I like indie fantasy, and with the credentials behind the novella (finalist in Baen Fantasy Adventure finalist, and an honourable mention in Writers of the Future) this looked very promising.
What to expect
A novella-length collection of three short stories. The story that won the above awards is the first one – Deadliest Dish. Each short is in a different tone, with different characters but set in the same fantasy city. The world has a wonderful Arabian-nights vibe, though it borrows loosely from many sources for a unique blend.
Deadliest Dish: a chef pursuing the ingredients for a fantastical dish, navigating the city from the closed harem to the mucks of the bestiary, from underground tunnels to mages’ high spires.
Banquet of the Emblamer: is a confessional letter, in a style reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe.
Ups and Downs: a heist of artefacts in the bowls of the palace.
What I liked
The Middle-Eastern, Arabian-nights vibe of the city is very refreshing. It’s not “based on”, but rather Samuels builds a fantastical grand city with it unique social and physical aspects. It’s a place that can provide a home to many other engaging works.
What to be aware of
The first story, Deadliest Dish, is quite polished but the other two show signs of early works. The writing style is immature at times and the stories could have used some better developmental and copy editing. This is all forgiveable for a first work, but some readers can be sensitive for these issues.
A short collection of very promising works. I enjoyed the background world and the different styles, and will be looking for further works by Samuels. Find it here.