I just posted the following review to Amazon for L. Jagi Lamplighter’s single author collection In the Lamplight. The book so impressed me that I want the review here so that people who come across this blog and search through it will find the book. This is a book that should be on the reading list for the Last Crusade.
I ask one thing of a book of fiction to get a passing review: it must entertain. If it doesn’t entertain, it wasn’t worth the read. This collection does more than entertain. It enthralled me.
I don’t remember the last time I read a collection of stories, single author or otherwise, where I found each story to be so good. Most of the time, you have the whole range from weak to strong. The weakest story in this book is still good. The best are outstanding!
The reader will notice three things about the author. First, she really likes her Prospero series. At least three of the stories are set in that universe. But don’t worry, if you haven’t read Prospero’s Children, you won’t be lost. Each story is complete in itself. The characters are nicely developed so that you don’t have to have read the other book first.
Second, Jagi Lamplighter Wright is great at unrolling the details of the story as needed. I don’t recall a single info dump, and once I realized she hadn’t used them, about the fourth story in, I started looking for them. She doles out the back story (and some of the characters have very deep backstories like in “Foot Sore Angel”) in bite size chunks. You will read along several paragraphs, and then be told a detail when it is needed and not before. As I said, this is done masterfully. When the detail is given, it is never dropped on you in such a way as to jar the story. You accept it into your mental image and go on.
Third, she writes both sexes well. In these stories, the men are men and the women are women. You will not find them blending roles or one acting like the other. This really came home during “Feeding the Mouth that Bites us” when the male supporting character can’t get through to the woman protagonist, but another woman can. “Flight of Ideas” and “HMS Mangled Treasure” put mothers in the action seat, and give them dilemmas and problems that men would falter at.
Lamplighter shows her range of genres and moods in this collection. Some of the stories tug at the heart (e.g. “Four Funerals and a Wedding”). In some you feel sorry for the protagonist (“Foot Sore Angel”, “Equinox”) when the story starts; by the end you are cheering as they find what they needed. In one which will remain unnamed so as not to spoil the ending, you chuckle when you realize that the supporting character is a trickster who is leading the POV character blithely down the garden path (but to a good outcome). “Poppet” will make you shudder and think, “the sweet woman who writes Rachel Griffen gave us this?” Then you’ll read “On Rocky Ground” and wonder at how the woman who wrote the dark and serious “Poppet” can write a straight-up slapstick comedy. Then “Knights Mate” is hard-boiled, 30s noir set in the future!
Science Fiction and Fantasy used to be called Wonder stories. Many writers falter at the basic task of asking how would people react in the face of change? Human nature doesn’t change but technology does. These stories deal with human nature and how no matter what the circumstances, certain expectations will come to be.
You will not regret buying this collection. They’ll make you smile, laugh, and even cry.
I’ll provide the link again for convenience.