Daphne and the Silver Ash – Joss Llewelyn

This was a novella received through LibraryThing’s Member Giveaways – thank you. It is a short, sweet, melancholy yet ultimately hopeful story, aching with a feeling of might-have-been and will-never-be-again as one thoughtful and gallant young woman tries to deal with the repercussions of what three selfish and powerful magical beings have done each in their own self-interest. It is nicely conceived, based on folklore – some very nice worldbuilding which would lend itself very well to a longer work, perhaps set in the city’s past – and nicely written; I think the only reason it took me as long as it did to read it was that I had a bad feeling about the ending. The exploration of the magic and its effects on the city and on Daphne were beautiful.

I think my only quibble with the story is that Daphne is introduced as a shoemaker in a city too poor for people to afford shoes or for there to be leather from which to make them. It seems as though this means that her city’s decline has been extremely rapid in the past few years, because Daphne is extremely young; she must have been able to ply her trade at some point, but no longer, which just seems improbable at the age of nineteen. It would have been interesting to know how and why she became a shoemaker, and it would have tied the story together nicely if her trade had had some bearing on the denouement. The Chekhov’s Gun technique is particularly worthwhile to keep in mind with a novella, I think. But, again, this is a minor detail, and barely detracted from my enjoyment of the read; I’ll be looking forward to the author’s other works with pleasure.

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