My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is hovering between a 3.5 and a 4 for me, I can’t actually pick where exactly to rate it.
Fatima is a web designer by trade, but has no money in order to purchase a computer. She busks at night with her violin, but generally she only plays for the ghosts of those who haven’t moved on. One night while busking she is approached by a strange man who offers her a paying job, she just has to name her price and agree to play for 3 hours at his Solstice ball. Reluctantly she accepts, and is thrown into the world of magic, and everything that goes with it. She meets Hassan and his cat Helen who dress her in the most beautiful attire for her evening at the ball. She travels through a portal and witness the strange man with a young woman names Alice, all she is told that he always must have his Alice, but sometimes he isn’t the most kind person.
This short story is the prequel to The Dancing Princesses series, which I’d never heard of before this, but now I’m incredibly intrigued that I’m probably going to pick myself up a copy. I can honestly say that I have absolutely no idea what I just read. I have no idea where to start really because I don’t know what happened. We get no insight into Alice and the strange man or what their relationship is. Normally this would annoy me, not knowing what the hell I just read, but this time, it feels different. I am SO unbelievably intrigued by this short story that I’m going to be buying at least book 1 of the series. I need to know more. Hassan and Helen interest me to no end, I need to know more about them and their store and what they do. The portal? What was with the portal? Where did Fatima go????
And Fatima. What a refreshing character. She is originally from Syria, and still wears her hijab, she lost her brother in the ocean on their way across, and her parents are still stuck in the past. I absolutely LOVED Fatima. Something so simple as having your protagonist being a Syrian girl who is Muslim is just so wonderful to me. In a day and age where racism, extremism and lack of tolerance runs rampant, this honestly was one of the best things about this story. I sincerely hope that Fatima is a reoccurring character in this series, if not the protagonist, because I adore her. Stedman did a beautiful job in the short amount of pages in fleshing out her character enough that you need to know more. She had depth that some authors can’t express in a full length novel, let alone a short story of less than 100 pages.
I was pleasantly surprised by the magic and whimsy of this story, and I am SO excited to explore the series further!