Review: Vestigial Tales by Laura Lam

TheSnakeCharmSeries: Vestigial Tales #1-4 5
Published by: Penglass Publishing
Published: June through September 2014, then again February 2017
Pages: 42-78
Format reviewed: eBooks (bought)
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

This shall be a joint review for the four five short stories that make up the Vestigial Tales, set in the same world that the Micah Grey series resides in. In these shorts, we see things that make up the mythology of the world but we also get to see what shaped the characters we know and love from the series, what they went through before Micah came into their lives.

Released on various ebook selling platforms between June and September 2014, and then a fifth released February 2017, these shorts left Lam’s fans hungry for more, and eagerly buying instantly as soon as she announced they were available. These also provided a nice little sneak-peak into Lam’s style for those who hadn’t yet become invested in the Micah Grey series (the first two books were published by Strange Chemistry, which was once an Angry Robot YA imprint before they abandoned). Picked up again by Tor, the Micah series is now available once more, with the third book Masquerade available March 2017!

But enough of all that… onto the Vestigial Tales!

Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

TheSnakeCharmThe Snake Charm (Vestigial Tales #1)

At 42 pages, this is a short story that takes place in the circus (R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic) that we see in the first book of the series, but set before Micah joins. This revolves around Drystan (a fan favourite to be sure) and the awful and unethical ringmaster Bil, but also introduces the reader to a couple of characters that are long gone before Micah’s path meets that of the circus.

Reading about circuses is always infectious and this does an excellent job of spellbinding the reader – it must be hard to pull off the energy, magic and excitement of it all, but Lam certainly manages it. This is an excellent start to this mini-series, yet somehow it only gets better from here. Fans are lucky they can go straight from this to the first book in the series, Pantomime.

 

TheFishermansNetThe Fisherman’s Net (Vestigial Tales #2)

Telling a tale not centred around any of the main characters, but going more into the mythology of the world… A fisherman finds a piece of ‘vestige’ (strange items that hold magic, that we see throughout the series) that grants him the ability to be the best fisherman in the village. One day, he catches something so incredibly extraordinary, which gives us a truly wonderful tale. And uh, that’s not meant to be a pun, I swear.

This is truly beautiful, emotive and only makes you yearn for more of Lam’s writing. The piece of vestige we get to see is described so delicately, and you can easily visualise how it looks and moves perfectly. The Mer is instantly a character in her own right. I loved her power and quiet determination.

This short story packs a bitter, sharp punch that is satisfying – without saying too much, I’m glad the short ended this way.

TheTarotReaderThe Tarot Reader (Vestigial Tales #3)

Now we get to see the character Cyan who was easily the best tarot reader the circus (another one, Riley & Batheo’s Circus of Curiosities) has ever had – and for good reason. There’s something a little too good about Cyan’s ability, which eventually brings her more than she can deal with, both in the form of customers. One is a good kind of ‘too much’, a sailor, Oliver, who makes her heart tremble just a bit. But then there’s another man who make her entire body tremble with fear (would make anyone – he has a blurred face for crying out loud) and so, even though Cyan has her family around her, and even if she truly has certain abilities, she feels utterly powerless to save herself.

This is a gripping story, the longest at 78 pages. Cyan is such a strong and mysterious, excellent character. Getting to know her more and what she’s been to makes me want to re-read the series and reassess her entirely! (Not that she’s not strong and mysterious in the series also, it’s just… mysterious!)

TheCardSharpThe Card Sharp (Vestigial Tales #4)

Another story set around Drystan, this time, before he found the circus. This is in his dark past when he was addicted to a drug known in the story as Lerium. We see what else he was involved in – dark deals where he has to balance his loyalties on a very fine wire.

This is a sadder piece, where we get to see Drystan at his lowest but we also then get to appreciate how far he’s come by the time the end of the second book, Shadowplay, lies finished in our laps.

Like all the short stories/novellas in this series, Lam’s way with words is truly spectacular and make them a joy to read – this would be true even if the characters, world and plot aren’t as excellent as they are. Give Lam a pen and she could probably make the phone book sounds captivating.

mechanicalminotaur

The Mechanical Minotaur (Vestigial Tales #5)

Beware, this short has spoilers for Masquerade (available March 2017!) so fair warning.

Evander has a terrible father. He used to be kinder, but since the death of Evander’s mother, which his father blames him for, he seems to spend his life thinking up ways to punish poor Evander. Although he’s only 11 he seems a kind and thoughtful boy, who accepts his punishment readily until his life is turned upside down by a well-placed note.

This piece too has the feel and sound of a fable to it. It’s the shortest of the five, but somehow seems to have an even bigger story within it – Evander is such an excellent character, exploding onto the page so simply and yet with such presence.

Overall, these pieces show Lam’s constantly growing talent for writing, and also how damn good she is left to her own devices. Penglass Publishing is Laura Lam herself, and as she plans to release the third Micah Grey book herself through a kickstarter or indiegogo venture, these show that she has the talent and drive to make it happen.

What Laura Lam does well is delicate themes handled with care and a flowing touch. We all know how her books deal with intersex characters well, but she also handles drug use carefully, let alone a variety of family dramas and ties so we don’t get the same cookie-cutter issues yet again.

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