurants. They serve a very discerning, very specific demographic.  (I expect you'd find an entry on Sin du Jour in, for example, Mur Lafferty's Shambling guide to New York.)

You should read Envy of Angels before you proceed to read this second volume in the series; Lustlocked.  You'll be able to enjoy it anyway, but there are references to events from the previous story, which will obviously make more sense if you've been there. Also, it's fun, so why not?

Lustlocked begins much the same way Envy of Angels did - we find Ritter and the rest of the supply & stock team out somewhere in the world, busy acquiring a vital ingredient for the Sin du Jour kitchen.  They need to provide for a goblin wedding, this time. Not just any gobling wedding, actually - it is the wedding.  A royal one.

...

By the way? Are you sad about losing David Bowie? This story packs a little extra punch for Labyrinth-y people.  I may have cried a little bit.

Of course, we're quickly back to Darren and Lena, Sin du Jour's newest line cooks. Despite their experiences in that kitchen, it really is hard to turn down a job that pays more than they'd earn as sous chefs anywhere in the city.

I don't know about you, but I watch cooking shows a lot (especially while I consume ugly junk food) - and Matt Wallace has managed to turn the entertainment kitchen, and the overall foodie trend, into an urban fantasy universe. I love it,  I love the descriptions of the pastry chef's meticulous presentations.  AND I'm very relieved that the phrases "Me on a plate" and "Cook your heart out" are not included anywhere in the text.

Lena continues to be beautifully competent, Darren continues to be weirdly incompetent,  and Dorsky is a doofus. As expected.

The short story "Small wars" is included in the e-book copy, and also available to read online here. It details exactly what went on with Ritter, Cindy, Moon and Hara on their mission at the start of Lustlocked,  and as a bonus it offers glimpses of how Ritter even found these people.  Pretty naff!

Do I recommend it? Yeah! I haven't even mentioned the lizardy snake people things.  They're there, you know.