Featured Review | Of Sorrow and Such – Angela Slatter

About the Book

Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda’s Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a word—Gideon has been good to them, and it’s always better to keep on her good side. Just in case.

When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the supernatural in their midst any longer; Gideon and her like are captured, bound for torture and a fiery end.

Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or can she turn the situation to her advantage?

160 pages (ebook)
Published on October 13, 2015
Published by Tor.com
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not sure what the reasoning is, but I used to hate novellas and now I love them. Of Sorrow and Such is a perfect example of why novellas can work so well. It’s short and sweet, not too long, but long enough to really pull readers in. This is a book that you can read in one or two sittings if you’re dedicated (or addicted, like me). However, it has all the depth and details that you’d typically find in a normal length novel.

In short, Of Sorrow and Such was rather amazing with all it packed into its meager 160 pages.

And that cover. That cover art is amazing.

Of Sorrow and Such is a shockingly dark novella. There is a thread of morbid, ironic humor that runs through it, but it’s a dark book. There is no way to get around that fact. The humor can lighten the mood, but more than that it serves to point out a lot of the injustices and inequalities that our protagonist struggles with on a daily basis.

Slatter does a great job at setting a scene and a tone, and she starts working this magic from the first page, painting a picture of Edda’s Meadow that really brings it to life for the reader. It seems like a fairly typical place, quite mundane in many senses, and then she narrows her focus down to the protagonist, Patience Gideon.

Gideon is a character that jumps off the page. She is so incredibly three-dimensional; it’s hard to believe that she isn’t real. She’s not really a good person, but she’s not a bad person either, and her wry, often dark observations bring to light a lot of the small details that make up her life. She’s incredibly loyal to those she loves, and doesn’t mind burning bridges when necessary. Her loyalty to those she loves is inspiring, and often a driving force for many of her actions. The themes of love, loyalty, and determination are very well done and balance out the darker tones of the novel nicely.

Mistress Gideon works as the town healer, but she’s also a witch. She’s also a woman in a man’s world. There are a lot of battles that Gideon is fighting on a daily basis – the battle to keep attention away from her and her witchery, her drive to protect those like her that need protecting, and her desire to be independent and free to live her life the way she wants. She often points out the injustices of her world and it paints a stark portrait. There is also a lot of emphasized tension in Gideon’s daily activities, her interactions with the townsfolk she lives among, and her desire to be an independent woman in a world where that’s not really a thing.

The writing is flawless. The humor is just right, and hits all the right notes; the world is vibrant and shockingly well developed considering the length of this book. Slatter really excels at her characters and the atmosphere. She does a great job at creating people who feel just as real as the world they live in. No one is perfect, and some stupid, very human decisions really get things going. Everyone has a secret, some of which are heartbreaking, all of which are humanizing.

Learning about Gideon’s life, and learning about her past is just as interesting as the situation she finds herself in around the halfway point. The pace was perfect, and Slatter seems to know how to hook her readers and keep them absorbed in every element of this book. One of the best things I can say about Of Sorrow and Such is that not a word was wasted. This book is absolutely effective. It was an emotional, heart wrenching, dark, and shockingly beautiful read.

I never really found myself that interested in novellas before, but the more I read them, the more I realize that a novella done right can pack a punch that is even more powerful than many novels. It takes some incredible skill for an author to create a world this vibrant, and characters this real, and a plot that squeezed my heart and made me think deep thoughts in the space of 160 pages. There is an art to the novella, and books like Of Sorrow and Such make me realize what a complex, fantastic medium it can be.


5/5 stars

One Responses

  • Beautiful cover! And did you say dark humor? And a novella, too? Awesome! Is the writing style/humor anything like Tanith Lee or Angela Carter? I love those two, and I’m sad that they’ve both passed on and won’t be writing anymore books. But maybe this one will fill some of the void…

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