Representation: Secondary sapphic character, secondary bi/pansexual character, secondary M/M
Published on: 2nd February 2022
When a grumpy inventor meets her outrageous new neighbor in the big black castle down the road, more than one type of spark will fly!
Mia Brandt knows better than to ever again allow her true powers to be discovered. Ever since her last neighbors burned down her workshop in a night of terror and flame, she's been determined to stay solitary, safe, and - to all outside appearances - perfectly respectable...
But Leander Fabian, whose sinister castle looms over her cozy new cottage, has far more dangerous ideas in mind. When he persuades Mia into a reluctant alliance, she finds herself swept into an exhilarating world of midnight balls, interfering countesses, illicit opera house expeditions, necromantic duels, and a whole unnatural community of fellow magic-workers and outcasts, all of whom are facing a terrifying threat.
Luckily, Mia has unnatural powers of her own - but even her unique skills may not be enough to protect her new found family and help her resist the wickedly provoking neighbor who's seen through all of her shields from the beginning.
This novel-length collection includes all four stories and novellas originally published on Stephanie Burgis's Patreon in 2020-2021: Good Neighbors, Deadly Courtesies, Fine Deceptions, and Fierce Company.
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.
~finally a heroine who hates socializing as much as I do!!!
~necromancers are dedicated to the Aesthetic
~allies = heart-eyes
~THERE’S ONLY ONE BED
I opened up Good Neighbours (the omnibus, made up of a short story and three novellas previously published on Burgis’ Patreon) expecting fluff and silliness and a book I could just relax into. You know – the kind of book that is pure escapism and fun and has you grinning at the pages as you turn them.
Dad had always said I was a battering ram when it came to polite conversation.
And Good Neighbours has and is all of those things! There is fluff and silliness GALORE! There are undead monsters that are really more like puppies, and deserve all the petting and walkies they want; there are necromancers who are so very Extra they’ll have you cackling; there is delightful use of the Fake Marriage trope (with bonus there’s only one bed!); there is OPERA! And as usual, Burgis’ writing is just a relief to a tired or grey-feeling brain; it’s light and brisk and doesn’t make you work hard to keep up with what’s happening, without being so simplistic it becomes childish or boring.
When you’re just feeling knackered and overworked and, you know, *waves vaguely at everything*, you don’t want a big heavy book that demands you make your way through a mental labyrinth and possibly defeat a minotaur in order to properly appreciate it. You want a book that holds your hand and leads you along gently to somewhere interesting, and that’s exactly what Good Neighbours does.
“Lead the way,” I told him.
He grinned in the dancing light of my flame. “Mia, all you ever have to do is ask.”
Like I said: a relief.
But it would be very wrong of me to leave you with the impression that Good Neighbours is only fluffy. Not that there would be anything wrong with it if it were, but the fact is that it’s not. And I should have realised that much sooner, because in the very beginning, we’re introduced to Mia’s father, who is permanently disabled after the occupants of their old home village came to burn their house down – and that’s not a fluff thing, even if Mia has made him supernaturally-good leg supports to help him manage mostly-normally. But I didn’t immediately realise that Burgis was telling a deeper story under the surface of the candy-floss one, and the head’s-up of Mia’s dad slipped past me.
The candy-floss story is: a grumpy (shy) metal-mage teams up with her neighbour, a necromancer, who is Very Pretty And Suave, to make a stand against the people of the nearby town: no, we won’t be driven off with pitchforks and torches! And, of course, said metal-mage and necromancer get caught up in Shenanigans and catch Feels for each other along the way (a way involving battle-necklaces and secret tunnels and only one bed!!!) and it all ends Happily Ever After!
Which: it does! But Good Neighbours is also about facing and overcoming past traumas, about refusing to apologise for who you are, about doing the right thing even when it might be dangerous, and shoving back hard against hate. It’s about working together, even with people who are very different from you – it’s about how people who might seem very different from you aren’t, really! And, maybe most importantly, it’s about how the ones spewing – or buying into – hate are the minority, and the rest of us don’t have to put up with it.
Honestly, it reminds me very much of Burgis’ MG books, which are also fun while managing to be deep and meaningful. (Don’t ask me how she manages it; I’m starting to think it’s got to be magic.) It’s not moralistic and preachy; it’s just that the kind of shenanigans Burgis’ characters tend to get into…they’re not meaningless mischief. They’re not silly, even if they’re dressed up in silly costumes. They matter.
“If doing the right thing counts as betraying the family, then we have the wrong family,
I’m really not exaggerating – especially towards the end of the book, in the final novella, there were lines that made me ache with emotion, and others that gave me goosebump-thrills. It packed so much punch, completely unexpectedly; touching on topics heavy enough that I still don’t understand how Burgis managed to write about them here without losing the light-and-fun vibe.
Allies fought by each other’s sides, but they didn’t steal each other’s battles.
It’s a fierce and hopeful little book; under all the soft fluffiness, Good Neighbours has sharp teeth, and while it’s all sweet and cuddly for the reader, it is definitely baring those teeth at the world. Daring it to try and snuff out this firefly-flame.
But if anyone does try? Mia will just make a new one – and the next one will be even brighter and fiercer.
Good Neighbours: The Full Collection is out tomorrow. I strongly recommend nabbing yourself a copy!