ARC Reviews

A Universe of Wishes by Dhonielle Clayton


ARC was provided by NetGalley and Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published on the release date (December 8th, 2020, Happy Release Day!)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief desecration of the dead (A Universe of Wishes), death and talk of death (A Universe of Wishes, The Coldest Spot in the Universe & Habibi), loss of a loved one (A Universe of Wishes, The Takeback Tango, The Weight, The Coldest Spot in the Universe, & Longer Than the Threads of Time), grief (A Universe of Wishes, Liberia, The Takeback Tango, & Wish, The Weight) trauma/PTSD (A Universe of Wishes, Unmoor, & Longer Then the Threads of Time), physical violence (The Silk Blade & A Royal Affair), murder (The Scarlet Woman & The Takeback Tango), mentions of human sacrifice (The Scarlet Woman), homophobia (Cristal y Ceniza, A Royal Affair, & Dream and Dare), kidnapping/abduction (A Royal Affair), talk of colonization (The Takeback Tango & The Coldest Spot in the Universe), mentions of slavery (The Takeback Tango), mentions of genocide (The Takeback Tango), sexism (Dream and Dare), bullying (Dream and Dare), minor themes of misandry (Dream and Dare), chronic illness (Wish), brief mentions of infidelity (The Weight), mentions of cheating (The Weight & Unmoor), manipulation (Unmoor), depictions and talk of acrophobia (Longer Than the Threads of Time), talk of suicide (Habibi), mentions of physical abuse (Habibi)

I feel so blessed that I received an arc of this book. Truly, I fell in love with so many stories within these pages and I can’t wait to see other readers to fall in love with them as well. And can we take a moment to pause and praise the diverse cast of authors this anthology brought together to make this book happen? This line up is absolutely beautiful and there’s so much representation in that fact alone! There’s also a wide diversity within the stories from characters of color to characters not fitting the mold of society, all the way to the diverse relationships. Truly, a plethora of wonderful blessings within this book. This book itself is a blessing that so many readers have waited for. I really loved this book and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you a little more.

As usual, with any anthologies, bind-ups, etc… that find their way into my personal library, I like to do a break down with a mini review for each story that shares my thoughts and feelings! I hope you enjoy!

A Universe of Wishes by Tara Sim ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I loved this story so much! If I could give this 4.5 stars then I would have. There were so many beautiful themes that were laced throughout this book and I think many reader are going to resonate with it. For myself, I was crying for the remainder on the story once I hit one-third of the way through. I also loved the way Thorn and Sage were falling for each other. It felt very slow burn, but with underlying themes of intensity. The only reason I didn’t give this a five star is due to wanting more. It felt short and I feel that if the author wanted to, they could turn this into a true novella or even a full book because there was so much that could be explored, the world sounds incredible and I want to know more about it, and I think readers are really going to want more backstory from both of the characters (though we do get brief backstories within this book).

“It’s sacred, what we do. The dead are to be respected.”

The Silk Blade by Natalie C. Parker ⭐⭐⭐
I enjoyed this story. It’s very slow burn with themes of discovering ones sexuality/sexual interests underneath. And I love reading stories that have those two elements within it. Also, I loved how the romance between the two female competitors felt very unexpected especially due to the tournament that happens within this short story. However, though I loved these elements, I really wanted more details and the fact that this is a short story, some things felt rushed. The pacing felt quick and for my personal taste, I would have liked a little more world building. If this had been a bit longer, I think I would have enjoyed it more because it truly feels like there’s so much more that needed to be explored or details that needed to be given. However, I really hope this gets turned into it’s own novella because the way it ends makes you wonder what will happen next.

“Something has changed for both of us since crossing the Silk Bridge this morning.”

The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libba Bray ⭐⭐
I know there are some of you who are pulling your pitchforks out right now, but hear me out first. I have never read anything by Libba Bray before. I know, I know! Truly, I loved the writing and I loved what pieces of the world building we received in this book. However, this short story feels like it’s part of a bigger series, a bigger world, or a continuation of a story that has already been created. And that doesn’t sit well with me especially when I read an anthology. Personally, I’m not a fan of novellas or short stories from series that get added into an anthology because it feels like it doesn’t belong, depending on the details more details may need to be added because of a lack of context, characters are harder to connect with if there’s backstories already established, but not included in the story, etc… There were a lot of things that influenced my choice on rating this so low and I will honestly say, that in my opinion, many readers will rate this story low if they’ve never read anything by this author before. I think those who have read works by this author will love this short story, but unfortunately for me, this wasn’t my cup of tea. I think this would have done better if it had it’s own physical novella.

“Like a cat, I am insatiably curious. And, probably, like a cat, my curiosity will be the death of me one day. I do not intend for that day to be today.”

Cristal y Ceniza by Anna-Marie McLemore ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I love retelling and when I say this feels like a Cinderella retelling, you will know what I mean once you read it. I loved this a lot. If I’m being honest, I would rate this 4.5 stars because I really loved so much about this short story. I loved how the story is about a daughter who’s trying to save her mothers and her family, as a whole, from being torn apart. I love that the love interest is transgender and the way they connect with our main character. I just loved it so much. I wish this would have been longer and I wish we would have received the name of our main character for this story. Aside from those two things, I loved this short story so much!

Liberia by Kwame Mbalia ⭐⭐⭐
I loved a lot about this short story. I love the way the main character is so connected to their family and the way grief is represented in this short story. And I love that I was surprised to find our story follows a research officer for agriculture. I really loved that about this whole story. However, what I didn’t love was how often the main character was treated poorly or seen a lesser, because of their job title, not only by some crew members, but also by their leader. It’s never challenged except for one scene where the main character is pushed to a break point and risks their own life to same something that should of had a higher priority to the crew as a whole. I really wanted our main character to challenge others more on how they were treated, but we never really see that. Aside from that, I would have liked to have seen more of this story because this ends on such a heavy note. I didn’t feel good after this story ended and I think for many readers, it’s going to be a heavy for them as well especially since grief is a theme that’s heavily tied in with the story and main character.

A Royal Affair by V.E. Schwab ⭐⭐
Once again, I loved the writing in this short story and this is my first time reading anything written by this author. However, this feels like another short story or novella that should’ve had it’s own physical book and shouldn’t have been included in this anthology. As I mentioned with a previous short story, I feel like many readers who haven’t read anything by this author are going to give this a low rating because it’s obvious this is a short story/backstory from a series and if they’re not familiar with the characters, the backstories, the world, etc… then this can lead to a poor reading experience. For me personally, I had so many questions that I wasn’t getting answers to that it felt almost impossible to focus on the story and it wasn’t the best reading experience for me. I think those who are familiar with the characters, world, series etc… this author created, they will fall in love with it or enjoy this a lot more than someone who hasn’t read the series this comes from.

The Takeback Tango by Rebecca Roanhorse ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This short story had me in my feelings the whole dang time I was reading it. There are a lot of themes of grief woven through this short story, but what I love most is the theme of reclaiming oneself in the mist of that grief and finding a place for oneself again. This short story reminds me of a mission from Mass Effect 2 with Kasumi Gato and I love everything about this. I think the author did a beautiful job with this short story, the world building, the bits of backstory, and I’m really hoping this gets turned into it’s own novella because I’d love to see more. I would really love to know what happens with Vi and Valerian. It was an all around great short story to read. Definitely wanted it to be longer.

Dream and Dare by Nic Stone ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I think this will be a story that resonates with a lot of readers. I know it made me feel a certain kind of way. The writing was so beautiful and the story line is very captivating, but what I loved most was the love that blooms between the main character and the love interest. I really wish this had been a bit longer because I loved these characters so much and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye when this ended. There’s also a lot of themes of how some women get looked down upon or treated poorly by their friends, family, other women, just for enjoying or wearing more masculine couture. And I think many readers are going to appreciate how this story addresses it and I love how the main character addresses it as well. Overall, I really enjoyed this, but I wish it was a tad longer.

“Dream knows Dare doesn’t need to be rescued. Not in the least.
The monster does.”

Wish by Jenni Balch ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Every person with a chronic illness is going to be hit in the feels when they read this short story and I say that confidently, with my whole damn chest. If I could, this story would have gotten 4.5 or even 5 stars because any story that can pull emotions out of me, right from the gate, deserves all my love and appreciation. I loved this, I loved it so much. Oh, I wish I could go into details with this one, but I truly think going in with very little detail is the best way to read this short story. However, I will say that I can’t speak on the chronic illness (immune thrombocytopenic purpura or ITP) representation in this short story. But, if you’re reading my review and you have an ownvoice review or you know someone with an ownvoice review for ITP, then please link it so I can direct others to that review.

“I can do things; I can’t change people. Because Wishing another person different is never the right answer. Even if you figured out some way to make it happen, it doesn’t end well.”

The Weight by Dhonielle Clayton ⭐⭐⭐
This is an interesting short story. I had a bit of a mixed bag about how I originally felt about this short story, but decided that genuinely I enjoyed the majority of this story. I have to admit, the opening of this short story made me think of something similar to Bioshock or something that felt very steampunk and I loved that. I loved that from the first impression, I was able to feel an atmosphere that was different compared to a lot of the other short stories in this anthology. Also, I thought the concept of how hearts were read was very unique. This is the first time I’ve ever read a book that takes the heart and uses it with a unique concept like the way it tells if you relationship is meant to last or not. It’s incredibly unique. However, my biggest issue with this short story was being unable to connect with either of the characters. Nothing drew my attention to their personalities, Grace’s character felt like it was too much while Marcus faded to the background , and despite the details of both characters’ pasts, I simply didn’t care what would happen to them. As a whole, this short story was enjoyable. I would love to see this world explored further and I would love to know what’s going to happen next because the ending left me curious.

Unmoor by Mark Oshiro ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This short story is truly a gem and the only short story that resonated with me so much, had me crying the entire time, that there was no way I couldn’t give this story five stars. Mark Oshiro has been an author that has snuck up on me and has recently become a new favorite author of mine. So I might be a little bias with giving this short story five stars, but Oshiro has such a powerful way of drawing the emotions out of a reader with their writing. I remember a lot of details from a lot of the short stories in this anthology, but I remember everything that happened this is particular story the most. Truly, this short story is a treasure and this has me eager to read more books by this author.

The Coldest Spot in the Universe by Samira Ahmed ⭐⭐⭐⭐
If this short story doesn’t make you appreciate your life or make you want to live it to the fullest, I don’t know what will. When I finished this short story, I had to take a huge pause from continuing my reading of this anthology because this short story left an impact with me. I think the author did an amazing job with the writing of this story because you can feel the encouragement radiating throughout this entire thing. It also has a unique way at looking at humanity and history, and I really loved that about this story. And, the way this short story is written is in voice log form. I have no doubt, that if this were an audiobook novella, it would sound beautiful because it’s one thing to be able to convey hope and encouragement, but it’s another to hear it from someone’s lips. My only complaint is I wish this was longer because I wanted more, so much more and I wasn’t ready for this story to end.

“Somewhere along the way, we decided telling lies to ourselves was the easiest way to live.”

The Beginning of Monsters by Tessa Gratton ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tessa Gratton has such a unique way of writing. Even this short story is so unique, but it’s something you can picture this author writing. There’s very much an essence of the author in throughout this story and I thought it was absolutely beautiful. Not only the writing, but the world building is so beautifully crafted. Though this is a short story, the author really conveys the image of this world very well. And the amount of diversity we read throughout this story is absolutely perfection. Truly, another fantastic short story, but it only needed to be longer!

Longer Than the Threads of Time by Zoraida Cordova ⭐⭐⭐⭐
When I said I wanted retellings, Zoraida Cordova said, “Let me show you a retelling!” and put this beautifully written, gut wrenching Rapunzel retelling smack dab in this anthology. This was absolutely everything I wanted in a Rapunzel retelling and I’m a bit upset that this doesn’t have it’s own book. I have always loved the concept of a magical world living alongside the mundane world and I wanted so much more of this world. I want to know what our main character did to get locked up in the tower, I want to know what will happen to this beautiful romance, I have so many questions and not enough answers! Also, this is my first time reading anything by this author and I’m impressed. I really want to read more and experience this writing more. My only complaint is this felt too short and I wanted at least five more pages because it was too good.

Habibi by Tochi Onyebuchi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is another one of those short stories that I would have given 4.5 to because it so well written and I have no doubt that this will bring out strong emotions with many readers. I loved the way that this short story is written in letters between two inmates. Not only is this written between two inmates, this short story brings out so many emotions, shows the importance of having a connection with another person, and how people can save one another whether they realize it or not. Personally, I just wanted a few more pages because I needed to know if these two character got the happy ending they deserved. Truly, this author has a very powerful, moving way of writing and I’m so glad this anthology concluded with this short story.

“If I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself as the main character. And I was the hero who did not destroy things but saved them.”

Overall, I gave A Universe of Wishes four stars because out of a possible 75 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 15 stories) this collection accumulated 54 stars (72%)! Technically this should be a three star rating (3.5 stars actually, if half stars were a thing), but I decided that since I really enjoyed reading this book that I would give it four stars because I truly feel this is a wonderful book to read especially during this time of year.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.


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