Published on: 11th July 2022
The glass molded to my foot as neatly—and as chillingly—as if it had been made for me.
“This,” I said, “is a most unfortunate coincidence…”
From tongue-in-cheek fairy tale reframings to forbidden Victorian-era romance and contemporary ghosts, dive into an immersive world of magic. Touchstones is a collection of sparkling short fantasy fiction from Stephanie Burgis, including two new stories as well as fourteen short stories and novelettes that have been previously published in magazines and anthologies.
This collection includes The Wrong Foot, Undead Philosophy 101, A Cup of Comfort, Dreaming Harry, Offerings, Dancing in the Dark, The Disastrous Début of Agatha Tremain, The Wildness Inside, The Art of Deception, Midnight, Clasp Hands, Crow, True Names, Good Neighbors, Love, Your Flatmate, and House of Secrets.
I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Touchstones is a collection of short stories that are connected by their insistence on happy endings, and a thread of (sometimes very unexpected) kindness that’s woven throughout. They’re also not nearly as simple as they look at first glance; for example, The Crow, which is one of the shortest stories in the collection and one of my favourites, is about finding your voice and learning to set healthy boundaries…even if it looks like a story about getting a real live crow stuck in your throat.
Most if not all of the stories have some gentle message in them – independence and freedom are both big, beautiful themes – but none of them are preachy. This isn’t Aesop’s Fables, where the stories are thin disguises for various life-lessons; Burgis’ stories are intended to entertain and delight, to offer distraction and escape from a Real World that, let’s be honest, we all need occasional breaks from.
And they do that beautifully! After the first few, I started saving Touchstones to read just before bed, allowing myself just a story or two to calm my mind down and make me smile before curling up to sleep. I’m not saying I didn’t have my heart in my throat a few times – sometimes the various characters find themselves in pretty horrible straits before they get their happy ending – but Touchstones is a wonderful collection to unwind with; charming, sweet, and eternally hopeful (and hope-full, at that).
This is a joy of a book, and I strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a softly magical pick-me-up.