Three Short Reviews of Three Short Stories by Xia Jia, Zen Cho, & David Barnett

A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight by Xia Jia

Many reviewers before me have compared the imagery in this story to Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. I agree with them. We land in a literal ghost town where spirits roam around and the only living being is a boy. Throughout the story, we meet different ghosts, including the child’s guardians. While the twist at the end didn’t come as a surprise, I liked this touching and beautifully written short. It’s free to read here.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho

Imugis or Imoogis are creatures from Korean mythology. They are essentially primordial dragons-in-training that transform into actual dragons or Yongs if they can survive for a millennium. The protagonist of this story is an Imugi who is trying its damndest to turn dragon, but falls in love with a mortal and gives up its dream during their lifetime. I lucked out when I found this well-written short story that evokes sadness while also being uplifting. Read it for free here.

The Golden Apple of Shangri-La by David Barnett

A snappy steampunk adventure for fans of the Gideon Smith series, albeit one that doesn’t feature him but Rowena Fanshawe and Dr. John Reed–characters from the same series. Everyone’s heard of Shangri-La, but few know about the source of its magic. Our protagonists find out what it is and Rowena gets a rude awakening. As an aside, the cover’s a letdown, considering the other shorts feature art this beautiful:

The cover of Work Sets You Free shows a palatial structure floating in the air.
The cover of Business As Usual shows a guy at an ornate dais, writing with a feathered pen, while surrounded by a smoky outline of a woman's spirit. P.S. Everthing's very blue!

Barnett has written other shorts set in the same universe, and you can find them here and here. If you’re looking for my reviews of the novels, you’ll find them here. I’ve yet to read the final book, but look at the pretty cover:

A cloaked man stands by the railing while fog surrounds him and the atmosphere is a spooky red.

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