Sunday, April 15, 2018

Taste of Wrath, by Matt Wallace

[Tor Novella]
★★★★★ Saved the Best for Last—Deeply Satisfying

(Modern Fantasy; Sin du Jour) In which The Forces of Evil try to destroy our favorite caterers-to-the-supernatural and find they have their plates full (45,820 words; Time: 2h:32m)

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"," by (edited by Lee Harris), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

A word about eligibility: Technically, anything over 40,000 words is a novel, not a novella, so this work will not be eligible for the Nebula in the novella category next year. If "Make Room! Make Room!" is ratified at WorldCon 76 in San Jose this August, "Taste of Wrath" will be eligible as a either a novella or a novel for the 2019 Hugo Award. (This matters because it's a lot easier to win in the novella category rather than competing against works three or more times longer.)

For the entire series (seven novellas and one novelette), we count a total of 244,629 words, which is just just over the 240,000-word requirement to qualify for the Best Series Hugo in 2019 (WSFS Constitution section 3.3.5).

Pro: The main plot tells how Sin du Jour fought off the attack of Allensworth and his infernal allies. In the process, it revisits the main events of all seven previous stories, tying up countless loose ends along the way. There are no “unexpected surprises”; everyone who comes to their aid is someone who owed them one from previous stories in the series. They earn their victory fair and square.

They also pay a high cost, losing five of their number—six, if you include Little Dove.

Many of the characters complete their own arcs. Lena, most notably. The first novella pretty clearly sets her up as the protagonist of the entire series, although with so many characters that didn’t always seem obvious. In retrospect, her part of the story arc for the entire series is how she earned the position of Head Chef at Sin du Jour.

Ritter finally makes peace with the attempted genocide he participated in, paying the full price for it. Always in the thick of the biggest fights, always knowing exactly what to do in every situation, he finally found a solution to the one problem he most wanted to solve but never could. Rest in peace.

Whitehorse makes peace with his own past via his own sacrifice, and Little Dove rises to the occasion following her grandfather’s sacrifice and despite Luciana’s temptation. For her, it’s a successful coming of age, underlined by the fact that it lets her come into her power. It is very satisfying when she disintegrates Luciana for good.

Darren copes with his own self hate and becomes a strong, integrated person. Almost any gay man will identify powerfully with what this symbolizes, although others may not get it. It certainly moved me to tears.

Even Allensworth seems comprehensible (if reprehensible) at last. We understand why he’s taking the risks he is, and however evil he may be, he’s not evil just to be evil. It's fitting that Darren is the one to bring him down, using the "gift" Allensworth gave Darren to further his own plot.

I count at least five deeply moving scenes, all of which depended on the way the characters and the setting have been built up across all the works. Everything comes together in this final story, and it all works. Bravo!

It’s not all serious, though. There are great bits of levity that offset the high tension just enough. My favorite is when Marcus is shooting murderous “meat puppets” shaped like Donald Trump and he observes, “This is the closest I’ve ever come to voting!” Another good one is when we learn that the goblin formerly known as King was actually the musician Prince.

Somewhat unusually, the series is written in third-person omniscient present tense. To his credit, the author makes this work with hardly a slip.

Con: There are still too many characters. Try to remember who Rollo, Chavet, and Tenryu are, for example.

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