Reclaim the Stars
Edited by Zoraida Córdova
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted February 13, 2022
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This seventeen story original anthology was edited by Zoraida Córdova, who also contributed the final tale. It will be published in two days, but I received an advance e-book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All of the authors are Latin American, either still residing in their home countries, or from the diaspora. I had previously read stories and/or novels by only five of them, including Zoraida. The rest are new to me, but I hope it won't be the last time I see their names. It is divided into three specific sections, the first dealing with futuristic science fiction themes, the other two leaning toward folk tales and fantasy, along with a bit of horror. I don't want to go into too much depth with each story to avoid spoilers, just enough to set the scene. I will also refrain from ranking them, only say the entire collection is recommended. No matter what type of story you prefer, there is enough variety to satisfy almost any reader.
The first section, To the Stars, opens with "Reign of Diamonds" by Anna-Marie McLemore. Set in the far future, two competing families/corporate groups squabble over the rights to certain planets. A duel between the oldest heirs will determine the outcome. Complicating things is that those two individuals had previously been lovers. Daniel José Older's "Flecha" concerns a refugee from Earth, sent away by her mother years before, returning to find the situation much more dire than she would have ever expected. "The First Day of Us" by David Bowles, set at a school orbiting Jupiter, is about the genesis of a polyamourous relationship. Lilliam Rivera's "The Tin Man" sees a woman, who may or may not be the only person left in New York, confront a robot trying to get her to follow it to a ship that will take her off planet. The section ends with "This Is Our Manifesto" by Mark Oshiro, wherein inmates of orbiting prison satellites begin an insurrection. Their manifesto includes issues that are very relevant to exploited workers today.
The first two stories in The Magical Now, "Creatures of Kings" by Circe Moskowitz, and "Eterno" by J. C. Cervantes, are similar in theme, with supernatural creatures erring by falling in love with humans. The protagonist of "White Water, Blue Ocean" by Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez has two major dilemmas. Their family is under a curse from the ocean spirit Guabancex, and some members of their family are reluctant to accept they are non-binary. "Leyenda" is set within Romina Garber's Wolves of No World series, of which I know little other than two novels have been published. This story is set at a school in Argentina, and it seems the school and prevailing political system favors the werewolves (or lobizones), but things might be on the cusp of change when the witch Zaybet is approached by The Coven. Many fantasy stories have characters that first discover their magical abilities at puberty. Slightly different in Maya Motayne's "Color-Coded," or else girls in this world mature later. It usually happens at fifteen, sixteen at the latest, but Flor is surprised when her ability manifests when she is fourteen. Her body changes colors depending on her mood, and she can transmit colors to other people and inanimate objects. In "Magical Offerings" by Nina Moreno, Lucero 'Luz' Pérez disappeared into the woods for weeks when she was seven, but she has no memory of what transpired. Now an adult who has never fit in at school or any job, she goes back to that area in the Florida swamplands, where her abuelo has sworn he is going to rebuild an abandoned miniature golf course and make it an amusement kingdom. In helping him repair some of the equipment she encounters a tree spirit that apparently remembers her.
The final seven stories are set in Other Times, Other Realms. In "Rogue Enchantments" by Isabel Ibañez, Graciela Mamani has inherited a market stall from her abuela. Family members always have the opportunity to take over a coveted place in La Hechiceria (The Sorcery). She thinks she can do well selling her enchanted paints and art supplies. The right potion or spell can help an artist perfect their techniques. But someone seems determined to make sure Graciela fails. Vita Ayala's "Sumaiko y La Sirena" is set on a sugar cane plantation on the island of Vieques near Puerto Rico, but in a world in which mermaids are real. Sumaiko had been found on the beach as a child, and adopted by a widower. Suma is known not only for her beauty, but also for her beautiful singing voice. She has been able to resist the attentions of the son of the plantation owner so far, but it is meeting La Sirena that saves her. "River People" by Yamile Saied Mendez is another set in Argentina, or at least somewhere along the run of the Paraná River. Malena could speak to ghosts as a child, so why could she not hear her parents after their death? She can hear her dead brother Tomás, and the spirit of the river, or at least she thinks it is the river warning her of danger for her oldest brother Miguel. If only he would listen to her. "Moonglow" by Sara Faring is another Argentinian story, and it's even billed as "Based on a True Family Story, Argentina, 1910." It is also one in which the protagonist, Sara, can speak with the dead. In this case it is her brother Pedro, who continually tells her "You'll be a mother soon." But how can he know she is pregnant when she isn't sure of that yet herself? It has only been a couple of weeks since her tryst with the stable boy Sebastián. "Killing El Chivo" by Claribel A. Ortega is set on Hispaniola, although I hesitate to say the Dominican Republic, even though a Dominican flag is mentioned. It is an alternate world story, full of magic and sorcery, with El Chivo (the goat) the dictator of the country. He may walk on two legs, and sometimes rides a horse, but he does have fur and horns. Three sisters, along with others in their village, are plotting to assassinate him.
Now we come to the end, Zoraida's "Tame the Wicked Night." I don't think it is connected to any of her other work, at least I wasn't able to find a connection. Set in San Mercurio, a kingdom on the verge of war, or in the midst of a lull in the war. Aurelio Saturnelio was young enough to have been passed over in the draft, but not his brother Julios, who is on the front lines. At thirteen, Aurelio takes over working their farm. He has a magical green thumb, able to grow plants in the most desolate of places. Others covet his plot of land not realizing it will not be fertile without his special talent. The richest man in the area offers his daughter's hand in marriage, but Aurelio refuses because he wants to wait for love. Outraged, the man demands satisfaction, telling Aurelio he must "tame the wicked night." Legend has it that a malevolent spirit reigns on the mountain, and no man has yet ventured there and returned. As with the stories above, I won't give any more details. This is mostly a tease, a synopsis, not a critical review, but an invitation to enchantment. To find out more information you'll have to read the book. I won't say anything is completely original here, but there are different spins on common tropes due to the varying perspectives of the authors, the places the stories are set, and in the magical systems presented. I'll echo what I've seen others saying, no matter what trope or theme in science fiction or fantasy you can name, it is not played out until everyone has a chance at it. No matter if they're Latin American, or African, Asian, or from anywhere else around the globe. Giving them the opportunity to tell their tales will solidify the notion that, in spite of superficial differences, we have many more things in common.
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