Monday, January 03, 2022

Good Neighbors: The Full Collection by Stephanie Burgis: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Good Neighbors by Stephanie Burgis

Good Neighbors by Stephanie Burgis consists of four short stories/novellas previously published on the author’s Patreon account. They form a complete story with a continuing plot.

The story is set in a realm that resembles 19th century England, but with magic and fantastic creatures. Mia Brandt is a witch with unique ability to spell metal, a skill she must hide from her suspicious neighbours, especially since she and her father had to flee their previous town after the townspeople burned down their house. Leander Fabian is a necromancer who does nothing to hide who or what he is, living in a black castle next to Mia’s new home with his undead minions.

When the villagers come after Leander with torches and pitchforks, Mia stands up to them, revealing her own magic. She instantly becomes a pariah in her new village, but her act helps her to form an alliance with Leander. A romance is born.

These were great stories, each complete despite the short form, and each continuing where the previous one ended. The first two were shorter and slightly lighter in tone. The third story takes a turn to darker when Mia and Leander visit a city that’s been taken over by Purfiers who want to remove all magical people. That and the last story are longer and meatier because of that storyline, with themes of acceptance and fear. And throughout, the romance between Mia and Leander builds nicely despite their backgrounds where loving and being loved doesn’t come easily.

If I have any complaints, it’s that the first two short stories could’ve been made slightly longer for this omnibus. The first story especially suffers in comparison with the last two. I particularly wish it hadn’t ended before the proper meeting between Mia and Leander; the secondhand description in the next story simply doesn’t have the same feel as a full description would’ve had.

All stories are told in Mia’s point of view, which worked well. She was good-hearted and resourceful, and not willing to give up on people she loves. Leander was a perfect Gothic hero, a bit aloof and distant, and with a heart-breaking backstory. I wouldn’t mind reading more stories about them.

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